Teaching English in Costa Rica

By | February 1, 2014

The Republic of Costa Rica is located in Central America and shares borders with only 2 countries: Nicaragua and Panama. This Spanish speaking country gained independence in the 18th century and has since gone on to become one of the most prosperous nations in Latin America.

Costa Rica is also one of the greenest countries in the world. It currently ranks 5th in the Environmental Performance Index and the government has plans to ensure that the country is carbon-neutral by the year 2021.

As the country sits just a little north of the Equator, it is tropical all year round. There are 2 seasons, the dry season and the wet season. The temperature remains fairly stable throughout the year and stays around the mid to late twenties (Celsius).

Read more about Costa Rica from Wikipedia.

Why Teach English in Costa Rica

Corocovado

Corocovado image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country with many stunning beaches, rainforests, active volcanoes, lots of wildlife and very friendly people! The country is situated in the heart of Central America with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Caribbean on the other! All of this coupled with delicious and fresh food every day!

There is also a real demand for native English speaking TEFL teachers because many people in the country need or want to learn the language. Increasingly, a lot of jobs require English speaking staff and it is a necessity for higher paying positions for the locals.

With close proximity to the US, there are also a number of international businesses in the country, including household names such as DHL, Intel and Del Monte. These companies all require that their staff have good English speaking skills and often employ teachers to train staff in-house.

Where to Teach English in Costa Rica

Most of the teaching jobs available seem to be located around the capital city, San José and the surrounding areas. There are fewer jobs available in the coastal regions, but there are some. Most English teachers will be working in the Central Valley.

Types of Teaching Jobs in Costa Rica

Private Language Schools

Golden sunrise in Cahuita, Costa Rica

Golden sunrise in Cahuita, Costa Rica

Private language schools are the biggest employers for TEFL teachers in Costa Rica. Some will employ you in your home country providing that you have the relevant qualifications, but most will want to meet you in person.

There is a very high turnover rate of teachers in Costa Rica, and for most people looking for work it’s about being in the right place at the right time. If you have qualifications and experience, you’re more likely to find many ‘right places’!

Businesses

Some businesses also directly employ TEFL teachers to provide lessons for their staff. Most of these businesses will not employ you unless you are already in the country. Moreover, companies will usually offer better working hours than private language schools and won’t usually expect you to be working very early in the morning, late into the evening or over the weekends.

Private Lessons

Some teachers will also take a few private lessons to supplement their income a little. Usually in Costa Rica, you wouldn’t make private lessons your primary source of income because unless you have a large customer base, it can be quite unpredictable.

You won’t usually have the same security that you will have if you were working in a school or company. One of the biggest problems is that students often cancel at short notice, leaving you without payment! As a result, private lessons are usually seen as a means to supplement your income rather than being your primary source of income.

Teaching Requirements and Qualifications

Rio Aguajitas, Costa RicaOne of the most asked questions asked by people that are thinking of heading to Costa Rica is: “do I need a degree to teach English in Costa Rica?” The answer is no, not necessarily. Also, you won’t always need a teaching certificate; for some schools the only real requirement is that you are a native English speaker.

However, if you have a degree, a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certificate and you are currently living in a Costa Rica, you will be virtually guaranteed a job. Moreover, you will also be able to negotiate a much higher salary than those without any qualifications at all.

The turnover rate for teachers in Costa Rica is very high and schools always need teachers. For this reason, some schools will employ just about anyone whereas other schools will require teachers that have relevant experience and the appropriate qualifications.

In some cases, if you are fully qualified and have some experienced, you might even be offered a job immediately after interviewing in person.

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Expected Salary and Living Costs

Visa Requirements

Work visas for Costa Rica can be difficult to get and can also take a long time to process and this is because the government would prefer that jobs go to the local people wherever possible. First of all, the school or company that you are working for sponsor you and this can be difficult if you don’t have a yearlong contract.

Once issued, the working visa will be valid for 6 months, but it is renewable. There are also many documents that you need to provide and this includes a birth certificate, proof of financial resources, police check, passport photos, qualifications and more.

For more information visit the official Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social website. Although it is entirely in Spanish, so if you can’t speak Spanish you will find this English website more helpful.

How to Find a Job Teaching in Costa Rica

Arenal

Arenal Volcano

The school year in Costa Rica starts in January and ends in December, therefore the best time to find jobs is when contracts are expiring, teachers are resigning and schools start recruiting again. This is usually in the months running up to the end of the year, October, November and December. Businesses, however, will employ all year round.

You will find that a number of schools and agencies advertise online for vacant positions but they usually ask that you complete the recruitment process in person with a face-to-face interview. It’s very unusual to secure a teaching job before you arrive in the country and most schools will want to see that you are already in the country. Moreover, businesses will always require that you are already living in Costa Rica.

Alternatively, you can get a list of schools and contact them directly. Most schools have websites and will advertise jobs on their websites. Moreover, you can try emailing, calling or visiting schools and businesses in person. Make sure that you have a CV prepared and get it out to as many places as possible.

Teach English in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a stunning tropical country and as a teacher you’ll find that working in this tropical haven has many rewards. Many teachers spend their weekends sitting on a beach in the Caribbean or the Pacific. Stunning beaches are just a few hours away from the big towns and cities in the centre of the country.

You can earn enough money in the country to support a relatively comfortable lifestyle and have a little left over for travelling around the country on the weekends!

The local people are friendly, warm and welcoming and you’ll be eating fresh and delicious food every day. What more could you want or need from a place to live and work?!

Disclaimer

Although I have never worked in this country, every effort has been made to ensure that this information is correct. This blog post has been written after extensive research online, interviews with teachers who have worked or are working in the country, and local schools have been contacted. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. If you have worked or are working in Costa Rica, we would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and share your experiences with us.

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2 thoughts on “Teaching English in Costa Rica

  1. Melanie

    Great blog! Just wanted to update you that most language institutes now in Costa Rica rarely hire teachers without a TESOL/TEFL or CELTA certificate now.

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