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Teach English in Costa Rica

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When you think of Costa Rica, you probably think of pristine beaches, thick rainforests, hot springs, and active volcanoes. But, did you know that the demand for English teachers is also very high here? So, if you want to combine business and pleasure, coming to teach English in Costa Rica could be a great option!

How to Teach English in Costa Rica

If you're interested in teaching English in Costa Rica, you have four main options when it comes to finding TEFL jobs. These vary in their workload, requirements, and benefits. Let's take a look at them.

Private Language Schools

Working at a private language school in Costa Rica is a great option for ESL teachers. They hire year-round and offer great benefits. Plus, they usually provide their teachers with a pre-made curriculum (including all the needed textbooks and materials you need). This helps reduce the amount of prep work that you'll need to do.

Teach at a University

Costa Rica is home to over sixty universities. However, the competition for getting teaching jobs at universities is high because only a few slots are available for English teachers. You will also need higher qualifications than you do to get a job private language school.

Besides previous teaching experience, you must have a TESOL, CELTA, or TEFL certificate. You may also need to possess a degree.

Language Institute Offering Business Classes

A number of language institutes in Costa Rica focus on offering business English classes. The main focus is to help adults improve on the English skills that they need for work. Since large multinational corporations are expanding into Costa Rica, there are an increasing number of opportunities in this are. 

However, you should be aware that taking such teaching jobs entails working outside business hours. Your class schedule will probably be either before or after you student's work day.

Private Lessons

Offering private lessons is ideal for English teachers who wish to have a more flexible schedule. A lot of private tutoring in Costa Rica is done one-to-one and you'll be able to charge a higher rathe than you'll receive working for a private language school. Having said that you'll need to build up your list of clients, so it's often best to treat this as a supplementary income at first. Just make sure it doesn't violate any contracts you have with language schools and is within the remit of your visa.

Teach English in Costa Rica Salary

The average monthly salary for people teaching English in Costa Rica is between $800 to $1,000, but some teachers receive as low as $600 (if they are not TEFL certified). 

Many language schools and institutes offer rates between $7 - 10 per hour. How much you earn can depend upon the location and if you hold a TEFL certification or possess existing teaching experience.

International schools pay their teachers around $800 to $1,200 per month. Most also offer allowances and free accommodation.

Private tutors looking to supplement their income can charge anywhere between $5 to $15 per hour depending on where they are located and how much experience they have. Many teachers also choose to teach English online to supplement their income.

Cost of living in Costa Rica

An English teacher's salary in Costa Rica should be more than enough for you to live comfortably there. You’ll be able to afford a nice place to rent, transportation, your groceries and some restaurant meals. You'll even be able to save up for trips to some of the beautiful attractions in Costa Rica. 

Housing and Utilities

The cost of renting a well-furnished apartment ranges from $300 to $700. If you can share accommodation you’ll be able to lower the rent even more.

You will also need to add about $70 a month for water, electricity, and internet. Again, if you find other people to share those with you, the cost will be lower.

Dining

What you spend on food is largely dependent on your personal preferences. If you enjoy eating out at a moderately-priced restaurant, you can expect to pay $15 to $20 for a full meal plus wine. 

It will be much cheaper if you decide to have your meals at home. If you buy all of your ingredients from the various farmer’s markets, you can expect to spend about $20 on fruits, vegetables, and meats, which should last you for a couple of weeks or more.

Entertainment

Keeping yourself busy and entertained is very affordable in Costa Rica. There are street fairs, outdoor concerts, and traveling shows that you can enjoy that cost $5 or less. You can also spend your time in the many parks and gardens all over the cities.

Transportation

Taking the bus is the cheapest form of transportation when traveling in Costa Rica. An intercity fare is less than $1. Countrywide routes cost about $10. That’s from San José to Tamarindo which is 258 kilometers away. 

Requirements for teaching English in Costa Rica

If you're considering working as an English teacher in Costa Rica, there are few things that you'll need. The requirements vary depending on the employer. Below are the most common ones:

TEFL Certification

One of the most common requirements is a TEFL certification. Holding this certificate means you’ve received training in teaching English as a foreign language and are ready to teach. Any reputable Costa Rican school will require this from its applicants.  

If you do not have a TEFL certificate yet, you can enroll in an online TEFL course or take your TEFL course in Costa Rica.

Bachelor’s Degree

While it is not legally a requirement, some language institutes do prefer that their applicants hold a degree in any major. However, you can still secure teaching jobs from other institutions without this.

Some ESL teachers claim that the only thing their employer asked for was their TEFL certification.

I you want to teach English at a university requires you will need to hold a Master’s degree.

Documents and Visa

You don't have to be from a native English-speaking country to teach English in Costa Rica. However, some academies and institutes prefer that their applicants are native English speakers who hold a passport from the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, or South Africa. 

Work Permit

To be able to fully legally work as an ESL teacher in Costa Rica, you need to have a work permit. This is a time-consuming process that many try to circumvent by relying on the tourist visa.

However, the better option is to apply for a TRP or temporary residence permit. This is done with the help of your employer. 

You will need to submit a valid passport, a copy of your diploma, your birth certificate, and a clear criminal record certificate from your country. You will also have to submit a letter to the Costa Rican immigration department indicating your personal details like your area of specialization, the name of the institution where you will be working, and your projected salary. You have to get this letter notarized and signed before the consulate.

After this, you will need to go to the police station and get your fingerprints taken. After paying $100 as a processing fee, you’ll need to wait for the application to be approved. Once you are done with that, then you can begin processing your work permit. This can take anywhere between 30 to 60 days. 

Tourist Visa

One of the reasons why Costa Rica is so popular as a destination for people who aspire to teach English abroad is the fact that you can work in the country even if you only have a tourist visa. 

You get this as soon as you enter the country, but the visa must be renewed every ninety (90) days. You will need to “border hop” or leave Costa Rica and come back to be able to renew the tourist visa. This must be done before your visa expires. Upon re-entry to the country, your passport will get stamped with a new visa.

Working on a tourist visa in Costa Rica is different to most countries. It is technically legal to do so because teachers are allowed to “sell their professional services”. But, there is a downside. You may get deported and banned from coming back to the country for a period of 10 years if you violate the restrictions on your tourist visa. So, it's important to know exactly what you can and can't do if you want to take this route.

Tax I.D. Number 

Besides a visa, you will also need a Tax I.D. number to teach English in Costa Rica. You can get this at the Tributación or the office that deals with income taxes in the country. There is a Tributación branch in every city in Costa Rica. You must register to get your tax identification number. 

To register, you’ll need a local address and you'll need to find the Tributacion in the same city as your registered address in Costa Rica. You must present your passport (and a photocopy of it) as well as proof of your local address. 

Once you get your tax number, you need to bring it to the print shop so you can have your book of receipts made. This will serve as your record of hours worked. Each time you are paid for your professional services, you need to provide the clients with a receipt from the printed book.

The great thing is that you may not need to pay taxes even if you do have a Tax I.D. number. Individuals teaching English in Costa Rica only need to pay taxes if their annual salaries are above $8,000. But, you still must be registered in order to work legally.

If you're looking for a bit of extra clarification, you can check out this expat tax guide for Costa Rica.

Teach English in Costa Rica jobs

If you want to teach English in Costa Rica, you'll find most of the teaching jobs in the Central Valley. This includes the capital of San Jose and Heredia.

Where to Teach

Costa Rica is a country that’s full of life. Each of its cities has something different to offer anyone planning on teaching abroad and living there. However, the major cities are where you have the highest chances of getting hired as an English teacher.

San Jose

The capital city of Costa Rica is a vibrant destination that has become a second home to many ESL teachers. There are so many job opportunities here. It is the base of numerous schools and adult learning centers. There are also countless large companies in this city, so there are a considerable number of professionals who wish to learn how to speak English and take business English classes.

It is also home to a large population so you can easily find clients to offer your tutoring services to if you work on cultivating your network.

Plus, it is a great base if you want to explore and travel the country during your weekends and school holidays. You can reach most of the other cities from here simply by taking a bus.

San Pedro

San Pedro is where the University of Costa Rica is based. You’ll find countless college-aged students milling around and will have a lot of opportunities to offer your private tutoring services.

San Pedro is busy enough to offer a number of job opportunities but is more relaxed than the center of San Jose. It's therefore a great place to live if you enjoy the laid-back vibe. Plus it's still relatively close to the capital's business centers, schools, and public transport.

Heredia

Heredia is another city that is near the capital. It features a number of historical sites that history enthusiasts will love exploring.

This quaint city is found at the foothills of the now extinct Barva Volcano. It is a great place to go hiking. The city also features beautiful colonial architecture that you can marvel at as you stroll around its streets.

One of Costa Rica’s premier universities, the Universidad Nacional, is located in Heredia. It is considered the top school to go to in Central America for veterinary practice.

There are several schools based here so you can easily find a job teaching English, but you can also opt to tutor private students since there are a lot of individuals interested in improving their English skills.

Monteverde

Monteverde is a stunning mountain town with an altitude of 4,000 feet. The climate here is milder than in the cities near the coast. It is known for its exotic wildlife, cloud forest, and canopy walks. If you are into plants and wildlife, this is the city that you should explore. You’ll probably spend your weekends on hiking trails.

How to find a job teaching English in Costa Rica 

Costa Rica is slowly emerging as a favorite destination for those dreaming of teaching English abroad, particularly in Latin America. This means competition for teaching positions can be tough. It pays to know where to conduct your job search and when to apply to give yourself an edge over other applicants.

Where to look for English teaching jobs in Costa Rica?

There are many recruitment agencies or third-party providers that help match ESL teachers with teaching jobs all over Cost Rica. There are even TEFL course providers that offer teaching jobs or work placements for their graduates.

So, if you don’t have a TEFL certificate yet, you can take a TEFL course with one of these providers and they can help you apply and get a teaching contract. Some will even offer a guaranteed paid job if they are partnered with local schools in Costa Rica.

You can also do your own job search by looking for open teaching English positions through job boards and social media groups. Most teachers who are already working in Costa Rica post about job openings in their companies.

When should you apply?

The peak hiring season is before the school year starts. This happens in early February so you can expect schools to post about job openings around October to December. It is best to apply during this period because schools don't typically accept applicants in the middle of the school year. Although private language schools can recruit all year round.

What is the application like?

As mentioned, the easiest way to go to Costa Rica, teach English, and enjoy the country is to work with a hiring agency, recruiter or course provider.

If you go with a recruiter, you will be asked to submit a copy of your qualifications and other documents so that they can help you land interviews with schools and other learning institutions. 

If you are planning to apply directly to the language institutes or academies, you need to submit your resume, cover letter, and other documents directly to the school's hiring manager. Note that many companies favor hiring teachers that are already in the country. This way, the applicant can easily come in for a face-to-face interview.

However, coming to Costa Rica without a job offer can be risky, as you’ll have to have enough savings to cover your airfare and expenses until you do find a job.

Getting a job offer

Once you pass the interview and get a job offer, read and understand the job offer before signing anything. Make sure that the benefits you will be receiving are enough to cover your daily expenses and more. After signing the contract you may begin processing your visa and work permit. 

To apply for a work visa, you will need to submit the following documents to the migration office located in San Jose:

  • Photocopy of your birth certificate
  • Photocopy and original of your passport

  • Proof of financial resources

  • Statement of clean criminal record 

  • 4 passport-size photos

  • Photocopies of your university diploma and TEFL certification (if you finished a TEFL course)

  • Proof of employment from the hiring institution

You will also have to submit to a background check that is conducted by the Costa Rican Ministry of Security and the Costa Rican Social Security Office.

What it's like to teach English in Costa Rica

As a teacher working abroad, you need to find out as much as you can about a country’s culture and customs in order to know what to expect. This is what you can expect in Costa Rica:

Classroom Culture

Costa Ricans are fun to teach, They are engaging, participative, and eager to learn English as a second language. That is if they show up! Some ESL teachers comment that students often miss classes for activities outside the classroom. This is an important thing to watch out for if your pay depends on your student showing up in class.

Fashion

The locals from Costa Rica like to dress up for work. They take pride in how they look. In general, you will be expected to wear business casual for work. How casual it can be will depend on the institute where you’ll be teaching. However, it is best to stay away from jeans or shorts. 

Classroom resources

Some academies are poorly equipped for ESL classes. You may have to be a little more creative in lesson planning and facilitating classes. Not all teachers are provided with computers, printers, or photocopiers. Most classrooms do not have projectors or even a television. 

If you want to have something printed for class, you may need to go to a separate business and pay for that out of your own pocket. If you want to play games or do crafts, you will might need to get your own supplies as well.

Heavy traffic

The major cities are known for having a lot of traffic. In bad cases you can be on a bus for an hour or two just to cover three miles. This gets worse during the rainy season. Some buses are also quite slow so you can spend a long time waiting at the bus stop.

Life in Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers some of the world’s most interesting environments. It is the perfect destination to unwind, explore, and be one with nature. It is also a great place to have a teaching adventure. You can spend months in Costa Rica and you’ll still find something new to visit and try out.

You can hike on an active volcano or kayak through one of the country’s mangrove forests. You can even go on your own excursion through the colossal Monteverde cloud forest or visit Manuel Antonio. 

And, you don’t just have to hike to see the beauty of Costa Rica up close. You can also take one of the many canopy tours that locals offer visitors. Adrenaline junkies can get their adventure fix by trying out one of the many zip lines designed to give the best views of the country’s rivers, mountains, and rainforests.

If you are more comfortable in the water than in the sky, you can also head to two of the best snorkeling and scuba diving destinations in South America- Costa Rica’s Cano and Cocos Islands. You can also spend an entire day whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River. If you are looking for more beaches, Saint Martin is just nearby.

So, if you are interested in living in paradise for a while, why not teach English in Costa Rica? You'll get to experience teaching English abroad, make some amazing friends, earn during the week, and try out a new adventure every weekend! There is no doubt that you'll enjoy your time teaching English in Costa Rica.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding teaching English in Costa Rica:

How much does an English teacher make in Costa Rica?

English teachers are offered a monthly salary of $600 to $1,200. This can be supplemented by working for a couple of language academies or offering your own private tutoring services.

Can I teach English in Costa Rica without a degree?

Yes, a degree is not required for most English teaching jobs in Costa Rica.

Do you need a visa to teach English in Costa Rica?

Yes, you will need at least a tourist visa to secure a job in Costa Rica. You can also apply for a work visa and work permit if you have the time and resources.

Do I need to speak Spanish to teach English in Costa Rica?

No, speaking Spanish or any other foreign language is not required. However, it will make your life much easier if you learn Spanish, especially if you intend to travel and experience everything Costa Rica has to offer.

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