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: (updated: link not available anymore, but you can Google online TEFL courses) 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.