Teach and Travel
Teach English in Colombia
Why Teach English in Colombia?
With an emerging economy and famous for its eco-tourism, Colombia offers the perfect blend of urban living and tropical rainforest getaways. It is the ideal choice for ESL teachers to gain teaching experience while enjoying the many adventures Colombia offers.
Teach English in Colombia: Fact Sheet
|Header Column||Data Column|
|Education Requirements||University degree preferred but not required|
|TEFL Certification||TEFL Certification preferred but not required|
|Citizenship Requirements||USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa preferred|
|Typical Contract Length||6 - 12 months|
|Peak Hiring Seasons||March - August|
|Hiring Process||Face-to-face interviews in Colombia|
|Visa Requirements||M-5 Work visa|
|Typical Students||Children, Business Professionals|
|Average Monthly Salary||$500 - $1,000|
|Average Monthly Cost of Living||$600 - $900|
|Types of Jobs||Public Schools, Private Schools, Universities, Language Schools|
|Teaching Hours Per Week||30 - 35 hours|
|Other Benefits||Some employers may provide flight reimbursement, visa sponsorship|
Top 5 Reasons to Teach English in Colombia
1. Colombia is the Fastest Growing Economy in Latin America
Latin America as a region has a tremendous economic upside, and Colombia has already been leading the way. As of February 2020, Colombia was the fastest growing country in Latin America. Among industries experiencing growth in Colombia is business process outsourcing due to the highly ambitious and motivated workforce. What this means for you as an ESL teacher is that you will be valued for the skill set you bring to Colombians. And while salaries for ESL teachers in Colombia aren’t as lucrative as in markets like China or Saudi Arabia, teaching English in Colombia may indeed be a window to other opportunities.
2. Colombians take Education Seriously, and Learning English is no Exception
Colombians are people who believe nothing is impossible, and that’s the approach they take with education. Students study during the day, evenings, and weekends, and families make considerable financial sacrifices to give their children an academic advantage for their future well-being. Learning English as a second language is mandatory, which means with the right credentials and attitude, finding work as an ESL teacher is not only possible, it just might be an experience you won’t regret as you come to know Colombian hospitality.
3. Colombia is an Incredible Country to See and Experience
The cost of living is incredibly low in Colombia, and you can take advantage of that as an ESL teacher. No, you won’t get rich teaching in Colombia, but the salary you make will be enough to cover a relatively decent lifestyle, and afford traveling the country. Colombia offers travelers everything from rock climbing, horse riding through mountains, taking in views of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and diving at San Andres Island. And, did we mention there are numerous national parks to see and experience? Colombia not only has some of the best attractions to tick off your bucket list, its rich and wonderful culture will have you wanting more.
4. It Could Just Be the Ideal Place to Learn Spanish
Colombians are famous for their warmth and kindness, and welcome foreigners to come and experience the local cultures first-hand. Many people travel to Colombia to learn and improve their Spanish communication skills, as they can learn the language while being deeply immersed in the local cultures. You’ll soon begin to feel at home, enjoying the many festivals and holidays, not to mention the music and the food…
5. Colombia is World-Famous for its Coffee, but There's So Much More
If you’re a coffee fanatic, there’s really no better place to be. Colombian coffee is among the best the world has to offer. But there’s more to Colombia’s culinary delights than coffee. Colombia offers a variety of cuisine from its six regions. As one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, Colombia serves up a wide range of flavors, aromas, and food textures to cover most anyone’s taste. Many of the country’s traditional dishes are cooked on wood-burning stoves, but even the soups, appetizers, and desserts are an experience unto themselves. You’ll also find a variety of native fruits and juices to enjoy here.
Requirements to Teach English in Colombia
Currently, the requirements to legally work in Colombia as an ESL teacher are not very rigid. There are no citizenship restrictions, and a university degree is not required to be legally employed in Colombia.
That said, many schools looking to hire ESL teachers will have a strong preference for candidates who:
- Are native English speakers
- Have at least a bachelor degree
- Have a TEFL certification
Native English Speaker
If you are a native speaker with a university degree, most ESL job opportunities in Colombia will be open to you, so you should have little difficulty finding a job.
As there are no citizenship restrictions, both native and non-native English speakers can find opportunities in Colombia, although non-natives will most likely need to demonstrate a high level of English fluency and have strong academic credentials.
Generally, citizens of native English speaking countries who hold at least a bachelor degree are highly coveted by schools in Colombia. Non-natives with a high degree of fluency in English, a degree and a TEFL certification can also find work in Colombia.
There is no legal requirement to have a bachelor degree to be legally employed in Colombia as an ESL teacher. However, many schools will list having a bachelor degree as a minimum requirement. Thus, if you are a native English speaker with a university degree, you will have a multitude of options.
If you are a native English speaker without a degree, you can still find work teaching English in Colombia, but your job search may be considerably harder and you may have to accept a lower pay than native English speakers with degrees. A TEFL qualification can help strengthen your resume and application in this case.
A TEFL certificate is not required to teach English in Colombia, but the combination of a bachelor degree and a TEFL certification can give you a distinct edge when applying for higher paid jobs. Native English speakers with a university degree as well a TEFL certification will find that they are in high demand in Colombia, and should find plenty of opportunities to get hired in the country. If you are a native English speaker and don’t have a degree, then attaining a TEFL qualification can help improve your desirability with schools in Colombia. Similarly, non-native English speakers seeking opportunities to teach English in Colombia can improve their possibilities with a TEFL qualification.
Recommended TEFL Certification to Teach English in Colombia
The TEFL Academy
Opportunities to Teach English in Colombia
Government Initiatives for Public School ESL Teachers
Colombia has been experiencing rapid economic development, and government initiatives to improve the English proficiency of Colombians has resulted in a significant demand for ESL teachers in the country. The two government initiatives are:
- Colombia Very Well
- Teach English in Colombia (TEC)
Colombia Very Well
Colombia Very Well is is an initiative by the Colombian government with the intention of promoting bilingualism in Colombia. Launched in 2014, the program was established to increase the number of intermediate level English speakers in Colombia from 9,000 high school graduates to 185,000 in ten years.
In addition to promoting English language learning to students, the program also aims to improve the English proficiency among private and public sector workers through the fostering of a culture that values bilingualism as a part of one’s education.
Teachers hired through this program typically:
- Are Native English speakers
- Possess a university degree
- Have a TEFL qualification
Teach English in Colombia
Teach English in Colombia (TEC) is an initiative by the Colombian Ministry of Education and Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA), a Colombian public institution that develops vocational training programs for the Colombian labor force with the aim of improving the competitiveness of Colombian enterprises.
The TEC program is designed to recruit and place volunteer ESL teachers into:
- Colombian public schools in disadvantaged communities
- Vocational English training programs for adults who don’t have the means to pay for English language learning
Though the requirements will vary by school, ESL teachers recruited into the TEC program are typically:
- Native English speakers
- Possess a university degree
- Preferably have a TEFL certification
As these are volunteer teaching programs, teachers receive a monthly stipend as opposed to a salary. The stipend is typically 1.5 million Colombian Pesos (approximately $500) per month. This will just about cover your living expenses while in Colombia. Many teachers in the program share accommodations to live more comfortably within the stipend.
When considering teaching English in Colombia as a volunteer ESL teacher, it’s important to keep in mind that working with disadvantaged communities can be challenging, due to inadequate resources and teaching materials and the extra work you may have to undertake to prepare content for your lessons. At the same time, many teachers who have come out of this program have found the experience to be rewarding as they watch their students progress in their English language development, enabling them to become more valued in the country’s work force.
Contracts range from one to two semesters and the Ministry of Education and SENA typically work with recruiters to assist with the hiring and placement of teachers, as well as to arrange visas and housing. Thus, teachers recruited for the TEC program are usually hired prior to their arrival in Colombia.
Many ESL teachers start out with language schools, as they provide the broadest opportunities to teach English in Colombia, and typically hire teachers throughout the year. Students enrolled in language schools are usually adult learners, ranging from university students to business professionals.
Depending on the school, some language schools hire both native and non-native English speakers, as well as teachers who don’t have degrees. However, many language schools prefer teachers who have a degree. If you have a degree, a TEFL qualification, and teaching experience, schools will be willing to pay a higher rate.
Similar to language schools in other countries, language schools in Colombia usually pay their teachers an hourly rate. This typically amounts to between $8 – $12 per hour, though some schools may pay more.
Many teachers arriving to teach English in Colombia simply walk in and apply to work at language schools. However, it’s important to clarify the nature of your work when teaching for a language school, as schools may expect you to travel to various parts of the city to meet your students at their place of work. For some, this might not be an ideal situation, while others may view this as an opportunity to see and get to know the city.
Private and International Schools
There are many private schools operating in Colombia’s major cities. They tend to offer decent salaries as well as benefits such as housing stipends and airfare reimbursements. Most private and international schools will require teachers who:
- Are citizens of native English speaking countries
- Possess a university degree
- Have prior teaching experience
A TEFL qualification may strengthen your application, but is not always required.
Teachers with advanced degrees, who are licensed teachers in their home countries, and who have teaching experience may find even higher-paying teaching opportunities, including teaching various subjects in English. The pay can be closer to $1,000 per month, plus benefits, which will go a long way in Colombia due to the country’s low cost of living.
Private / Online Tutoring
Although the cost of living in Colombia is low, the typical full-time ESL teacher will earn enough to support their living expenses. However, there is little, if any, left for savings at the end of the month. Many ESL teachers in Colombia supplement their full-time incomes with private tutoring, which can take place at your home, your students’ homes, in cafés, or online.
As a private tutor, you can command between $10 – $27 per hour, depending on your experience and the type of clientele you teach.
Typical Salaries to Teach English in Colombia
Salaries for ESL teachers in Colombia are typically sufficient to cover the cost of living, and typically fall into the range of $500 – $1,000. Many teachers live in shared accommodations to stretch out their income and enjoy a nicer apartment. Naturally, cost of living will depend on where you live and work in Colombia. The major cities will be more expensive, but will also have larger expat communities where teachers can meet other expats.
If you are looking for a destination to earn and save money, Colombia is probably not the ideal choice, but if your primary goals are to travel through Colombia and other countries in Latin America, or to learn Spanish, Colombia is an excellent choice.
Private and international schools offer the best compensation, and some of these may also offer housing and airfare reimbursement, enabling you to enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle in Colombia. On the lower end are language schools, which are easy to get started working for.
Most schools in Colombia don’t offer benefits to ESL teachers. The few that do will typically be private or international schools, which may provide a housing stipend and/or airfare reimbursement. If you are one of the fortunate (and well-qualified) teachers who receive these benefits, you can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in Colombia, especially with the country’s low cost of living.
For years, many ESL teachers have worked in Colombia on tourist visas. This is illegal, and as the country’s ESL job market matures, anyone planning to teach English in Colombia should avoid working on a tourist visa. American and Canadian citizens can arrive to Colombia as tourists and stay up to 90 days before securing a work visa.
Schools usually arrange work visas for their teachers. It’s advisable to discuss the visa arrangements with any prospective school before signing a contract.
The work visa will be valid for up to three years, unless you terminate your contract before then, or stay out of the country for more than six months.
To learn more about the M-5 visa requirements and fees, visit the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Upon getting your work visa, you will need to register for your Cédula at the local immigration office. The Cédula is an identity card which is necessary for all Colombian citizens and residents. You will need the Cédula, as it is necessary for official and legal procedures, including opening a bank account or renting an apartment.
To learn more about the Cédula requirements and fees, visit the official website.
Colombia was once unsafe for travel due to the country’s battle with violent crimes and drug trade. Today, Colombia is much safer, and many foreigners have moved into to this rapidly changing country. Of course, there are still some areas of the country that should be avoided, particularly such as the Darién Gap which is situated between the Panamanian and Colombian borderline. For the most part, however, life as an expat in Colombia should be for the most part a pleasant experience, and, as with any other country, there are few reasons to even visit the country’s danger zones.
Popular Cities to Teach English in Colombia
Colombia is the fourth largest country in South America, and is effectively the gateway to South America via its narrow border with Panamà. The country is blessed with coastline along both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The country also shares borders with Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Venezuela. This makes Colombia a fascinating country for travel, not only for its own natural beauty, complex history, and rich culture, but also because of its accessibility to neighboring countries in Central and South America.
There is a growing demand for ESL teachers throughout Colombia, so we can’t cover every location in this glorious country. So, let’s have a look at the most popular cities to Teach English in Colombia.
Teach English in Bogotá
Bogotá is the capital of Colombia, as well as its political, economic, and cultural center. Located in the Andean region of the country, Bogotá is representative of Colombia’s diverse, multicultural demographic. In Bogotá, you will be confronted by both the country’s colonial past and its vibrant present. There is no shortage of sightseeing, exploration, entertainment, cuisine, and economic opportunity here.
While downtown, a visit to Plaza de Bolívar, the Primatial Cathedral, and the Casa de Narińo is a must. You can also enjoy some of the best views of the city from the Sanctuary of Monserrate. Head over to La Candelaria to get a glimpse of Colombia’s colonia era, and where you will experience Colombia’s one of a kind Bohemian atmosphere in the Plaza del Chorro de Quevedo.
Bogotá is also famous for its soups, tamales, and almojábanas (cheese breads), so foodies can get their thrills with the regional cuisine, fruit juices, and desserts that are symbolic of this city.
Bogotá boasts an incredible nightlife, filled with nightclubs, pubs, and craft breweries.
As the country’s capital and most populous city, many schools and academies exist in Bogotá, and ESL teachers are in high demand here.
Teach English in Medellín
Owing to its climate, mountain views, and climate, Medellín has become one of Colombia’s prized cities, both with locals and expats. Located in the Antioquia department, Medellín is an innovative, efficient, and world-class city that brings its own blend of modern and tradition.
There are many outdoor activities to do in the City of Eternal Spring, as it is also known. You must visit the Plaza Botero, the Parque Lleras, and the Comunas Tour. For people who are more into nature, there is the perfect getaway to Guatapé where you can climb to the top of El Peñón.
The city is also the fashion capital of Latin America and it is the cradle of many world famous artists.
While in Medellín, you must try Bandeja Paisa, a popular dish from the Antioquia department and Paisa Region.
Medellín is Colombia’s second-largest city, and has become a major business and economic center. This means that the demand for ESL teachers here is high, and so is the competition owing to its popularity among expats.
Teach English in Cali
Cali is Colombia’s third-largest city, and is famously known as the Rumba Capital among Colombians, and as the Salsa Capital internationally. Located in the Valle del Cauca, Cali rich ethnic diversity contributes to its unique culture, and what makes it so popular among both local and international visitors. Make no mistake though – Cali has more to offer than dance and party. This city has its fair share of colonial era architecture, and you must make a point to visit Zoológico de Cali, the Barrio Granada, and the massive Cristo Rey, a statue similar to Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer.
Though Cali doesn’t offer the same level of ESL teaching opportunities as Bogotá and Medellín, the city is up and coming, and is likely to see a steady growth in demand for ESL teachers as the economy here continues to develop.