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Teach English in Panama

With its 100% tropical climate, diverse population and geographical proximity to both North and South America, Panama is a fascinating, one-of-a-kind place to teach English as a foreign language.

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The Latin American country of Panama seems like one of those otherworldly destinations that you might be lucky enough to visit on holiday, let alone teach English as a foreign language. Yet, the opportunities are more than ample for English teachers who crave a Latin lifestyle with a beautiful, clear ocean and a culture that has to be seen to be believed.

There are plenty of amazing, popular destinations for tourists around the world. However, Panama goes beyond tourism. As soon as you get there, you’ll feel the draw of the Panameños and their culture of welcome and hospitality. Any English teacher would be attracted to this, of course, as well as Panama’s very modern city infrastructures and tropical attractions, but the hunger to learn English is enormous. English teaching jobs are hardly scarce and both primary and secondary schools teach English in Panama.

EF ranks Panama 75th in the world for English proficiency, something that the country’s 4 million plus inhabitants are eager to improve. In the cities, the educational infrastructure is improving, but outside of major metropolises, much of Panama is an untamed natural paradise. This means that, as a teacher, you’re best to look inside the cities for full-time work and on the weekends, see the wildlife, take in extraordinary views and really satiate your hunger to explore.

TEFL in Panama: let’s get into it!

Panama: An overview

In terms of the natural landscape, the geographic make-up of its population and its location, Panama is singularly fascinating. It’s a transcontinental nation; the very link between Central and South America. As such, it takes major cultural influence from both, having been influenced by Western culture, but having also hosted historically vital indigenous populations, like the Cueva and Coclé peoples.

Economically, Panama probably punches above its weight. The average GDP per capita is about $40,000/£30,785, and the country is ranked 78th of major economies worldwide. Salaries for teaching jobs, then, can be extremely favourable, and compared to the cost of living in the USA or UK, the price of everyday items is relatively inexpensive.

In terms of language, Spanish is the national language and clear favourite. However, there are other linguistic influences, including indigenous languages, French and Arabic. Happily - for TEFL teachers anyway! - 14% of the population is fluent in English, Panama’s second most popular language. 

In short: Panama is a beautiful, geographically singular, welcoming country with a well-performing economy and a real appetite for learning English, with plenty of teaching jobs, especially in the cities, including Panama City, David, Santiago and Colón.

Requirements 

So far, so alluring for curious TEFL teachers who want to start teaching English abroad in Panama. What about the requirements to teach English abroad, though? What does a TEFL teacher need to work in Panama City, Santiago or David?

Let’s explore.

TEFL certificate

You’ll need a TEFL certificate for most English teaching jobs in Panama. In terms of well-paid, full-time work, a TEFL qualification will be necessary, and though some places won’t require one, we’d never recommend trying to find TEFL work without a TEFL certificate. Completing a course of at least 120 hours will normally do the trick.

Degree/no-degree

In the vast majority of cases, you will need a degree to work as an English teacher in Panama. Certainly, to work in international, private and public schools, a degree is an absolute prerequisite. In terms of tutoring, you might not necessarily need a degree, but it’ll help sell your abilities. 

In many cases, you’ll also need a teaching license to work in Panamanian schools. As ever, requirements differ by opportunity and institution, but having a teaching license is extremely worthwhile.

Experience 

As a general rule, you don’t need experience to get started teaching English as a foreign language in Panama. However, as previously stated, a teaching license is a requirement for some jobs, and of course, any experience you have will undoubtedly help your job search.

Visa

In terms of visas, Panama is a particularly interesting country. There are a wealth of nations whose citizens do not require visas to stay for 90 days or less, and 180 days in the case of the United States and Canada. 

Attaining a work permit, which you’ll certainly need if you plan on staying longer than a few months, is a different issue. This relies on first gaining permanent residence, which admittedly, isn’t too hard depending on your finances and whether you’re from a country on the Panamanian “friendly nations” list.

To gain a work permit, you’ll need:

  • A work permit application, completed by a legal professional
  • A letter of responsibility from your employer
  • Documentation from the National Immigration Service demonstrating permanent residence
  • Residence ID
  • Four passport photos

Download our teaching English in Latin America guide

Salary & cost of living

The average salary in Panama is 25,400 PAB (£19,450/$25,450) per year, or 2,116 PAB (£1,620/$2,120) per month. What about the teaching profession, though? How much can a TEFL teacher earn in Panama, and what’s the typical salary and cost of living?

Let’s explore.

Country Avg. monthly salary Degree required Start of term Teaching experience Housing & flights included Suitable for non-native English speakers Age restrictions
Teach in Panama PAB 2,116
(£1,620 GBP
$2,120 USD)
January None

Salary

For a starter wage teaching English in Panama, you can expect an average salary of somewhere between £610-£1,145/$800-$1,500/ - not bad for a teaching salary in Latin America. Obviously, this depends on what kind of city or town you’re teaching in, the type of school, your qualifications and what kind of teaching experience you have on your CV.

Salaries do tend to be higher in bigger cities and in institutions like international schools, private schools and universities.

Learn more about teaching English abroad salaries.

Cost of living 

Compared to the United Kingdom and the US, the cost of living in Panama is extremely favourable, and it makes teaching abroad in Panama a very attractive prospect. 

Our most important consideration is accommodation. While some employers may help out with a rental space, or some kind of fund to help with accommodation costs, it’s not always the case. Per Numbeo, renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre of Panama City costs £530-£690/$700-$900 per month. If you don’t mind living out of the way a little, the cost drops to approximately £380-£535/$500-$700 per month. If you prefer a larger living space, a three-bedroom apartment in the city centre could range from £900-£1375/ $1,200-$1,800, while outside the city centre, you’ll be spending approximately £690-£990/$900-$1,300 per calendar month.

What about everyday expenses for ESL teachers? A three-course meal for two in a mid-priced restaurant will cost about £40/$50, with a pint of local beer priced at £1.50/$2. A monthly public transport pass will cost around $25/£19, whereas a taxi is typically £1.35 /$1.75 per kilometre.

For utilities, including air conditioning, electricity and water, you’re likely to spend £72/$94 per month, whereas an internet connection will set you back £35/$45.

Jobs

So what about teaching jobs in Panama? Where’s the most rewarding work, who pays the most and what’s the availability like? Let’s break it down by institution so that you can see how best to experience teaching English in Panama.

Public Schools

The most obvious and common route for many teachers in Panama is through the public school system. Public schools typically hire English teachers to work with students of various age groups and proficiencies, from kindergarten to the end of schooling.

Normally, Panamanian schools will require a TEFL certificate of at least 120 hours, along with a four-year degree (in any field). A teaching license will also bolster any application significantly.

Teach English in Panama City

Do you want to find all the best international schools, English language schools, public schools and universities in Panama? Your best bet is Panama City.

Modern, industrial yet charming and brimming with history, Panama City is a must for anyone exploring their TEFL options in Central America. The crown jewel of a country nestled between Latin and South America, Panama’s capital has a multicultural population who absolutely understand the benefit of English.

The cultural and economic hub of Panama, Panama City represents an amazing option for TEFL teachers. The best of Panama’s education system is in the city, with a range of top universities that includes Santa María La Antigua Catholic University, the GANEXA University of Arts, the Interamerican University of Panamá and 8 others. If universities aren’t in your career plan, you’ll be more than impressed with the international and language schools that serve Panama City’s nearly 480,000 residents.

As a place to live, it’s hard to beat. If you like beaches, vibrant nightlife and a little history - not least, the Panama Canal - you’re in luck. It’s impossible to overstate the sheer range of cultural influences contained in Panama City, and that shows in the cuisine, the music and so much more.

Frequently Asked Questions

    Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about teaching English in Panama answered!

  • Q. How much do English teachers earn in Panama?

    A typical starting salary for an English teacher in Panama is somewhere between $800-$1,500/£610-£1,145. Where you’re located, the kind of institution in and your level of qualifications/experience are all considerable factors.

  • Q. Do they teach English in Panama?

    Yes, English is taught and spoken widely in Panama, though the national language is Spanish.

  • Q. Are English teachers in demand in Panama?

    With a strongly-performing economy and proximity to North America, Panamanians are very much aware of the the advantages that learning English - the lingua franca of business - can bring. Certainly, it’s a widely-spoken language, and English teachers are in demand.

  • Q. How much does a teacher get paid in Panama City?

    When you start teaching English in Panama City, you should expect something like the national average for teachers - $800-$1,500/£610-£1,145. However, Panama City is full of international schools, private schools and universities, where qualified, experienced teachers can demand higher salaries.