Teach English in Brazil

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Traces of the Zika virus have been found in Brazil. To learn more about Zika and how to avoid getting infected, read the Washington Post's article on Zika precautions.

South America's largest and arguably most colorful country, Brazil, is the proud owner of endless miles of beaches, tropical rainforests, cosmopolitan cities and a culture with an obsession for football, samba and Carnival.

Boosted by the knowledge that the country is to host the forthcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, the tourism industry is booming, which has led to a high demand for English teachers. Furthermore, as the nation's economy continues to grow so do its trade relations with English-speaking countries, thus employees are expected to converse confidently in English.

Photo credits: atagemouati.

Private Language Academies/Schools:

If you are new to the teaching industry, your best option is to apply for jobs teaching at private language institutes. The institutes will be able to offer you a range of classes, from in-company courses at local businesses to on-site courses and one-on-one classes with students at city locations, such as cafes or the student’s home. Working with an institute you will encounter all kinds of students, from absolute beginners to advanced learners.

Classes are likely to be spread out from the morning until early evening so be prepared to be flexible. The majority of course will begin in March and August. However, institutes continually secure new contracts so you can expect to be offered new classes throughout the year.

Private Tutoring:

Once you have established yourself as a teacher and become comfortable teaching to students of all levels, you should consider working as a private tutor. Private tutoring can be extremely lucrative, with many teachers reporting the ability to earn as much as double that of an institute salary. Brazilians often lack the opportunity to practice speaking English, therefore, by using your contacts wisely you will be able to build a loyal base of students.

Private tutoring is also a great way to fill any gaps in your teaching schedule from the institute. One thing to remember when teaching privately is that it does not offer as much security as teaching through an institute. When arranging classes, it is essential to clearly define the conditions so as not to lose out in the event of a cancellation. You will also need to prepare class material yourself so incorporate this cost into your hourly fee.

When and Where to Look for Jobs

With a population of almost 200 million and around 15 cities with over one million inhabitants, there are opportunities for English teachers throughout the entire length of this huge country.

As you will be teaching predominately to adults, there is a strong correlation between teaching opportunities and the number of business professionals in a city. São Paulo, the financial capital of Brazil, and Rio de Janeiro, the country's tourism and cultural center, are recognized as being the principal teaching centers. Yet, away from these two cities, opportunities are known to exist in the coastal cities of Fortaleza, Recife and Salvador, as well as Belo Horizonte and the capital city, Brasilia.

Although it is possible to find work all year round, the peak hiring months are March and August, which is typical for most South American countries. These are the months when the old contracts are finishing and new courses are about to commence, therefore schools start their hiring process.

Contracts are usually offered for a maximum of 6 months. Bear in mind that January and February are notoriously quiet months as this is during the Brazilian vacation period.

In Brazil, when applying for teaching positions you need to be present in the country and available to meet with employers in person. Once you have arrived, check out the classified sections of local sites (Sao Paulo Angloinfo & Rio Times Online) or specialized job sites such as TeacherKick for job openings.


Whereas it is possible to get by without any formal teacher training or certificate, a good qualification will open many doors to employment and give you more confidence in the classroom. Some schools will insist on only taking on teachers with a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certification. Others will provide in-house training. Either way, you will be expected at least to be a native speaker and possess a university degree in any field.

At some point you will be required to teach beginners and a good teaching course will teach the skills needed to overcome language barriers and communicate the message of the class. You can enroll on a TEFL or other certification course either in-country or prior to arrival. If you don't have time to attend a course in person, then it is also possible to take an Online TEFL Course.

In Brazil, it is unlikely that you will need to speak Portuguese to find work. However, consider taking lessons in order to learn the basics and put your students at ease. If you already speak Portuguese, your ability to amass classes will only increase.

Work Visas in Brazil

Officially, teachers are required to posses a work visa, or VITEM-V. The institute you are employed by should arrange this. However, due to the lengthy process, red tape and costs involved, many will be happy to employ you on a tourist visa. Tourist visas are issued for up to 90 days and can then be renewed for a further 90 days. Residents of the EU are issued a visa upon arrival, however, if coming from the Australia, Canada or the USA you will need to arrange the visa prior to arrival. Check the current requirements with your local embassy before traveling.

Teachers coming to Brazil from New Zealand have the advantage of being able to apply for a Working Holiday Visa (VIFET). This scheme is open to anyone aged between 18 and 30 and allows a stay of up to 12 months.

Classroom & Work Culture

Traditional working hours in Brazil are between 8am and 6pm with employees working eight hours per day. Because of heavy traffic & long commute times, you may also see employees who work much later than the standard hours. Classroom hours are slightly different, with in-company classes held in the morning, during lunch hours, and after work. On occasions, you might also be asked to give a class at the weekend.

In Brazil, when greeting a male student it is customary to shake hands whilst maintaining eye contact. A female student is greeted with a kiss on both cheeks or, for more formal situations, a handshake. Brazilians are known to be extremely colorful and passionate people and you can expect classrooms to be very animated. They are also laid back and show a relaxed attitude to punctuality.

Always dress formally when attending a job interview. As you will be representing the institute, your employer will assess you in terms of your professionalism. On the other hand, interviews can be short and quite informal. It is normal to be offered some trial classes after a brief conversation only.

Teaching in Brazil is not a get rich quick scheme, yet a teacher should have the ability to live comfortably and earn sufficient to cover food, accommodation, transport and other living costs. Having amassed a timetable of 25 teaching hours per week you should be in a position to earn anywhere from US$800-1,500 a month.

New teachers should expect to earn US$10-15 per hour. Private tutoring is a great way to increase your earning potential; teachers are often able to charge an hourly rate of $20-27 USD. Remember that salaries will be paid in Brazilian Reals, therefore the actually USD amounts can fluctuate based on current exchange rates.

There are also online resources that will help you understand the real costs of living in Brazil. Then how much disposable income you have will depend on your chosen lifestyle.

If you choose to embark on a mission to sample the vibrant nightlife on a daily basis, then chances are your money won't go too far. Consider the option of shared accommodation to bring down costs, shop and eat in local stores and restaurants to avoid tourist traps and a relatively cheap lifestyle is achievable.

Contributed by Maricela Palma

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