The Teaching Environment and Job Market in Latin America
Pubs across snowy Eastern Europe and sweltering offices in East Asia are filled with hordes of English teachers staring into a pint or a pile of photo copies. They hold dreams of escaping to Latin America, and are certain that, if they could just get a foot in the door, then they would be in paradise. If you are in the US, the UK, Russia or South Korea, here are a few things to think about before starting your job search and potential foray into potential Latin American paradise.
Let’s start our journey in the Mexican market. There are approximately 25 million English learners in Mexico and the number of students has exploded thanks to national programs instituted to encourage English proficiency. Mexico is also now in the top 20 for sending students to study English abroad in countries such as the US and Canada.
Parents with disposable income usually place their children in private schools and there are also over 70 registered schools across the nation including such well-known brands as Berlitz, Harmon Hall, International and The Anglo. Many teachers report that teaching at top universities or working for firms that offer Business English classes are the best sources of a better income. Complaints of working in places like Mexico City involve long commutes to classes, while those at university talk of long unpaid hours of prep work. Teachers often report the ability to have a flourishing social life but the inability to save much cash.
Many teachers are also very drawn to the enchantment of Argentina, particularly Buenos Aires. Many residents of this city fall so madly in love with the Argentine capital, that it is particularly careful to plan well before making a move to the land of the White and Blue Sky.
It is best to have a BA or BS, and you should also have a proper TEFL certificate. It is very unlikely that you will receive accommodation or plane reimbursement, and the potential to save any cash is very limited. Regarding paperwork, you may have to cross a neighboring country to renew your visa, and you may have to interview in person. This of course means that you may need startup cash upwards of at least $1,200-$1,500. The monthly cost of living is between $700 and $1,000 and expect to be teaching 20-25 hours per week plus bog standard prep time. The best times to find a job are from mid-February to mid-March and July and August. This may all sound a bit serious, but you don’t want to be so enchanted by the football, red wine, and grass-fed steaks that you wind up with no pesos in your pocket. Find a nice gig and enjoy electric Buenos Aires.
Perhaps you have seen your friends zip-lining in Costa Rica in their social media posts. It certainly looks like a tropical paradise, but how is the teaching market? Many of the teaching jobs in Costa Rica reside in private language institutes open to native speakers with a TEFL certificate. Most of said jobs reside in the Costa Rican Central Valley including San José and also such lovely cities as Heredia and Cartago.
The market is as large as 400,000 potential students and is composed of young adults hoping to obtain a big advantage in the business world. The Costa Rican economy has really warmed up, and is now the top exporter of so-called high value added services in all of Latin America, and has even moved ahead of Brazil and Chile. This means more teaching jobs for you.
Costa Rica is also a great place to volunteer, and working a paid job will give you the opportunity to at least break even.Your monthly expenditures of $700-1000 will usually match your salary. You are most likely to earn roughly $10 per hour, work in the mornings, late afternoons and evenings, and perchance on Saturdays. If you are a good fit for your company you can expect to get 20-25 hours per week and still have time to enjoy all the beach, sun, and other amenities and activities which draw so many people to this beautiful land.
Colombia used to live in the minds of Westerners as a land of drug lords and violence. Now people look to Medellin and Bogota as wonderful tourists escapes and teachers are starting to notice the burgeoning job market. The Colombian government has made a goal of integrating English education for all citizens by 2020 as part of a concerted effort to increase bilingualism.
It’s a fresh market, so things can change quickly, but you might roughly expect to find a 6 or 11 month contract which pays roughly 1,500,000-2,000,000 pesos per month. It is also recommended to find a company that covers your visa. Like Costa Rica, Colombia is also a popular destination for volunteers.
Last, we have the biggest country in Latin America, amazing Brazil. A host of private international schools in Brazil offer teaching jobs abroad each year. Teachers in Brazil can expect to get salary and benefits based on their qualifications and experience. Elementary, middle, and secondary school teaching jobs in Brazil are a viable option for licensed teachers with at least 2 years of experience at the appropriate level, as well as a BA/BS degree in a relevant area of concentration. It must be noted that successful candidates should be flexible and must have excellent communication skills. Another popular option is international private schools which offer good benefits and teacher training options. Most teachers in Brazil report loving the local culture and have a thriving social life.
So there you have it. Latin America offers a wide array of teaching options. You may not become the next Rockefeller, but you can improve your teaching skills, further your career, live and travel in exciting places, and gain memorable experiences.