Sitting at the bottom of Table Mountain is South Africa’s oldest city, Cape Town. The name of the city was originally Cape of Storms but later changed to Cape of Good Hope, in hopes to increase a sea route to the East. The scenery of Cape Town is some of the most beautiful in the world with a national park and two World Heritage sites. Nicknamed “The Rainbow Nation” because of its incredible attractions and diversity (and 11 official languages!), South Africa has left a deep impression to travelers who have visited this part of the world.

In 2010, South Africa hosted the first World Cup in the history of the African continent. Because of the good weather, locals and visitors alike enjoy being outdoors and with the stunning beaches, local vineyards, and wildlife, staying indoors would be a true challenge. The median age in Cape Town is around 26 with more than half of the population under the age of 24 years of age. As far as teaching English in South Africa, there are far more volunteer opportunities than paid ones for this destination, although the British Council has an office in Johannesburg where many businesses in Cape Town and other cities like Durban and Pretoria, offer paid teaching jobs.

In order to teach English in Cape Town, most teachers will require a bachelor’s degree. TEFL or CELTA certification gives candidates an added advantage. The average salary for teaching in Cape Town is $1,000 - $1,500 per month.

Job Types

Government Sponsored Programs:

Fulbright Scholar Programs, English Teaching Assistantship. An English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) places a Fulbrighter in a classroom abroad to provide assistance to teachers of English to non-native English-speakers. English Teaching Assistants help teach English language while serving as a cultural ambassador for U.S. culture. The age and academic level of classroom students varies by country, ranging from kindergarten to university level. Only four competitive grants will be awarded to teach English in South Africa and usually at a university.

Eligibility is limited upon specific conditions which include:

  • U.S. citizenship at the time of application. Permanent residents are not eligible.
  • B.A. degree or the equivalent conferred before the start of the grant.
  • Good health. Grantees will be required to submit a satisfactory Medical Certificate from a physician.
  • Proficiency in the written and spoken language of the host country sufficient to communicate with the people and to carry out the proposed study. This is especially important for projects in the social sciences and the humanities.

Preferred qualifications:

  • Candidates who have undertaken their higher education primarily at educational institutions in the U.S.
  • Undergraduate study abroad will not be considered a disadvantage.
  • Candidates who have not resided or studied in the country to which they are applying for more than six months, not counting undergraduate study abroad. Duty abroad in the Armed Forces of the United States is not considered disqualifying within the meaning of this section.
  • For most programs, applicants who have had extensive previous foreign experience in the host country are at a competitive disadvantage, but are still eligible to apply.
Private Schools

The Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa: ISASA is the largest association of independent schools in South Africa and the Southern African region. Independent schools are also known as private schools. ISASA is a services organization rather than a governing body. Membership of ISASA is voluntary and the association provides around 50 professional and collegial services to its member schools. ISASA currently has 700 diverse members that provide quality, values-based education to over 157,000 pupils.

The Department of Basic Education, in conjunction with the ISASA Math & English Program and Investec recently launched an integrated teacher training program to enhance the recruitment of teachers into the independent school sector. This is a landmark public private partnership aimed at utilizing combined resources to produce quality teachers in the priority subjects of Mathematics, Science and English. Many of ISASA's member schools, both high- and low-fee, are also involved in the initiative.

The Bay Language Institute: The Bay Language Institute was established in 2005 to meet the demand for English language training. It is located in Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.

International House Johannesburg: Language Lab is a language school in Johannesburg, South Africa. IH is proud to be the only independent IELTS (International English Language Testing System) testing center in South Africa. The test caters to people wanting to move to countries such as Australia, the UK and Canada. IH Johannesburg is also the only center in the Gauteng Provence that offers the world recognized Cambridge ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) exams.

Volunteer Teaching

South Africa is not a place where English is desired than say, other African countries. It is difficult to find paid work in South Africa but not entirely impossible. For experience though, many resort to volunteering and websites like Projects Abroad, Go Overseas, and numerous others, offering volunteer opportunities with placements in different types of schools (public, private, and institutes). Volunteers pay a fee, usually live with a host family or on-site housing, and need to pay for the majority of their expenses (such as travel and visas for example).

Recruiting Agencies

TEACH South Africa has a rigorous process in which they select applicants to teach English as well as other subjects in low socioeconomic schools. Their vision states: “The vision of TEACH South Africa is two-fold. In the short-term, our goal is to recruit, train and support the most talented recent university graduates to commit to teaching for a minimum of two years in some of South Africa’s most disadvantaged schools. In the long-term, TEACH Ambassadors will form an alumni movement, informed by their experience in the classroom, which will fight for educational equality for learners all over South Africa by using their influence in whatever sector they decide to work in.”

Recruitment to South African schools is not on high demand but many options, including voluntary or paid, has some assistance, especially with placement.

Finding a Job

When and Where to Look for Teaching Jobs

There really isn’t a “best time” to look for a job in South Africa as so many agencies and schools vary with their openings. Many recruiters list job openings on websites or on Teaching English as Foreign Language (TEFL) sites.

Where to look for jobs can be pretty tricky too. The Language Teaching Center is an option in Cape Town located in the heart of the city center and easily accessible from all major hotels and travel routes. EC Cape Town is another English language school also located in the city center as well as International House (IH) Cape Town, which is part of the International House World Organization, offers a network of language schools in over 50 countries to teach English, including in Cape Town. Additionally, Eurocentres is a top international school organization with teaching opportunities in Cape Town and other locations across the world.

While it is easy to see job openings for English teachers in South Africa, many recruiters like to hire on the spot, in-country. Because English is one of the many languages that South Africans speak, competition for teaching jobs from elsewhere is more competitive.

If you’re applying from home, employers will want you to fill out an application form and/or send in your resume and a cover letter. If they like what they see, you’ll be invited to have a Skype interview. If you’re in country, a possible demonstration of teaching a lesson may be asked of you as well as an interview with the director.


In the majority of cases, a Bachelor level degree is a requirement to teach English in South Africa. In addition, a Teaching English as Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate will be an added advantage. Teachers who have gained their Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) are able to teach in colleges and language centers in the US or abroad.

Administered by the University of Cambridge, the CELTA is an initial qualification for people with little or no prior teaching experience; and it’s also one of the oldest and most recognized English as a Second Language (ESL) courses in the world. Institutes, language centers, private schools, and most others will require CELTA and TEFL certifications, in addition to a degree.

Need to Know

Salary and Cost of Living

Travelers who teach English as a second or foreign language in South Africa are not making much money because the demand is not as high, like other countries, and are roughly making around R10,000 which translates to approximately $1160/month in U.S. dollars. Many people who end up getting jobs in South Africa to teach English are doing it on a voluntary basis more than anything else.

Many volunteer agencies that have teach abroad programs in South Africa have housing assistance programs to help you. In cases where your school does not provide housing, your employers are still going to be your best resource, especially because every year they hire teachers from abroad who need to find housing. Your employer can often recommend housing services or landlords.

In countries where it is necessary to interview in person, it is common for English teachers to first stay in a hostel, guesthouse, or hotel during the job search process. Once a job is found, they will look for a place to stay that is close to their school or other desired location and share an apartment with the other newly hired teachers. Your new employer and fellow English teachers will be able to provide you with advice and guidance regarding the question of how to find local housing.

South Africa isn’t a cheap destination and the cost of living is very expensive, almost double what Americans pay for most things. Housing, food, insurance, utilities, clothing, and extras for one example, a single person is looking at close to R6000 to R8000 or $700/month to $930/month. Housing actually can be much more expensive too and can cost more than what most teachers will receive in pay in South Africa. Expect to break even because of the high cost of living. Dining out is not too expensive but can set a person back if they’re on a budget. Food can cost between R2500 to R4000 for a single person. Dining out surprisingly is cheaper than other countries.

Classroom and Work Culture

The education system in South Africa is strict and authoritative where the teachers command respect and students wear uniforms (usually). In a business setting, shaking hands is the usual greeting much like how we shake hands in the U.S. A person is expected to arrive on time, schedule things like meetings in advance, and use the titles of people’s names (Dr. Mr./Ms.) when addressing them. South Africans work typically five days a week around 40-45 hours/week, much like Americans.

Contributed by Anastasia R.D. Lopez

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