Hit the Ground Running— Get a TEFL Job in Central or South America!

Is your dream job in Costa Rica, Chile, Brazil or another Latin American location? The appeal is understandable: high demand for teachers, great weather, fabulous culture, and the chance to learn Spanish and/or Portuguese along the way. Perfect! Now how can you land a teaching job there?

The good news is, Central and South America are teeming with great jobs for TEFL teachers of all backgrounds and experience levels, and hiring season is basically year-round! So why does a quick job search on a popular site like eslcafe.com, using the keywords Costa Rica,  yield meager results (and often volunteer positions)?  That’s because, in Central and South America, employers don’t often hire from abroad using online TEFL job boards; instead they prefer to hire teachers face-to-face once they’re in the country.

In other words, to increase your chances of landing a job in Central or South America, go there! If this sounds a little scary to you, read on for a few simple tips that can take the anxiety out of your job search in this region.

1. Do your research. 

I was set on teaching in Costa Rica, so I bought a book called, Living Abroad in Costa Rica, and one called Teaching English Abroad, and started reading. Books can provide more centralized information than random Internet searches, although online research is key as well. Once you’ve narrowed your focus down to a couple of cities/towns in your country of choice, you’re ready to do another search– this time for English schools there. This website has a good list to get you started: www.eslbase.com. Keep track of the ones that look promising. You can also join online discussion forums on TEFL job sites to see what other teachers have to say about working there.

2. Prepare to go. 

While you’re researching cities and TEFL schools, (and accumulating some savings!), it’s a good idea to get your paperwork organized. Gather copies of your TEFL certificate, college degree, letters of recommendation and passport, and scan and save them, too. Check into plane tickets with a flexible return date, as well, since you may be asked to show proof of onward travel in order to enter certain countries.

3. Make connections/network. 

Remember that list of schools you made? As your departure date nears (about 2 months before you go), it’s time to start networking. Polish your resume, putting your TEFL certificate front and center.  Now grab your list of English schools and visit their websites to search for job openings.  If specific jobs aren’t listed, don’t worry! My jobs in Costa Rica weren’t advertised, either.  Simply find the director’s contact info and pick up the phone. Offer to email your resume.  Let them know when you’ll arrive in the country and request an interview. Don’t be nervous about the language barrier— reputable English schools have bilingual staff.

4. Hit the ground running. 

Arriving without a job can be scary, no matter how many connections you’ve made.  To feel more grounded, establish a home base when you get there, in a centrally located hostel, for example (also a great way to meet people and further network). Then start pounding the pavement!  Meet those employers you contacted for interviews and approach any other language schools you notice around town. Don’t be afraid to ask around– if you run into a group of expats at your local café, say hi. TEFLers are everywhere!

How do I know these tips will work? Because I did none of them! I booked a flight to Costa Rica and hit the ground running with only my TEFL certificate, $500 and a Spanish-English dictionary– and I still managed to find a job within a few weeks. But don’t make the mistakes I did. Instead, research, prepare and network before you go, and muy pronto you’ll be teaching English in Central or South America.

Check out this post for more tips on finding a TEFL job in a Latin American country.