Teach English in South America

TEFL jobs in South America

Would you like to teach English in South America? Teaching English in South America gives you the chance to live on the beach, in a city or even by the mountains. There are many incredible vistas and you will love the whole atmosphere, from the Spanish and Portuguese architecture to the ruins of ancient Mayan. The only downside is deciding which fantastic location you want to live in. 

One of the expanding industries is tourism, and this has led many locals to learn English as a second language so they are better able to interact with visitors to their amazing country. Of course, in turn, this has meant the demand for English teachers in South America has also increased, so this is the perfect time to make a move and head over to start a new life and experience the wonders of this land. 

The most popular areas to find a job teaching English in South America are Argentina, Chile, Buenos Aires, Costa Rica and Brazil. With so many opportunities on offer, it has become a very popular location for those looking to teach English abroad. The cultures and dynamics of the cities have to be lived to be truly understood, and the landscape is magnificent and has a rare natural beauty you don’t find everywhere. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about finding work as an English teacher in South Africa and help you decide whether this is the country for you. 

Types of Jobs Teaching English in South America

Language schools

The most likely option for teaching English in South America is to find a position with a language school. There is a wide range of student profiles, from adults to children and the levels of existing skills vary a lot too. Language schools will employ newly qualified teachers with no experience as well as experienced teachers who hold TEFL, and the salary will reflect the skill level. Adult learners often work in the tourist industry or for companies that trade at an international level which means you need to have a degree of flexibility as often the only time they can attend lessons is evenings and weekends. However, having time off during the day means you can make like a tourist and explore your local area. 

International schools

If you have a master’s degree, you could secure a prestigious position teaching English in South America at one of their international schools. The contracts tend to be over two years; if you enjoy the work and get on well, they will renew after this time. One of the largest international schools is in Buenos Aires. Sadly you are unlikely to be able to secure a position at a language school if you do not have the degree and experience, so this is not a good option for those just starting out. 

Private tutoring

Teaching English in South America is a great way to boost your earnings, but it is advisable to get settled in the country and your new job first. There are lots of families looking to pay to improve their English skills, so again, you could be teaching any age group. Business people often want to gain good conversational English skills, whereas young adults may want to apply to universities overseas. It is unlikely that you can make a living as a private English teacher in South America, however, so you need to ensure you have other work. It is also advisable to have a cancellation policy in place as last-minute no-shows are a regular annoyance for a private tutor. 


A lot of South Africa is classed as lower-income, and this means that there is a great need for educational reform in those areas. Overall it is considered to be developing, but often, English teachers in South America can really help by volunteering in these small towns helping the locals learn English. It is a good gap year experience, and you can live with a host family who will give you board and lodgings in return for education. You will find a lot of volunteering opportunities in Ecuador, Chile and Colombia. 

Top 5 places to teach in South America

  • Argentina: One of the most popular places to live and teach English in South America is Argentina. Buenos Aires is the biggest city and offers a bustling and vibrant style of living. If you want something quieter, have a look at the wine region of Mendoza, and be sure to visit Iguazu Falls while you are there. There are many language schools in Argentina, and people look for private tutors as well, so there are a lot of scopes to find work and earn good money. 
  • Chile: Chile is a developing region that is starting to grow and open up to visitors, which means they are looking to learn new skills. Teaching English in Chile will offer you the chance to see many natural wonders of the world, including some of the best ski slopes in the country. It also boasts large desert areas, stunning lakes and impressive rivers. There are plenty of language and private schools as well as tutor and volunteer work on offer. 
  • Brazil: In Brazil, you will find vibrant energy with plenty to do outside of the classroom if you want to have an active social life. There is no legal requirement for English to be taught. However, some schools offer it as part of the curriculum. You can also find language school and private tutoring opportunities.
  • Ecuador: There is quite a lot of poverty in Ecuador, so volunteers are in demand, but if you cannot afford to give away your time, there are opportunities for English teachers in Ecuador if you head to Cuenca, Quito or Guayaquil, the three biggest cities. There is starting to be a good level of educational reform in some of the more rural areas, which means the demand for teachers of English in South America is increasing. This is also a really low-cost area to live in, especially if you adopt the local practices. 
  • Peru: In Peru, you will find a lot of students looking to increase their English skills. It is a lovely place to live; teachers find their students enthusiastic and keen to learn. There are plenty of volunteer roles on offer as well, which could find around your paid work. 

Salary for English Teachers in South America

While you may consider the salary offer to be fairly low, you need to remember it is relative to the cost of living, and actually, most people can easily afford to live and work there. The standard of living between English teachers in South America and those in somewhere like Spain is really no different at all-even though, on paper, the wages are much lower. TEFL teachers will find that the bulk of jobs is in the densely populated cities of Valencia, Caracas and Maracaibo, but you will find other jobs in smaller areas. The reason these cities are so busy is that they are centres of trade and industry, so a lot of work teaching English here will be adult learners in business. There are very few areas of the world where you can teach English against the backdrop of the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean, so if you long to hit the beach in your downtime, being an English teacher in South America could be perfect for you. 


It is possible to find a job teaching English in South America even if you do not have the TEFL qualifications. However, as with most jobs having some experience on your CV will make you stand out from other candidates. One of the most important things is that you are a native speaker and that you can demonstrate your commitment and professionalism. Generally, the pay you receive will reflect your skills, qualifications and experience, so it always helps to get your TEFL certification if you can. 

Work visa

Getting a visa can be a challenging process, but it is easier if you are committing to stay for two years or more. Many English teachers in South America can only stay for six months. However, if you have a contract with one of the more reputable schools and they agree to sponsor your work visa, things will be a lot easier. 

Classroom Culture 

Timekeeping in South America tends to be a little lax; it doesn’t seem to be important that things start on time which can take a bit of getting used to. Not all places are bad at staying on time, and they do work hard, but you would do well to get used to a flexible and relaxed way of living. 

Interviews are preferred in person, and if they like you, it is commonplace to be hired there and then. There is no first interview and the second interview a week later; it is just a question of whether they think you are going to fit in well. You should dress for business, not pleasure, jeans and flip-flops are not suitable for work. Keep it more formal in the classroom.


Living costs

As already mentioned, it is relatively inexpensive to live and teach English in South America. The places with the highest living costs are Bogota and Sao Paolo. The standard of accommodation tends to be good, and you can boost your income by offering private tutoring teaching English online or in person. Tutoring the locals is a great way to meet people and make new friends. 

  • Accomodation: USD $200–$312
  • Utilities: USD $42
  • Monthly Transport pass: USD $16
  • Basic dinner for two: USD $9.10
  • Cappuccino: USD $1.60
  • Beer: USD $1.42
  • Milk (1ltr): USD $0.73

TEFL jobs in South America: KEY POINTS



Salaries EFL teachers earn vary across continents, and as they are usually paid in local currency,



Bachelor's Degree preferred



Language schools, International schools, Private tutoring, volunteering



120 hour TEFL training


  • Popular locations: Argentina, Columbia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico, Peru
  • Salary: Salaries EFL teachers earn vary across continents, and as they are usually paid in local currency, they should also be considered within the prism of the local living costs.
  • TEFL Requirement: A 120-hour TEFL qualification will be required for most positions
  • Term times: February - December
  • Language: Spanish and Portuguese are the languages mainly spoken in South America.

The countries of South America are great for English teachers who do not have a bachelor’s degree. Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru are all popular locations for finding work and an ex-pat community. Expect to visit in person to secure a job; there is no recruiting over the internet here. You will find the cost of living to be low, which gives you a great chance to save money each month and still have a good style of living. 

Facts about South America


TEFL jobs in South America: FAQS


Which TEFL course should I take to teach in South America?

When looking into your options for TEFL courses, be sure that you find one that is correctly regulated and accredited. You also need to complete 120 hours of training and have the support of a tutor. 

The world really is your oyster when you teach English in South America; there are so many unique places that you can call home. You will enjoy the culture and atmosphere in many places. Places like Buenos Aires and Cuzco are very multicultural if you are hoping to come across other people from home to make friends with. Generally, though, it is a really friendly place to live and taking the time to get to know the locals can be very rewarding. 


You can apply at any time, and if you have your TEFL, you have increased your chances of finding a job. Remember that interviews are in person, so you need to fund your flights and accommodation to get the work and then return when the job starts. There are lots of TEFL job boards where you will find details of work you can apply for.

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