Sweden is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe; it borders Norway and Finland, and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Øresund. It is often ranked highly as well developed, socially aware and economically stable. In 2013 The Economist said that Scandinavian countries are probably the best-governed in the world with Sweden in first place.
English is widely spoken in Sweden which means you don’t need to learn Swedish to find your way around the place though, of course, addressing people in their own language always pays off. Just a few words can get your landlord or local shopkeeper warm up to you.
However you will need to know the Swedish language fairly well if you want to apply for a teaching position in a public (state) school although this is not a strict requirement in private schools, or international schools,
Teaching Qualifications & Work Opportunities
To get a permanent job you will need solid teaching qualifications with a degree and a TEFL certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate being the minimum standard requirements. In addition some prior experience either as a teacher in general or more specifically as a TEFL teacher will help.
English is the second most spoken language in Sweden and children start early on their language education not only at public schools but also in private learning centers. However the highest demand is for ESP (English for Special Purposes) and Business English.
The Swedish government subsidizes English courses and private organizations like Lernia Education (Lernia Utbildning), ABF (claiming to be Sweden’s largest adult education association), and Folksuniversitet (comprised of five foundations attached to the Universities of Stockholm, Uppsala, Göteborg, Lund and Umeå) offer English language courses to adults across the country.
These companies also provide private lessons and tutoring for their business clients so there are also opportunities to get hired for one-to-one sessions. Private lessons are quite popular and many English teachers manage to build a good clientele list, advertising their services in local newspapers or relying on word of mouth.
Despite Sweden being one of the most advanced nations when it comes to information and communication technology teaching jobs are rarely advertised online and finding work is a matter of searching for it on site.
The major cities in Sweden where you will find work are Stockholm (pop. 850,000), Gothenburg (pop. 515,000), Malmo (pop. 295,000) and Uppsala (pop. 140,000) although of course there are also opportunities in smaller towns.
Another way to get into the job market is through volunteering at one of the language centers, particularly those subsided by the government. As a volunteer you will be automatically put on the substitute list and have a chance to sit in for one of the regular English teachers who may be missing on occasions. If anything else you will be there at the right time should the center require a new teacher. Worst case scenario? You will end up with a letter certifying your teaching experience in a Swedish school, which will undoubtedly add to your CV/Résumé.
Salaries, Accommodation & Living Expenses
Compared to the high cost of living teaching salaries are low. They are enough to support yourself in the country but if your aim is to put aside a tidy sum than you would be better off looking for employment opportunities elsewhere.
Income tax on salaries is deducted by the employer, who pays it to the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) along with the social security contributions due. Individual income tax is currently between 30% and 57 % and one of the highest in the world.
To save, many teachers choose to share accommodation and what are known as “second-hand” rental contracts are common among foreigners living in Sweden. This is because you do not need a personal identity number and a guaranteed income to be eligible and the agreement is just between two private individuals.
The monthly rent for an average 1 bedroom apartment is about SEK 6,000 or €670 ($847 USD, £539). The rent increases the closer you are to upper-class, metropolitan areas. Conversely outside the city center the same apartment will set you back around SEK 4,000 or €450 ($569 USD, £362)
For everyday living expenses such as food, clothing, you can expect the same amount again for a single person household. A few figures (updated Dec 2103):
- Internet connection (6 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) is SEK 200 or €20 ($25 USD, £16) per month
- electricity, heating water & garbage (for an 85m2 apartment) is SEK 1,000 or €115 ($145 USD, £92) per month
- a meal at an inexpensive restaurant is about SEK 85 or €10 ($13 USD, £8)
- a pair of Levi jeans cost about SEK 850 or €100 ($126 USD, £80)
- a summer dress in a chain store (Zara, H&M, etc.) is about SEK 300 or €35 ($44 USD, £28)
Visas & Immigration
If you are a non-European citizen then you will need to secure a written job offer beforehand in order to apply for work and residential permit. If you are a European citizen then you do no require a work permit and you can stay in the country even after your teaching contract has terminated.
See Teaching in the EU for Non-Europeans for more on this subject.