Working in France: Lectrice Q & A

Most Americans in France know how hard it is to get a visa and a job. If you don’t have EU nationality, a French spouse, or a rare and in-demand professional specialty, job opportunities are slimmer than the supermodels France recently banned, especially if you weren’t educated in France.

There are a couple solutions. You can work part time on a student visa while going to school (check), you can be a language assistant in a French elementary, middle, or high school (check), and, if you have the required education, you can be a lecteur or lectrice in a French university (check!)

(Other ways to live and work in France include being an au pair and getting your visa sponsored through the Franco-American chamber of commerce. If you’re Canadian or Australian, you may qualify for a working holiday visa.)

I’m about to embark on my fourth year in France and my second as a university lectrice. Here are some insights into my experience as a lectrice so far.

Wait, what’s a lecteur/lectrice?

A lecteur/lectrice is a foreigner who teaches their native language in a French university. A lecteur is a mec (a dude) and a lectrice is a meuf (a woman).

So, what do you do?

The job description of a lecteur/lectrice can vary greatly depending on the school, and sometimes even within the same school. Loosely, you teach about 10-12 hours per week, and are usually responsible for lesson planning and grading as well.

I teach classes of 20-30 students on average, and sometimes I follow an established curriculum, and sometimes I create my own course material based on the topic of the class. I know others who teach much smaller groups, who plan all their lessons from scratch, who work with small groups and individuals with special needs – really, it varies.

What are your classes like?

I teach a wide range of subjects to first, second, and third year students. I teach classes in translation, business English, oral comprehension, phonetics, and cultural themes.

What’s the best part about being a lectrice?

Am I allowed to say the vacation? (Just kidding.) For me, it’s a few things.

I love language, and I love pondering words, so I enjoy explaining interesting things about English – English versus French, differences between English dialects, written versus spoken English – all the quirks. I also love to rant about punctuation.

I am constantly learning new things in English and French, and even about other cultures from my students.

Finally, I can’t lie – the life balance and time off is great. There are very busy times, but they are followed by time to rest, recover, travel. Even when I have a pile of papers to grade, I can always take my red pen to a sunny terrace, or a cozy cafe in the winter, so I can’t complain.

And what’s the worst part?

For me, it’s discipline. I love teaching students who want to learn, but they’re not always the majority. In France, it costs practically nothing to attend a public university (la fac) and some students actually get money from the government for being a full time student. On the one hand, that’s awesome, but on the other hand, it means the level of motivation among the students varies greatly, and being a strong classroom disciplinarian is more important than you would expect at the university level.

How did you get your lectrice job?

I kept a watch on job postings on the IE Languages blog (which is chock full of resources for language teaching and learning) and I called all the universities in my area to find out if they were hiring. Some only take lecteurs/lectrices on exchange from partner universities, and some hire on exchange first, then fill remaining spots with local applicants. I was referred as an applicant by a teacher at the lycée where I worked.

Usually, the best thing is to look for online job postings, and if you don’t see one, to contact the head of the English department. After I sent my cover letter and CV, I was invited to interview in May, and I received my acceptance via email in June.

How long can you be a lecteur/lectrice?

A lecteur/lectrice contract lasts one year (CDD fixed contract), and you can hold the position for two years maximum. Some universities do not guarantee that you’ll be rehired for a second year.

What kind of visa do you have?

I have a long-stay working visa titre de séjour with the status traveilleur temporaire. (Some lecteurs/lectrices have the status salarié. I’m not sure why, but it seems to end up costing more in government stamps.) I got my carte de séjour in France since I was already living here and didn’t change status, but you can obtain or renew your visa at your home consulate as well.

I have ranted extensively about my “adventures” at the préfecture, and since I’ll be doing the whole thing again this summer, you can expect more where that came from. (Unless everything goes smoothly. But let’s not kid ourselves.)

All ranting aside, I’m extremely grateful to have my job as a lectrice, and I’m excited to be staying in France for another year.

Mademoiselles Jill and Dana have also written about working as a lectrice in France. They are the best.

Have you been a lecteur or lectrice? Do you have questions? I’m all ears.

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20 thoughts on “Working in France: Lectrice Q & A

  1. What an interesting post! So useful for English speakers who want to work over here. Sounds like a hugely enjoyable job although from what you say about having to be a “strong classroom disciplinarian” it obviously has its tough side too. I have yet to catch up on your préfecture adventures…I can only imagine 🙂

    1. Thank you! It’s definitely the best job I’ve had in four years in France, though there are downsides too. Oh yes, I have done plenty of ranting about French bureaucracy! Now that I have everything set up, I almost miss it. (Not!)

  2. Thank you for having such a detailed post! My goal is to teach abroad when I graduate this December 2017 and your blog has been super helpful and entertaining. Best of luck to you in California!

  3. Catherine, thanks for the great information. I’d love your assistance with my application to be a lecteur.

    1. Hi Adam! If you haven’t already, have a look at ielanguages.com – there are some open lecteur positions posted right now. I hope that the resources I’ve listed will give you a good idea of what to expect – the other bloggers I mentioned have a different perspective from mine and have shared a lot about their experiences too. It can be a little tricky since there’s no uniform application process, but we’ve tried to share some guidelines to help as much as possible. Good luck with your search!

  4. Hi Catherine, thanks for all the information! Do you know if you can be a lecteur/lectrice while simultaneously undertaking a Master’s program at a French university?

    1. Hi Kendall, I think it depends on the school and the Master’s program. I have heard of people doing this, but it’s not very common. I think it would be quite difficult to juggle a full teaching schedule with classes, and some schools wouldn’t allow it because they can’t necessarily work around your schedule. The only person I know who did it was writing his thesis, not attending classes as far as I know. However, the lecteur/lectrice role varies a lot between schools, so it might work at a school with less rigorous teaching requirements. Previously, it was more common for Master’s students to work as vacataires, but I believe the law has changed and that’s not allowed anymore. If you end up combining the two, let me know how it goes!

  5. Hello Catherine, it was very helpful to read about your experiences as a lectrice. I’m wondering if you already had a master’s degree when you applied for this position?

    1. Hi Georgia, Thank you! I did not have a master’s degree when I applied; in fact, I believe only one other lectrice I worked with did. Some schools are very strict about requiring at least one year of master’s study (which is technically the law) and others are more flexible. It helps to have teaching experience and if you have continued your education in some way beyond your bachelor’s degree.

  6. Hi Catherine,
    I’ve just found your blog, and I have to say, it’s so useful and informative.
    I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about working as a lecteur. I’m fortunate to have found employment as a lecteur in Nancy starting from September, through being nominated by my university back in England.
    I’ve wanted to work as a lecteur for years, as teaching English to adults is a career path I have been seriously considering for a number of years now. However, despite all previous and current lecteurs telling me that I will be okay, I am really concerned that I won’t be able to do my job effectively due to a number of factors. This includes a lack of teaching experience, and no qualifications such as CELTA etc. I also lack confidence in my own language skills.
    I’ve been trying to prepare as thoroughly as possible, such as by practising my French and re-studying the basics of English grammar. I’m also considering shadowing a few ESOL classes in order to improve my knowledge of ESOL teaching methods. However, I still believe I’m going to come across as an incompetent, unprofessional idiot.
    I was wondering if you could tell me a little more about the content of the classes you had to teach: did you find having a solid base in English grammar a necessity? Or was it mainly conversation based?
    Sorry for writing so much, but it would be great to have your opinion on the matter. Feel free to ignore if I’m being too intrusive.
    Thank you
    Chri

    1. Hi there! First of all, congratulations on your lecteur position – I hope that you’ll have a great year (or two) in Nancy. I completely understand where you’re coming from. Classroom teaching can be really daunting, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Do you have any information about the kinds of classes you’ll be teaching or the students at the university? I had no idea what to expect before I started, and I wanted to prepare but I couldn’t get any information because all the teachers were on summer vacation 🙂

      Lecteur duties vary hugely from school to school, so if it’s possible to get in touch with someone at the school or someone who was a lecteur there previously (does your university send a lecteur every year?) they will be able to give you the best insights.

      I taught at a public university mainly in LCE and LEA (language students) and also taught some English classes to students whose main area of study wasn’t English (but rather history, Japanese, business, law, etc.) Some classes were prepared for me, some I created from scratch, and others were in between. I had lectrice friends at other schools who had completely different experiences. Some of them ran conversation groups, helped students with disabilities, taught lessons on culture, etc. It can be more rigid or more relaxed depending on your particular school and the class size.

      Until you know more specifically what you’ll be doing, I think the main thing to focus on is what you do bring to the table and to have confidence in that. It’s nice that you’re doing a little grammar revision to have that under your belt, but personally I think there’s no shame in saying, “I don’t know, let’s find out” if you’re not sure about something. Think less about grammar and more about how to engage a room full of students.

      There’s a good chance your students will already have a strong foundation in English and you will be tasked with coming up with interesting topics in class to study and discuss, rather than focusing on vocabulary and grammar. It seems that often, you will be told what to teach, or at least you’ll have some guidelines – you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.

      I think one of the most important things to prepare for is classroom management. Personally, it’s what I struggled with the most. I find it really helps when you’ve established your boundaries ahead of time and can enforce rules consistently. In my opinion, the more you’ve thought about your classroom rules and the reasoning behind them, the easier it is to enforce them. (What happens if students don’t do the homework? If they’re on their phones? Chatting during class? If they cheat on a test? If they flagrantly disregard your instructions? How will you respond?) There’s not a single right way and not everyone does it the same way, but firmly establishing what you’ll accept and sticking to it makes a difference. Other teachers at your school can help you understand what the norms there are, hopefully. (If you are already at ease with this, awesome!! Your job will be so much easier.)

      I wish I could give you more concrete advice, but honestly, your experience might be completely different from mine. I know I’m very long-winded, but I hope that some of this helps a little! Most lecteurs I know did not have significant training before they started teaching – there are so many people who are in the same boat as you. If you have time, please send an update after you start your job! I would love to know what your classes are like. Good luck!

  7. Hi Catherine,
    Thanks for your post! I’m currently investigating a possible move to Paris in the near future, and love the idea of working in a University.
    I’m just finishing my PhD and have some experience teaching university students (history). I was just wondering what level of French universities would expect/require? Does it depend on the university or is there a standard requirement?
    Any advice would be appreciated 🙂
    Thanks!
    Kate

    1. Hi Kate! I don’t think there is a standard requirement for level of French. It is certainly helpful, and in some cases necessary, but it seems like you would be a good candidate for maître de langues (higher than lectrice because it requires a higher level of education). I had interviews in French and in English when I was interviewing, so it seems like it really depends. I definitely think it’s worth trying your luck at universities that interest you. Fluency in French might be a job requirement for some, but not necessarily everywhere. I hope that helps! Good luck with your search – please feel free to send an update later on! I would love to know what you find out.

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