So you are ready to move to Colombia and start (or continue) your teaching journey! It can be a bit overwhelming to take the plunge, especially while researching your move from another country. Luckily, Facebook is a great source to join groups and get an idea of what to expect. There are plenty of groups dedicated to Teaching English in Colombia, and plenty of teachers giving out advice. It always helps to get an idea of what the profession is like and which sectors are looking for teachers. Unlike North America, LinkedIn isn’t popular in South America, therefore employment websites and social media is the way to go. For example, check out English teachers in Colombia .
Types of Teaching Jobs in Colombia
The educational requirements vary depending on the type of ESL teaching job you choose. Many Colombian Universities ask for an Undergraduate and Master’s degree. However, they might make an exception if you have an undergraduate degree along with work experience in the field of education. If you do not have a Masters’s, a TESOL certificate or Diploma to back up your ESL knowledge is essential.
Many ESL teachers also consider language institutes. They are much easier to get into and there are so many of them in Colombia! With a TESOL certificate, you can easily start teaching right away. The best part about institutes is also the visa-related support they provide since they are used to hiring foreigners. I can confidently say that my visa experiences always ran smoother with language institutes compared to Universities. Another aspect to keep in mind – many institutes will ask you to work in multiple locations during the day. A typical day could have you teaching in 2 or 3 different offices around the city. This definitely has its advantages as a newcomer. I used to have a couple of hours between classes to grab a coffee or hang out with my co-workers. It also helped me explore the city and its transportation system – a big plus as a newcomer.
Definitely not exclusive to Colombia, but private classes are very popular among Colombians. It is very common for ESL teachers to work part-time at a language institute and teach private classes. As a native speaker, you can earn much more money per hour than you would be teaching at an institute. In many cases, Colombians look for a private ESL teacher because of the flexibility in terms of time. Many students are working or are raising a family and are looking for someone to work around their availability. Private classes also allow ESL teachers to focus on problem points for the student or students. ESL students might be learning English in school and looking for a private teacher to help them with pronunciation. There are no specific education requirements to start your own private classes, but a degree could increase your chance of attracting more clients.
Colombian Salaries and Expenses
As a teacher in Colombia, salaries for native speakers differ depending on where you are working. However, you can expect to earn around $10 to $15 (CAD) per hour teaching at a language institute or through private classes. Universities offer salaries depending on 6-month to one-year contracts. The salaries may differ depending on the University and also depending on which part of Colombia you are teaching. Keep in mind is the fact that your living expenses will differ greatly depending on living in Bogota vs. other Colombian cities. Check out local rental websites to get a better idea of how much you would spend on rent in Colombia.
The importance of TESOL
Unfortunately, the ESL community in Colombia is filled with many native speakers with little to no teaching experience. It is not surprising to meet a foreigner who is teaching English to earn enough money to travel. Although there is nothing wrong with traveling; it becomes a problem when the teachers do not take the job seriously.
Therefore if you are thinking about teaching in Colombia – there are two main aspects to consider and reflect on. As a teacher, we have a responsibility to our students, we owe it to them to teach the right way. Being a native speaker does not make an individual a qualified teacher. “Just because”, “that sounds right” or “that’s what people say” are not correct explanations in an ESL classroom. In other words – it is absolutely necessary to have teaching certifications. By not having a proper teaching certification, we are doing a disservice not only to our colleagues but also to students. For teaching private classes or at a language institute, TESOL certification will come in handy. If you are considering teaching at a University, or perhaps going into the teaching field – invest in a TESOL diploma.
Moving to Colombia
Depending on whether or not you have a job lined up before your move, there are two paths to take. If you have a job offer while outside Colombia, ask your workplace to send over visa-related documents virtually. Luckily you can do the entire visa process online through the Colombian Ministry of External affairs. If your workplace is not sure about which documents to send over, the website provides clear instructions and information. On the other hand, many foreigners also tend to travel on a tourist visa and look for jobs once landed. The government allows foreigners to receive a tourist visa once they’ve reached the El dorado airport for around 3 months. Many take these few months to look for a job and then switch over to a work visa. Keep in mind that a work visa is always connected to a specific place of work. If you decide to switch jobs, you will have to apply for a new work visa. You can find more information about Colombian visas here.
The Bottom Line
I truly believe teaching to be one of the most important professions in society. Teachers have the power to change the lives of their students. As ESL teachers, we offer so much more to our students than just learning a new language. Language carries the weight of a new perspective; a new way to analyze the world around us. Therefore, applaud yourself for moving to another country to teach. Equip yourself with the necessary tools to make a real and meaningful change. And last but not least – enjoy your time in Colombia. This country has much to offer – you might be surprised with everything you learn and take away from this experience.