How to work in Spain if you hate the idea of teaching for a living

Admit it, you’ve seen it: images of Spanish people picking through dumpsters, the shells of housing developments that won’t be finished anytime in the near future, the mugs of greedy politicians who steal from the poor to stuff their own fat wallets. While Spain’s economy is making a slow recovery, it’s made finding a job extremely difficult, though not impossible. The bigger obstacle, perhaps, is actually getting work permission. If you can land a work visa for Spain, I recommend reading my ebook on moving to Spain to get the most out of the opportunity. Otherwise, if you are just looking for a summer job in Spain or a bartending job or hostel job – proceed.

under the table jobs in spain

Foreigners who wish to work in Spain without proper work credentials can expect to make wages far under what they’d earn at home, but thanks to the low cost of living (not to mention the excellent quality of life!), it can be done. Spanish language skills are definitely a plus, so pull out your high school language books and put Juanes back on your iPod to prepare!

If you’re planning on studying, you can legally work up to 20 hours a week on a student visa with your employer’s sponsorship. What’s more, working under the table (ganar dinero en negro) is quite commonplace, even though it costs the Spanish government billions as far as taxes!

au pair jobs in spain

While teaching English or nannying (becoming an au pair) are the obvious choices, there’s more out there if you’re willing to look for it.

Work in Spain Slinging drinks or tapas at a bar

bartending jobs in spain

Perhaps the easiest job to get in Spain is temporary work in a bar or restaurant. In a country that is trying to crawl out of a steep financial crisis, experts say that bars, a Spaniard’s living room, is one of the only growing industries. Bars and restaurants are usually open early for all three meals, with a midday siesta break, and are open at least six days a week. If you’re looking to hone your Spanish skills or work hard for the money, working in a restaurante could be a great fit, though you may be stuck in the back washing dishes and cleaning up.

Unlike many Anglo countries, workers in the restaurant industry earn an hourly salary and tipping is not coming. Expect to earn between 5€ and 8€ an hour, save in big cities or with ample experience. Workers in cocktail bars typically earn closer to 10€. Bigger cities are easier to find work in, and the summer and winter holidays are the best times to look for employment.

restaurant jobs in spain

Earn your keep at a hostel or hotel

Hostels will often hire guests to do tasks in reception, cleaning and general upkeep, and this can be a great way to earn your keep, and a little bit of pocket money, too. Work is typically done in the early morning hours, though you’ll often have time to hang out in the common areas, pig out on the free breakfast and use the wi-fi. As another upside, you’ll be meeting people from around the world while likely working near the city center and touristic sites. And because you’ll be working so little, you can easily beef up your wallet by picking up another job.


Most hostels require that you speak relatively good Spanish and relatively good English, though, so make sure you brush up on your language skills. You should probably learn how to fold a fitted sheet, too, since they’re tricky.

Summertime and during major festivals are the prime times for this sort of work, as reservations swell. You’ll have even more luck along the coasts, especially where Anglos tend to vacation, like the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca and the islands. You can also expect to have a wider range of jobs available during this time, including childcare and entertaining, chauffeuring and sports pro.

Hosteling International maintains a site with information about jobs available around the world, as does the site Hostel Jobs, or you could just ask around in the city of your choice.

Playing Tour Guide

Love your study abroad city? Want to learn more about Tio Pepe’s dry sherry? Good with people? Being a tour guide in a Spanish destination, especially if you’ve multiple language skills, can be a great way to share your knowledge of a city, and thanks to Spain’s booming tourism economy, there are plenty of jobs out there. Whether it be a food tour in San Sebastian, showing tourists around a winery in La Rioja or talking to bus loads of study abroad students on the coast, don’t expect to make big bugs – 15€ an hour would be tops. Check info jobs or expat forums for opportunities around Spain.

Teaching Private English Classes

One of the more lucrative ways to earn money in Spain is by tutoring students or adults by the hour. English language learning has become important in Spain, and being a native English speaker means you can make money on the side helping kids with their homework, conversing with adults and preparing students for official English exams. It can be hard work, but it’s the easiest way to make money in Spain, and you can even earn up to 1000€ a month.

teaching in spain

In Madrid or Barcelona, you can make upwards of 25€ per hour, whereas smaller cities and towns having a going rate closer to 12 or 15€. It’s important to note that you’ll have to bus yourself between classes, deal with cancellations and do some prep work beforehand. Tusclases particulares will allow you to create a free profile and search potential students, though the best relationships come from word of mouth.

Cleaning Houses

Believe it or not, many people have been putting their Home Ec skills to work to make some extra money during Spain’s economic meltdown. Remember your host mom? She’s probably hemming pants or ironing sheets for her neighbors. If you’re crafty, you can make a bit more pocket money. Try advertising by hanging up banners in areas where the rich people live, but know that 6 – 8€ an hour is the going rate in the bigger Spanish cities.

Even for people with steady jobs (myself included), there are many ways to earn a bit of extra cash, and we often become jacks-of-all-trades. With a bit of grit and the willingness to knock on a bunch of doors, you can find a way to make money.


Turner here. If you are serious about moving Spain to work, I highly recommend Cat’s book on Moving to Spain. If you want to work in Spain, it is really the best way to secure better, longer term prospects. Happy job hunting.

Work in Spain

Cat Gaa

Cat Gaa left the skyscrapers of Chicago for the olive groves of Southern Spain six years ago, lured away from a job offer by the opportunity to teach English in Seville. When not running a small language academy, she also teaches private classes, does translations and writes for various publications, including her own blog, Sunshine and Siestas

  • Lovelyn
    Posted at 07:33h, 26 August

    Great tips. I taught English in Asia for a while just so I could travel. i didn’t know any other way to pay for it, but honestly I didn’t like teaching one bit. I love seeing that there are other alternatives for people who want to work and travel. Too bad I didn’t know about them back then.

    • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas
      Posted at 08:39h, 26 August

      I do think teaching is the most lucrative and steady way to do it, and I’m glad I enjoy my job while still having time to do things I love (travel, blog and sit on my culo!)

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    Posted at 21:29h, 11 September

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  • Liv
    Posted at 21:29h, 14 September

    The opportunities are endless if you have a skill and can teach that, something like sailing, windsurfing or, my favourite, scuba diving!

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  • Erin
    Posted at 11:27h, 16 September

    It’s also very easy to get call centre work in some cities but you’ll need a visa. I worked full-time in two different call centres in Barcelona and you can easily earn more than 1000 euros a month. It normally is quite easy work and a great way to meet other expats.

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