Wednesday 7 January 2009

Teaching in Latin America

Updated 28 November 2014

In Latin America you can live pretty well. Going out to eat or having a maid is affordable. You should check out the FAQs for teaching in Latin America has country-by-country information and you can find free lists of schools at the LA Job list.

Types of Teaching Jobs
  • Many teachers end up at language schools / institutes and you may have to work split shifts.
  • If you have a teaching license look at bilingual or international school where you’ll get a higher salary and paid vacations.
  • Universities might be another option if you have at least a BA and a couple years teaching experience.
Signing a Contract to Teach in Latin America
Most places will want to meet you before offering you a job. The best thing to do is start contacting schools, tell them when you will arrive and try to set up an interview. The majority of teachers are able to secure teaching positions within one or two weeks.

Remember that each school is different. Some institutes hire only those with working visas. Others hire teaching on tourist visas. Some will require you sign a contract and some are more flexible and just have verbal agreements.

Typical contracts usually include the minimum number of hours, amount and frequency of pay, length of contract, whether teachers can teach classes outside of the school, and how the contract can be broken.

Visas for Teaching in Latin America
Countries change their visa regulations all the time. For example, Ecuador just eliminated border hopping and visa extensions and now it’s almost impossible to teach on a tourist visa. Peru just changed its 90 day visa to up to 183 days. In general, primary, secondary, bilingual, and international schools as well as universities are more likely to get you a work visa than language institutes. If you're going to get a work visa ask what documents you need. If you’ve married a local, you get residency and a work visa.

Be sure to check about visa rules beforehand and know how long you can stay and if visa extensions are allowed. If they are find out how much more time you can get. Some countries have a limit on the total numbers of days you can stay in a year; some enforce this law and others are more flexible. Sometimes you can get an extension in the country, other times you may have to leave the country, and other times you can simply pay a fine for overstaying your visa. Although it's not uncommon for people to work on tourist visas it is illegal. While most people have no issues you could be fined, deported, or worse.

Qualifications and Money Matters
Having a BA is often a basic requirement although you maybe able to get around that if you have life experience. TEFL certification classes, such as the one through the University of Toronto and CCELT, both which can be taken online will help you know about your subject matter and giving you practical teaching tips and experience teaching students. If you aren’t able to do a TEFL cert then at least do some research, observe some classes, or talk to some teachers.

Many teachers end up at language schools that typically pay about $6 to $15 an hour. Some schools may offer you room, board, and a small stipend in exchange for teaching. You may find yourself working at more than one language institute to pick up enough hours. Private students aren’t difficult to pick up and teachers usually charge between $5 and $20 an hour. You should bring money to tide you over before you get paid. The cost of living is pretty low compared to other places such as North America and Europe. Most teachers can live off of $600 a month provided they learn to use local transport and cook at home.

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This article has been featured in the ELT Times.



  1. This is a very helpful article! What are the "usual" qualifications for teaching at a colegio/high school?

  2. For a regular one, you'd need a degree. Maybe some experience. For an international one, you'd need a teaching license and ideally experience.

  3. Thank you for the insight. I must admit it has been difficult getting information that is worthy, and that isn't soliciting to take a certification course. I'm interested in teaching in S. Am, and good reliable information has been hard to come by. Thanks again Sharon for the information, I'll be keeping up with you blog from this point on.

  4. Glad to help. This article might help as well,

    You should also take a look at my other blog about South America: Info's free, just like here and no certification course pressure either. I'm just a teacher :)

  5. What are the possibilities of teaching digital electronics in Central America?

  6. This is a great article. I was over there a few years back and brought back some decent memories. Thanks!

  7. I have taught at various schools in Panama. And yes, it is at hot spot right now. If you are into teaching business professionals I highly recommend you contact: They are located in the F & F Tower on Calle 50


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