Costa Rica is appealing in many ways: beautiful beaches, active volcanoes, lush rain forests, and a temperate climate all make this country an obvious choice for tourism, business, pleasure, and...teaching English!
The demand for English teachers is very high in this Central American country, as most Costa Ricans need English to get a higher paying job or to have a competitive edge when it comes to finding a job. Let's face it, having a second language looks really good on a resumé.
Costa Rica is one of the most popular countries for English teachers, and there are a ton of options for teachers here. Most of the teaching jobs in Costa Rica are at private language institutes, where native English speakers and a TEFL certificate are requirements for landing a job.
The jobs are located in the Central Valley, which includes the capital, San José, as well as other major cities, such as Heredia and Cartago.
In order to teach English in Costa Rica, most teachers will require native proficiency and a TEFL certificate. The average salary for teaching in Costa Rica is $600 - $1,000 per month.
Private Language Schools
As one of the top employers of English teachers in Costa Rica, private language schools are a great option for finding jobs. Generally, the school will provide you with the teaching curriculum, plus any textbooks and materials that are needed to teach your classes. Class sizes vary and you can end up teaching both private classes and groups of students.
There is a high priority on education in Costa Rica, so being hired to teach English at a university is more competitive. Typically, you will need higher qualifications than for a private language school, including previous teaching experience and a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certification, such as TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA.
Many Costa Ricans desire to add English into their arsenal of business knowledge and skills due to a growing presence of large corporations setting up shop in Costa Rica. Teaching business English at language institutes will mean working before or after business hours to accommodate the students’ schedules.
Tutoring and offering private lessons are a good option for English teachers who are experienced educators and want more flexibility in their schedule. Typically, since private tutoring is one-on-one in Costa Rica, English teachers can charge a higher hourly fee. Although this seems like a better option than working at a school, with private tutoring you will have to build up your own clientele that can prove difficult in a new country with none to little network. Otherwise, you can take on private lessons to supplement your other teaching income as long as it doesn’t violate the contract with your school.
When to Look for Jobs in Costa Rica
Teaching adults is more common than kids here for this reason. Most of these schools also hire year-round, although the peak times for hiring are January-May. Since most schools don't usually hire in the middle of the year, the best time to begin your job search is probably October-December, as this is when contracts end and teachers change jobs or go to other institutes.
How to Apply for Jobs in Costa Rica
Another thing to keep in mind when applying for jobs is that most jobs in Costa Rica will not hire you until you are in the country, at which point you can call the school/institute and schedule an interview in person. This is common practice in Central and South America. The good news is, most will hire you if you interview in person, but it's good to plan a trip to Costa Rica just for finding a job.
Average Salary of Teaching Jobs in Costa Rica
On average, the monthly salary for an English teacher in Costa Rica is $1,000. This probably sounds small compared to the average wage in the United States, but it is more than two times the normal Costa Rican salary of $400 per month. If you want to supplement your income, many English teachers take on private students or teach English online.
You can live more than comfortably on the monthly salary here, with enough money for a nice place to live, groceries, transportation money, as well as a budget for frequent trips to any beach, volcano, or other beautiful attraction that Costa Rica has to offer.
The average cost for an apartment in the San Jose area is around $300. Obviously sharing an apartment with someone is cheaper, and for this reason, not many people live alone. In general, food also is on the cheaper end, and buying groceries is going to save you more than eating out every meal (even though most restaurants, especially near the university, are relatively cheap). In terms of a meal out, it really depends--for the most part, meals range from $4-$8 per person.
The only two requirements you really need to teach English in Costa Rica are a TEFL/CELTA certificate and being a native English speaker. Most countries in Latin America don't even require degrees of any kind for teaching English. If you don't have a TEFL certificate, there are lots of great opportunities to take a course at language institutes, like International TEFL Academy, where you get job search guidance and networking opportunities. You might even get hired at the institute you take the course from!
Popular Destinations to Teach in Costa Rica
As mentioned before, the most popular places to find teaching jobs are concentrated in San José and the surrounding area, especially in San Pedro, where the University of Costa Rica and Universidad Latina is located. There are lots of students in this area, and they want English to use for job interviews and resumés.
One quite large factor to consider is there really aren't many English teaching jobs on the coast. A lot of foreigners come to Costa Rica expecting to teach English in a coastal town while spending the weekends at the beach. There are few jobs on the coast, but it takes some serious patience--be prepared to relocate to the Central Valley. Don't worry, there are tons of beaches in Costa Rica and most are easily accessible by bus for relaxation on the weekends.
As with everything in Costa Rica, work visas take a long time and are difficult to obtain. This is because of the requirement that jobs go to locals (Ticos), as opposed to foreigners, unless it's a job that Ticos can't do (like teaching English).
A school or company must sponsor your visa, which is expensive and might be difficult if you're only interested in staying in Costa Rica for less than a year. Typically, when you obtain your work visa it will be valid for six months from the date of issue. Work permits are renewable and can be submitted at the department of immigration. They must be approved by the work department as well.
To apply, you must be able to provide several documents. These items are submitted to the migration office in San José. Upon submission, your application must be attached to a statement from the company that you will be working for. The Costa Rican Social Security office will need to send verification that you have no outstanding financial obligations.
Other necessary items:
- A copy of your birth certificate
- Photocopies of your passport
- Your marriage certificate (if married)
- Proof of adequate financial resources
- A statement of good conduct from the police
- Submit to a background check by the Costa Rican Ministry of Security
- Up to 4 passport size photos
- Copies of your diplomas or any other qualifications (like your TEFL certificate)
- Join any professional associations available in your field
Teacher Work Culture in Costa Rica
There is a fine line between being strict and laid back in the classroom, and it all depends on the school or institution that you work for. A language institute is more likely to have lenient rules in terms of classroom management, letting you (the teacher) have more reign in terms of rules. Obviously, working with adults as opposed to kids means fewer disciplinary rules.
Ticos dress very nicely for work and take pride in their appearance. In general, the dress code is business casual (again, it depends on the school/institute where you're teaching). This means no flip-flops, shorts, jeans, or beachwear!
Greetings in Costa Rica are a kiss on the cheek.
Contributed by Caitlin Peterson
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Do you need to know Spanish to teach in Costa Rica?
Great question! the simple answer is no. Schools that are looking for teachers to teach in English, often employ an assistant teacher who can communicate with students in their native language if need be. You may also find that if you are living within the community, you can quickly learn some basic conversational pieces.
How do I become a teacher in Costa Rica?
To become an English teacher in Costa Rica you should be a native speaker and have a TEFL certificate. Although a teaching certificate isn't required, it will open more job opportunities to teach English abroad.
Do you need a degree to teach in Costa Rica?
No, generally, you do not need a four-year college degree to teach English in Costa Rica. Many teaching positions do not have this requirement. However, it's a good idea to take a TEFL course to be more competitive for job opportunities.
How do I get a work visa for Costa Rica?
To get a work visa in Costa Rica, a school or company must sponsor you. You will have to fill out an application, attach the school's statement of work, and provide proof that you don't have any debt in Costa Rica. Work visas last for six months and can be renewed.
Is it expensive to live in Costa Rica?
Generally, the average rent for an apartment in the city center is $300. As an English teacher making an average of $1,000 per month, you should be able to live comfortably due to the low cost of living.