There are so many adjectives you can attach to Brazil: enormous, colourful, passionate. An incredibly big nation, Brazil is home to Carnival, samba rhythms, some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, and, of course, immense passion for football.
How else can we describe Brazil, though? How about “TEFL destination”? While other countries of such immensity have become must-visit locations to teach English, like China, it wouldn’t be unfair to say Brazil isn’t of the same reputation.
Yet, there is an audience for English. In 2014, 5% of Brazilians had some level of English proficiency. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s about 10 million people.
Of those 10 million people, it was generally Brazil’s emergent middle class who had access to English lessons, or ex-pats from English-speaking countries. That means there’s an opportunity to make English more accessible, and there are certainly large numbers who have some level of proficiency already.
So, how easy is it to go to Brazil and work as a TEFL teacher? Here’s what you need to know – expect some surprises along the way.
TEFL Job Market in Brazil
Before we fully launch into the TEFL job market in Brazil, it’s important to understand the education system in Brazil. Luckily, it’s not hard to understand!
Brazil’s educational infrastructure is a lot like the UK’s. There’s elementary/primary (Ensino Fundamental) and high school (Ensino Médio). There are also private schools and international schools. There are fantastic international schools across Brazil, here’s just one list of the options for ex-pat families.
English lessons within these schools are common, especially in international schools. Private schools also place emphasis on English, and it’s generally Brazil’s middle-class who have a firmer grasp of the language.
What do you need to become an English teacher there? Well, a degree isn’t necessarily required, though it is preferred by certain employers. A TEFL certificate with at least 120 hours of training – for example, The TEFL Org’s 120-hour Premier Online qualification – will get you interviews.
Typically, teaching contracts last from 1-6 months. Think of the school year as two semesters, and you have the right idea. While this can seem like unsteady work, it’s also a great opportunity to travel to Brazil and gain teaching experience on the go.
As you’d expect with a typical contract of up to 6 months, the hiring seasons come just before the summer and the winter. March and August are your best times to apply, and Brazilian schools tend to prefer applicants handing in CVs in person. It’s not impossible to get hired before coming over, but it’s certainly more difficult.
Who do TEFL teachers work with in Brazil?
You might think the answer to this is obvious: TEFL teachers work in schools with children, right?
Sure, and there are certainly jobs, not least in the international schools around Brazil. Meanwhile, again – Brazil is enormous, so finding work within the public school system shouldn’t be hard.
However, there’s another opportunity, in the form of business professionals. Brazil has the 12th highest-performing economy in the world, with fantastic natural resources, an emphasis on heavy industry, and of course, the exportation of plants like coffee and soy. The status of English as the de facto language of business means there is a litany of opportunities to tutor, especially in the big cities. Crucially though, you must declare your earnings if you’re freelance, which conveniently leads us into…
Everyone’s favourite subject! Brazilian visas can be notoriously hard to obtain. The government of former President Jair Bolsonaro was elected on a platform which included tight restrictions on immigration, despite Brazil’s reputation as a melting pot for diversity.
At the time of writing, immigration policy in Brazil is still comparably strict, though that’s likely to ease after a change of government. The two types of visas that TEFL teachers will be interested in are temporary and permanent visas. Additionally, you can get travel visas for up to 90 days, but these obviously need to be renewed, and some employers might be reluctant to hire a teacher on a travel visa.
What are the temporary and permanent visa requirements for teachers? Although Brazilian employers can be reluctant to sponsor visas and prefer to hire in person, you’ll need an employer to give proof of employment to the Brazilian Ministry of Labour. If they approve the request, they’ll inform the Brazilian Consulate – that’s where you apply for the work visa.
If the consulate is happy, they’ll stamp your passport, and you’ll be welcomed to work in Brazil.
You’ll also need to fill out a full application, have a clean criminal record and provide the requisite documents. To cut a long story short, it’s best to network: you’ll need to make friends with teachers who are working/have worked in Brazil, your prospective employers and the Brazilian consulate.
Cost of living and salary expectations in Brazil
With Brazil being such an expansive and diverse place, you’ll find vastly different standards of living, salaries and lifestyles across the country. Much like in China, it can be hard to get accurate averages when it comes to salaries. We’ll provide national averages, but it’s also a good idea to get an idea of the cost of living in Brazil’s biggest cities.
So, averages: the typical monthly outgoings in Brazil are equivalent to 2,400-4,795 Real, or £381-762. The basic monthly salary for full-time English teaching positions is likely to be in the region of 3,000 – 4,800 BRL (£400 – £650 / $550 – $920) per month. Hourly rates range from 50 BLR to 80 BLR per hour.
What about individual cities? According to Numbeo, a cost of living calculator, monthly costs for a single person are around £480 before rent, with a 1-bedroom city centre apartment costing around £325 per month. In Brasilia, outgoings are around £450 before rent, which averages at £321 monthly, also for a 1-bedroom city centre apartment. Equivalent costs in Belo Horizonte, however, are far less: typical monthly outgoings are below £400, while an equivalent apartment is typically around £240 a month.
Safety in Brazil
How safe is it to live in Brazil? There is certainly a reputation that precedes the enormous country, especially in inner-city areas, but is that reputation based on fact?
Again, though, this is largely due to organised crime. Typically, TEFL teachers will work in tourist-friendly areas with a decent police presence. Brazil hosts millions of tourists per year and is no different from any other country in that precautions – particularly at night – are well worth taking.
Despite Bolsonaro’s recent presidency, it’s also one of the most progressive countries in terms of LGBTQ+ legislation. IGLTA, a travel guide for members of the LGBTQ+ community, states:
“Same-sex marriage was introduced in the country in 2013 as well as joint adoption. Some regions in the country also have expanded laws that protect LGBTQ+ people, such as Juiz de Fora city and São Paulo state, which introduced anti-homophobia laws in 2000 and 2001. In 2010, São Paulo allowed transgender people to use their chosen name and gender identity for legal purposes which was expanded to the entire country in 2016.”
Of course, with this said, there is still homophobia, especially inland and in smaller towns.
Therein lies the contradiction that is Brazil; some of the most progressive human rights in the world, but some valid safety concerns. Ultimately, the experience of one TEFL teacher is not that of another, but with some common sense approaches to safety, any teacher wishing for a fantastic experience in Brazil will likely experience just that!
Where do you want to TEFL? Check out our guide to teaching English abroad to get inspired!