Located right in the middle of South America, teaching in Bolivia offers an experience unlike any other in Latin America. With an extremely diverse population and over 30 official languages other than Spanish, Bolivia is rich in history and culture with significant influence from its high numbers of indigenous people. Additionally, Bolivia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and if you teach there, you will be sure to find something you love.Photo credits: Matthew Straubmuller.
Because of Bolivia’s economic situation, there’s a growing demand for ESL teachers and considered very important for the next generation to be able to learn English as a way to seek better opportunities.
These types of programs are located throughout many areas in Bolivia and involve much more than teaching. You will have the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups, with people from all different socioeconomic backgrounds. Volunteer teach programs sometimes require a fee depending on how long you plan on staying and generally cover lodging, meals, transport, training, emergency service, as well as donations to the organization you’ll be working with.
Volunteer teaching programs offer the most in terms of flexibility for time commitment and will allow teachers a wider range of locations to choose from. You can also choose from group or individual programs and what kind of teaching you would like to do, such as working with at-risk youth, tutoring young children, or even school administration.
TEFL Certification Class + Job Placement:
Having a TEFL certification will definitely help you find paid jobs in Bolivia. In order to teach English, one of the requirements is either one year TESOL experience or a qualification. Luckily, there are many programs that help you get your TEFL and have guaranteed placements once you are finished.
Private Language Schools:
If you already have your TEFL requirements, then finding a job teaching English in Bolivia shouldn’t be too difficult. There are two peak hiring times for these types of jobs in Bolivia, but some academies hire year round.
In Bolivia, ESL jobs range from working with children to business professionals. Academies usually have smaller classes and use set curriculums to help teach students. Academies will also help you get settled by assisting you with your visa, flight, and paying a salary which is competitive to locals in Bolivia, allowing you to break even every month.
If you have a teaching certification from your home country, then you can look for a job in an International School teaching a subject other than English. Many international schools are either American schools or private and offer a variety of diploma routes for students ages K-12.
If you can speak Spanish, finding a job in one of these schools will be easier since international schools in Bolivia offer bilingual curriculums and knowledge of Spanish is needed for working with staff and students. These jobs pay considerably more than ESL jobs but keep in mind that these jobs are competitive, so start looking early (at least 3-4 months in advance).
The best place to find paid teaching jobs is in La Paz, however many programs also exist in rural areas. If getting paid isn’t a concern for you, you can also try El Alto, Oruro, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba which host more volunteer programs than paid opportunities.
If you are volunteering to teach, there are opportunities all year round. Most of these programs range from 1-3 months. If you get a paid teaching job, the peak hiring times are in February/March and July/August, but can vary.
If you are searching for paid job, the best time is to look is 2-3 months in advance. This will give you enough time to research jobs as well as get your visa prepared. It is important to keep in mind that sometimes Bolivia prefers to do interviews in person as opposed to a traditional Skype interview.
If you want to get paid to teach English in Bolivia, you will need a Bachelor’s degree, a TEFL Certificate and one year of teaching experience in order to teach English. At least a basic proficiency in Spanish is almost always an additional prefered or required qualification.
While there are jobs out there that may not require all these, it is best to stick to one that does because it will be a more reputable option. If you have some qualifications and you are missing some that your prospective job requires, there are institutions that will provide training as a substitute.If money is not a necessity, you can volunteer with no qualifications.
Classroom and Work Culture:
In terms of classroom culture, Bolivians tend to be very formal and it is expected that students address their teachers by their last name. It is not advisable to address anyone, for that matter, by their first name or informally before they have done so first.
In a classroom setting, teachers are expected to dress in a business-casual attire. It is especially important for female teachers to avoid dressing provocatively or in tighter clothes since women in Bolivia tend to dress modestly. Their day-to-day attire often consists of long skirts and/or shawls. For male teachers, we’d advise you to wear a button-downs or shirts instead of a t-shirt to blend in better. People usually wear a lot of layers because of abrupt the temperature changes.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Bolivians have a rather vague perception of time and punctuality. Although in professional environment it is expected for a person to arrive on time meetings rarely start when they are scheduled, in social situations it is expected and even considered polite for a person to be 15-30 minutes late to an event or dinner.