The central American country of Guatemala isn’t a rich country, and without much disposable income to spend on English lessons, the TEFL industry isn’t big business in Guatemala. However, as if often the case in poorer countries, there are plenty of opportunities for those who wish to volunteer as an English teacher, making it a great destination for backpackers wishing to do something worthwhile as they travel, or for fledgling teachers wanting to gain a bit of experience.

Quetzaltenango, or Xela as it is more commonly known, is considered the “educational centre” of Guatemala, and recognized as a good place to search for work as a TEFL teacher, especially if you want to avoid Guatemala City, which is richer in teaching opportunities but has a bad reputation. Xela hosts a dramatic backdrop, surrounded by no less than 10 volcanoes! The rapid growth of the population fuels demand for education and English learning, although many roles are voluntary. There are five universities and numerous language schools dotted throughout the city. If you’d rather go somewhere off the beaten track, many volunteering opportunities focus on outreaching to more remote communities, such as in the villages around Lake Atitlan.

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Key Facts

  • Popular locations for TEFL jobs: Guatemala City, Xela, Antigua, San Pedro, Rio Dulce, and Lake Atitlan
  • Average salary for EFL teachers: The basic monthly salary for full-time positions is likely to be in the region of $475 – $800 US (£350 – £590) per month.The hourly rate is $2 US to $5 US (£1.50 – £3.50) per hour in language schools; or up to $8.00 US (£5.90) per hour for private lessons.
  • TEFL qualification requirements: A 120-hour TEFL qualification will be required for most paid positions
  • Prerequisite university degree: Required for some paid positions
  • Term times: The school year starts in the autumn
  • Currency: Quetzal (GTQ)
  • Language: Spanish
  • Teaching programmes: Voluntary, Private Schools, Private Tutoring, Corporate
  • Age restrictions: None
  • Previous teaching experience: Required for paid positions but not usually required for voluntary positions

Guatemala has the lowest literacy rate in Central America, so if you undertake a voluntary position teaching some of the poorest people in the country, have modest expectations when it comes to their linguistic abilities. However, middle and upper-class families who send their children to private schools will be better educated and have a more advanced ability in foreign languages. Recognising that learning English will help them have a brighter future, young people in Guatemala who have the opportunity to learn English will be eager to do so.

If you find a job at a private language school, expect long hours, which might not match your expectations when it comes to the salary. With a low cost of living, not earning much isn’t a big problem in Guatemala, and so any type of paid work should be seen as a perk, especially as such roles are hard to come by. As well as private schools, you could inquire at universities or find out if there are students in the area who would be interested in private tutoring. Roles sometimes come up for corporate positions, such as teaching English to staff at the embassy, though these positions will have fierce competition.

Requirements for teaching English in Guatemala

Country Avg. monthly salary Degree required Start of term Teaching experience Housing & flights included Suitable for non-native English speakers Age restrictions
Argentina £500 - £950
($600 - $1,200)
No March Preferred No Yes None
Bolivia £400 - £550
($500 - $700)
No February Preferred No Yes None
Brazil £650 - £900
($800 - $1,100)
No February No No Yes None
Chile £550 - £800
($700 - $1,000)
No March No No Yes None
Colombia £400 - £800
($500 - $1,000)
No January/February No No Yes Under 62
Ecuador £400 - £650
($500 - $800)
Preferred May Preferred No Yes None
Guatemala £400 - £550
($500 - $700)
Preferred January No No Yes None
Mexico £400 - £800
($500 - $1,000)
Preferred August No Sometimes Yes None
Peru £325 - £650
($400 - $800)
Yes March Preferred Sometimes Yes Under 70
Uruguay £325 - £800
($400 - $1000)
Preferred March Preferred No Yes None

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Living Costs

The cost of living in Guatemala is cheaper than in 60% of countries in Latin America and cheaper than in 74% of countries in the world. As such a cheap destination, the fact that most positions are voluntary shouldn’t put you off – most volunteering positions will provide food and accommodation, and some TEFL jobs in Guatemala include other benefits such as free Spanish lessons.

  • Accommodation: £435 – £618 / $591 – $840
  • Utilities: £44 / $60
  • Health insurance: Cost of typical visit to a GP: £22 / $30
  • Monthly transport pass: £9 / $13
  • Basic dinner out for two: £14 / $19
  • Cappuccino in expat area: £3.16 / $4.30
  • A beer in a pub: £2.88 / $3.91
  • 1 litre of milk: £1.12 / $1.52
  • 2 litres of Coca-Cola: £1.40 / $1.90

(living costs sourced from Expatistan)


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