Jamaica is associated with laid-back island living and worldwide famous reggae singer Bob Marley, who took the “one love” philosophy of life far beyond the island’s borders. Things are famously done at a leisurely pace on this Caribbean island and images of soft sand beaches, hammock lounging, and dreamy turquoise waters are probably filling your mind right now.
Enrolling in a TEFL course in Jamaica not only allows you to live on a tropical island, but it also allows you to experience the richness of Caribbean culture first-hand and contribute to the country’s plan to improve its education system. Although English is the official language, the majority of Jamaicans still don't speak or read it at a native level.
Besides improving your teaching skills and boosting your chances to find jobs as a teacher, you’ll have the opportunity to be in touch with the original Rastafarian culture and walk the streets where reggae was born.
While Jamaica has been working to improve its education system over the past years, the Ministry of Education still relies on foreign native speakers to teach English to locals. In a country where tourism accounts for over 30% of the GDP, knowing English is a valued skill for Jamaicans who want to find a well-paid job in the industry.
A TEFL certification is the most common request for teachers from most private schools in Jamaica, which is why this is also one of the most popular courses. The level of English taught in Jamaican schools is not at the high standard the local government wants it to be. Whether you have previous teaching experience teaching or not, TEFL courses are a good fit for anyone looking to help local children and adults learn English.
English is the official language of Jamaica, a legacy of its past as a British colony, but Jamaican Patois is the most widely spoken language, particularly in informal settings. Because TESOL courses combine teaching English as a second language and English as a foreign language, they are more geared towards helping students who already speak English but need to learn how to use it in more a formal setting.
Before embarking on the adventure of teaching English in Jamaica, here are some tips on when and where to go, what to look for before choosing a TEFL course, and practical tips on how to live and work on this Caribbean island.
When to Take Your TEFL in Jamaica
Take the duration of your TEFL course into consideration and make sure you’re prepared and certified before the hiring peak season begins. However, it doesn’t mean that there isn't a need for English teachers before or after that period, but it's just the best time to be in the job market.
Most courses start in the summer, although there are some programs with courses all year round. If you want to be in Jamaica outside of the tourist season (typically between January and March), look for dates between November and mid-December when temperatures are pleasant and hurricane season has ended. If you want a full immersion experience and aren’t looking to teach English at resorts destinations, the sweet spot is from April to October, when the rainy weather keeps tourists at bay.
Popular Destinations for TEFL Courses in Jamaica
Cities are where most of the Jamaican public and private schools are concentrated and, therefore, will be where you’ll find most of the job opportunities for teaching English.
If you’re looking for a balance between immersing yourself in the local culture and a healthy demand for English teachers, the capital of Kingston is a great destination. Your teaching career can begin with a TEFL certification here, where the heart of reggae and Rastafari culture beats stronger, and continue into a more permanent job once you've gotten used to the city.
Montego Bay is also a popular city to teach English abroad but it’s considered one of the “resort towns” with a lot more foreign influence. If you opt for this one, you’ll most likely be teaching English to both locals and people from other destinations whose English isn’t their first language.
What to Look for in a TEFL Course in Jamaica
Most of the TEFL courses in Jamaica are run online by certified, experienced teachers, and have a duration of one month for full-time students. Although you can find housing on your own, you can also look for a program that assists you with finding accommodation.
Typically these programs also help with job placements, and most of them will include that as part of the TEFL certification process. If you want to continue teaching English overseas, make sure the program you choose includes this as a service.
Health & Safety
If you’re not used to or have never spent time in tropical climates, it'll take some time to get used to the sun and heat -- use plenty of sunscreen and limit exposure to a minimum. It also might take a while for your body to get used to a different diet. Whenever possible, stick to bottled water.
Regarding vaccination requirements, the CDC recommends getting vaccines for Hepatitis A and Typhoid (which you could get from contaminated food and water) apart from making sure your routine vaccines are up-to-date. For extended stays, ask your program provider or the school employing you where to get local medical care if needed. Don't forget to purchase health insurance before departing your home country.
Most reports of violence like petty theft come from resort areas and target wealthier tourists. However, the local government is working hard to improve safety in the country by increasing police staff. Follow local and foreign advice regarding problematic areas to avoid.
Once you've finished your certification to teach English as a foreign language overseas, you may be wondering what your next steps could be. Take a look at our post-TEFL tips to make the best of your teaching experience in Jamaica.
When to Apply for Jobs in Jamaica
The months of January and June are usually the peak hiring months. Although most of the TEFL courses take place year round, keep these dates in mind to make sure your end dates coincide with this time frame to prepare for job applications.
A regular school year in Jamaica runs from September to July of the next year, with interruptions for vacation in December (for Christmas), in the Spring (for Easter), and Summer (for about two months).
Average Salary of Post-TEFL Jobs in Jamaica
The average monthly salary ranges between 75,000 in the local currency, JMD or Jamaican Dollars ($600) and 120,000 JMD ($900). The average cost of living is between 50,000-100,000 JMD ($400-$800), so what you earn every month should be enough to cover basic living expenses like food, clothing, and rent.
Keep in mind that buying food and clothes is more affordable in Kingston, for example, and usually rent is lower in the cities.
Tips for Finding a Job in Jamaica
The demand for qualified and certified English teachers in Jamaica is high and competition is relatively low. The majority of teaching jobs are concentrated in urban areas since cities have the largest number of public and private schools.
Most of the TEFL programs already include post-course job placements. Please note that for long-term teaching stays (more than six months), you will need to apply for a work visa before entering the country. Schools will gladly sponsor foreign teachers, so just make sure you include the cover letter from your future employer with your work permit application.
If you chose a program that doesn’t include this service, browse the classified sections of a local newspaper like The Gleaner. Another local newspaper, Jamaica Observer, also has a classified section but with fewer options.
Usually reaching out to a Go Overseas alumni helps you narrow down your choices, but, if you need to keep job hunting online, Jamaican Medium, Caribbean Jobs, and Splash Jamaica are some of favorite resources. Look at these websites closer to or during the hiring peak season.