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Whether you're looking to live in the mountains, by the beach, or in a bustling city, there's something for every type of teacher in South America! From the influences of Spanish and Portuguese in architecture and language, to the ancient ruins of Mayan civilization, any educator will find that South America is a great place to teach. Each year, as the number of tourists in the region increases, more and more people are hoping to learn English to both communicate and work with expats and individuals overseas. There's no time like the present to grab a slice of the action, by teaching in South America!
By far the most common employment option for foreign teachers, English language schools are abundant in South America. These schools are a great option for both experienced and novice teachers, as they offer a range of courses for every type of student. Language school students, which include young learners, working professionals, and those in the tourism industry, commonly attend evening and weekend classes to gain extra practice in their training. This class schedule allows for flexibility, you will have time to explore local surroundings and neighboring cities during your free time! Language schools are incredibly popular in Brazil.
If you are looking to live in South America long-term, you might want to start a career at an international school. Most schools are looking for teachers that have a master's degree in their field of study, making this a great option for qualified educators seeking 2+ year contracts. For example, there are international schools located in the cities of Buenos Aires in Argentina or Lima in Peru.
For new and inexperienced teachers, a combination TEFL + teaching program is a great option. Teachers first take an in-class TEFL course, with at least 120 hours of training (the minimum for TEFL courses). Then, the local program office will assist in job placement, providing interview tips and so on. This assistance will ensure that you can find a good fit at a local school or language academy. ITA, Bridge TEFL, and LanguageCorps all offer programs across South America.
Once you've settled down in South America, you can give private lessons to earn some extra cash. Many families or individuals hire foreign teachers to receive supplementary instruction to practice their English. You can teach young learners, who may be in elementary English language courses, or businessmen who wish to work on conversational English. Either way, tutoring is a great way to meet your local community and get paid! However, don't rely on tutoring as a sole source of income. Sometimes students will cancel at the last minute, or even ditch lessons! Make sure to create a firm cancellation policy before agreeing to tutor students.
Considered 'developing' in a number of countries, South America is still in need of major educational reform, particularly in lower-income or neglected communities. Often times, teachers have the chance to assimilate into their town's small community, by living with a host family or simply spending time with their students. The most popular destinations for volunteer teachers are Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador.
In general, the cost of living in South America is very affordable. As the region is considered 'developing', it is easy for a teacher to live on a budget. Although certain cities, such as Sao Paolo and Bogota, have high costs of living, most locations, rural or urban, boast affordable housing and food prices. A great way to earn extra income is to provide private tutoring services. Once you set up a local network of co-workers and friends, it will be easier to advertise your services as a tutor of English or any subject.
Although it is not required in many South American countries to have a TEFL/TESOL certification, the job hunt will be much easier if you have some teacher training. Most teaching jobs, aside from volunteer teaching, will ask that you demonstrate some practice or experience - TEFL certifications are a great way to show that you are a professional, serious teacher. In some schools, you are required to be a native English speaker. However, if you are neither TEFL-certified nor a native speaker, you will still be considered for positions if you have a few years of solid teaching experience. There is a place for every type of instructor in South America!
It is difficult to get permanent residency in South America, unless you plan to stay longer than 2 years. Many teachers, who are employed by language schools or private companies, often stay in their country for less than 6 months, due to difficulties with visas. However, if you are hoping to settle down for longer than a year or two, it is advisable to seek a contract with a reputable school that will sponsor your work visa.
You may find that meetings or rendezvous in South America often do not start on time. While this isn't true for every meet-up, many companies or schools are not as strict on punctuality. This is not to say that South Americans do not work hard - they do, but set times for meetings are often relaxed and variable.
South American schools generally have a short, on-the-spot interview process. Unlike in the United States, where interviews are typically drawn-out for weeks or months at a time, schools will hire you on the spot if they think you're a good fit. Make sure to dress professionally (or business casual) in the classroom. Never wear flip-flops and avoid dressing in blue jeans while working.
South America, with its rainforests, glaciers, and great amount of natural beauty, is an ideal destination for any teacher hoping to travel and educate at the same time. While many students learn English in language schools, there is room for massive reform in local schools -- any teacher hoping to make a difference in a student's life will be able to do so here. So, don't wait to explore this dynamic region... Hop on a plane to teach in South America!
Photo Credit: Lake Titicaca