Do you dream about teaching English in Latin America? With diverse landscapes ranging from rugged mountain peaks to wind-swept deserts, blinding-white beaches to cosmopolitan cities and ancient Mayan ruins, it’s easy to see why so many ESL teachers set their sights on Latin America each year.
ESL teaching jobs are plentiful in Central and South America, with opportunities that range from volunteer teaching positions to language schools, private international schools and even private tutoring. While the majority of teaching jobs are focused around big cities – such as Buenos Aires in Argentina, Quito in Ecuador and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil – TEFL jobs in lesser-known, rural locations are also possible to find for those looking for a more laid-back teach English abroad experience.
Teaching English in Latin America is by no means a get-rich-quick destination. Wages tend to be lower than those in Asia but, with some of the lowest living costs in the world, most English teachers will find themselves able to live comfortably and still have enough money to explore this fascinating region.
Most popular countries to teach English in Latin America
Home to 33 countries and a mind-bending 659 million people, Latin America is a vast region that stretches from the US-Mexican border all the way to the southern tip of South America in Argentina.
With such an array of diverse countries, the biggest problem many ESL teachers face is choosing just one to live in. Do you want to spend your time off hiking the trails of Machu Picchu in Peru? Or scaling the mountains of Patagonia in Argentina? Perhaps you prefer nightlife to the great outdoors, with the carnival atmosphere of Rio or steamy salsa nights in Buenos Aires, Argentina being more up your street.
No matter what kind of teach abroad experience you are looking for, Latin America has something for everyone. Read on to discover five of the most popular destinations for teaching English in South and Central America.
A top location to teach English in South America, Argentina is a land of spectacular natural beauty, delicious food and wine, and intoxicating local culture. It also boasts one of the world’s most romanticised capital cities – beautiful Buenos Aires. Meanwhile, the country’s far-south tip is home to the most southerly city in the world – Ushuaia – which also serves as the gateway to Antarctica.
Whether you want to dance the night away in the capital or explore the peaks of Patagonia, Argentina has something for all ESL teachers. And, thanks to an abundance of teaching jobs for those at all stages of their TEFL journeys, even brand new ESL teachers should find it easy to secure a position in the country.
While salaries might land on the lower end of the scale, the cost of living in Argentina is incredibly reasonable, especially if you live like a local and avoid imported goods.
Read more about Teaching English in Argentina.
Ecuador might be one of the smallest countries in South America but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most exciting too! From the quirky capital of Quito with its historic old town to the incredible biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands, those who choose to teach English in Ecuador will discover a country packed with things to see and do.
Despite the small size of the nation, there are lots of teaching jobs, especially for those who have just received their TEFL certification. Ecuador tends to be quite relaxed when it comes to qualifications, meaning it’s usually relatively easy to secure ESL teaching jobs, even for those who don’t have any previous teaching experience.
And, while teaching abroad in Ecuador isn’t going to make you a millionaire any time soon, most foreign language teachers find that they can earn enough to get by comfortably thanks to a low cost of living. For those hoping to do a little travel around South America or simply earn a bit more each month, freelance tutoring is a popular way to boost your basic salary in Ecuador.
See our post about Teaching English in Ecuador.
How does living and working in a country packed with colourful cities, white-sand beaches, ancient ruins and delicious cuisine sound? Welcome to teaching English abroad in Mexico! This huge country is home to some of the most diverse landscapes in Latin America, covering deserts and canyons to Mayan ruins, beaches, jungles and sprawling metropolises.
With one of the largest TEFL markets in the world, Mexico has a huge number of ESL jobs and teaching opportunities for all kinds of TEFL teachers. Better still, you usually won’t need a degree or previous experience to teach ESL, as a TEFL certification is the only set requirement for a visa.
Mexico is known for having some of the lowest living costs in not just Latin America but the entire world. This makes it an ideal place for new TEFL teachers, who might start out in lower-salary positions until they have some experience. Most teachers in Mexico earn enough in their main job to get by, while many offer private lessons in order to boost their salaries.
If you like the sound of Mexico, check out post on Teaching English in Mexico.
The country might be best known for the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu but Peru has so much more to offer beyond just its most famous site. From dense jungles to laid-back surf towns, ancient cities to nature reserves bursting with wildlife, the diversity of Peru can surprise many who come to live here.
The TEFL market in Peru has been steadily growing in recent years, and it’s easy to find ESL jobs for both new and experienced teachers. Those hoping to land their first teaching job after finishing their TEFL course might want to consider some of the country’s more rural locations, where requirements tend to be less strict. For experienced or qualified English teachers, there are good opportunities available in Peru’s International Schools.
Like most Latin American countries, the average TEFL salary isn’t going to leave you with much left at the end of the month. If you’re volunteer teaching in a rural location, you’ll often have food and accommodation provided for you, making this an ideal way to experience the country on a tight budget.
Read our full guide to Teaching English in Peru.
As the largest country in Latin America, Brazil has more than its fair share to offer TEFL teachers. Few places in the world can boast such a mix of natural beauty, captivating cities and year-round festivities, with everything from lush rainforests and deep canyons to sparkling beaches and music-filled cosmopolitan centres.
Teaching in Brazil can be an incredible, if at times frustrating, experience for many teachers. English teachers are in high demand, and jobs are easy to come by with plenty of entry-level positions for those who are looking for their first teach abroad experience. However, with frequent visa complications and low wages, this isn’t usually seen as a career location.
But if you are a newly TEFL certified teacher hoping to work for around 6 months and earn enough to explore, experience and enjoy this intoxicating country, Brazil might just be the perfect place for you.
See our post about Teaching English in Brazil.
Requirements for teaching English in Latin America
One of the reasons that Latin America is such a popular destination for teaching English abroad is its relatively relaxed approach to requirements and qualifications. For new TEFL teachers with no real-world experience, this makes the region an obvious choice.
Meanwhile, those who want to teach English abroad with no degree, who have been unable to secure TEFL jobs in stricter countries like China, South Korea or Japan, will find plenty of opportunities in Latin America.
While rules are generally relaxed, don’t forget that requirements can change between different types of schools and employers. But, on the whole, even those taking the first step on their TEFL journey shouldn’t struggle to find teaching jobs in Latin America.
Wondering what qualifications you might be asked for? The most common requirement for teaching in Central and South America is a TEFL certificate. While a bachelor’s degree or previous teaching experience is usually only required by international schools, a TEFL qualification will be expected by most employers. And it won’t just look good on your CV – TEFL courses provide all the skills you need to feel confident when you step into your first real-life classroom.
Aside from a TEFL certificate, many schools also prefer native English-speaking teachers or those from native-speaking countries. However, if you are a certified teacher in your own country or you can prove your fluency levels, there are still opportunities to be found as a non-native English speaker.
Most people who teach abroad in Latin America will stay for less than 6 months. This is, in large part, due to visa regulations and frequent problems with gaining sponsorship. Many people arrive on a tourist visa, find a job and leave just before their visa runs out or, if they want to stay in Latin America, look for work in a nearby country.
While not impossible to obtain a work visa, they tend to be reserved for those looking to stay for more than just a year or two. Your best bet for getting one of these is to be a qualified, experienced teacher and contact well-established schools to ask about sponsorship.
Teaching English jobs in Latin America
When it comes to teaching English in Latin America, there’s a job to suit every kind of ESL teacher. Opportunities are as varied as the countries themselves, with volunteering placements at public schools, private language academies, international schools and the chance to work as a private tutor.
It’s more common for teachers to find work on the ground in Latin America, meaning many will travel to the country of their choice first before securing a job. However, if you do want to have a job locked down before you leave home, it’s worth looking at volunteer programmes or, if you’re a qualified teacher, contacting schools in the country you want to work in.
One thing to remember about teaching jobs in Latin America is that they are usually quite low-paying, at least in comparison to many other TEFL countries. The average salary for an ESL teacher will be in the range of £500 – £750 GBP ($610 – $915 USD) per month but those with qualifications and/or experience may be able to secure a better wage at a private international school.
Types of teaching jobs
While you can find many different opportunities throughout each individual country, there are four main kinds of teaching jobs in Latin America for foreign teachers.
Most people teaching English in South America will find themselves working at a language academy, with many boosting their evening and weekend working hours with some private tutoring. In any major South American city – like Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Lima – it is also possible to find English teaching jobs at an international school, so long as you are qualified and have experience. On the other hand, those who have recently completed TEFL courses might want to consider a volunteer placement in a rural school to gain some valuable real-world experience.
Take a look at each of the four different types of job in more detail below.
If you’re teaching English abroad at a public school in Central or South America, you’ll most likely have found your way there through a volunteering programme. Volunteering to teach English abroad in Latin American countries is an extremely popular choice, and there are dozens of different organisations offering placements to do just this.
For brand new teachers, this can be an excellent option for three main reasons. Firstly, you’ll take a huge portion of the organisation and stress out of moving to another country and finding work. Secondly, voluntary teaching placements can give new teachers a chance to put the skills they’ve learnt from their TEFL courses into real-life practice. And finally, volunteering can make a real difference to the local community, especially if you’ve chosen to stay in a rural location where access to education can be difficult.
In addition, most volunteer teachers will either be placed with a host family, given accommodation (or a housing allowance) as well as meals and ongoing support.
Q. How much money can you make teaching English in Latin America?
Salaries vary between different countries and employers but most TEFL teachers can expect to earn somewhere in the region of £500 – £750 GBP ($610 – $915 USD) per month in Latin America.
Q. How do I become an English teacher in Latin America?
To become an English teacher in Latin America you’ll usually need a TEFL certification. A degree and experience are also sometimes required, depending on what type of job you are applying for.
Q. Are English teachers in demand in Latin America?
Yes! There’s a huge demand for English teachers in Latin America right now, especially in locations like Brazil and Mexico.
Q. Can you teach English in Latin America without a degree?
Yes! Latin America is one of the most popular places to teach English abroad for this exact reason! Most schools won’t require a degree and as it’s not a visa regulation, you shouldn’t have a problem finding work without one.