Working in Spain
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
The Spanish economy is still recovering following the financial downturn and rates of unemployment are high. While there are signs of recovery, it is slow and certain sectors are still struggling. You will be competing in a large market of Spanish graduates and so will need to think about what you can do to make yourself more employable. Being fluent in Spanish will be a definite advantage and you should also look at the sectors that are performing better than others. These include teaching English as a foreign language, various areas of IT and the tourism and service sectors. It is important that you're able to show evidence of your skills in these areas and it will also be helpful if you're able to be flexible with where you're based in Spain.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: there are a number of large companies with a strong presence in infrastructure development, renewable energy, tourism, banking and insurance, textiles, health technology, aeronautics, agri-food and the automotive industry.
- Recent growth areas: the service sector dominates the job market, while the tourism and IT sectors are also performing well.
- Industries in decline: the construction industry has not regained its strength since the economic downturn.
- Shortage occupations: native language teachers, IT professionals and professionals in the tourism sector.
- Major companies: Banco Santander (banking), Telefónica (telecommunications services), BBVA – Banco Bilbao Vizcaya (banking), Iberdrola (electric utilities), Gas Natural Fenosa (natural gas utilities), Inditex (apparel/footwear retailer), CaixaBank (regional banks), Mapfre (diversified insurance), Grupo ACS (construction services), Repsol YPF (oil and gas operations).
What’s it like working in Spain?
- Average working hours: the working week can be a maximum of 40 hours. In general the working day must not exceed nine hours.
- Holidays: a minimum of 30 days per year. There are 14 public holidays each year.
- Tax rates: if you live in Spain for 183 or more days in a tax year, you will have to declare your income for tax purposes. You will need to pay social security contributions as well as income tax. The rate of this varies depending on your income. For more information see Agencia Tributaria. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
The usual method of applying for jobs in Spain is by CV (also known as el curriculum) and covering letter (carta de presentacion), although application forms are also used. Applications should always be written in Spanish unless otherwise requested and should be concise and professional in style.
The format of the CV is similar to those used in the UK. See application and CV advice for more details on how to construct a good CV. The Europass CV is also acceptable for use with Spanish companies. You don't need to send copies of your academic or professional certificates with your application as they are usually taken to the interview.
Interviews are similar to those in the UK and may involve psychometric tests or other job-related assessments. There may be just one interviewer or there may be a panel and you may be called to a second interview before a decision is made.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), UK qualifications are usually recognised by an employer.
The following websites are in English:
- EURES – European Job Mobility Portal: European jobs portal with online CVs and access to regional EURES advisers (in English).
- Eurograduate – The European Graduate Career Guide: search multinational companies offering employment in Spain.
The following websites are in Spanish:
- Expansión y Empleo: includes online CV and employment news.
- Infoempleo.com: vacancy search and online CV.
- Sistema Nacional de Empleo: local employment offices and job listings.
- trabajar.com: national vacancies.
- Yaencontre.com: from the national newspaper La Vanguardia.
Recruitment agencies in Spain mainly deal with temporary work opportunities and are called Empresas de Trabajo Temporal (ETT). The professional association for recruitment agencies in Spain is Asempleo.
You are able to use the Spanish Public State Employment Service which has nationwide employment offices. You can register at your local office and they can help to find work for you.
Many vacancies are found by using contacts and networking. Contact any friends and family you have in Spain and tell them you are looking for work. Personal recommendations are extremely important.
Speculative applications to companies can also be effective. You should always contact the manager of the company or department you would like to work for. Direct phone enquiries are not uncommon but make sure that your Spanish is up to it. Alternatively you can send a speculative letter or, if it is a smaller company, take your CV in person. Always follow up a letter with a phone call or email.
Getting work experience
Erasmus+ is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020 and covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities. Both under and postgraduate students can study abroad for 3 to 12 months. Erasmus+ also provides opportunities for work experience for students to learn new skills or languages, as well as volunteering in different countries for between 2 weeks and 12 months.
Work placements and internships
Two main types of work experience are available in Spain:
- work experience available to undergraduate students during their studies (practicas);
- work experience or trainee contracts for recent graduates.
Details of work experience opportunities in Spain are available from:
- Europlacement: searchable database of internships in Spain in a variety of job sectors;
- IAESTE (The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience): undergraduates studying science, technology, applied arts and engineering disciplines can apply for placements which typically last for six to twelve weeks in the summer months;
- iAgora: database of international entry level jobs and internships;
- Intern Abroad: search for international internships;
- studentjob.es: lists jobs and internships for students and graduates.
You can also try applying for a work placement with a British company in Spain.
A number of placement schemes include language courses:
- Tandem Madrid: Spanish courses with internships for students who speak languages;
- AIP Language Institute: internships in Valencian companies with Spanish language lessons.
AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) offers international traineeship exchanges, providing work experience opportunities from 6 weeks up to 18 months.
If you are thinking of teaching English in Spain, try to get a TEFL qualification. Being a native English speaker may not be enough to secure a job. Training organisations with links in Spain such as Oxford TEFL are an option, or you could find a TEFL programme in Spain such as TtMadrid or TEFL Iberia. Teach Abroad is a useful resource for finding TEFL courses and teaching opportunities.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
There are many organisations that offer volunteering and gap year opportunities in Spain including:
- Concordia International Volunteers
- International Voluntary Service (IVS) in Britain
Do you need a visa?
If you are an EU national, you will not require a visa or work permit. If you plan to stay in Spain for longer than three months you need to register at the local Foreign Nationals' Office or at a police station for entry to the Central Register of Foreign Nationals. This will provide you with a registration certificate and a non-nationals identification number, known as an NIE.
If you are not a UK national, contact the Spanish embassy in the country where you are currently residing about how to obtain visas and work permits. If you are living in the UK, go to the Spanish Embassy.
How do you become a permanent resident?
As an EU citizen you're entitled to stay in Spain for a long period of time as long as you are correctly registered. If you have been a temporary resident in Spain for five continuous years you will be entitled to long-term residence, which gives you indefinite residence and work in Spain under the same conditions as Spanish nationals.
You can apply for Spanish nationality if you have been a legal resident in Spain for an uninterrupted period of ten years. For more information contact the Spanish Embassy.
Living in Spain
- Cost of living: the cost of living is slightly lower than in the UK, though the gap is narrowing, and the average wage is considerably lower. Housing costs and utility bills are particularly high. The cost of eating and drinking out is relatively low, except in tourist areas.
- Internet domain: .es (or .cat in Catalonia).
- Currency: Euro (€).
- Health: Spain has a national health service, which is financed through social security contributions. There is a relatively high standard of health care, though the system is decentralised and standards vary. If you aren't working and paying into the social security system, you will be able to access healthcare in Spain by having a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This entitles you to state provided medical treatment on the same terms as Spanish nationals, so if a Spanish national has to pay a fee for treatment, you'll also have to pay a fee.
- Type of government: parliamentary monarchy.
- Laws and customs: under-18s are considered minors in Spain. Drug possession is a serious criminal offence. Having even a small amount can lead to arrest and large quantities will result in prosecution. Several regional governments have banned drinking in the streets and may impose a fine. Some public authorities don't allow the burka or niqab to be worn in their buildings for security reasons and in certain parts of Spain it is against the law to wear only a bikini or swimming shorts in the street. If asked to identify yourself by the police, you are required to show your passport or identity card.
- Emergency numbers: the European emergency number 112 can be used in Spain for the fire service, police and ambulance. UK citizens can get help in an emergency from the British Embassy Spain.
- People: the vast majority of the population are Spanish. Ethnic minority groups include Moroccans, Romanians, Ecuadorians and Colombians. There are substantial ex-pat communities, notably British.
- Major religion: Christianity (Roman Catholicism - 94%).