ESL Teacher Opportunities in Latin America

By | January 31, 2015

Many people say anybody teaching English abroad is not doing it for the money.  Although teaching English overseas does not help one get on the list of Forbes 500, it can come with a reasonable salary. Well, let me back up there. Maybe you end up teaching a millionaire who wants to invest in one of your ideas or upgrade your position to Director of a branch of schools. It is all about the connections you make, right?  You may be able to make those connections in Latin American nations.

As an increasing number of college graduates struggle to secure jobs in their  country of origin, they discover that can actually make a reasonable living as an English teacher. Below are some countries in Central & South America where you can make a decent living teaching English and still enjoy life, which is what it’s all about anyway.

1.  Nicaragua 
Horse carrige on streets of Nicaragua - flickr-86778817@N00

Horse carrige on streets of Nicaragua – flickr-86778817@N00

Nicaragua is quite possibly the biggest surprise in Latin America in a positive sense. Like it’s neighboring country of Costa Rica, Nicaragua has captivating coastal areas, lush vegetation, and a fast-growing workplace for English teachers. Having said that, in contrast to Costa Rica and Panama, Nicaragua continues to be mostly unknown to tourists, retired people, and companies providing vacation packages.

As for jobs, the bulk of the educational jobs for those qualified to teach English in Nicaragua will typically be in larger cities like the country’s capital, Managua, Grenada, and Leon, a pair of beautiful 500-year-old cities recognized for their stunning colonial architecture and lively street life. In addition, the cost of living in Nicaragua is super affordable.

Typically, to get hired as an English teacher in Nicaragua, you should plan on going there to interview in person, and jobs open throughout the year.  Those who hold an accredited TEFL certification should absolutely be able to gain employment within a week or two of contacting and interviewing local language schools.  Private tutoring is also a great way to earn extra income.

Best time to get Hired?  end of Mid- January to February although hiring is year-round

Typical Class Sizes:   private one-on-one but mostly academies will have you teaching from 6 and 20 students

How much should I expect make?  Between $300-600 USD every month which covers the cost of living (7,500 to 15,000 Cordobas/month).  For example, rent is not going to be more than $150/month by yourself or you can share at $50-$ 75 a month.

How many hours will I work? Typically 20 to 25 hours per week with room for private lessons or enjoying the country.

Work VISA? Not necessary but it can be renewed every 90 days by traveling to Costa Rica.

Do I need to be certified ?   CELTA, TESOL, TEFL or equivalent qualifications are necessary. A four-year degree is preferred but not a deal-breaker.

Where are most teaching positions located?  in the major cities like León, Managua, Granada, and San Juan del Sur.

Does the school pay for housing?  No because the cost of living is extremely low compared to other Latin American countries.

2.   Colombia

Colombia, known as the country of coffee growers has stabilized quite well from decades ago and now one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America along with being a leading job market for English teachers. The cities of Bogota and Medellin have grown to be strong business and cultural hubs, recognized for their multi-colored areas of shopping and bustling nightlife. On top of that, you’ll find very accommodating coastal areas, abundant rain forests and an interesting culture and history of Colombia. Past experiences from teachers in Bogota is positive as they love to wake up to the view of the mountains and smell the fresh mountain air.

Flickr courtesy of Pbouchard

Flickr courtesy of Pbouchard

Best Time to Get Hired?  end of February or the start of March

Typical Class Sizes: Private one-on-one while most academies will have you teaching from 6 and 20 students

How much should I make?  Ranges from $600-1500 USD each month.  Past teachers say you will need to earn 1400 Colombian pesos to live comfortably. If working full-time you should actually be able to save a little every month.

How many hours will I work? It varies depending on the location. 20-30 hours a week and during high season more hours.

Work VISA? Some schools will help you get a work VISA which costs $250USD.  After 30 days of your arrival all foreigners must register with DAS.

Do I need to be certified ?   CELTA, TESOL, TEFL or equivalent qualifications plus a University degree are recommended (translation: required).

Where are most teaching positions located?  in the larger cities such as Barranquilla, Bogota, Caldes,   Ibague, Medellin

Does the school pay for housing?  arranged housing or private accommodations

3. Chile – La Tierra de Poetas

If you have an active lifestyle and enjoy the idea of living in a place where you can go surfing and ski on Saturdays and Sundays, then teaching English in Chile is the right choice for you.  Their magnificent mountain ranges are ideal for mountain biking or going wine tasting with your new compadres or a Bacilón.  Within South America, Chile is one of the most thriving and economically developed countries.

Parque Nacional Lauca, Región de Arica y ParinacotaChile is among the few Latin American countries where it is not unusual to arrange a job prior to your arrival. However, past teachers say the larger language institutions who offer this pay you less.

Best time to get Hired?  end of February or the beginning of March when everyone is returning from their usual vacation period.

Typical Class Sizes:   private one-on-one but mostly academies will have you teaching from 6 and 20 students

How much should I make? Between $350 USD -$1350 USD every month.

How many hours will I work? It varies depending on the location. If working full-time, you are essentially breaking even.

Work VISA? It is not necessary but most foreigners are on a 90-day VISA where they have to exit the country using the popular 8 hour bus trip to Mendoza, Argentina and back. You can also look into obtaining a temporary and temporary subject to contract VISA from certain schools.

Do I need to be certified ?  No, but if you have a CELTA or TEFL certification, it will help with certain institutions. Simply being a native English speaker and having a four-year college degree are sufficient.

Where are most teaching positions located?  in the larger cities such as Santiago, Antofagasta, Copiapo, Concepcion, Talca, La Serena, Puerto Montt, and Valparaiso

Does the school pay for housing?  It varies. Shared rentals in hostels or apartments are common.

4. Argentina – The Land of Contrast

Finding a position as an ESL instructor in Argentina has been fairly easy for Americans, Aussies and Brits. Teachers are always in constant need in Buenos Aires. The city, nicknamed “La Reina Del Plata”, has a population greater than 12 million.  Jobs area easy to find with people always coming and going.  Get in touch with the big language institutes and universities and walk around the city leaving your resume with employers. Buenos Aires has a wide pool of people who genuinely want to improve their English skills and they seek this help primarily from native English speakers.

Caminito-Tango-Buenos-AiresHow much would I get? Between $AR3,300 – $AR8,300 (part-time – full-time) which translates to ($383USD to $965USD) a month. Private students will help you earn up to $14/hr

How many hours will I work? Schools usually require teachers to work 15 to 40 hours of classes and prep work each week.

Work VISA? Most schools will want you to have that but most foreigners teach business English to companies on a tourist visa.

Do I need to be certified ?  No, but if you have a CELTA or TEFL certificate ti will help with certain institutions. Simply being a native English speaker and having a four-year college degree are sufficient.

Where are most teaching positions located?  in the larger cities such as Buenos Aires, Bariloche, Cordoba, Mar del Plata, Mendoza, Rosario, and Tucuman

Does the school pay for housing?  No. Shared rentals are the norm.

5. Brazil – Enjoy Samba and the Beaches

The largest country in South America, in terms of population and economic power, Brazil has unparalleled need for certified English language teachers. English teachers typically obtain positions in February through March and once more in the months of July and August.

sidewalk section of Ipanema Beach

sidewalk section of Ipanema Beach

While some English language schools interview teachers in advance over the phone and via e-mail, the best way to find a job is on the ground in Brazil during an in-person interview. English teachers in Brazil are responsible for their airfare and housing.

Yes, English teachers can have a comfortable lifestyle in Brazil when it comes to local food and activities.

How much would I get? Between 1,500 to 3,000 Brazilian Real (€630 to €1,265) a month US$3,200 and US$5,000 per month. NOTE: You may be able to double that income if you are doing private tutoring as many teachers claim they are earning double of what the language institute pays them.

How many hours will I work? Schools typically offer 20 to 25 hours of work per week.

Work VISA? Most schools are content to employ you on a tourist visa and see how it plays out.

Do I need to be certified in TEFL/TESOL?  No, but if you are TEFL certified you may get the better positions and higher pay. Being a native speaker and four-year college degree are usually the minimum.

Where are the jobs concentrated?  in the larger cities such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Recife, Salvador, and Brasilia.

Does the school pay for housing?  No. However, the cost of living in Brazil is not very high, unless you are choosing to live in the swanky areas.  The majority of teachers live in shared rentals with roommates, expats, and other teachers.