More FAQs about teaching English in Costa Rica

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You guys are sending me tons of questions about teaching English in Costa Rica. It seems like everybody wants to be an English teacher!

The most recent inquiry comes from a man named Stan who studied abroad in Costa Rica and wants to come back. He asks enough questions to fill an entire book, including topics like employment dates and terms, best time of year to come, types of acceptable certificates for teaching English in Costa Rica, average salary, how long it takes to find a job, and “any and all practical details necessary to know how to go from the US to Costa Rica to teach English there for a year.”

English homework from a student in costa rica

Awesome student homework from the high school.

Well Stan, I’m not sure about that last one, but I’ll do my best to answer the rest!

Stan writes:

I’m very passionate about going back to Costa Rica and living there for a little while longer (up to a year) with my future wife. Since I’m not rich, I would probably need a job to be able to sustain while I live in CR and teaching English would be an excellent way to do so. For some background, I am currently a high school math and literacy teacher in the US.

Are there any teaching jobs that are 6 months long versus a full year (preferably in the dry season)? I think the semester lasts from January to almost July if I remember correctly. I really don’t want to have to endure the wet season if possible (but I totally will)!

There are so many different types of language schools in Costa Rica. I like to think of it like this – what you put in it is what you will get out of it.

Ideally schools want someone professional, well educated, with experience, who can commit to at least a year. For this, the school pays more, offers more benefits or perks (think Spanish lessons, work visa, paid vacation, CAJA, etc), offers a better schedule, and maybe even offers opportunities for advancement. This is a career.

Then you have the opposite of that – schools willing to employ English teachers with no experience, no certificate, and only a 3-month commitment. In exchange, the pay is minimal, the hours not guaranteed, the schedule most likely exactly when you don’t want to teach, and maybe the classes are off-site so there is travel involved. I don’t know what to call this.

Those are just examples and most definitely not an exhaustive list of opportunities and scenarios. A balance can be found. You have an advantage because you are already a teacher. A college probably wouldn’t want to hire you for only 6 months, but maybe you can work part time at a language institute.

And do you know what the average pay is for an English teacher in Heredia? I guess any and all practical details necessary for me to know how to go from the US to Costa Rica to teach English there for a year would be awesome.

Average pay for an English teacher is about $8 an hour. Working full time, you earn about $1000 a month which you will end up spending on food, rent, and transportation.

Any and all practical details to go from US to Costa Rica to teach English for a year. You are going to have to figure this one out for yourself, buddy. Sorry. I wish there was an easy one size fits all answer to your question. But then life wouldn’t be all that interesting, would it?

an almost ripe orange in an orange tree in costa rica

Save some of that money you earn by renting a place on some property with fruit trees!

Do you have a good idea of how long I would need to be living in Heredia before I would be likely to receive a job and a pay check?

The paycheck might take 2 weeks or a month to make it into your hand. Make sure to give yourself an entire half a day to cash that sucker once you get it. Seriously. To get a job? A lot of places hire on the spot, so you can get one as fast as you can find an interview, assuming you are qualified.

Do you know of any good TEFL certification programs that are more or less accepted by most schools in Heredia?

Yes, I do. You can get an online TEFL here: http://www.teflonline.com/delapuravida/ I’m working on finding the best schools on the ground here in Costa Rica. In the meantime, what you should know: most schools don’t care where the certificate came from as long as you are able to successfully demonstrate the skills learned in the certificate course. For example, skills like classroom management, lesson planning, grammar!!!, reading, writing, listening, speaking, teaching English to non-native speakers, etc. If any type of certificate is going to be discriminated against, it’s an online TEFL, but this would only be at certain schools with super high standards who are looking to hire teachers who are making a career out of teaching English to non-native speakers.

What are the typical dates of employment for English teaching positions in Heredia? (6 months or a full year?) so I know how to plan for this.

I have never heard of typical dates of employment for English teaching positions. The only thing they seem to have in common are federal holidays. You said earlier you want to try and avoid the rainy season (we are in a drought, by the way. It’s terrible. We go days without running water). So to avoid the rainy season, I would suggest you plan to come to Costa Rica in November, December, or January. September and October are the rainiest months of the year and things start to clear up in November. By the end of December, things are pretty dry.

Something else to consider: the work visa laws are getting stricter in Costa Rica. Shoot, all the laws are getting stricter. Things are getting more expensive, too. My advice to anyone who comes to Costa Rica to teach English – be flexible. This is a developing country and things change a lot. There are many people who do not enjoy living and working here, especially when faced with living paycheck to paycheck. Come with enough money to get yourself out of here in case you hate it or cannot find work.

Have questions? Drop them below in the comments or send me an email through the Contact page.

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15 Responses to “More FAQs about teaching English in Costa Rica”

  1. May 8, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Most interesting Erin. Especially given that A. I spent 20+ YEARS of my life as an int’l tour operator specializing in the wondrously beautiful land of Costa Rica, and B. I too am presently teaching EFL – albeit on a whole ‘nuther continent: Asia.

    Specifically, though my first thought when I decided to blow my U.S. of A. popsicle stand in favor of expatting and teaching EFL somewhere on the globe was of course, Costa Rica (as I know the entire country quite well and speak fluent Spanish from my years of doing business there). BUT…

    My research into various EFL pay around the world revealed that… yes, Costa Rica alas pays about 8 bucks while… here in Vietnam (after completing a CELTA – the gold standard of EFL – in Ho Chi Minh City), I started out (as an utterly new Teach, w/ absolutely no previous teaching experience) at $19 per hour. Needless to say, sweet – especially combined with the cheapo cost of living here.

    Nonetheless, I may still end up in (did I mention, fabulously beautiful, diverse, w/ the most kind and gracious Ticos and Ticas on the Planet?) Costa Rica, yet. As I have a small pension and choose only to do EFL part time so pay isn’t my utmost priority – after I’m finished gulping all the amazing lands here on this side of the globe (I’ve already done a month in Mongolia, Oz, Cambodia, Laos, etc.), I may well head to Costa Rica to settle down.

    Meanwhile – great stuff here – love you site! ;)

    • Erin Morris
      May 9, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      Well hello!
      You know, you bring up a really good point about the different pay grades around the globe for English teachers. In Costa Rica, you make enough to get by, you definitely aren’t going to be saving up tons of money or living a luxurious lifestyle. To be an English teacher here, you have to really want to be in Costa Rica. Like really really really want to be. Strong desire. Stroooong.

  2. Dave
    May 9, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Just wanted to say great job on answering the questions Erin!

    • Erin Morris
      May 9, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      Thanks Dave. I try. :)

  3. May 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    Hi Erin,

    Nice post! I’ve also been teaching English here. I started in 2006 as a 4-month sub for a teacher who had quit (I guess I should have taken that as a sign), but then signed on for a second year. Then I worked at Sykes teaching English, then in two places in Palmares.

    I agree with your hint that this can be a great place to live, but it may be a frustrating place to work, especially if you’re looking to teach. I’ve still had good experiences, but the labor law issues haven’t been among them. In fact, you mentioned work visas, and to be honest I’ve never even seen anyone who had one or claimed to have one. Even asking at Migracion in 2007, they said it wasn’t possible. Have things changed a lot since then?

    I got residency and then citizenship through marriage, so I know things may be different and it’s a bit of a moot point anyhow, but I’m just kind of curious.

    Keep up the good work!
    Ryan

    • Erin Morris
      May 23, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

      Thanks Ryan.
      Things have changed a lot since 2007 (in regards to visas). There are a lot of stories now of people only getting 10 or 40 or random amounts of days on entry instead of 90. Can you imagine being a teacher and coming back from your visa run to only get 10 days? Ridick.

      There are still a lot of teachers working on tourist visas, but because the gov’t is getting stricter, more schools are actually starting to sponsor work visas.
      It’s complicated, though, because the application process takes about 6 months to a year or more and most teachers do not teach longer than 6 months or a year. Why would a school or employee pay $1000+ for a visa they will only get once they are done working? Why would a school pay $1000+ for a visa for an employee they don’t even know yet? Unless the school can afford to pay a higher, globally competitive salary to someone they know will be qualified before they arrive, that system doesn’t work. Something has to change.

  4. July 2, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    Hi Erin,

    I love your blog and thank you for all of the information. I have a question about teacher pay for full time teachers in University language departments. I have a masters degree in applied linguistics and have been teaching English at the university level for many years. I lived and taught in Mexico and also was the director of an English language program for a Mexican University extension school in the States. I’ve also worked in English language programs in American universities.

    Do you have any information how often these type of positions open up and what the salary is. I will be moving to Costa Rica in November and will begin my search then.

    Thank you,
    Christina

    • Erin Morris
      July 5, 2013 at 10:41 am #

      I have a friend with a Masters in TESOL, experience coordinating programs in the States, but no experience in Latin America, and she was offered about 2000 USD a month to start at a University here. They left the invitation open, so that kinda tells me that if you have the creds and experience, you can get a job anytime. Pay can vary wildly among the universities, though – especially for teachers. Some Universities pay less than institutes and expect you to teach nights and weekends.

      Some of the International Schools pay 3000 – 4000 USD a month, but they won’t hire anyone already in Costa Rica. These are the best jobs here for people working in education. Highly competitive. The schools often follow US schedules, too, so you’ll get 3 months off in summer and a month in Dec/Jan. PAID.

  5. February 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    Thinking going to teach in South America for two years (in two different countries). This post makes me consider Costa Rica. I’ll do more research. :))

  6. alexandra arellano
    February 17, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    Hello Erin,
    I have enjoyed reading about your experiences teaching here in Costa Rica. Like you, I too am an English teacher living in San Pedro. I have been living in Costa Rica for over a year now and until recently, I was teaching at Berlitz. I had to return home to the States for a few weeks to deal with some family emergencies and therefore came back to find that I no longer had a job. I have been looking for another teaching position for the last month or so, to no avail thus far. I have exhausted sites such as Dave’s ESL Cafe, Craigslist, Tico Times, La Nacion and other ESL teaching websites. I guess what I am inquiring about would be if you are aware of any schools or institutes that may be hiring English teachers right now. I have my bachelor’s degree and TESOL certification. Thanks in advance for any help you may be able to provide.

    Cheers,
    Alexandra

    • Erin Morris
      March 1, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

      Sorry to hear that! You might want to check out Maximo Nivel – I think they are looking. And they are also in San Pedro.

  7. Jocelyn
    May 3, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    Hi Erin!

    Wow thanks so much for all of the info on your website – it’s been really informative! My husband is a primary teacher (but with no international experience) and was offered a job at an international school in the Central Valley for $1,600 a month. Do you know if this is an average wage? Like I said, this is his first international post so I think that landing a job at an international school was lucky. The great thing is, he gets 13 weeks of paid holidays!

    I am coming with him and am planning on also working, hopefully teaching English. I have two undergraduate degrees (from Australia and South Africa) an am a native English speaker (I do not have a TESOL/TEFL certificate but am looking into one!)

    I am really only interested in teaching English to help us live in Costa Rica, as my husband will already have a job there. My question is, do you know if I can find a job that is flexible with hours and dates? One of the big reasons that we want to live in Costa Rica is obviously to travel and see the beautiful country! So I will be disappointed if I get a job and they do not allow me to take time off when my husband is on school holidays.

    Thanks, and I hope that my post makes sense!

    • Erin Morris
      May 3, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

      That seems kind of low BUT I’ve heard wages have gone down for teachers and maybe that is just a starting salary for someone with no international experience. $1600 a month is good here. For one person.
      International schools are the only ones offering long vacations, and the others are super strict about not allowing teachers to take off days even for being sick. It’s ridiculous. Maybe you can get a job at the same school?

  8. Katherine
    July 9, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    I’m an older gal; 54. I’ve noticed that several of the certification sites have an age ceiling anywhere from 40-45. One site suggested that if you are over 54 to contact the embassy. When I investigated it was in Spanish (of course). Do you have any information for us older workers who are healthy, active and willing to relocate to CR?
    Thank you!
    Katherine

    • Erin Morris
      July 10, 2014 at 11:52 am #

      Most of the people I know here over 40 are retired or in journalism. …I think there were some retired people teaching part time at Pro-Language if I remember correctly.

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