With so many places to teach English in the world, Colombia has to be one of the most intriguing. Despite lingering stereotypes and fears from those that have never stepped foot in South America, Colombia has drastically changed since the 1980’s. Of course, you still need to be a bit street savvy, but some common sense will always keep you out of harm’s way. In fact, except for a few places, South America in general is no more dangerous than any large American city. The reality is that if you aren’t looking for trouble, then trouble likely won’t find you. The Colombian economy in recent years has blossomed and continues to grow at a steady pace. Columbia has opened up its economy during the past decade or so and the results have been significantly more beneficial than consequential. Not surprisingly, learning English has become a top priority as many Colombians compete for well-paying positions at international firms.
For a list of the top countries to teach abroad, check out The Best Countries to Teach English Abroad.
I’ve met quite a few native English speakers that have taught in Colombia in addition to the many Colombian students I’ve had the pleasure to teach in the United States. I just get the impression from both sides that this is one of the truly cool places to be on Earth. Whether you are young or young at heart, there are sure to be plenty of opportunities and adventures in the friendliest country of South America. Although I have yet to visit Colombia myself, I’ve been able to gather a fair amount of information about teaching and living there from fellow teachers, friends and the collective time I’ve spent in other parts of South America. If you feel that any of my information or sources are inaccurate, please call me out in the comments or contact me directly. As always with all of my posts, feel free to create a discussion in the comments.
Why teach English in Colombia?
There are a number of reasons to teach in Colombia. First, it is a great opportunity to become fluent in Spanish. If you are from the United States, living in Colombia for a year and becoming fluent in Spanish will not only broaden your cultural horizons, but significantly boost your job prospects back home. What better way to learn a language than to actually live in the country where it is spoken and earn a living while doing so. Second, the people of Colombia are wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever met a Colombian that wasn’t warm, down to earth and sociable. Third, Colombia and the surrounding countries are endowed with an abundance of amazing nature. Fourth, Colombia just seems like a place where one can really enjoy life. Enough said!
How much money can I make teaching English in Colombia?
The average teacher working full-time in Colombia generally makes between $900 to $1500 per month depending on the school and his or her qualifications. This may not seem like a lot of money, but it is enough to live on and teaching in South America is more about the experience. As a person that has spent time on the continent, I can tell you that it is completely worth it. A nice one bedroom flat can be rented in most Colombian cities for $400 or $500 a month. If you want to live really cheap, then you can rent a room for $200 or $300 a month . Colombia is not cheap like Ecuador or Thailand, but it is not as expensive as the United States or Europe.
For more info about teaching salaries read: What Are the Real Salaries to Teach English Abroad?
Where can I teach English in Colombia?
Like every country, most jobs are in the largest city Bogota, but there are plenty of teaching positions in the other cities as well. There are several private language schools with Berlitz being the biggest. However, I would recommend staying away from Berlitz and going with a smaller company. The best bet is to find employment with a mid-sized language school that offers reasonable pay and benefits. It isn’t always necessary to have a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA in Colombia, but it advisable to have one and the better private language institutes will require one.
Another popular angle for teaching English in Colombia is conducting in-company lessons. A growing and liberalized economy has created a strong need for some of Colombia’s largest companies and multinational firms to ensure that their employees have a general proficiency in English. There are also a number of bilingual or international schools in Colombia that will pay decent salaries, provide accommodation and sometimes provide free airfare. You will most likely need an education degree from back home to teach at one of these institutes. If you have a master’s degree, it is also possible to teach at one of the many universities in Colombia.
How do I get a work visa to teach in Colombia?
If you are looking for a job in Colombia, it is difficult to find one from your home country. In other words, your best best is to first fly into Colombia and apply your networking skills. This may seem risky, but if you are qualified to teach, do your homework and are willing to work, you are sure to find a job. You can enter Colombia on a 90 day tourist visa, which can be extended for another 90 days, totaling 6 months. Technically, you are supposed to have a work visa to begin teaching, but you can usually teach on a tourist visa. When your 6 months is up, you have two options. One, you can make a visa run to Ecuador and renew your tourist visa or get your company to sponsor a work visa. The latter is not difficult to do. Just bring your work contract and necessary legal documents to immigration and they will grant you a work visa. No matter what country you decide to teach in, always bring a copy of your University diploma.
A chance for adventure, an opportunity to learn Spanish and plenty of teaching opportunities make Colombia a sought-after destination to teach English. If you are looking to teach English in Colombia, I would begin by checking out some of the available positions on Craiglist Colombia and Dave’s ESL Cafe. Click here for current openings with government-sponsored positions in Colombia.