Teaching English in Colombia as a native English speaker is a much desired occupation. Colombia is a country waiting for tourism to rise, and one thing holding it back is the lack of English speaking throughout most of the country.
Medellin used to be known for drug lords and violence and Bogota was one of the most violent cities, both are now a popular tourist escapes. The people are welcoming to everyone and it is easy to get sucked into the casual laid back life, wherever you are, and whether it is because you choose to teach abroad, or just visiting.
In order to teach English in Colombia, most teachers will require native proficiency and a bachelor’s degree. Private schools will require TEFL certification or prior teaching experience. The average salary for teaching in Colombia is $700 - $1,000 per month.
Teach English in Colombia Program (TEC)
The SENA National Training Service is a joint initiative among workers, industry owners and the Catholic Church to provide vocational training to the country's workforce. Often called "the university of the poor," SENA is a reputable training program, free for students who can't afford it.
With the new government emphasis on English learning, the TEC Teach English in Colombia program, was recently instituted through SENA. TEC volunteers are native speakers from the U.S. with a TEFL certification or one or more years of teaching experience, who teach vocational English to adults.
Private International Schools
For those with two or more years of experience, private international schools might be a good place to look for a high-paying job. These English teaching jobs will usually also request native speakers and a TEFL certificate or equivalent.
Private Language Institute
For a job teaching English in a private language institute, you may only need a college degree to qualify. The best way to find these teaching jobs is to arrive in the country and apply in-person.
Just like you would expect anywhere in the world, finding a job can be difficult if you don’t know where to look. EAFIT is a popular place to work as a TEFL instructor.
The Colombo is a private English institute located throughout Colombia. EAFIT is a university that has three locations with a language institute within it. Both of these are great options and would hire a qualified native English speaker. Private lessons are also a promising career move and the going rate can be anywhere from 12 USD – 27 USD per hour, depending on your qualifications.
Public High Schools
Due to Colombia's new government initiative, many public schools are now hiring foreign teachers to co-teach in English classes. While these jobs may have slightly lower pay, you can rest assured that your job is making a difference to the students you teach.
Work Schedules for Teachers in Colombia
Elementary through high school levels have either morning or afternoon schedules. For example, a morning schedule could start at 6 am and end at around 12 pm and an afternoon schedule could start at 12 pm and end around 6 pm. University levels or institutes can be anytime and, as a typical Colombian workday, consists of a workweek of Monday through Saturday.
Keep in Mind
Those that teach English in Colombia might find it challenging to adapt to the "go with the flow" attitude that many Colombians have. Oftentimes, specific placements are not confirmed until weeks before teachers leave for Colombia, and many teachers have no idea what grades they will be teaching or any sort of schedule specifics until they arrive.
Finding a Job
When and Where to Find Jobs
While private language institution jobs are best found on the ground, if you'd like to teach at a public school or through the TEC program, your best option is to apply in advance of arriving through one of the many programs that will place you at a school or SENA center.
Remember to arrive in November, December or January for your best chances in finding work for the new semester.
Popular Cities to Teach in Colombia
The most popular places to find jobs are in cities such as; Medellin, Bogota and Barranquilla. Medellin is a booming small city in the interior of the country and they lead the country in fashion and architecture. The Paisa people, those living in and around Medellin, have distinct qualities. They are known for their friendliness and over all love for life. They are very welcoming people and it is easy to find friends wherever you wonder.
Bogota is the capital city and has all the diversity of New York with distinct districts. Barranquilla is the least popular for tourism but there are still many opportunities in this coastal city. Throughout the country, it is not easy to find jobs online, although it can be accomplished.
Job requirements for English teachers vary from position to position. Private schools will mandate all teachers are native speakers with a college degree, and a TEFL certificate or 1+ years of experience. On the other hand language institutes, public schools, and TEC only expect native speakers with college degrees. A TEFL certificate is not a requirement for a visa in Colombia, however, it will definitely help you get a job.
Many programs will provide teachers a work visa, however, some schools may request you work on a 90-day tourist visa which can be renewed by leaving and re-entering the country. While this is technically illegal, the government has yet to crack down on this practice.
Most teachers in Colombia work 40 hours a week with 20 teaching hours, 15 lesson planning hours and 5 discussion hours.
Classroom & Work Culture
In general, Colombian teachers are not strict and the education system can seem very lax. Expect meetings to start late and students to disregard the clock as they stroll in tardy to class.
Student-teacher relationships are close and are usually on a first name basis.
Dress code is directly related to your school and can be anywhere from shorts and t-shirts to professional attire. Greetings are important in such a welcoming culture and it is custom for women to kiss on the cheek and men to shake hands.
Salary & Costs
Average Salary of Teaching Jobs in Colombia
The average salary of an ESL teacher in Colombia is $700-$1,000 USD a month depending on the job and level of experience. Private school jobs will also typically include a housing stipend, airfare, health insurance and more, while a language institute may have a lower salary without providing any of these things.
Private language tutors typically charge $12-27 USD an hour depending on experience and location.
TEC and most public school volunteers make a stipend of $400 USD a month in addition to a rent stipend, which should cover basic living costs, especially if volunteers share apartments with one another.
Cost of Living
The cost of living varies widely in Colombia, dependent on where in the country you reside. In Medellin public transit is extremely inexpensive as well as very convenient. The metro runs from one end of the city to the other costing only .75 cents a trip. However taxis are more expensive then neighboring cities like Bogota but are hardly needed as the Metro is more convenient most of the time.
Monthly rent can cost up to $1200 a month for a furnished apartment or as low as $400 a month for an unfurnished one. The shopping malls in the cities are lovely but don’t expect low costs for clothing. In fact, everything that is imported is going to cost a pretty penny. Luckily you can generally find a Colombian version of most things that you would need.
Contributed by Jessica Brink and Richelle Gamlam
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How much can you make teaching English in South America?
Wages for English teachers will vary by the country, city, and type of school you're hoping to teach in. In Argentina for example, you could expect to make between $600-$1,200 per month, while in Bolivia you might make $400-$600 per month. Keep in mind that countries that have a lower salary range will also generally have a lower cost of living.
How do I become an English teacher in South America?
To become an English teacher in South America, you'll first want to do your research and pick a general location where you'd want to teach. You'll need to pay attention to the hiring season since South America is in the southern hemisphere and has opposite seasons from North America. Requirements for training and qualifications will vary depending on the country, but for the most part, you'll need to hold a Bachelor's degree and you may also need a teaching certification, such as TEFL or TESOL. You can then start researching jobs by checking out job boards, government jobs, and private tutoring options.