So You Want to Work in Italy: Some Practical Advice
By Michael P. Gerace
Michael P. Gerace
Though difficult, study abroad is a promising area for finding a job in Italy. There are over 100 American schools in Italy, all of which hire people to teach courses and administer their programs. Working in study abroad can be exiting, but it can also offer more stability and (possibly) better pay than other types of jobs open to foreigners in Italy.
How does one find such a job? Unfortunately, there is no standard road to follow. There are a few strategies that can lead to success, but persistence and patience are key.
1. First, know the outlets for job postings. While many openings are never advertised because they are filled quickly, the best place to look is Wanted in Rome (www.wantedinrome.com), which is an English-language magazine appealing to the ex-pat community in Italy. You can freely view job postings on their web site. Another good prospect is the NAFSA web site (the Association of International Educators) (www.nafsa.org), which posts many jobs in study abroad generally. The Chronicle of Higher Education's (chronicle.com) job section occasionally posts something for Italy as well.
2. Mine the AACUPI web site (the Association of American College and University Programs in Italy) at www.aacupi.org. AACUPI represents American study abroad programs in Italy and is recognized by the Italian Government. It has about 90 members, most in Florence and Rome, though many American schools in Italy do not belong to AACUPI. The AACUPI web site lists all of its member schools and most of the names and email addresses of the directors of these schools. Write a cover letter explaining your interest in working at a school, attach a resume and email it to a director. You might be ignored, but you may also get some interesting responses.
3. You might get your foot in the door by starting as an intern, which could lead to a paying job. These positions may not pay, but could offer housing. The best way to find an internship is to email program directors and ask. Even if a school does not have an internship program, you could offer yourself as one. Study abroad programs in Italy are just coming around to the idea. It is free labor and it is legally easier to have an intern than to hire someone who may not yet have the legal right to work in Italy.
4. The single best strategy to land a job in study abroad in Italy is to take the risk and go there and seek a job after you have arrived. Once you are there you can visit schools in person. Why is this the best strategy? For one, it proves to a prospective employer that you are willing to leave the comforts of home and show up at a job site in a foreign country. Finding reliable people is often difficult for a school, especially for those located outside of Florence and Rome. Also by meeting people in study abroad, you will discover things that you cannot learn from afar'such as job openings that are not advertised or how to navigate the local bureaucracy. If you make yourself familiar and available to a school, you might get hired temporarily, which could lead to a full-time job.
Some Legal Considerations
Like all countries, Italy has legal requirements for foreigners who want to work and live there. Yet many articles on finding a job in Italy make no mention of this. To merely reside in Italy for any period of time longer than 7 days, foreigners are required to obtain official permission to stay (called a permesso di soggiorno). If you are traveling around the country as a tourist, you do not need a permesso. This is only for someone who will reside at a specific address for a period of time. The permesso is obtained from the local questura (police department) in the city that you will live in. If you are staying in Rome, for example, you will need to register with the questura there. A permesso can be granted to you as a tourist (the easiest), as a student (requires a study visa), or as a person allowed to work (requires a work visa).
Many Americans tend to stay in Italy without getting the permesso and Italian enforcement of this is sporadic-to-non-existent. Ignoring the law, however, might put you at a disadvantage. The rental agency or landlord who owns the apartment that you want may require that you get one. You will also need it if you go to the hospital or deal with the government or police for any reason. If it is your first time in Italy, then get a permesso as a tourist. You will only need your passport for this and, if you are an American, you will be granted an automatic 90 day stay in Italy. People from other EU countries also need permessi if they want to reside in Italy.
The biggest legal issue is the right to work in Italy as a foreigner, which requires a work visa. The hassle involved in getting one is a story in its own right, but the major hurdle is getting sponsored by the school that will hire you. It is an open secret in study abroad that many Americans work there "under-the-table without a visa. The usual story is that you get hired first and then, sometime later, apply for a visa. The trick is finding a school that will hire you this way. It would be rare to find a school that would sponsor you for a visa without you first having a track record of employment there. There is already an army of people in Italy with the desire and ability to work in study abroad.
Useful Assets to Have
If you already have Italian language ability, this will help you. Programs in Italy always need people who can speak both Italian and English. If you are working in student services and have to escort a 20 year-old American student to a local hospital, you might have to assist the student in speaking to the doctors. If you do not have good Italian skills, then acquire them.
If you have an advanced degree, then you could teach courses. Courses offered at these schools span the disciplines and are mostly in English. While art history, Italian literature and Italian cinema are always in demand, there are also many people with these degrees who are seeking these jobs. If you have a degree in business, psychology, economics or writing, for example, you may find it easier to obtain a position. Visit the web sites of the schools listed in AACUPI and look at their course offerings to get an idea of their needs. It is less likely that a study abroad school would hire you to teach Italian, however, because there are countless Italians who fill these jobs. They have the home school advantage on language.
If you do land a teaching job in Italy, pay is by the course and can vary from $2500 to $5000, depending on where and what you teach. Once you learn the ropes, however, you can find additional opportunities. You could end up teaching 3 or more courses per term at one or more schools. This might be a lot of work, but it will allow you to survive.
If teaching is not an option, then there are administrative positions that do not require any special education. The upside to these jobs is that they are usually full time and offer a salary, though the pay can vary greatly. Most non-teaching jobs involve office work, housing and student services. There are the coveted directors positions, but these are much harder to get and usually require a Ph.D. and experience. Some of these jobs require significant language ability and a lot of local knowledge, but you can learn. You might get a job leading students on trips around Italy, for example. You would have to know how to charter buses, contact hotels and create itineraries for the students.
Any experience in American higher education is a plus. Programs need people who can function effectively in Italy, but also need people who understand American-style academic or student service standards. Italians who work for American study abroad programs, for example, frequently have to undergo a learning process because their understanding of higher education is dramatically different than that of an American.
Do you have dual citizenship or can you qualify for it? If so, you have a huge advantage over those who don't or can't. If you can get Italian citizenship or citizenship with any other EU country, then you have no need of a visa (nor for a permesso if you have Italian citizenship). If you have Italian ancestors, you might want to visit www.myitaliancitizenship.com, which covers all of the cases where a person could qualify. If your ancestry is that of another EU country, visit their consulate and embassy web sites in the US for information on qualification.
About The Author
Michael P. Gerace is an educator who spent 4 years living and teaching in Italy and is currently working on a book that chronicles the strange world of expatriates in Italy, entitled Full Moon Over Perugia. His web site is www.michaelgerace.com.