Spain has a highly competitive job market, but the benefits of working in this Mediterranean country far outweigh the challenges. Why not join the thousands of British nationals already working in Spain?
An estimated 293,500 British citizens currently live in Spain, with the Mediterranean way of life still a huge draw for those who want to work overseas.
However, the country was hit particularly hard by the economic crisis. While Spain appears to be recovering from the recession, its unemployment rate is still one of the highest in Europe at 16.5%. Youth unemployment is also relatively high at 35.5%.
Competition for jobs is fierce and the majority of international workers tend to gravitate towards bigger cities, where jobs are more readily available. Popular destinations for expats include Madrid and Barcelona, the two largest cities in the country, and Valencia and Seville.
On a more positive note, according to the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey 2017 Spain ranks 17th as the best destination for expats. The cost of living in the country is also low compared to other European countries. This means that in your spare time you'll be able to enjoy all the culture and sunshine Spain has to offer.
You'll also get the opportunity to learn the second most common language in the world, which will no doubt impress employers wherever you go in the world.
Jobs in Spain
As a new graduate, securing work in the country can be a challenge as you'll be competing against Spanish graduates for jobs. However, there are a number of things that you can do to increase your chances of success.
The first, as previously mentioned, is to look for work in major cities, where vacancies occur on a more regular basis. Having a solid grasp of Spanish will also be incredibly useful. To further increase your chances of finding work you should concentrate your search on the Spanish job sectors that are performing well. These include consulting, various areas of IT, teaching English as a foreign language and the service and tourism sectors.
The service sector dominates the Spanish job market and major industries in the country include:
- food and beverages
- medical equipment
- metals and metal manufacturing
- ship building
- textiles and apparel
Spain is also home to a number of large international companies. These include:
- Abengoa (telecommunications)
- Abertis (infrastructure)
- ACS Group (civil engineering)
- Almirall (pharmaceuticals)
- Banco Santander (banking)
- Ebro Foods (food processing)
- Ficosa (automobile production)
- Iberdrola (utilities)
- Inditex (apparel)
- Logista (logistics)
- Telefónica (telecommunications).
For the latest jobs in Spain visit:
Recent growth areas in the country include consulting, finance and IT but there are some sectors that are currently experiencing a skills shortage, and these shortages could lead to employment opportunities for international workers.
Shortage occupations generally occur in highly skilled professions such as teaching, engineering, business, medicine, property and in the tourism industry.
To find out more see the Spanish governments list of shortage occupations (in Spanish).
How to get a job in Spain
The standard application process is similar to that in the UK. Prospective candidates typically apply for jobs by submitting a CV and cover letter or an application form. The format of these application documents is similar to what you're used to in the UK. Most workers apply for jobs from their home country - typically through a jobs portal - or find temporary work before looking for something permanent.
The language that you need to submit your application in will sometimes be stated in the job advert, so make sure you read it carefully before applying. However, as a rule, unless you're applying to work in an English-speaking office, all applications should be made in Spanish.
Informal ways of securing work are also popular among jobseekers in Spain, for example through word of mouth, networking or speculative applications.
Spain has a strong tourism industry, welcoming a record-breaking 82 million visitors in 2017. Popular tourist destinations include the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands, Catalonia and Andalusia. With such a high percentage of British tourists visiting Spain, there's always a need for English-speaking workers.
Temporary positions are the easiest to secure. You could find work in bars, restaurants and hotels, as a watersports instructor, or at tourist attractions such as theme parks. If you have some childcare experience you could also look for work as an au pair.
In addition to the job sites listed above, you may be able to find summer jobs, seasonal work and gap year opportunities at:
Voluntary work has become an increasingly popular option for graduates looking for work experience. Not only will it put your language skills to the test and help you to understand Spanish culture, it will provide you with an opportunity to make important contacts and enhance your CV.
The European Commission (EC) funds a scheme called The European Voluntary Service (EVS), which is aimed at people aged 17 to 30 wishing to volunteer abroad. It offers young people the chance to volunteer for between two weeks and 12 months in a number of countries, including Spain.
Essential costs such as accommodation, living and transport expenses are covered by the scheme, with placements ranging from those related to sport and culture, to others focused on social care and the environment.
Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is a popular source of employment for international workers.
However, being a native speaker of English isn't enough to secure a teaching job. Instead, you'll need a TEFL qualification to ensure success. You can either take a course in your home country or once you arrive in Spain.
For more information and to see what opportunities are currently available, take a look at:
In Spain, work experience is held in high regard. Students that have completed two to three years of work experience prior to applying for graduate roles hold a significant advantage.
Internships in the country usually last between two and three months, but the length of placements depends on the employer and the needs of their business. Due to Spain's growing technology and thriving tourism and hospitality sectors, internships of this kind are easy to find.
To look for a placement in Spain, see:
- AIESEC UK - for students and recent graduates (in the past two years)
- IAESTE UK - for science, engineering, technology and applied arts students
- The Intern Group - leading provider of international internship programmes in Madrid.
According to the EC, European Union (EU) citizens have the right to:
- move to another EU country to work without a work permit
- enjoy equal treatment with nationals in access to employment, working conditions and all other social and tax advantages
- stay in the country even after employment has finished.
EU nationals, European Economic Area (EEA) citizens and those from Switzerland can work in Spain without the need for a work permit. If you plan to stay in the country for longer than three months you'll need to register at a police station or the local Foreign National Office. This will provide you with a registration certificate and a non-nationals identification number (NIE).
Those from outside the EU/EEA will need a residence visa, as well as valid Spanish work permit. Contact the Spanish embassy in your home country to find out more.
This visa information is still valid following the UK's decision to leave the European Union and will be updated if changes happen.
If you do not have a strong grasp of Spanish then jobs can be hard to find - unless you're looking for a job with a multinational company, or work in the expat community or tourist areas.
There are lots of Spanish-speaking courses in the UK and many good websites exist to help you to learn a language or improve your skills. There are also opportunities to take Spanish classes once you arrive in Spain.
How to explain your qualifications to employers
You should find that your UK qualifications are comparable to their Spanish equivalents, and will therefore be recognised by employers.
Despite this, workers involved in regulated professions - for example, lawyers and doctors - will need their professional qualifications recognised in Spain before they can start work. Certain authorities are responsible for the recognition of professional qualifications. For more information, see the EC regulated professions database.
To get a degree from outside of the EU recognised in Spain, you'll need to contact the Subdirección General de Titulos y Reconocimiento de Cualificaciones, of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, and fill in the required form.
What it's like to work in Spain
The average working week for full-time employees is just over 40 hours, with traditionally long lunch breaks in the afternoon still observed by some businesses. Because of this, workers can sometimes stay in the office as late as 8pm.
In 2018 Spain will celebrate ten national public holidays, with additional dates in each region. National public holidays include:
- New Year’s Day (1 January)
- Three Kings’ Day (6 January)
- Good Friday (30 March)
- Workers Day (1 May)
- Assumption of Mary (15 August)
- Spanish National Day (12 October)
- All Saints Day (1 November)
- Constitution Day (6 December)
- Immaculate Conception (8 December, excluding the Canary Islands)
- Christmas Day (25 December).
The monthly minimum wage for workers in 2017 was set at €707.60.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to study in Spain.