Teach English in Colombia

TEFL jobs in Colombia

TEFL teachers would not have been able to teach English in Colombia until fairly recently as it was considered dangerous and visitors were not welcome. However, in 2016 a peace accord was reached, and the borders have opened up to tourists and those looking to work there. Of course, much of the violence was at a government level, and the locals were never involved. They are very inviting and friendly and enjoy having visitors to their country, so if you head out to teach English in Colombia, you will find a warm welcome.

As an English teacher in Colombia, you will also be able to take in the fantastic sights around the area. If you are feeling adventurous, you could climb Mount Monserrate, explore Cartagena, the walled city, visit the Gold Museum or look at Parque Arqueológico and the Piedra del Pool. You can certainly find plenty to do at the weekends if you are not working.

Most jobs teaching English in Colombia are in schools, but the role will vary depending on the type of school and your experience and qualifications. State schools are pushing to get pupils to be bilingual, and languages have always been important in private schools. You should be able to find work as a newly qualified TEFL teacher, but of course, your salary will reflect this. If you have more experience, a degree or higher qualifications, you can apply for more senior positions and earn more money. 

If you have the financial security to volunteer your time, plenty of initiatives would be delighted to hear from you. Comparatively, wages might seem low, but this is a country with low living costs, so you will find there is plenty of money for everything you need. 

This guide explains everything you need to know to transition to teaching English in Colombia. It also takes a more in-depth look at the cost of living and the culture so that fitting in will be easy. It is a much safer place to live and work than it used to be, but you should still learn about what happened and where there are potential issues you should avoid. Once you are armed with all the information, you will find that teaching English in Colombia is a very enjoyable experience.

Types of teaching jobs in Colombia

Program to Teach English in Colombia (TEC)

An initiative called the SENA National Training Service was created by the Catholic Church, businesses and workers to offer various training courses free of charge to people living in the country. One of the skills they offer is English, so this could be an opportunity for you. 

Their English program runs as a separate entity called TEC Teach English In Colombia, and if you work for the program, you will be a volunteer. You will need to be a native English speaker and have your TEFL qualification or be able to demonstrate that you have a year or more of experience in the classroom to apply for one of these positions teaching English in Colombia.

International private schools

International schools are always looking for skilled and talented teachers, and in return, they offer some of the best wages for English teachers in Colombia. To apply, you will need to be educated to degree level, have your TEFL certificate and demonstrate more than two years of experience in the classroom. 

Private language school

Language schools are another good place to look for a job teaching English in Colombia. Here you may only be asked for a college degree level of education. These institutions are keen to meet people in person and therefore do not like conducting interviews over the internet. So, you must be prepared to travel to the country and be interviewed in person. 

State-run high schools

It is a relatively new initiative, but state schools have realised the benefit of native speakers. They are beginning to seek out TEFL teachers to work alongside a local teacher in the classroom. It is not as well paid as the private institutions, but you will be making a difference to local children, and with such low living costs, you will still find you can achieve a comfortable standard of living. 

How to get a job teaching English in Colombia 

Finding work as an English teacher in Colombia is always the most challenging part, and they are very personable, so they like to meet their candidates in person. You will stand yourself in good stead if you make an effort to go there and interview in person. If you haven’t yet attained your TEFL and want to be an English teacher in Colombia, then make sure the programme you join supports placing teachers in the region, as these candidates will always be favoured.

Where to find a job

It is possible to find out about vacancies within the TEC program using the internet, so you do not have to be in the country for that part. However, if you want to work at a private school, you must be prepared to travel. 

When to apply for a job

With that in mind, you should aim to be in Colombia from November-January if you are looking to find work at a language or private school, as this is when they take on new staff for the upcoming semester. For those hoping to secure employment as an English teacher in Colombia as part of the TEC program, applications begin in September. If allocated, your start date will be January. 

Work visas

Your visa is taken care of when you secure a role teaching English in Colombia through the TEC program. It is a type V visa and remains valid for the duration of your employment. You may leave and return any time, provided you are still employed. When you are looking for work at private institutes, you will need to be on a tourist visa. If you then secure a job teaching English in Colombia in one of the private schools, you must take care of your visa. To do this, you must go to the regional consulate and apply for the type M work visa. You do not need to return to your home country between the two because you have to be there to apply in person.

Classroom and work culture

You will probably find that the school systems are laxer compared to what you are used to when you are an English teacher in Colombia. Students are late and don’t seem to care; you may find meetings with colleagues also start late. Try not to let this change your good timekeeping and understand that it is part of their culture. 

Pupils will often call teachers by their first names; again, you have to get used to this. Each location will be different, so you should take your cues from colleagues from a dress code point of view. Some schools prefer business casual while others are very relaxed and wear shorts and t-shirts. If you haven’t found the dress code by the time you get to your first day, err on the side of caution and wear something smart; if it turns out more casual is accepted, you can change it for day two. 

Culture and etiquette

There are some cultural quirks that you should get used to. For example, if you are working as an English teacher in Colombia, you should know that it is considered very rude to chew gum with your mouth open; you should never slam doors and always cover your mouth when you yawn. They have excellent manners and value politeness, so you should stop and engage with passersby if they greet you in the street. It is a great way to meet your neighbours. If you are invited for a meal or even coffee you should take a small gift like a cake as a thank you. 

You should avoid all talk of the past conflicts in Colombia; they will not be amused if you make jokes, and to be honest, the subject is best avoided altogether. 

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Living costs

When It comes to living costs, Colombia is Latin America’s second cheapest and is 91% less expensive than the rest of the world. So, although the salary might seem quite low to you, the amount you will be spending to live is much less than you will be used to. If you apply to teach English in Colombia at one of the volunteer programs, you will find that your accommodation is provided free of charge, and there is often a small monthly payment to help with the basics.

The weather turns on a dime, and you will need to get used to carrying a range of clothing and wet weather gear as you go about your daily life. It is a very laid-back lifestyle, and the locals are very kind. It is always advisable to eat like a local as you will spend more money on imported items from the US.

Even though things are a lot safer now, you should still take care when moving around. Pickpockets are rife, but this is not unique to the area. If you are headed somewhere, prebook your taxis to ensure it is legit rather than flagging someone down in the street. Also, stay away from unlit regions and move in a group when you are out at night.

To obtain the most up-to-date cost of living figures, we use the world’s biggest cost of living comparison website, Numbio.com.

  • Accommodation: £303–£508/$391–$656
  • Utilities: £45/$58
  • Health insurance : Cost of a typical visit to a GP:: £16/$20
  • Monthly transport pass: £25/$33
  • Basic dinner out for two: £7/$9
  • Cappuccino in ex-pat area: £1.44/$1.85
  • A beer in a pub: £0.76/$0.98
  • 1 litre of milk: £0.55/$0.70

TEFL jobs in Colombia: KEY POINTS

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SALARY

€700 - €1,000

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EDUCATION

BA degree preferred

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MAIN JOB TYPES

Private schools, public schools, private tutoring, volunteering projects

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TEFL CERTIFICATION NEEDED

120 hour TEFL Training

KEY FACTS

  • Popular locations for TEFL jobs: Bogota, Medellin, Bucaramanga, Barranquilla, and Cali
  • The average salary for EFL teachers: The basic monthly salary for full-time positions will likely be 1.5 million to 2 million pesos (£300–£400/$400–$520) per month. Jobs for experienced teachers at IB schools can pay up to around 5 million (£1,000/$1,300) pesos per month.
  • TEFL qualification requirements: A 120-hour TEFL qualification will be required for most positions
  • Prerequisite university degree: Most positions require a BA degree
  • Term times: Public school years start in January/February and end in November, with holidays in April, June and October. Private schools begin in August/September and end in June
  • Currency: Peso (COP)
  • Language: Spanish
  • Teaching programmes: Private Language Schools, Public Schools, Voluntary, Government Program, Freelance
  • Age restrictions: None
  • Previous teaching experience: Beneficial but not always required

You will find that most contracts run for a year; however, if they like you and you want to stay, it is likely to be renewed. Teaching English in Colombia can also attract short-term work, so do not discount the location if you’re going to work for a few weeks. In addition, you will find many young people volunteering for two weeks up to 12 weeks as part of their gap year, so that could also be a great experience if you are in that situation.

You will find pupils friendly and open with those teaching English in Colombia. They are likely to want to use your first name, and the classroom setting is relaxed and laid back with no strict dress codes and little importance placed on timekeeping.

Facts about Colombia

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LANGUAGE

Spanish

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POPULATION

5.09 crores

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TEFL JOB DEMAND

Mid

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CURRENCY

Peso

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CAPITAL

Bogotá

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OUR COLOMBIA TEFL RATING

3.8/5

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TEFL jobs in Colombia: FAQS

Q:

Is Colombia expensive to live in?

No, living and working as an English teacher in Colombia is not expensive. On the contrary, they have a meagre cost of living.

There are lots of choices for finding work. There is a government program, private schools, language schools, state schools and volunteer schemes, and you can also teach privately as a tutor on a freelance basis.

The basic monthly salary for full-time English teaching positions in Colombia will likely be 1.5 million to 2 million pesos (£300–£400/$400–$520). However, the wages for EFL teachers will vary depending on the institution and your qualifications and experience.

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