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17 Insider Tips for Getting a Job Teaching English in Latin America
Written by: John Bentley
Last Updated: April 22, 2021
Want to live, travel and work in Chile, Brazil, or Costa Rica?
If you are a fluent English speaker, then teaching English in Latin America is probably a viable option for you to gain employment and live a great lifestyle in any number of countries throughout the region. From Mexico to Argentina, millions of people from all walks of life are learning English to enhance their educational and professional opportunities and demand for foreign English teachers has become nearly insatiable. And guess what? You don't have to possess prior professional teaching experience, a degree in education, or even a college degree to get a job teaching English in Latin America. But here are some great tips that can help you get hired to teach English in one of the world's most beautiful, historic and diverse regions.
1. First and foremost, get TEFL certified with an internationally recognized TEFL/TESOL certification. You don't need to posses prior professional teaching experience or a degree in education, but reputable schools abroad are looking to hire teachers with a verified level of training for teaching English as a foreign language. You shouldn't expect to get hired as an English teacher simply because you speak English. Not only will obtaining a TEFL certification be essential in helping you land a job, it will help you keep your job because you will be an effective, prepared, and competent teacher.
2. Hiring seasons are crucial. The majority of South American schools hire teachers during February and March and again in July and August. In a limited number of countries like Mexico & Costa Rica, language schools are hiring on a need basis throughout the year. To learn more, read What Are Hiring Seasons for Teaching English Abroad?
3. Be prepared to interview in person for the majority of countries in South and Central America. Although it’s possible to find jobs in advance in Latin America, the majority of schools in the region do not recruit from abroad like in other parts of the world. During the hiring seasons, hundreds, if not thousands of English teaching jobs turn over in the major cities. Going to another country without a job lined up might seem daunting, but this is common practice in Latin America, and if you follow our advice throughout the hiring process, you WILL be successful. Most people find a job within a couple weeks and begin working soon afterwards.
4. Speak with an expert advisor at International TEFL Academy. Before you even decide if TEFL certification and teaching English in a Latin American country is right for you, speak with an advisor to get all of your initial questions and concerns answered. They will be able to go over all of your options in regards to TEFL certification and teaching English in Latin America. You can get in touch with an advisor by filling out a form to request a free brochure or by calling our offices at 773-634-9900.
5. Dress professionally and conservatively when applying for jobs. For guys, a shirt and tie with trousers should be adequate. For women, dress pants or a skirt and a conservative top should suffice. It is also recommended to remove facial piercings and keep the tattoos covered if possible. Presentable appearance is important in Latin America.
6. Head to the major cities. Larger cities like Bogota, Colombia; Santiago, Chile; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and San Jose, Costa Rica have more people, more schools, and therefore more jobs. If you have a smaller city or town in mind initially, go for it, but have a back-up plan to check out a larger city close by if you can’t find a job within a couple weeks.
7. Create a professional resume/C.V. and cover letter and have them translated into Spanish (or Portuguese for Brazil). Also make business cards for yourself as soon as possible that list you as TEFL certified. How to Write a Killer Resume for Getting Hired to Teach English Abroad
8. Start marketing yourself as a private tutor immediately and aggressively. There is a big demand for private tutors, and you can typically charge more per hour than what your school will pay you. Private tutoring is a great way to earn extra money. We recommend posting notices on bulletin boards in and around major universities as well as cafes and other highly trafficked areas. You may also consider posting ads in local publications, and word of mouth can be key, so ask friends and acquaintances if they know anybody in search of private English lessons.
To learn more, check out: Can I Earn Money as a Private Tutor while Teaching English Abroad
9. Be Patient. Latin American culture is notorious for incorporating a relaxed approach with regards to time and urgency. Do not be surprised or discouraged if schools do not get back to you right away or if private students are a few minutes late for their lessons. Be prepared for “Latin America time” not only with your job search, but in everyday life as well.
10. Learn about the visa procedures. Common visa practices can vary greatly from country to country for English teachers. For example, in Chile, it is common for your employer to sponsor you for a traditional work visa once you find a job whereas in Argentina, it is common for schools to hire you under the table on a tourist visa. Learn more about visas here.
11. Arrive with the appropriate financial resources to cover start-up costs. Most schools in Latin America pay teachers once every four weeks so even if you start working right away, you will not receive a paycheck for another month. It is best to bring enough money - usually the equivalent of $1,000 - $,2000, though it will vary from country to country - to support yourself for the first six weeks after you arrive while you interview, begin working and get settled in with accommodations. The good news is that most Latin American countries offer a fairly low cost of living therefore your start-up costs will be lower compared to other regions of the world.
To learn more about start-up costs in specific countries, check a Country Chart and Latin America Country Profiles. Also, read What Are Start-Up Costs for Teaching English Abroad?
12. If you do not have accommodation lined up such as with family or friends, plan on spending your first month in a hostel or some other budget-friendly accommodation. Airbnb and guidebooks like the Lonely Planet are great resources for finding budget friendly accommodation.
13. If you have friends or relatives in Latin America, they can be a very helpful resource. Have them scout out local schools. Also, have them inquire with friends and colleagues to see if they might be interested in private lessons – this will enable you to start making money and getting experience as soon as you arrive.
14. As soon as you arrive, get a local phone with a local number and make sure to include the number on your resume and in all correspondence.
15. The best way to get an interview is typically to visit and call schools personally. As Woody Allen once said, "80% of life is just showing up" and that is certainly the case when it comes to getting hired as an English teacher in Latin America. Do not simply sit in an Internet café and email resumes as this will not prove effective, especially in Latin America, where personal interaction is crucial to building professional relationships.
Meeting school directors and other potential employers in person gives you credibility, proves your seriousness, and provides a perfect opportunity to sell yourself both as a potential teacher and as reliable and professional person. Also, do not reach out to just a few schools; reach out to 20 or 30 or even more schools. One of the many resources provided for International TEFL Academy graduates is a giant directory that includes contact information for thousands of language institutes and schools throughout Latin America.
16. Search out the local teaching community; find out where they hang out, talk to them and build relationships. Word-of-mouth and personal referrals can be an excellent way to find local job opportunities. As an enrolled student and graduate of International TEFL Academy, you will also be able to join alumni only country-specific Facebook groups where you can reach out to people currently teaching or interested in teaching in specific countries.
17. There is a big demand for Business English throughout Latin America so teachers with a corporate or business background should highlight that experience and their resumes and during interviews. Likewise if you have experience coaching, training, or working with kids.
John Bentley is Co-Founder & Senior Writer for International TEFL Academy (ITA), the world leader in TEFL certification for teaching English abroad. A graduate of Harvard University and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern, John is a recognized expert in the field of TEFL. His articles have appeared across the field's top websites, including GoAbroad.com, StudyAbroad.com, InterExchange, GoOverseas.com, Adventure Teaching, & many others. He has also spoken as an expert on Teaching English Abroad & TEFL certification at major conferences like MeetPlanGo and Lessons from Abroad (LFA) in Portland & San Diego.
Want to Learn More About Teaching English Abroad?
Request a free brochure or call 773-634-9900 to speak with an expert advisor about all aspects of TEFL certification and teaching English abroad or online, including the hiring process, salaries, visas, TEFL class options, job placement assistance and more.
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