Teaching in Peru means living in the land that was once home to the ancient Incan Empire, where life outside the classroom is full of endless exploration. From the Sacred Valley to the mysterious Nazca Lines, Peru is one of the most fascinating places to teach in South America.
Teachers can find jobs throughout the country -- from colonial towns to villages in the Andes Mountains. Since tourism is the backbone of the country, the ability to speak English can help locals secure better jobs and open doors to higher education opportunities. Many Peruvians live in rural areas, where access to education and job training is limited. The chance to learn and practice English with a native speaker is extremely valuable.
You can usually find jobs year round with non-profit organizations and language institutes, depending on if there is an opening. However, it’s difficult to secure a job from abroad. Unless you’re applying through a placement company, then it’s up to you to hand out your resume to individual schools once you’re in Peru. From December to March, many schools close for the summer holiday. If you’re hoping to work at schools other than language institutes or non-profit organizations, then you should apply by no later than November.
With almost 9 million people, Peru’s capital has the most teaching opportunities, although many people choose smaller cities and rural areas in order to experience the country’s majestic landscape. Lima’s urban sprawl is divided into distinct districts, each with its own personality. Most expats gravitate towards Miraflores and Barranco, districts that are the financial and bohemian areas of Lima, respectively. Although Lima is one of Peru’s least-touristic cities, it’s developing rapidly, and the need for business English teachers is strong.
In Lima, most teaching opportunities are in private language institutes and the majority of students are business professionals. Since business professionals are the main demographic for these schools, it is helpful, but not necessary, for teachers to have prior experience in a business setting. Once some teaching experience is obtained, many teachers take on private lessons. These positions are more difficult to find, but have a higher average pay. Teachers generally work between 20 – 30 hours per week, which includes preparation for classes.
If you’re looking for a slower-paced lifestyle, then Arequipa is a great choice. Peru’s second-largest city is popular with foreigners who want to experience the city’s stunning architecture, cobblestone alleys, and the best weather in Peru. With the Colca Canyon and El Misti Volcano only hours away, Arequipa is also a hub for outdoor enthusiasts. There are a number of language institutes and international schools here.
Peru’s most-visited city lies high in the Andes Mountains. As the capital of the Inca Empire before the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, Cusco is still home to the Quechua, who fill the streets with their traditional, colorful clothing. Due to Cusco’s proximity to Machu Picchu, most of the local population works in tourism, and the ability to speak English helps opens doors to better employment. Cusco has a huge expat community, which makes for some active nightlife.
If you want to work with university students, then consider the “City of Eternal Spring.” Peru’s third-largest city is a seaside colonial town, home to many language institutes that cater to students preparing to take international English language examinations.
Oftentimes, you will find that schools or organizations offer teaching positions in remote villages deep in the Peruvian highlands. This can be an incredible opportunity to experience the local Quechua and Aymara communities, who make up almost half of Peru’s population. The Sacred Valley in southeastern Peru is one of the most popular areas for volunteer teachers.
This is by far the most popular way of teaching English in Peru. Peru is a developing country, where over one-third of the population lives below the poverty line. Healthcare and education is scarce to non-existent in rural areas.
Many organizations work with the local Quechua and Aymara communities to help provide better resources. English instruction is often one component of a non-profit’s services, and volunteers are in high demand. Most of these organizations recruit volunteers year-round. These types of teaching jobs can easily be found once you’re in Peru. Another option is to apply through a program, often with a fee that covers housing, food, and in-country support.
Private Language Academies/Schools
If you’re looking for paid work, then a language school is your best option. In Lima, you can expect to earn about $5 USD an hour, or $13 Peruvian Nuevo Sols (PEN), at these private academies.
You will most likely be teaching adults and business people in the evening and morning hours. Lima, Trujillo, and Arequipa are the best places to find work, where a number of British and North American language schools operate. Word-of-mouth is still the best way to find employment in Peru, so prepare to pass out your resume and keep your ears open once you’re in the country.
Unlike other teaching jobs, you can find employment with these schools before arriving in Peru. International schools will also sponsor your business visa, allowing you to work legally. Contracts last for about 2 years, so if you are planning on a teaching career, then these private, international schools might be a good choice. Since the school year begins in March, make sure to apply well before the summer holiday starts in December.
The heart of Latin America is unlike any other, a mix of ancient communities and modern culture. As the third-largest country on the continent, Peru has one of South America’s highest populations of indigenous people, whose traditions and cultures continue to thrive. Machu Picchu, the Amazon Basin, its northern beach towns all make Peru an excellent destination to teach abroad.
Volunteer teaching jobs usually just require native-English fluency and an enthusiasm for teaching, since you will most likely be working with youth and children. TEFL certification is not normally required, but it can definitely help set you apart. There are many TEFL-certification programs in Cusco and Arequipa that can help you find teaching jobs after completing their course.
If you are going to be teaching business professionals at a language institute, then a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate is often required.
Working at an international school requires a Bachelor’s degree (and often a Master’s), along with relevant teaching experience and training.
Work Visas in Peru
Most teachers just work on their tourist visa, due to the difficulty of obtaining a business visa. Your tourist visa, or “Tarjeta Andina de Migración,” will be issued upon arriving in Peru, and can be valid for up to 183 days. Make to tell the border official that you would like full amount of time, as it’s up to them to decide how long your visa will be.
If you have employment prior to arriving in Peru, then you can apply for a business visa. Your employer will take you through the steps of applying. For more information about Peruvian visas, visit VisaHQ.
Classroom & Work Culture
Peruvians are warm people, and the culture is generally very welcoming of foreigners. Like most of Latin America, Peru is a relationship-oriented society, where community and family are paramount. Rural, indigenous, communities in the Andes Mountains tend to be more reserved. As a conservative society, Peruvians dress modestly, and classroom attire is no different. For women, skirts below the knee, and collared shirts for men are standard. Avoid jeans and flip-flops, no matter how rural the area is unless you find out otherwise from your school.
Greetings are also important. Shaking hands is the most common way of introducing someone, while a kiss on the left cheek is appropriate in less formal situations and with close friends. Always address someone as “Señor” (Mr.) or “Señora” (Mrs.) followed by their last name. Titles are important in the Peruvian workplace, so avoid using peoples’ first names unless asked otherwise.
The concept of time is also something foreigners should be aware of. Peruvians work hard, but a laxness about schedules is common. For example, if you have a group meeting at 11:00 am, people probably won’t start arriving until 11:30 am. As a foreigner, you should always be on time, but just be aware that others probably won’t be.
Wherever you decide to teach in Peru, you will find a warm culture and strong community. Whether it’s in Lima’s bustling streets or a rural Andean village, this is your chance to give back to these local communities and learn about the rich and complex history of this beautiful nation.
Living in Peru is one of the cheaper countries in South America, save for the Lima, the fourth-most expensive capital in South America. In Lima, you can expect to earn around $500 a month, according to the community-based website, Expat Peru. This is enough to live comfortably on if you live like a local and keep traveling to a minimum. Housing will be your biggest expense, but it all depends on the neighborhood. In Lima, tourist neighborhoods like Miraflores will cost more than residential areas like San Borja.
Volunteer placement organizations usually include housing with host families, which is a great opportunity to practice Spanish.