How to Teach English in South America: Tips, Resources, Job Opportunities and More
Maybe the Andes Mountains are calling you. Or Brazil’s vibrant cities. Or Colombia’s rainbow-colored river.
If you can teach English, you can see it all without draining your bank account.
In this post, I’ll walk you step-by-step through how to teach English in South America.
By the end, you’ll know how to find your dream job teaching in the country of your choosing—and have the adventure of a lifetime!
- What to Do Before You Teach English in South America
- 3 Ways to Look for Jobs and Teach English in South America
- How to Prepare an Interview for a Teaching Job in South America
What to Do Before You Teach English in South America
Calculate how much money you need to save
It’s very rewarding to teach English in South America, but not always monetarily. So don’t expect to get rich off of it.
Before buying a plane ticket, you need to know how much it will cost you to relocate to your favorite countries. For example, the cost of living is far higher in Argentina than in Bolivia.
This online cost of living tool is a great way to compare prices between your top-choice locations.
Here are a few important cost-of-living points to consider:
- Monthly rent (including expenses like utilities)
- Transportation costs
- Cost of internet
- Hospital visit cost
- TEFL course cost (if needed—more on this later)
- Travel and fun budget
Ideally, you want at least three months of living costs covered before stepping on that plane.
Research visa requirements
Research the visas you need and how to get them early in your planning.
Here’s a list of South America visa requirements for U.S. citizens by country. This site has good information for citizens of other countries traveling to South America, too.
However, note that visa requirements change periodically, so always crosscheck visa requirements with a country’s tourist visa page.
Depending on how long you plan to stay and the type of teaching gig you’re after, you’ll most likely only need a tourist visa to teach. The tourist visa works for volunteer arrangements, teaching in exchange for accommodations or working online.
If you plan to stay longer or obtain formal employment, you must obtain a work visa (or another long-term visa that permits employment).
Many language schools will sponsor you, in which case you’ll be able to get this visa easily. But you may be required to sign a long-term contract with the school.
Add these details to your resume
- A short paragraph outlining your teaching skills
- Your education background (degrees, certificates, etc.)
- Professional experience
- Other languages you speak (like Spanish)
- Your email address (make sure it looks professional)
- LinkedIn page (be sure your resume and LinkedIn match)
- Local phone number (if already in South America)
Many language schools in South America still require a paper copy of your resume, so print off several before leaving.
Know the local hiring seasons
Here are some hiring seasons by country to consider before purchasing your flight, according to International TEFL Academy:
- Argentina: March, April, July and August
- Brazil: Middle of February, March and August
- Ecuador: February, March, July and August
- Colombia: Middle of January, February, July and August
- Bolivia: Middle of February, middle of March, July and August
- Chile: March, April, July and August
3 Ways to Look for Jobs and Teach English in South America
1. TEFL Course Employment Opportunities
The Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate will benefit anyone who wants to teach English abroad. But it isn’t always needed.
Depending on your background in South America, you can easily get a teaching job without a TEFL.
For example, most language schools only require you to have an undergraduate degree, despite what their job ad may say.
However, one reason to consider a TEFL certificate is that many TEFL courses have a network of language schools you can tap into to get a job once you’re certified.
For example, GoAbroad has an extensive list of TEFL courses in South America that’ll build your network there. Their team will help you pick the right program for your needs.
And International TEFL Academy has an education and employment pipeline that will set you up with a job advisor. And if you take an in-person TEFL course in South America, they’ll have local staff to help you enter the job market there.
Check out their teaching opportunities in Latin America here.
2. English Teacher Job Boards
Start by browsing Craigslist for the city you want to teach in.
Language schools have used Craigslist for a long time as an easy way to find great ESL teachers. Search “Craigslist + [your desired city]” and click the Education page under Jobs.
Next, start browsing these job boards:
- Dave’s ESL Cafe International Job Board: Dave’s ESL Cafe has been around for quite a while now and is a go-to meeting spot for ESL teachers worldwide. You may need to scroll a bit to find South American opportunities, but the job board is updated almost daily!
- ESL Employment: ESL Employment has several teaching opportunities for South America. Regardless of where you want to teach abroad, this is a great site to bookmark. You can also choose to filter results by continent or country.
- Teach Away South America: To find jobs in your chosen country, hover over the “Jobs” page in the menu. Then, hover over “Destinations” for a list of multiple countries and regions where you can explore teaching opportunities.
- JimmyESL Latin America Job Board: Looking only for full-time teaching opportunities? Or just planning to teach for the summer in between college semesters? This site lets you filter ESL opportunities using the “keyword” search bar or select jobs by full-time, part-time, freelance, internship and temporary. This is also a great job board to find language schools in your preferred country and contact them for new opportunities.
- Jobs Abroad Bulletin: This site is an excellent resource for ESL teachers looking for jobs and some part-time work to supplement that teacher’s income. You can scroll through the current jobs listed for South America and peruse the “Featured Jobs” and “Job Channels” listings. This job board is easy to navigate, with plenty of resources to get your job hunt off to a fantastic start.
3. Become a Freelancer or Teach English Online
Starting your own private English teaching business is one of the best teaching options in South America. Building a solid base of steady clients can often lead to more income as an English teacher.
Start by creating a website using a platform like WordPress. Include a short bio, pricing, availability and a few blog posts about teaching English to start.
You can also make a good income by teaching English online.
You may be in South America, but not all your students need to be. China, Japan, Russia and several other countries need English teachers, too.
How to Prepare an Interview for a Teaching Job in South America
If you’re job hunting using the employment board method, one major factor will be whether you’re already in the country and can attend an in-person interview.
Other times, you might be able to get away doing only Skype interviews.
Here are some tips for acing the interview process:
- Schedule your interview promptly. Many language schools want a short meet and greet to go over your resume with you and see who they’re hiring in person. You can usually schedule interviews a week prior, but typically not more.
- Prepare by researching common ESL teacher interview questions and answers.
- Wear a semi-formal outfit.
- Show up on time. Plan your commute wisely. Be sure to think about how much time you’ll need to go from one language school to the other. You can use Google Maps Transit to see how long transportation may take and then add extra time to be sure.
- Get a local phone number for the hiring manager to call you. Usually, local SIM cards are easy to find and relatively cheap.
With the above tips under your belt, you’ll be ready to teach English in South America in no time.
The rewards of teaching abroad are immeasurable. You’ll meet people from different, vibrant cultures and embark on an adventurous career.
The world is certainly your oyster as an ESL teacher, so make the most of it.