Teaching English in Panama

By | February 4, 2014

Panama is a Central American country that connects North America to South America and it shares borders with Costa Rica and Colombia. Many people have heard of the country because it is home to one of the greatest pieces of modern engineering, the Panama Canal!

At the moment, Panama is developing very quickly and a large portion on the government’s income comes from the tolls collected by the world famous canal that joins the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

This tropical country is home to some species of plants, birds and animals that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. With high temperatures and high humidity all year round, it makes a great destination for a vacation!

Read more about Panama from Wikipedia.

Why Teach English in Panama

Panama City

Panama City – Image courtesy of WikiMedia.

If you like tropical climates, beaches, rainforests, wildlife, great food and exotic cultures, then you will probably fall in love in Panama! These are just a few of the reasons why tourism in the country is booming and more and more people are going to not only visit, but also to live and work in the country.

The country’s economy is also growing very quickly with new industry, construction and business jobs opening up all the time. As a result of this and the increase in tourism, English is becoming a very important language for the local population. Therefore, there is a big demand for English teachers and relatively little competition for jobs.

The salary is also much higher in Panama than in some of the other Central American countries. Although the cost of living is a bit higher also, you could potentially earn enough money to save some each month.

Where to Teach English in Panama

Just like in any other country around the world, TEFL teachers will find the most opportunities in the larger towns and cities. You will find many opportunities in the capital, Panama City. The further away you are from the towns and cities, you will find fewer opportunities.

Types of Teaching Jobs in Panama

Private Language Schools

Isla Zapatilla

Isla Zapatilla

There are many language schools located in Panama and this is where most TEFL teachers will work in the country. Their requirements will vary; some will require a bachelor’s degree, a teaching certificate (TEFL, TESOL or CELTA) and experience, while others will require none of these things!

You will usually be teaching adults in these schools and you’ll probably be working in the afternoon, night and weekends.

Most schools provide 8-week courses and you will either be paid by the hour or by the course. You’ll probably be teaching many different courses throughout the week.

International Schools

HDR - Panama City, Panama

Panama City

There are also some bilingual and international schools in the country that employ TEFL teachers. They pay higher salaries than private language schools, but they do prefer to employ licensed teachers. You might find some that will employ TEFL teachers, but you will need to have a good internationally recognised TEFL certificate, a degree (preferably in education), and experience.

Private Lessons

You’ll find that many teachers in Panama take private lessons to supplement their income. Most people that do this don’t do it as a full-time job; instead they take a few private lessons outside of their normal working hours. Although you can sometimes earn more money taking private lessons, it doesn’t offer much in the way of job security. Students will sometimes cancel or reschedule at short notice!

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Teaching Requirements and Qualifications

You will find that some schools require that you have at least a bachelor’s degree, a teaching certificate like a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA and experience. Others might just require a degree or a teaching certificate, and some won’t require anything at all, just that you are a native English speaker.

People that do have a bachelor’s degree, a teaching certificate, and experience will find the most opportunities and moreover, they will be able to get higher salaries than those without. So, whilst it is possible to find a job without any qualifications and experience, it will be harder and you won’t earn as much money.

Expected Salary and Living Costs

[sociallocker id=”1539″]You can expect to earn anywhere from around $600 to $1500 per month teaching English in Panama. Most schools will not include accommodation, airfare or healthcare and this will need to be taken into consideration when negotiating your salary. Some schools will pay holidays and others will not, so again, this is something that you should check when you are signing your contract.

The amount that you will earn really depends on a number of factors including the town or city where you are working, the school you are working for and your qualifications and experience.

The cost of living is much cheaper than it would be in the United States or Western Europe, but it is higher than some neighbouring countries. To really save money, you should consider living like a local and try to buy food from local markets instead of expensive supermarkets.

For more information about the cost of living in Panama, see Numbeo.[/sociallocker]

Visa Requirements

To work legally in Panama you will need to apply for a work permit on your behalf. There are a wide range of different visas available and sometimes your school will help you apply for the correct one.

For more information regarding visas, click here.

How to Find a Job Teaching in Panama

Panamanian Golden Frog - Atelopus zeteki

Panamanian Golden Frog

You will sometimes find jobs advertised online, but most prospective employers will usually want to interview in you person. Therefore, you are more likely to find work after you have arrived in the country.

You should try and contact the schools directly either by email, telephone or in person. You can find details of schools online or in local telephone directories and contact them yourself.

Alternatively, you can meet other expats living in the country. There are Facebook groups and forums online that you can meet other expats and ask them for advice. Try to find out where expats like to ‘hangout’ in Panama and go and meet them! Usually, expats will be able to give you good advice about what schools need teachers and also tell you which schools are reputable or not.

Teach English in Panama

There is a real demand for native English speaking teachers in Panama and relatively little competition for jobs. Therefore, if you have the necessary qualifications and some experience, you shouldn’t find it too hard to get a reasonably well paid job.

Living and working in Panama will certainly offer a unique experience that you won’t get in most countries and you can eat delicious fresh food and relax in the tropical climate with some stunning scenery!


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 Panama, we would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and share your experiences with us.

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