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If you would like to combine teaching English with traveling, Chile is the ideal place. Chile's varied geography offers breathtaking scenery and plenty of adventure, from the bone-dry Atacama Desert in the north, to the stunning beauty of the Chilean Patagonia in the far south. The neighboring countries of Peru, Bolivia and Argentina are also easily accessed from Chile.
Within South America, Chile is one of the best options if you are looking to teach English abroad. Chile is a fast developing stable democracy with modern infrastructure. A modern, efficient bus system connects the entire country, as well as frequent flights departing from the International Airport in Santiago.
A volunteer program sponsored by the Government of Chile, English Opens Doors places volunteer teachers in schools all throughout Chile. Volunteers work as a teacher's assistant at underprivileged schools and are often the students' first and only exposure to native English speakers. Housing with a host family and a small stipend are provided. This program is designed for native English speakers between the ages of 21-35, with at least a Bachelor's Degree from an accredited university. Volunteers can choose from placements lengths that range from 6-12 months, and can state their preference about location within Chile.
This is the most popular option for English teachers coming in from abroad, as it has the highest demand for native speakers. Private language institutes abound in Santiago, and are also found in most major cities in Chile, although to a lesser extent. Some institutes only teach customized off-site classes in different companies, while others also have on-site classes during a fixed class schedule. Expect to teach mostly business people, but also university students, people who work in tourism, teenagers and children, depending on the institute. Test prep classes, for international exams such as the TOEFL, IELTS, GREs or GMATs are also common, as more and more Chileans are opting for graduate study abroad.
Most teachers, regardless of where they work, end up teaching private classes. Once you are established in Chile and start getting to know people, it is easy to network and find students. While you will make more money teaching private classes, it can be less stable if your students cancel classes a lot. For this reason, it is best to set up a firm cancellation policy. Most private language institutes have a policy that prohibits their teachers from teaching private classes to students from the institute, so make sure you are informed about this.
There are a few agencies that, for a fee, will find you a teaching job in Chile before you arrive. They normally place teachers at elementary or high schools, universities or in private language institutes. If you are nervous about finding a job, have a strict timeline of when you will be in Chile, or just want the extra comfort of someone looking out for you, this is a good option. However, keep in mind that it is totally possible to find these jobs on your own. Some agencies include: Teaching Chile and WorldTeach.
If you would like to teach at a private elementary or high school in Chile, it is easiest to find these jobs once you've arrived here and established connections in the country. In most cases, you will need to have either a teaching certificate or a Master's in Education. Another option is to go through an agency (see below) that could place you at a school. However, keep in mind that you will be receiving the same salary as Chilean teachers, which is lower than teaching at a language institute.
The economy is strong and there is high demand in all sectors for professionals who speak English. Santiago, the capital city with around 7 million habitants, is the best place to look for English teaching jobs, as it is the political and economic center of the country. However, other cities such as Valparaiso on the central coast, Antofagasta in the North, or Concepcion in the South, also offer opportunities for English teaching jobs. The peak hiring times are in March and July.
In the vast majority of cases, private language institutes require you to have at least a Bachelor's Degree, and most institutes will want to see at least some teaching experience on your resume. It is not absolutely necessary to have a TEFL/CELTA certificate to find a job in Chile, but it is useful, and you will have better job prospects if you do have one. Some institutes will pay more if you are certified. If you want to work at an elementary or high school in Chile, you will need to have a teaching certificate from a university or a Master's Degree in Education.
Institutes in Chile will recognize both online and in person TEFL/CELTA certifications. It is useful to take a TEFL certification in Chile, as it will give you an inside perspective into the Chilean culture and some of the common mistakes made by Chilean speakers. However, it is by no means a requirement. There are a few options for taking an on-site TEFL courses in Santiago, such as: BridgeAbroad's IDELT Course.
The easiest type of visa to obtain is the visa sujeto a contrato, a work visa subject to contract. This means that your visa is dependent on you working for a specific institute that has provided you with a work contract. There is another visa, called visa de residencia temporaria, which is less restrictive, but requires you to validate your university degree in Chile (which is a tedious process) or have two or more work contracts. There are also other options if you have immediate family that is Chilean.
If you are applying for a visa sujeto a contrato, then your employer should help you with the paperwork to obtain the visa. Make sure to ask about this in the interview, because if your employer isn't willing to provide you with the correct contract so that you can obtain a visa, you will technically be working illegally. A tourist visa only allows for 90 days in the country, and after this you will have to make a border run to Mendoza, Argentina, a 7 hour bus ride over the Andes Mountains. There are people who do this, but it is stressful and technically illegal.
For U.S. citizens, the visa is free, but for citizens of the U.K. the fee is USD $931. Usually the employee is responsible for the visa fee, but this can be individually negotiated with the employer. For other nationalities, see the Chilean government website (all values in US dollars).
If you decide to make your stay in Chile long-term, you can apply for permanent residency after two years of having a visa sujeto a contrato or a visa de residencia temporaria.
The going rate at private language institutes can vary from around $10.00 to $20.00/hour. Some of the larger "chain" institutes such as Tronwell and Wall St. Institute don't pay by the hour, but by the month, and generally have the lowest hourly rates. If an institute sends teachers off-site to businesses for classes, it will normally pay slightly more to compensate for transportation costs and time. For private classes, teachers usually charge between US $20 to US $40 an hour, depending on the teacher's experience, travel time and the student's ability to pay.
It is very hard to estimate an average monthly salary for an English teacher, but salaries tend to be higher in Santiago, and could range from US $400 to US $1500 per month, depending on how many hours you are working. Salary also varies depending on the time of year. Slow months are January and February, because this is when the vast majority of Chileans take summer vacation, and when schools are out. It is still possible to work during these months, but expect to make less money. Once you have been contracted for a year, under Chilean law you are guaranteed 3 weeks of paid vacation, and it is best to take this in February.
Unfortunately, Chile isn't as inexpensive as other South American countries in terms of cost of living. Items such as food, clothing, electronics, books and toiletries cost about as much as they would in the U.S. However, rent is considerably cheaper. In Santiago, expect to pay between US $300-500 a month for a one bedroom unfurnished apartment, depending on the neighborhood. Prices are somewhat cheaper outside the capital. If you rent your own apartment, you will have to consider the cost of building fees, which widely vary depending on the amenities in the building (doormen, pool, gym, heat, size of building, etc), from as low as US $40 to US $200 a month. You will also have to pay for utilities, which could add up to another $100 per month. It is less expensive to live with roommates or rent a room from a pension (normally a large house that rents out its rooms to students and travelers), as the building fees and utilities costs can be divided.
Housing and airfare are almost never included in teaching jobs in Chile. Some useful websites when looking for housing include:
The Chilean work day is longer than in the U.S., usually 8am to 6pm, which means that if you're working at a language institute, your classes will be either before work starts, during lunch (usually an hour break between 1 and 3 pm), or after work gets out.
In Chile it is customary to greet women with a kiss on the cheek, whether you are a woman or a man. Only in very formal situations would you greet a woman with a handshake. Among men, the most common greeting is a handshake, or a hug and a kiss among close friends or family.
Chileans are not exactly known for their punctuality. For social occasions, if a Chilean tells you to come at 9:00pm, don't bother showing up until at least 9:30 or 10:00, and even so, you might be the first one there. However, for work events Chileans tend to be more punctual. In the classroom, if you are teaching adults, expect that many will show up late. If you are teaching off-site at a company, make sure your institute has a cancellation policy so that if you arrive to class but the students decide they don't have time, you get paid anyway.
Photo Credit: Llama in Landscape
Abby has been working and living in Santiago, Chile for the past three years. Follow her on Twitter at @abbicita.
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