A Guide to Teaching English in Colombia
After our blog about teaching English in Ukraine, we’ve been encouraging people we know teaching English is less common places to write guides for us about TEFL where they are. In this post, Anny from Anny’s Adventures tells us about teaching English in Colombia.
What qualifications do you need for teaching English in Colombia?
To teach English in Colombia the majority of companies require a bachelor’s degree as well as a TEFL/CELTA/TESOL or teaching degree/PGCE qualification. It depends completely on the company or school. Each company has their own requirements, preferences with qualifications and whether they allow online certificates.
To gain a job with one of Colombia’s many English teaching institutions a TEFL certificate is acceptable, but teaching institutions such as the British Council or International House and Universities often require a CELTA/Trinity certTESOL qualification at minimum.
You can teach English in a public school with a TEFL or CELTA plus experience but private schools, highly reputable institutions or Universities require a teaching degree, PGCE or masters and at least 3 years experience.
What visas/work permits do you need?
To work as an English teacher in Colombia you are required to gain a TP-4 working visa. These can be issued for 1 year or up to 3 years depending on contracts. A TP-4 visa is straight forward to apply for and all that is required is information about the company and your experience. This visa costs around £250, in addition to this with any Colombian visa, you are required to gain a Colombian identity card called a Cedula. This card allows individuals to open bank accounts and acts as a general ID.
Is there a maximum age for teachers to teach English in Colombia?
There is no maximum age for English teachers, but the majority of teachers are aged between 20 and 30 in institutes and in schools the teachers are generally older due to the experienced needed to gain the job.
Do you need to be a native speaker to teach English in Colombia?
In Colombia, they employee native and non-native speakers to teach English, although a high level of English is required for non-natives. In Colombia there is a big divide between native and non-native teachers, with many working together in schools and the native speaker teachers’ salary is significantly higher than non-natives’.
What kind of jobs are there in Colombia?
There are a large number of job opportunities. Colombia is a rapidly developing country with a large number of multinational businesses establishing their headquarters in the countries capital, Bogota and it’s second biggest city, Medellin. These companies pay English institutions to teach English for employees, to be able to communicate with other branches around the world. Every school is required to teach English at a low or intermediate level, which has created a large demand for teachers in public schools.
Colombia’s major cities have a large number of private fee-paying schools, the majority of which teach English at a high level as well as other languages. A number of these private schools are international. In Bogota, there are two English schools, an American school, French, German, Swiss as well as a number of others. These schools, especially the English and American schools, require teachers with a PGCE and experience, but they pay by far the highest salary of all the schools and institutions, sometimes up to 10 times more a month.
Which cities/areas are most of the jobs in?
The majority of the English teaching jobs in Colombia are in the cities of Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, Barranquilla and Cali. This is where the majority of businesses are and where people live. While small towns have public schools, these schools usually only employee Colombian English teachers due to salary costs.
What are the typical semesters?
Colombia has two school calendars A and B. Calendar A starts at the end of January and has four academic periods: the year ends in November and there are breaks for Easter, in June and July and a week in October. Public schools tend to use calendar A. Calendar B schools begin the year at the beginning of September and finish in June with holidays in December, Easter and October. Calendar B schools tend to be private schools. Teaching institutes tend to have a 6 or 7-week break over December and January as businesses take a while to get back to work at the start of the year. Colombia is a country with one of the highest number of public holidays, throughout the year they have over 16 public holidays – on Mondays and special occasions.
Teaching institutes tend to have a 6 or 7-week break over December and January as businesses take a while to get back to work at the start of the year. Colombia is a country with one of the highest number of public holidays, throughout the year they have over 16 public holidays – on Mondays and special occasions.
What is peak season for hiring?
The schools and Universities peak season for hiring are in November to start in January or May/June to start in September. Institutes hire teachers all year round.
What’s the salary range and how does it compare to the cost of living?
Salaries vary dramatically depending on the institution. Public schools’ salary is around $500 a month. An English institution can pay anything between $680 and $1,180 a month, Universities tend to pay between $1,180 and $1,700 a month. Private schools pay by far the most with salaries anywhere between $1,700 and $4,000 a month excluding bonuses, accommodation, visa and accommodation costs, which are also covered by the schools.
The cost of living in Colombia is relatively low, you can rent a nice apartment in a good area of one of the cities for around $340 a month, accommodation outside of the cities or in the small towns can be as low as $100 a month. Food is cheap with an average meal costing between $2 and $6.
The only schools offering additional benefits are the private schools which pay teachers; a moving allowance, paid holiday, accommodation, transportation, visa and health benefits. Public schools and institutions don’t pay for anything, visa costs, health insurance and and additional costs need to be covered by teachers.
What’s good about teaching/living in Colombia?
Colombia is an amazing country. Within a one hour flight you arrive in a completely different landscape, from Caribbean coast and beaches, Amazon rainforest, desert, flat plains, mountainous cities, mountainous countryside, Pacific coast, jungle and more. Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and it’s proximity to the equator means it has no seasons. The temperature varies only between altitude, the higher in the mountains the cooler the weather. Colombia’s food is amazing, fresh and locally produced and its people are among the friendliest in the world.
How do most people find work teaching English in Colombia?
Most people find jobs on the internet or through word of mouth. There is a Facebook page called English teachers in Bogota which regularly has job advertisements and recommendations. Many of the private schools scout out teachers from other International schools around the world.
What schools do you recommend working for?
I would recommend Bogota Business English as an English Institution, the British Council or International House if the teacher has a CELTA/Trinity certTESOL. Anglo Colombiano and The English School are private English schools with a good reputation.
Many thanks to Anny from Anny’s Adventures for giving us this interview on her experiences teaching English in Colombia. If you are inspired and want to read more of her adventures, you can find more stories on her blog, or through her Facebook page, Twitter account and Instagram.