TEFL certification courses are widespread throughout Latin America. From Colombia to Argentina, future English teachers will learn the fundamentals of English grammar and classroom management while getting the chance to immerse themselves in the host country’s culture, learn the language and make contacts even before starting the job search. Because most hiring in Latin America is done face-to-face, receiving your TEFL certification in country will put you at a strong advantage.
Most TEFL courses take place through U.S. based companies or local schools located in major metropolitan areas, especially Santiago, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, Brazil. Some courses are offered in smaller cities, such as Cartagena, Colombia or Arequipa, Peru.
With the draw of its low cost of living, friendly and open culture, and diverse landscapes and peoples, Latin America is an ideal destination to earn your TEFL certificate and launch your career teaching abroad.
While most online TEFL certifications from accredited institutions are 120-170 hours of course work over the course of four weeks, in-person certifications usually run full-time for around four weeks. Most courses boast small class sizes, helpful placement for practicum hours and assist in job placement.
These courses are strictly TEFL certifications. After the in-classroom instruction and practicum hours, graduated students have the opportunity to seek out teaching opportunities on their own, either in the same country or anywhere in the world.
TEFL + Teach
TEFL + Teach can either take the form of teaching while earning your TEFL certification, or a four-to-five-week TEFL course followed by a placement (most institutions do not charge extra for job placement). These courses are perfect for anyone ready to teach straightaway in the same destination in which they've taken their TEFL course.
TEFL + Volunteer
TEFL + Volunteer is similar to the programs that provide TEFL + Teach but with a volunteer program students pay for both the course and the following volunteer teaching. Student who opt for this option won’t make any money, but they’ll be able to gain experience while providing language instruction to those who can’t afford expensive English academies.
Planning Your Trip
When to Take Your TEFL in South America
Most TEFL granting institutions run on-site courses year round, but keep in mind the biggest hiring seasons for English teachers in South America are in February/March and July/August, before semesters begin.
Popular Destinations for TEFL Courses in South America
A few of the most popular destinations for TEFL certifications are Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. These cosmopolitan cities are arts and culture hubs with strong expat communities and plenty of opportunity for securing English teaching jobs post-graduation.
Following those sites, Peru (Arequipa and Cusco), Ecuador (Galapagos Islands) and Colombia (Medellin and Cartagena) have also become popular. Students should decide whether they want a laid-back, beach destination, an mountainous city with a strong indigenous culture, or an international metropolis with nightclubs, concerts and the congestion of any major city. For students interested in learning a new language while completing a TEFL course, be sure to choose a location with language academies.
What to Look For in a TEFL Course in South America
The most important aspect of a TEFL course is that it’s from an accredited institution, which means that this certification will be internationally recognized beyond the location you’re getting certified in. Reading past student reviews and making sure the program includes between 120-160 classroom hours in addition to at least six hours of practicum time will ensure you’re enrolling in a reputable institution.
In course descriptions, look for the fundamentals of teaching English, such as classroom management, learning theory, English grammar, and teaching essentials like listening, speaking and reading, and specialized knowledge such as teaching young learners or industry-specific vocabulary. Take notice of guarantees like small class size, experiential learning and mentoring.
In terms of the program, look for what extras are included in the cost. Is there an orientation? WiFi at the center? Is job placement included, and if so, for how long? Is it up to six months after graduation, or a lifetime guarantee? Does the academy pick you up from the airport? Are field trips and cultural immersion opportunities? Determine what is most important for you.
Health & Safety
While it is smart to always take precautions in a new environment, South America isn’t as dangerous as its reputation wants you to believe. Health and safety vary significantly depending on the area. Major metropolitan areas pickpockets and robberies tend to be more common, but this also highly depends on circumstance, such as time of day or neighborhood. New technology like Uber help combat the threat of danger in taxi cabs. Foreigners will find that most are people are generous, friendly and helpful.
While in some locations like Bolivia and Peru you won’t be able to drink the tap water, you will in others such as Santiago and Buenos Aires. Students should come with proper vaccinations for the country they’re going to. Most countries require yellow fever and tetanus shots before entering. Drugs should be avoided.
For women, the catcalling culture of most South American countries will be alarming if they’re not used to it. It’s best not to engage with catcallers.
When to Apply For Jobs in South America
Most schools and academies hire at the start of the school year in February/March, or after the first semester in July/August. However, because of such a high turnover rate many academies hire year round.
Average Salary of Post-TEFL Jobs in South America
South America is known as a ‘break even destination,’ meaning salaries will be just enough to cover the cost of living. At school and language academies, teachers can expect to make on average $500 a month teaching 20-30 hours a week. Many teachers choose to earn extra income through private classes or working at multiple academies.
Remember, the cost of most TEFL certifications run between $1,000-2,000 for the four week program, and this doesn’t always include housing (some courses will arrange local homestays included in the fee, otherwise housing is not included in the cost).
The cost of living varies significantly throughout the region, ranging from around $500-2,000 a month. Cities like Santiago, Chile and São Paulo, Brazil have drastically higher costs of living than Cusco, Peru or La Paz, Bolivia. When planning how much to save before you set off for Latin America, be sure to keep this in mind. You’ll not only be not earning income during your course, but you’ll be spending money on the course, food and housing. Make sure to have enough saved to sustain you before finding a teaching job
Tips For Finding a Job in South America
The best way to find a teaching job South America is face-to-face, and since you’ll already be in the country you’re halfway there. Resumes should be in the host country’s language (either Spanish or Portuguese) and should be delivered in person.
If your TEFL institution doesn’t provide job placement, utilize this cold-calling strategy and rely on word of mouth and recommendations from other teachers to help find a job. There are also useful Facebook groups for English teachers and expats.