This is the first post in a new series in which I publicly answer some of the frequently asked questions I get about teaching English in Costa Rica. The purpose of this is to try and help out as many people as I can at one time and to create a nice database full of info on living and teaching English in Costa Rica.
I would love to set up a job teaching English in Costa Rica before I move there – do you think it’s a possibility?
There are a ton of English teaching jobs in Costa Rica, but it’s best to already be in Costa Rica when you start looking for a job. A lot of businesses won’t even consider you if you are not in the country already. This is a smart move on their part because there are a lot of people who think they are going to love working in Costa Rica, they come down here, and then run at the first inconvenience. Some people run because it’s too “third world,” and others run because it’s too “developed.” Yeah, that’s called developing – you get a mix of working and non-working parts!
Remember: living and working in Costa Rica are very different from being on vacation in Costa Rica.
There are businesses that do hire out-of-country and they will often ask you to commit to a one-year contract. During that year you will most likely be working your butt off without much time for R&R.
If you want to teach English in Costa Rica and you are a native speaker with an undergraduate college degree, and a TEFL or TESOL certificate, you are 99% guaranteed a job somewhere in Costa Rica. You just need to be in the country in order to get a good job.
Where should I look for an English teaching job in Costa Rica?
Before choosing a place to live (or work), you need to come to Costa Rica and do a little exploring.
I do not recommend setting something up before coming to Costa Rica – I know too many people who have done that and been extremely unsatisfied for various reasons. It is best to first come to Costa Rica, find a place you would like to live, learn about the various businesses hiring English teachers, and THEN get a job. I give this same advice to people who are moving here and are not even looking for a job. Each little town in Costa Rica is very unique with its own set of advantages and disadvantages that can be detrimental to your happiness depending on your own wants and needs.
Most of the English teaching jobs in Costa Rica can be found in the Central Valley. Currently, there is high demand in Heredia, a nice suburb of San Jose. A lot of universities are located in Heredia, so it has a great college-town vibe and vibrant town center. It’s also a safe town to live in with nice, respectable people. I recommend Heredia as a good place to start searching for a job or a place to live, but don’t sign any contracts before you test drive!
Other options in the Central Valley: San Jose (if you want the downtown city living experience), La Sabana if you can afford it (west of downtown San Jose – tons of $$ nice condos), San Pedro (east of San Jose, colder), Tibas, San Antonio de Belen, Santa Ana…
If you want to teach English on the beach in Costa Rica, be prepared to volunteer your time.
How do I find a good job teaching English in Costa Rica?
- be a native English speaker
- an undergraduate degree (any field)
- a TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certificate
- be currently living in Costa Rica
Google and contact some of the institutes and universities in Costa Rica. Ask them if there are any available jobs and if not, send them a resume so they have it on hand when one does become available. Turnover rate for English teachers in Costa Rica is very high.
Most importantly, talk to the local expats and English teachers. They are a wealth of information and can give you the lowdown on all the various businesses hiring English teachers.
I want to move to Costa Rica in September…
WHOA back up!
I came to Costa Rica for the first time in September and had a blast. Rain? No big deal. Yeah, I was on VACATION.
Living and working through the rainy season is a bitch. It’s not that bad after nine months of gorgeous weather, but to deal with it first and not have the dry season memories to hold on to, you will certainly hate it. Why?
- You have to double or triple an already long commute time because there are vehicle accidents and natural impediments like landslides, floods, new potholes, and sinkholes. Plus, people in Costa Rica have something in common with the rest of the world – they don’t know how to drive in the rain.
- You are still expected to show up to work looking professional after you just braved the tropical monsoon. If you are taking a bus or walking – that includes having mud splashed all over you or if you are lucky you are just soaked to the bone.
- Plus, you won’t be taking many vacations during September or October because the closest dry beach is a daytrip through one of the most dangerous highways in Costa Rica – Braulio Carrillo parkway. Even if you find the time to go, you will probably be so exhausted from fighting the rain, traffic, and people during the previous week, that you will just want to stay at home and relax.
My advice? Do not move to Costa Rica in September or October. Wait until at least November. There are already a lot of adjustments to be made and you don’t need to make it harder on yourself by moving in the middle of the rainy season.
Another reason to hold off on moving in September is that there are not many businesses that hire during the last few months of the year.
Schools in Costa Rica have their big vacation break during December and January and the school year starts up again at the end of January. This is also true of other types of businesses, too, including language institutions – not many people hire right before or during the rainy season due to decreases in customers and also not wanting to pay aguinaldo (year-end bonus) to new hires.
Your best chance of being hired is at the beginning of the year, in early January. Second best chance is throughout the year up until about August.
To sum up
I recommend saving up some money to live on for a few months and coming to Costa Rica to look for a job instead of trying to find something beforehand. To do this comfortably, bring about $1000 for each month that you plan on being unemployed. That should cover food, shelter, transportation, and some extra traveling $$.
Do not move to Costa Rica in September or October. Plan on living in the Central Valley for the best job opportunities.