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How Much Do English Teachers Make in Colombia?
Learn how much money you can make as a TEFL-certified teacher in Colombia across various job types and explore recommended start-up costs and cost of living expenses.
Written By: Lynda Galea | Updated: June 28, 2022
Written By: Lynda Galea
Updated: June 28, 2022
With the growth of trade and the popularity of English language media in Colombia, the English language market is booming. Past associations with drug-related crime and violence are beginning to subside and many English teachers are heading to Colombia to enjoy all the country has to offer, including stable English teaching positions.
In this article, we explore how much money you can make teaching English in Colombia and the expenses you will need to consider both in terms of start-up costs and your monthly cost of living.
Salaries for Teaching English in Colombia
There are several different teaching opportunities available for TEFL-certified teachers in Colombia. ESL (English as a second language) teachers who ultimately spend time teaching English in Colombia do so via one of the following avenues:
- Teaching English at a private language school while on a work visa;
- Teaching English at a private language school on a work visa while private-tutoring students in-person on the side;
- Teaching English at a private language school on a work visa while teaching English online on the side.
- Private-tutoring students in-person and/or teaching English online while on a 180-day tourist visa.
Your salary will fluctuate depending on which teaching route you choose to pursue. On average, English teachers in Colombia can expect to make anywhere between $500 - $1,050 USD per month from working at a language school with the option to earn additional income through private tutoring ($7-$10 USD per hour) and teaching English online ($5-$20 USD per hour).
Let's explore each option and what you can expect to earn from them:
1. Colombia Language School Salaries
Most jobs in Colombia are going to be found in the major cities such as Bogota, Medellin, Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena, and Bucaramanga. Positions are typically teaching adult students or business professionals in private language schools and can sometimes be secured in advance of being in Colombia. However, teachers should expect to go in person to these schools to request an interview and acquire an ESL teaching job. Pay will fluctuate depending on where you are located, with teachers in larger cities like Bogota and Medellin earning more than those teaching in smaller cities and towns. English teachers working at language schools in Colombia can expect to make anywhere between $500 - $1,050 USD per month.
Colombia is also a Latin American country where teachers have the opportunity to obtain a work visa as some schools will help with the process. However, some schools are okay with their teachers working as freelancers and staying on their tourist visas. Obtaining a visa will really depend on the school that the teacher is working for.
Visa Options for Teaching English in Colombia
Tourist Visa for Teaching English in Colombia
Depending on the school you work for, you may be working on your tourist visa which is stamped in your passport upon entry into the country and is good for 90 days. Before the tourist visa expires, travelers can request another extension of 90 days at the Colombian Immigration Authority. After this, you will need to leave the country, visit a neighboring country, and return to Colombia to get a new tourist visa stamped in your passport every 90 days.
Work Visa for Teaching English in Colombia
While some employers will choose to have you teach on a tourist visa, it is also common for an employer to sponsor a work visa for you which is known as an M-5 visa. If your job is secured before heading to Colombia, it is possible to process the M-5 visa at the nearest Colombian Consulate in your home country. However, many teachers process their visa in Bogota at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores Office.
Once you receive your visa, you have roughly 15 days to register your visa with Migracion Colombia to get your Cedula (national identity card). These offices are located in major cities around Colombia. It is very important that you do this within the allotted 15 days or you could be fined. Having a Cedula enables you to open a bank account, get a cell phone plan, etc.
“M” Visas in Colombia are valid for 3 years. However, holders of this visa can only work for the position or profession with which the visa was granted. You cannot leave Colombia for longer than 6 consecutive months with the M visa or it will expire and lose validity.
Additional Reading: What Type of Visa Can I Use to Teach English in Colombia?
2. Colombia Private English Tutoring Salaries
Private tutoring ESL students is extremely common amongst English teachers in Colombia. Teachers that choose this route are often:
- Teaching English in Colombia at a language school and taking on some private tutoring students to help supplement their income;
- Teaching English online and seeking supplemental income by privately tutoring students in addition to their online teaching job;
- Solely providing private-tutoring lessons as their only form of income.
Getting clients for private lessons is a marketing exercise, and all the avenues that seem appropriate to your circumstances have to be explored. Here are some ways you can market yourself:
- Post notices in schools and universities, coffee shops, supermarkets, or corner shops;
- Run an advertisement in the local paper;
- Send notices to local public schools, announcing your willingness to work with local students on their English;
- Compile a list of addresses of professionals (lawyers, architects, etc.) who may need English for their work and have the resources to pay for it and then contact them;
- Call on export businesses, distribution companies, perhaps even travel agencies;
- Get ESL business cards made before you leave your home country that has your name, email address, and phone number on them.
How much money can I make private tutoring ESL students in Colombia?
As a private ESL tutor in Colombia, you should expect to charge and make around $7-10 USD (27,700 - 40,000 COP) per hour for one-on-one lessons (depending on where in Colombia you are based). While this may seem low, bear in mind that the average monthly salary amongst Colombian nationals tips the lower end of the scale, averaging roughly $400-500 USD per month, so your private tutoring rates needs to be in line with what they can afford to pay.
3. Colombia Teaching English Online Salaries
Like private ESL tutoring, teaching English online is an extremely popular way for teachers to make money. Many ESL teachers in Colombia teach online as their sole job and income, while others do it to supplement the income they earn from teaching at a language school or from private tutoring.
Teaching English online provides TEFL-certified teachers with the opportunity to make money from the comfort of their own home, with most teachers being able to make anywhere from $5-$20 USD per hour. Hours are flexible and it is up to you how much or how little you teach - you are in total control of your schedule.
If you are looking to ensure students are within your same timezone, check out these three online ESL schools based in Latin America:
- Beyond English - starting pay is $17 USD per hour taught for U.S. teachers
- Open English - earn up to $15 USD per hour
- Latin Hire - compensation varies depending on the total amount of hours you are available to work
A key advantage of teaching online is that you can begin teaching and making money before you move to Colombia. This is a great way to help cover the start-up costs of your move and will ensure that you have an income immediately upon your arrival to Colombia.
Additional Reading: To learn more about how much you can earn from online ESL teaching, please read How Much Money Can I Make Teaching English Online? Need help finding an online teaching platform? Check out Non-Chinese ESL Companies to Teach English Online With.
Expenses for Teaching English in Colombia
There are two categories of expenses that need to be taken into consideration for those looking to teach English in Colombia:
- Start-up costs
- Cost of living
Let's explore each of the two in more detail.
1. Start-Up Costs for Teaching English in Colombia
Start-up costs are expenses you will incur from your arrival in Colombia until you receive your first paycheck and may include things like a security deposit and first month's rent, apartment supplies, transport, groceries, getting your new local cell phone number set up, etc.
Start-up costs should be enough to cover your first month of living in Colombia and will range somewhere between $1,000 and $1,600 USD. This is the minimum amount of savings you should have on hand before leaving home and arriving in Colombia. If you have more, great, but if you have less, you may be setting yourself up for failure from the get-go which can cause unnecessary added stress during an already stressful period of adaption and change.
2. Cost of Living for Teaching English in Colombia
Cost of living refers to everyday monthly expenses you will incur during your time in Colombia. The most popular expenses that fall under this category include:
- Monthly rent expenses
- Utilities (electricity, gas, water bills, etc)
- Food and grocery expenses
- Health insurance
- Internet bill
- Cell phone bill
- Transportation (transit card, ride-sharing services, etc)
- Travel/entertainment expenses
Your cost of living expenses can vary based on where in Colombia you are based. For example, those living in larger cities like Bogota and Medellin can expect to have a higher cost of living compared to those located in smaller cities or towns. As a general rule of thumb, you should budget $500 - $1,050 USD per month to cover your cost of living.
Colombia is very much a break-even country, meaning you can cover your rent and bills, support yourself, live comfortably, and enjoy your life abroad to the fullest, but you shouldn't expect to save money at the end of each month. If you are hustling and taking on private tutoring lessons and/or teaching English online in addition to your regular teaching schedule, you may increase your ability to save and come out on top at the end of each month.
Cost of Living Comparisons Across Cities in Colombia
To provide a clearer picture of what the monthly cost of living may look like in Colombia, here are the expense breakdowns of some of our International TEFL Academy (ITA) alumni that have lived in or are currently living and teaching English in Colombia.
Please note: These snapshots should be used as an example and not an exact representation of what your expenses will look like. Everyone lives a different lifestyle and what is a necessity to one person, may not be to another.
Medellin, Colombia Cost of Living
This monthly expense breakdown comes from ITA alumna, Brianna Brage. Brianna teaches English online and also works 24 hours per week at a language institute providing in-person lessons. She makes $550 USD per month from her online classes and roughly $500-$600 USD per month at her language institute.
Bonus: Want to check out what a day in Brianna's life is like teaching English in Medellin? Watch the video here.
Bucaramanga, Colombia Cost of Living
This monthly expense breakdown comes from ITA alumna, Rebecca Sirull. Rebecca teaches English both online and at a language school in Bucaramanga.
Bonus: Want to check out what a day in Rebecca's life is like teaching English in Bucaramanga? Watch the video here.
An accomplished traveler (she's visited 40 countries!), Lynda hails from Melbourne, Australia. Since she joined ITA in 2017, Lynda has become a primary expert on the field of teaching English online. Not only has she published numerous articles on the topic herself, but she has worked with International TEFL Academy alumni around the world to produce an entire library of information and content about teaching English online. Lynda also serves as a primary organizer of ITA's ground-breaking Teach Abroad Film Festival.
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"I knew International TEFL Academy had a good reputation, and a friend recommended them to me, so I decided to finally get my certification in order to become a better teacher and be more confident in my teaching skills."
- Laura Hoppe
Teaches English in Colombia