Pura Vida! Teach abroad in one of the oldest democracies in the world, and the most developed, politically stable, and peaceful nation in Central America. With the tourism industry at almost $2 billion a year, Costa Ricans are looking to speak English with a higher degree of proficiency than ever before. Finding teaching jobs in Costa Rica as an ESL teacher is no problem! From ziplining deep in the rainforest to hiking to the summit of active volcanoes, you’ll have no problem finding an adventure on your weekends away from teaching in Costa Rica.
The nation’s capital, San José, plays host to the majority of teaching jobs in Costa Rica. Nearby cities, like Alajuela, Cartago, San Pedro, and Heredia, are also popular Costa Rican teaching locations. If you’re located in the Central Valley, where most placements are, don’t expect easy access to the beach as the coast is a few hours away both east and west.
If you’re set on a teaching in Costa Rica near the seaside, you will find some opportunities if you dig, like those in the Nicoya Peninsula. For those looking to get out of the city, there are teaching placements available in smaller, rural communities, like La Fortuna. However, in some cases these can be several hours from the nearest metropolis.
Many individuals who wish to teach English abroad are looking to gain experience and boost their resume, choose to teach in Costa Rica to jumpstart their careers.
In order to stick out in the hunt for a job and to obtain a higher salary, Costa Ricans seek to improve their fluency in English. As a result, you’ll find that the majority of teaching jobs in Costa Rica are for English language instruction and focused on adults rather than children. The most common ESL positions are found in private language schools or institutes. If you’re more qualified and have lots of teaching experience, you may be able to teach at a university too.
Schedule. The Costa Rican school year goes from January to December. Teachers can either select a full-time position or contract themselves for several part-time teaching positions. If you don’t want the commitment of signing a contract, teaching English lessons privately is a great market; these positions also allow teachers to live in rural or coastal areas, which is less common when seeking other teach abroad placements in Costa Rica, such as those at elementary schools.
Individuals who decide to teach in Costa Rica can expect to work anywhere from 10 to 25 hours a week as class starts in the early morning and runs until noon. Classes pick up again in the evening from around 4pm to 8pm because many Ticos (native Costa Ricans) take a midday break from work due to the heat.
Requirements. Being a native speaker of English with a TEFL/TESOL certificate and a university degree is typically required for most teaching jobs in Costa Rica. However, teachers looking to complete student teaching hours, build their experience, or begin teaching English abroad may have luck in small communities with less structured requirements. Beginners can also find success focusing their efforts on private English lessons in Costa Rica. If you’re not TEFL/TESOL certified, consider completing a certificate program in Costa Rica.
Formal teaching placements in Costa Rica can pay anywhere from $8 to $10 USD an hour. The cost of living in Costa Rica is higher than other Central American countries since they have a more solid economy. However, depending on teaching position, you can expect anywhere from $500 to $1,000 a month, which is plenty to live off of during a teach abroad program in Costa Rica.
Rent costs for a typical two bedroom apartment in a big city sit around $500 per month and meals will set you back about $5 to $10 each. If living in rural areas or more touristy destinations, like the coast, expect the cost of living to jump quite a bit. If you budget well by shopping and eating local, and taking public transport, you won’t find cost of living to be an issue on a teacher’s pay.
Some teach abroad organizations will help teachers arrange homestays, while others put the teacher in charge of finding lodging. Working and living conditions typically vary based on the part of the country you’re living in and the school in which you are placed.
Most schools in Costa Rica will not sponsor your visa until you have worked there for a year, so obtaining a work visa to teach in Costa Rica can be a challenge. Working with American institutions is one way to get assistance in getting the work visa you need. For teachers on a tourist visa, prepare to renew every 90 days, and expect to have to exit the country in order to do so. Luckily, a bus ride to Costa Rica’s neighbor to the north, Nicaragua, is not too far. Other teachers in Costa Rica choose this time to go back home for a bit or visit other Central American destinations of interest.
- Insurance. ESL teacher contracts in Costa Rica don’t typically include health care.
- Machismo. If you’re a lady who’s not used to piropos (compliments in the form of cat-calls), expect them while walking alone on the street.
- Punctuality? Don’t be offended if somebody is late; Costa Ricans run on “Tico time.”
- PDAs Expected. Costa Ricans are very affectionate–don’t be alarmed if your students greet you with a hug or kiss.