Do you want to see the world, learn Spanish, dance salsa, eat tripe, and trek through Amazon rainforests?
Or are you trying to negotiate between having an adventure after college and making your parents happy by getting a real job?
If you’re the kind of person who likes exploration and growth, teaching English in Colombia just might be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.
But how can you know whether Colombia is really a good fit for you — and how can you get started on your journey?
This article is going to break down exactly how to start teaching English in Colombia: we’ll talk about all the details, like what the requirements to teach here are, how to find a job, and how much you can expect to get paid.
What are you waiting for?
|Quick Info: TEFL Jobs in Colombia|
|Available Jobs||Private schools; International schools; Language institutes; Private tutoring (freelance)|
|Visa Requirements||Bachelor’s degree; Fluent English; Passport from an English-speaking country; TEFL certificate|
|Monthly Teacher Salary||$400-$1,000|
|Monthly Living Cost||$500-$1,500|
|Peak Hiring Months||January-February; July-August|
Fast Facts about Colombia
Colombia, a country of over 48 million people, is located in northwestern South America. It borders Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Peru, and not one but two bodies of water: the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
This diverse nation is the second-most populous country in South America.
The capital of Colombia is Bogotá, and the official language is Spanish, though English is also recognized as an official language in certain regions.
Colombia is a country with character: the people here are welcoming and friendly, and for good reason.
They live in a country with incredible coffee, Andean mountains, Carribean coastline, and pink freaking dolphins. Seriously.
You’d be happy if you lived here, too.
Another reason for you to smile about Colombia is that the country’s economy is growing right now.
The country’s economic upswing, along with a more stable government in recent years, has led to an era of greater public safety than before.
The rising economy (and a government initiative to increase English fluency in the country) has also led to a surging ESL market, as professionals and vocational workers try to learn English to accommodate a global market.
You’ll find jobs left and right in Colombia, from its sunny beaches to its still-sunny interior.
So get TEFL certified, apply for a job teaching English in Colombia, and get started on your international adventure today!
Basic Requirements to Teach English in Colombia
While the exact requirements for English teachers in Colombia vary depending on the school, the following assets will make you eligible for the vast majority of jobs here:
- Native English speaker status
- Bachelor’s degree
- TEFL certificate
If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree or if you aren’t a native speaker, you may still be able to find English teaching jobs in Colombia. However, the options available to you will be considerably fewer.
You can find more information about the requirements for specific types of English-teaching jobs in the Job Opportunities & Salaries section of this article.
TEFL Courses in Colombia
Did you know that you can enter Colombia on a tourist visa and then convert it to a work visa once you’re in the country?
All you need to do is take a little trip to Bogotá, the capital, to get everything sorted out.
That visa freedom means that you can visit Colombia to explore and see what job options are available without tying yourself down with a work visa right away.
If you want to get TEFL certified online before going to Colombia, we recommend the accredited 120-hours online course from Let’s TEFL, which receives great reviews.
If you’re interested in seeing the country, meeting other TEFL teachers, and becoming qualified for higher-paying jobs all at the same time, you should really consider taking a TEFL course in Colombia.
The course will ease you into Colombian culture and give you a certificate that’s widely recognized in the ESL world. And many programs even assist you with job placement upon completion!
We’ve rounded up a few of the best TEFL courses in Colombia for you:
Job Opportunities & Salaries
There are a number of different job opportunities available for TEFL teachers in Colombia — the setup that makes the most sense for you will vary based on your qualifications and what kind of experience you’re looking for.
This section includes short descriptions about what it’s like teaching in some of the more common employment situations for TEFL teachers in Colombia, as well as links to some resources you can use to find jobs today!
- Basic requirements: Vary by school
- Compensation: Stipend of around $500/month
- How to apply: Apply online before coming to Colombia
- Hiring season: Year-round
Volunteering is a great way to get some experience if you’re just starting out as an ESL teacher or want to focus on giving back to the community.
Colombia has a few government-funded volunteer programs that give teachers monthly stipends of about $500 along with some other benefits. It’s not a lot of money (after all, you’re volunteering), but it’s more than enough to live comfortably on in Colombia.
Volunteer teachers often get placed in public schools. As a public school teacher, you may find yourself working with disadvantaged children, giving them an educational opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have.
Volunteer teaching jobs can be hard because sometimes there aren’t enough teaching materials, and you may find yourself working overtime to prepare your classroom and teach.
However, teachers by and large say they find the experience worth it because it’s so rewarding and because they can see that they’re making a positive impact.
Start your search for volunteer teaching opportunities with the resources below:
Private and International Schools
- Basic requirements: TEFL; bachelor’s degree; native English speaker status; prior experience and teaching certificate preferred
- Compensation: Possible to make over $800/month; benefits are common
- How to apply: By email or in person
- Hiring season: January-February; July-August
If you have a TEFL certificate and a bachelor’s degree, teaching at a private school is a great option for you! These jobs pay well, and they often include perks like a housing stipend and reimbursement for your airfare.
Private school jobs are more competitive than some other types of work, so it may behoove you to get some experience working a less competitive teaching job before applying for private school jobs if you’re having trouble getting hired.
If you have a master’s degree in teaching or some other type of advanced teaching certificate, you should consider working at an international school. You also may be able to teach a subject besides English in English at an international school if you’re qualified to do so.
Teachers at international schools enjoy higher pay than any other teachers in Colombia, earning over $1,000 a month.
International schools also offer teachers good benefits, but these jobs are competitive.
If you believe you’re qualified for a job at a private or international school, start your search by reaching out to one of the schools on the list below to see if you’re a good match!
- Basic requirements: Bachelor’s degree
- Compensation: Low pay ($6-$12/hour); little to no benefits
- How to apply: Find a job on the ground
- Hiring season: Year-round
If you want to work at a language institute, you’re in luck. These institutes are popping up all over the place, and they’re always hiring. You don’t need to apply for jobs ahead of time (and in fact may not be able to). Just show up and start giving out your resume to schools!
While a TEFL certificate will certainly put you ahead of the competition, you don’t need anything more than a bachelor’s degree to work at a language institute.
You won’t get great pay or any benefits to speak of from a job working at a language institute, but you’ll make more than enough money to live on.
What does work at a language institute look like?
It varies, but you may find yourself traveling around the city you’re in, teaching adults at various workplaces. The traveling is exhausting to some, but it’s a great way to see the city — and you’ll never be bored!
- Basic requirements: None
- Compensation: Varies
- How to apply: Find clients individually once you’re in Colombia
- Hiring season: Year-round
Private tutoring is a lot different than other types of jobs because you’re your own boss. That means that you get a lot of freedom, but also a lot of responsibility.
You can’t get a work visa as a private tutor, so many people do tutoring to supplement a regular teaching job as a source of extra income. Having a regular job at a school will also help you find clients — you may even be able to tutor some of the students in your classroom on the side!
You could also try to gin up some private tutoring business if you’re traveling through Colombia short-term and want to earn a bit of money while you’re there.
Some people also do private tutoring to make money when they first arrive in the country while they look for a more traditional job.
As a private tutor, you can charge $10-$27 an hour, on average, depending on your experience and who your clientele is.
Hiring and Application Process
Figuring out how to find and get work can be hard, and that’s even truer when you’re looking for jobs in a new industry — and a new country.
In this section, we’ll delve into when and how to look for jobs teaching English in Colombia. We’ll also talk about what materials schools will generally ask you for when you’re applying for work.
When Should You Start Applying for Jobs?
As we touched upon above, the hiring and application process in Colombia varies by school. If you’re hoping to work at a public school or private school or participate in a volunteer program, you should apply for work online before coming to Colombia.
Start looking for work at least 3 months before your desired departure date to give yourself plenty of time to get everything ironed out before you leave.
If you want to work at a language institute or do private tutoring, you can look for jobs once you’re in Colombia.
And if you’re coming to Colombia to do a TEFL course that guarantees job placement, you obviously don’t need to worry about looking for work beforehand.
What Time of Year is Best for Finding Work?
In general, you’ll be able to find work teaching English in Colombia year-round.
The only time when it’s really difficult to get a job is during Christmas and New Year’s when everyone is on vacation.
What Materials Do You Need for the Application Process?
If you’re applying for a specific program, they’ll tell you what materials you need to give them to get hired.
In general, though, you should prepare a CV, a teaching demo, and a cover letter for jobs.
You should bring these with you (along with extra copies of your CV!) when you look for jobs in person.
If you’re applying for work online, you might include a short introduction video when you email schools inquiring about openings. The video should showcase your warm personality and your English skills and accent.
If you’re applying for schools online, be persistent: email, send Whatsapp messages, contact schools through their Facebook pages. They might not check their email regularly, so it’s worthwhile to reach out on multiple platforms.
And after all, the worst they can do is say no!
Visa Requirements for Teaching in Colombia
There are a few schools in Colombia that have their teachers work on tourist visas and do visa runs every 90 days. However, this is illegal and is becoming less common as the ESL industry here grows.
For the most part, schools provide their teachers with work visas. You can come to Colombia on a tourist visa and then change it to a work visa — you’ll just need to travel to Bogotá to get it ironed out
When you do get your work visa, you’ll need the following documents and items:
Requirements for a Work Visa in Colombia
- Passport photographs
- A valid passport
- A copy of the first page of your passport
- A signed contract with your school
- A letter from your school
- A fee of $282
Your work visa will be valid for up to 3 years or until you leave your school — whichever comes first. Your work visa will also expire if you leave Colombia for more than 6 consecutive months while it’s in effect.
The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website has information about what’s required for the visa and how to submit your documents:
Within 15 days of getting a work visa, you must get a cédula, or foreigner ID. To do so, you’ll need to submit a blood test and completed application form to an immigration office near you.
Accommodation in Colombia
You’ll more than likely find yourself finding and paying for accommodation on your own in Colombia.
Thankfully, housing is super affordable here, and there are lots of resources to help expats find places to live in Colombia.
Expect to spend somewhere between $100 and $400 on rent each month, depending on where in Colombia you live and whether you rent a room in a shared apartment or rent a whole apartment to yourself.
You can ask other expats and people at your school to help you find housing, and you can also look at the following resources to find accommodation in Colombia:
You can also find expat and housing groups for whatever city you’re in on Facebook. These are a great resource for finding apartments and maybe even roommates, and they’ll have up-to-date information about where to go to find accommodations that fit your budget and needs.
Just type your city + “expat” or “housing” into the Facebook search bar to start looking for groups!
The Financials of Teaching English in Colombia?
If you’ve been looking at the costs of TEFL courses, plane flights, and visas, you might be getting worried that teaching English in Colombia is a job that actually costs more than it pays.
You probably do need some money to get started teaching in Colombia, but you’ll hopefully get reimbursed for some expenses by your school. And you can make back the rest from your salary once you get started teaching.
This section will go further into how much money it might cost you to get started teaching English in Colombia, and how the difference between your salary and the cost of living might shake out.
While you don’t need to be rich to teach English in Colombia, you should have some money saved up to get you situated and to live on during your first month or so before you make your first paycheck.
If you get a job before you come to Colombia, you’ll probably need only a couple thousand dollars to pay for your plane flight, visa, deposit, and first month’s rent, as well as general living expenses at first.
If you come to Colombia before getting a job, you should bring the above-mentioned startup money along with an additional $1,000-$2,000 to live on until you’ve acquired a job.
When you’re calculating how much startup money to bring, keep in mind that even if a school reimburses you for your visa and airfare you may initially have to pay for those things out of pocket.
Can You Save Money Teaching English in Colombia?
You’re quite unlikely to save money living in Colombia, but due to the low cost of living here, you’ll be able to live comfortably even if you’re not making a ton of money.
Wondering how much it costs to live here?
While your cost of living will depend on what benefits your school offers you and your lifestyle, you can use Numbeo’s breakdown of some general everyday expenses in Colombia to get a better sense of what your monthly costs will be.
At the end of the day, Colombia is a place to live in if you want to see the world and adventure. If you’re trying to teach English abroad to make buckets of cash, consider going to one of the countries on this list of the highest-paying destinations for ESL teachers.
The Best Cities to Teach English in Colombia
Located in a valley along the Andes mountain range, this city of 2.5 million people is as beautiful as it is full of life.
Tourists and locals alike flock to Medellín, the second-largest city in Colombia, drawn by all there is to do and see here.
Medellín is full of culture like cool fashion, art, and architecture, and it also has lots of parks and greenery.
It’s part of the Paisa region of Colombia, which has a distinct dialect of Spanish and flavorful local cuisine. Medellín also has superb public transportation and pleasant weather all year.
Demand for ESL teachers is high here, so you won’t have any trouble finding a job. There are plenty of students looking for private tutors here, as well.
With a population of over 7 million people, Bogotá is Colombia’s most populous city as well as its capital.
It’s situated on a plateau in central Colombia that’s part of the Andes Mountains. Its altitude makes it cooler than many other parts of Colombia — so if you hate sweating through your t-shirt in November, Bogotá might be a good city for you.
Bogotá has famous museums, lots of shopping and clubbing, and a host of streets sprinkled with cute shops and cafes.
There are tons of opportunities to teach here, too, making it the perfect destination for anyone who wants to live in a bustling urban atmosphere.
Situated near the ocean in the western part of Colombia, this city of over 2 million people is tropical, warm, and full of life.
It’s most famous for salsa dancing, which you’ll be able to find in clubs throughout the city. It also has more than one professional soccer team, interesting local architecture, and a hopping bar scene.
Cali also has rich (and delicious!) local cuisine.
While it’s nowhere near as big as Bogotá, Cali has a culture all its own and is well worth your time.
And there are plenty of ESL jobs here!
Colombian Classroom and Work Culture
One of the aspects of Colombian culture that jars foreign teachers the most is how laidback it is. Punctuality is not always a priority here, and probably you will face last-minute schedule changes, tardiness, and a general lack of communication.
Teachers often say that it’s not uncommon to form close relationships with their students here. In certain school settings, students are on a first-name basis with their professors, and they come to their teachers for advice and just to chat.
Of course, all the specifics of culture vary by school, so get to know your institution and don’t make any assumptions about how to behave right off the bat.
This is nowhere more true than when it comes to dress code. Some schools are very formal while others are more relaxed — ask fellow teachers or the head of your department what’s appropriate for you to wear to work.
The best part of Colombia’s work culture is how many public holidays there are: in fact, the country’s ranked fourth in the world for most public holidays. That means plenty of time for traveling!
Last Thoughts on Teaching English in Colombia
Teaching English in Colombia won’t make you rich, but it will make you rich in experience.
This country has a vibrant culture, beautiful landscape, and tons and tons of opportunities for teaching English, making it perfect for anyone who wants to try their luck living abroad.
Teachers who come here fall in love with the country, and they largely talk about being grateful for the way that teaching English here lets them engage with the culture in a deep and meaningful way.
Has this article made you curious about other aspects of life as someone teaching English in Colombia?
Has it made you want to jump on the next jet to South America?
Comment below and let us know what sounds most exciting about teaching English in Colombia, as well as what questions you have.
We can’t wait to hear from you!