For those considering teaching abroad, the small but captivating country of Belize has a lot to offer. Snorkeling or scuba diving in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, exploring tropical jungles or ancient Mayan temples, and enjoying Garifuna music and culture are just a few things to keep you busy on your days off. Being such a compact country it's easy to get around and take in all the delights that Belize has to offer.
Friendly locals, affordability, and the fact that English is the official language all add to the appeal of working and living in Belize. The weather isn't bad either -- Belize is sub-tropical with an average temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit and a refreshing coastal breeze.
Teaching in Belize is a unique experience. It's a great opportunity not only to make a positive impact on the children and adults who live there, but have fun, make friends, and explore beneath the surface of a fascinating country.
Most of the schools in Belize are public. The government of Belize has made education a top priority, and consequently there are plenty of jobs available -- although most of the positions are at modest entry-level salaries.
The majority of public schools are run jointly by the government and the Catholic Church. Teaching jobs are available at primary and high school levels. There are also a number of Methodist and Anglican run state schools.
In the south of the country where poverty is an issue, many of the teachers are untrained, classes are overcrowded, and supplies are lacking. Only half of the children in this part of the country finish primary school. In Toledo and the surrounding region, qualified teachers are very much in demand.
There are several private schools in Belize that recruit teachers from overseas. They tend to have a higher standard of facilities than public schools. The salary is likely to be better, but teachers are often expected to work long hours. Teaching jobs are available at primary, high school, and college level.
Many of the private schools are international, and teach Spanish as well as English. These schools are often a global melting pot of both teachers and students.
English Language Schools
Although English is the official language of Belize, many people speak Spanish or Creole, so there is consequently lots of demand for teaching English to the Spanish or Creole speaking population. There are a number of English language schools who recruit staff to teach students who are usually not enrolled in another educational institution.
When to Apply for Jobs in Belize
The school year starts in September and finishes at the end of June. Hiring usually takes place in May or June for the upcoming school year -- consequently, that's the best time to start your job hunt.
How to Apply for Jobs in Belize
Public schools generally don't advertise jobs online, so it is best to start your job search when you arrive in the country. Contact the individual schools directly, as it is possible that they are hiring for teaching staff even though those positions are not advertised. You could even visit the school you would like to work for in person. Dress smart, take along your resume, and go meet your potential employers. This direct, personal approach often works well in Latin America.
Private schools are more likely hire overseas teachers in advance and jobs are usually advertised online on jobs boards.
Average Salary of Teaching Job in Belize
The average wage for a primary school teacher in Belize is $10,685 for both foreigners and locals. Although the cost of living isn't as low as other Central American countries, it is substantially lower than the U.S., so a teacher's salary goes further than you would think. Public schools often offer more generous salaries.
The minimum requirement required for teaching is a Bachelor's degree. For those wanting to teach English, a CELTA, TESOL, or TEFL certificate is required. Some schools will also require previous teaching experience, but that is not always the case.
Popular Destinations to Teach in Belize
Although many teachers prefer to base themselves in smaller towns due to the capital city's reputation for crime, Belize City has some of the best schools in the country. For those who like the idea of a taste of island living, San Pedro on Ambergis Caye is a popular choice. There are plenty of cool things to do on days off, including scuba diving, snorkeling, and soaking up the tropical vibe.
San Ignacio is situated in the Cayon district next to the Macal River. It's home to many schools which regularly hire teachers. With an array of restaurants, great hikes, and rivers and jungles to explore, it is another attractive location to work and live in.
Visas & Sponsorship
Visas are not required to enter Belize for most nationalities including US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. When you secure a job it is necessary to apply for a work permit and teaching license. Your employer can usually guide you through the application for a work permit, which is a fairly straightforward process. After a year, it is necessary to apply for another work permit and if you decide to stay beyond two years you can apply for a resident's permit.
The teaching license application is made to the Ministry of Education and again, your employer should be able to help guide you through the process.
Teacher Work Culture in Belize
Teachers are frequently required to be involved in extra-curricular activities such as sports, art, and academic groups. There is much camaraderie between teachers, which makes it easy for overseas staff to make friends.
Classroom Etiquette in Belize
The etiquette used in classrooms in Belize isn't very different from that of the U.S., although the Catholic schools can seem a little stricter to those coming from overseas. All children are required to wear school uniforms.
Health & Safety
Malaria isn't present in Belize, but always cover up and use insect repellent. Make sure you are up-to-date on your routine vaccines. Typhoid and hepatitis A immunizations are recommended. If you are coming from a country where yellow fever is present, you will need to have a certificate of immunization.
Don't drink the water in Belize -- either buy bottled water, or avoid contributing to the world's plastic problem and filter your own water.
Belize is generally safe, and pickpocketing is the main problem experienced by foreigners. It is always wise to take precautions, especially in Belize City, which has a reputation for being dangerous. Don't go out at night on your own and take care not to inadvertently find yourself in a dubious neighborhood. Try to stick to the tourist areas. Limit the amount of cash you carry, and don't wear expensive jewelry.