Teaching abroad can be the experience of a lifetime, and South America presents a huge range of job opportunities for aspiring teachers. Teaching jobs in South America are available in locations all over the continent, with each providing its own unique mix of culture, natural beauty, and fun but challenging daily experiences. Teaching English abroad is the most common placement for foreign instructors, and South America is no exception, so there are plenty of teaching jobs available for individuals with a firm grasp of the English language. If you have a desire to teach abroad in South America and a willingness to do a little searching, the perfect destination can most certainly be found.
Why Teach Abroad in South America
In recent decades, South America has become more and more connected to the rest of the world economically, and many local companies are quickly learning the benefits of conducting business in English. Along with economic success has also come an increase in tourism throughout South America, prompting a push for English education for workers in these emerging industries. As a result, the demand for English teachers in South America may be at an all-time high, while the country still maintains a very reasonable cost of living in all but a select few major cities. All in all, these factors combine to make teaching abroad in South America a great option for any aspiring or experienced international teacher.
Considering the fact that the subject of this guide is an entire continent, keep in mind that the following locations are simply suggestions. An enormous amount of very similar teaching job opportunities exist all over South America, and prospective teachers should feel free to explore every option available.
Brazil. One of the few nations of South America in which a preexisting knowledge of Spanish won’t help much, Brazil is a fantastic choice for teaching English abroad. As the largest country in South America, Brazil has perhaps the widest range of possible destinations for teaching jobs, but the salaries and living expenses will be at their best in the large cities.
Specifically, the city of Rio de Janeiro is home to dozens of schools, both public and private, as well as language schools meant to serve a wider range of age groups. The climate of the city is fabulous with both beautiful beaches and majestic mountains bordering on opposite sides. As for culture, Rio is one of the top destinations on the continent, showcasing the delicious foods, gorgeous artwork, and traditionally vibrant colors that Brazilians are known for.
Ecuador. On the opposite side of the continent sits the nation of Ecuador, home to coastal beaches, dense jungles, as well as the highest capital city in the world, Quito. Fortunately for prospective teachers, the types of locations and teaching jobs in Quito and around the country are as varied as the landscape.
Naturally, Quito will have its unique job opportunities, but more rural and small town placements are possible as well. Primary and secondary schools can be found almost everywhere, and since the adoption of the U.S. dollar as Ecuador’s primary currency in 2000, the economy has stabilized and English teachers have been in high demand. For anyone looking to get out of the city while they teach English abroad, Ecuador is a great choice.
Peru. From the coastal jungles and beaches to the soaring peaks of the Andes, there is always something beautiful to look at in Peru. A combination of this natural beauty and a fascinating mix of Incan and European cultures makes tourism one of the largest industries in the country, and the steady stream of tourists leads to a high demand for English instructors as well.
The city of Cusco has a very affordable cost of living and is home to several private language schools geared primarily toward adults, making it a great destination for anyone not especially interested in teaching in Peru with young children as their students.
Teaching in South America
Teaching English in South America is by far the most common form of teaching job available for teachers arriving from outside the continent. Those with a thorough knowledge of Spanish (or Portuguese in the case of Brazil) may have better luck finding teaching jobs in South America in other subjects, but for a large majority teaching English will be the way to go.
Teaching jobs in South America working with children in primary and secondary schools are possible but adult language schools are also quite common. For standard public schools, the school year will run from early February through December, with a winter break occurring in July, but private schools or international schools in South America will vary.
Qualifications required for incoming teachers will vary depending on the type of institution you aim to teach at in South America. Some language schools will hire you simply based on your knowledge of English, but most government operated primary and secondary schools will require some form of official teaching certification in education or in teaching the English language.
Returning teachers have noted that in some countries where the curriculum focuses less on English instruction, students are forced to take these classes and therefore are not always overly attentive or cooperative. This can make a background in education even more important as it will be critical to garnering the student’s attention.
As a final note, for any teachers who may not want or need a full time position, South American countries are very popular destinations for volunteer teaching abroad. Naturally, these positions will be unpaid but often come with added perks. Volunteers are not locked into full term teaching jobs in South America and can therefore stay anywhere from a week to a full year. Complimentary housing is also common with these positions, either through apartments leased by the volunteer agency or through homestays with local families.
Salary & Costs
In most regions of South America it is more than possible to break even or potentially save some money while fulfilling a teaching job, with a select few major cities being the exception to this rule. The cost of living essentially everywhere in South America will be lower than in the United States, with lower salaries for everyone (not just teachers) being the result. Do not be surprised to be making just $3 to $5 per hour teaching in a public school. On the bright side, salaries for teachers in South America reflect the local economy and will be directly linked with things like the costs of renting an apartment and daily expenses. It is more than possible to save upwards of $200 a month while teaching in South America in most regions, so long as one lives somewhat frugally.
As far as the types of housing go, accommodations for teachers will vary with the type of institution employing them. Occasionally, more affluent schools will help a teacher find accommodation, although these positions are difficult to come by, especially without at least some kind of college degree related to the subject being taught. Apartment style living is often appropriate for teachers, especially if budget is a concern. Due to the varied costs of living across South America, the actual prices of apartments are hard to approximate. Rather, try to stick to the widely accepted philosophy of allowing roughly 30 percent (or less) of your monthly income to go toward housing; this will allow for a comfortable yet affordable living situation regardless of what your destination may be for teaching in South America.
Finally, keep in mind that in many countries in South America, simply leaving the big city is not always a possible way to find a lower cost of living. In poorer nations education is not a top priority, meaning that schools in rural areas sometimes simply do not exist. Once you decide on a specific nation you are interested in, do some research into where exactly you may have to go to find teaching jobs and base any potential budget on the cost of living in that area.
Benefits & Challenges
Teaching abroad can be one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences of your life. In many places, all it takes to find a teaching job is to simply get certified in teaching a language you are already fluent in, such as nations where it is common to teach English abroad. This simple application of natural ability can open the door to a fantastic international experience that will bring with it valuable lessons applicable throughout the rest of your life. For many industries, international teaching experience will stand out on a resume and for those interested in helping a specific cause, teaching abroad can allow for meaningful volunteering in your spare time while visiting a country.
A final word of advice: South America is a unique continent, considering the number of countries it contains that share a common language. For those interested in teaching abroad and living in South America, a basic knowledge of Spanish can go a long way, especially if you aspire to travel during your time teaching. Knowing the local language will make day to day tasks much simpler and will allow for a deeper immersion in the local culture and community.