Every year thousands of people from all over the world head to Latin America in search of fun and adventure while teaching English abroad. From Mexico in the north, to Argentina in the south, there are a wide variety of opportunities available in a diverse range of countries. By following a few simple tips and completing plenty of your own research, you should have little trouble securing a job that allows you to enjoy all that this fantastic region has to offer.
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Unlike some other popular regions for foreign teachers, there is generally no requirement for teachers in Latin America to possess a college degree or to have extensive experience in the classroom. However, most employers will expect their teachers to have completed a reputable TEFL/TESOL training course. Although an online certificate is often sufficient, many employers prefer to hire teachers who have completed an in-class course as these should include teaching practice with genuine students in a real classroom.
A relatively small number of jobs across Latin America can be secured from within your home country by visiting online job boards and then interviewing over the phone or on Skype. However, the vast majority of employers typically prefer to hire teachers who are already in the area. The most common approach is to decide where you want to live and work and then simply head there and start applying for jobs in person. Although it might seem daunting to head overseas without having a job in place, it is common practice in this part of the world.
To give yourself the best chance of finding a suitable job it is important to be aware of the peak hiring seasons in your country of choice. Throughout much of South America the best time to look for teaching jobs is during February and March, and again in July and August. In contrast, Costa Rica and some other Central American countries have their peak hiring season in January. Although peak hiring seasons for schools and universities are dictated by term times, you will also find that jobs with private language academies, business English employers, and private tutoring are available at anytime of the year in many areas.
As Latin America covers a large number of countries, visa procedures inevitably vary considerably from one to the next. To be certain you have the most up-to-date information it is advisable to visit the embassy website of your host country before making any final plans. The most common practice in the region is to enter on a tourist visa that is typically valid for three to six months. From within the country you can then apply for a work permit or simply work without a permit and renew the tourist visa every few months by crossing the border into a neighboring country. While teaching without a work permit is technically illegal in most countries, it is common practice in much of the region and rarely causes any problems for the teacher or employer.
Before you jump on the plane it is essential that you have the finances in place to see you through until you receive your first paycheck. The majority of employers pay on a monthly basis so you should budget for at least six weeks of expenses including accommodation, meals, and transport. Most countries in Latin America have a relatively low cost of living so you can get by on a lot less that you would need in your home country, however, you will still need somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000 US to see you through until payday.
As mentioned, most employers in the region prefer to hire locally rather than advertising positions online. Although this scenario can be a little scary as it means leaving home without having a job in place, it also has its advantages. Firstly it will greatly enhance your chances of being hired as you will be immediately available to start work. It also allows you to evaluate the school that you are applying to before agreeing to take the job.
Your choice of destination will have a large impact on the number of options open to you. While you may dream of working in a beach resort with swaying palm trees and soft white sand, the competition for jobs is likely to be very fierce. By heading to major cities such as Santiago in Chile, Sao Paulo in Brazil, or San Jose in Costa Rica, you will have a huge number of potential employers to apply to. Once you have compiled a list of schools in the area simply visit them in person and drop off a CV. By contacting twenty, thirty, or even more schools, you should find you are able to choose the position that suits you best.