How to Teach Abroad in Colombia

by Sara Dorsey

Colombia is a country on the rise. Increasing political and economic stability, paired with the recent peace talks with rebel fighters, have made this beautiful nation a more appealing destination than ever before. Aiming to further the country’s rise in prosperity and invest in education, the government launched the Colombia Bilingüe initiative, which aims to foster English education in public schools.

Volunteer teachers with students in Colombia
Two Greenheart Travel teachers take a moment to cheese it up for the camera outside of their classroom.

A major part of this mission is bringing in hundreds of native English speakers to work in Colombia’s public high schools and community colleges. Most of the students in these schools have not had the chance to learn English before, making teaching English in Colombia an incredible opportunity for both teachers and students alike.

Read on for all the details you need to learn how to teach abroad in Colombia:

Who can teach abroad in Colombia?

In order to teach in Colombia, you must be a native English speaker or have near-native fluency and a certification of English fluency. You must have citizenship in the U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland, EU, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa, and you must also hold a bachelor’s degree (in any subject) and have a clean criminal record.

Teaching in Colombia is a great opportunity for recent college grads looking to have an adventure abroad before settling into a career. It’s also a perfect jump for those already teaching abroad, because the government-funded, well-structured teaching program in Colombia can be a relief from the often go-it-alone ESL world. The Colombia Bilingüe program also tends to have a higher median age level than most teaching English abroad programs, as teachers who apply are often taking breaks from their jobs back home or are career focused people who have decided to take a gap year.

Plaza cafe in Cartagena, Colombia
Plaza café in Cartagena

How can I prepare to teach in Colombia?

Your first step should be to reflect on your motivations for teaching in Colombia. Are you looking to live on the beach and surf every day? Or do you want to party in Medellin for a few months? If you answered yes to either of these questions, teaching abroad in Colombia might not be the best option for you.

Teaching in Colombia will be hard, and it will be a full-time job in which you’re responsible for teaching a crucial skill to your students, so your heart has to be in it. If you’re looking to work hard to make a difference in your students’ lives, teaching in Colombia could be great for you.

You should also give some serious thought to getting TEFL certified. Although TEFL certification is not necessarily required to teach abroad in Colombia, it will be extremely useful. Again, teaching is hard, and English is an increasingly important skill in the lives of young Colombians. On day one, you’ll be expected to jump in and start teaching this vital skill, so a TEFL certification will prepare you for your new job as an English teacher!

And of course, you should brush up on your Spanish! You don’t have to speak Spanish to teach abroad in Colombia, but knowing the basics will be important in getting through your day-to-day life while there.

Where can I find teaching jobs in Colombia?

Next, start reading up on Colombia! It’s a large and diverse country with different climates, settings, and cultures to explore. You’ve probably heard of Medellin, Cartagena, and Bogota, but Colombia is so much more than these major cities and tourist hubs. Your teaching placement might be anywhere in this lovely country, so read up on teaching jobs in smaller, lesser-known cities and towns to open your mind to all the teaching possibilities in Colombia!

Streets of Cartagena, Colombia
The lovely streets of Cartagena

What does the application and hiring process look like?

For the public school teaching program, the application process is all online. You’ll write a little about yourself, upload some documents, and have two Skype interviews. During this process, recruiters will be looking for teachers who are open-minded, flexible, and eager to be effective educators. You might be placed anywhere in Colombia, in a big city or a small town, on the beach or in the mountains, and everything in between, so it’s very important that you’re open to every type of placement. The Colombia Bilingüe program also looks for people who are ready to work in a public school, which means teachers should be resourceful, creative, and energetic.

Can I make a living teaching in Colombia?

The living stipend is 1.5 million pesos, which is currently a little under $500. Before you freak out, this sounds lower than it actually is. A couple of years ago, it was closer to $900, but the U.S. dollar has recently gotten stronger, while living costs in Colombia have stayed the same; this means your 1.5 million pesos will go further than $500 would. You’re not going to get rich off teaching in Colombia, but all teachers, even those in more expensive cities, are able to live comfortably on this stipend. It will most definitely cover your rent, so don’t worry too much.

How can I take the first step to teach abroad in Colombia?

If you think you’re a good fit for the Colombia Bilingüe program and you are ready to teach abroad in Colombia, it’s time to apply! New teachers typically start in January or February and in June or July, but applications are accepted up to a year in advance of your chosen start date.

Teachers in Colombia 
While teaching English in Colombia is hard work, there is still time for plenty of exploring and taking in all the country has to offer.

This article was contributed by Greenheart Travel, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing culturally immersive programs that have the power to change lives, advance careers, and create leaders.