Although the pandemic has taken much teaching work online, there’s still always a demand for face-to-face English teachers in Central America. This quick guide offers a country-by-country synopsis on where to find the best TEFL jobs in Central America that suit your needs.
If you’re planning to teach English in Latin America, Central America is popular amongst ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers. Not only is Central America easy to get to, idyllic weather, rich culture, spectacular nature, and gorgeous beaches make the region a perfect place to hang your hat for a while.
Not only that, but favorable visa situations and low costs of living make Central America perfect for the ESL lifestyle.
But it is important to know the rules relating to teaching in the seven countries that make up Central America. Sometimes in this region, things can look too good to be true, and you can get burned.
Here, we offer you a very quick guide to Central America’s different countries as they pertain to finding an ESL job in them.
Let’s get started, in alphabetical order.
“Work, Travel, Save, Repeat”.
Why not do all three at the same time after completing a TEFL course? Travel the world whilst teaching English and save at the same time.
Get started on your adventure of a lifetime: https://t.co/uzCIH54lG1 pic.twitter.com/xlIyVPxH0m
— The TEFL Org (@TEFLOrg) September 5, 2021
English is the main language of instruction at schools in Belize, with foreign teachers held to a high standard. Teaching in Belize will give you the chance to teach English at a higher level than in the other non-native-speaking countries. And all while living in a stunning tropical paradise.
Both public and private schools hire foreign teachers, but you’ll need a teaching qualification to qualify for a work permit. A Bachelor’s Degree in an academic or education-based subject is the norm, and some schools also require previous teaching experience.
Private schools offer decent salaries, and hiring takes place in May and June for the upcoming school year. You will need a work permit (valid for one year). Your employers will assist you in this straightforward process.
There has been a boom in the ESL sector in Costa Rica, especially amongst adults. The Central Valley has plenty of language schools hiring year-round (but mostly in January and July), although pay can be low compared to cost of living.
The cost of living in Costa Rica is very high compared to its Central American neighbors, and working in some of the language schools may not cut it for you unless you’re earning at least $1,000 a month and house sharing with someone.
If you’re working for a private language school, be aware that unless they arrange a work visa for you, you’re working illegally. Private language schools often only require a TEFL qualification to start work, as well as native English proficiency.
The private language schools in Costa Rica are not recommended unless they guarantee a work visa for you. Be very careful when looking around here, as arranging your own work visa is complicated, and nigh-on impossible to do.
Most of the time, these schools have their teachers travel to their clients’ offices to teach onsite, although since the pandemic, much of this work has gone online.
A much better recommendation for teaching English in Costa Rica is to get a job at one of the international schools. Here, you’ll need more than a TEFL, though. You’ll also need a degree and a professional teaching qualification. But the pay will be better, and you’ll be working legally in Costa Rica. The school will take care of your work visa for you.
— CentralAmericaLiving (@VidaAmerica) August 19, 2021
English is studied at private language schools in El Salvador and teachers need to hold a Bachelor’s degree. Employers prefer a TEFL certification, especially at the larger language centers, but they’re not compulsory.
Some private international schools also hire teachers with teaching licenses from their home country. Employers assist teachers with work permit applications and most people can enter the country visa-free.
If you are a less experienced teacher looking to experience life in El Salvador, you could consider one of the many volunteer programs in rural areas. The capital, San Salvador, is where most job opportunities are, but the country is small and easy to get around.
Guatemala is a great training ground for new teachers who don’t have experience or the relevant qualifications for other countries.
It is advised, however, to still complete a TEFL course to get an understanding of what to expect in the classroom.
The wage is low here (between $500 and $700 a month), but so is the cost of living. There are jobs at private and public schools in Guatemala, and the school year starts in January. Hiring starts at the end of the previous year.
You’ll also find a few private English centers and non-profit organizations, but having a basic knowledge of Spanish will come in handy for these.
Most ESL teachers work on their tourist visas, leaving the country every three months to renew their passport stamps. Although this is not exactly legal, it’s part of the norm and overlooked for the most part. The better schools will arrange a work visa for you, to give you temporary residency in Guatemala.
It’s worth noting that the legal paperwork for all this can take a long time, which is why many schools don’t bother.
How much can you earn teaching English?
— The TEFL Org (@TEFLOrg) September 13, 2021
Honduras offers a range of teaching opportunities with varying salaries. You can apply at ESL centers, public schools, private schools, international schools, and universities. There are also opportunities to take on private students to supplement your salary.
To apply for a work permit you’ll need a job offer at the time of application. Language centers require TEFL qualifications, and teaching outside the field of English at schools will also require a teaching license from your home country. Many ESL teachers work in Honduras on their tourist visas, leaving the country every three months.
Nicaragua is a new player in the ESL game but the industry is growing. Teachers need a TEFL qualification plus a necessary teaching qualification. Jobs at universities and private schools are also up for grabs.
Salaries vary according to a teacher’s qualification and level of experience, but due to the country’s relatively new expansion into the ESL network, you’ll find openings for every level. Teachers need to apply for a residency permit with the help of their employers.
Please note the political situation in Nicaragua is tense right now, since the 2018 government crackdown on protests and the upcoming 2021 election in November. Nicaragua is not unsafe for foreign travelers in any way, but this is not the best time to be in this country.
Panama is one of the more lucrative destinations in central America with salaries in the $1,000-$1,300 range. Private and public schools hire foreign teachers for subjects that can go beyond English, but they require a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license.
There are also plenty of ESL centers, especially in the big cities, catering to kids and adults alike. These businesses will employ teachers with TEFL certificates but relevant experience is a bonus.
You will need to apply for a work permit to work in Panama and this requires a background check, a health check, a copy of your contract, and letters to both Immigration and the Labor Ministry.
Panama is famous for its rainforests and beaches that create a heavenly backdrop for any teaching abroad experience. The capital, Panama City, is also vibrant and diverse with plenty to do, and easy access to rural areas and natural splendors.
— CentralAmericaLiving (@VidaAmerica) September 6, 2021
We hope this quick guide offers you a snapshot of ideas for you, if you’re looking for TEFL jobs in Central America.
Each country has its pros and cons. Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, and Nicaragua are the strictest when it comes to working visas, while Belize is less typical TEFL teaching and more “regular” teaching. Guatemala and Honduras are easier to find work on the spot, although the pay is much lower.
Whatever type of TEFL job you seek in Central America, whether it’s a job to help you while you’re traveling, or something more permanent, don’t hesitate to check out the various TEFL job boards to see what’s out there for you. We also publish a job listing in Central America every Monday, where you’ll sometimes find teaching jobs.