Teaching English in Colombia: A Guide [updated for 2023]
Ever wondered about teaching English in Colombia? While it hasn’t had the greatest reputation in the past, Colombia is fast becoming a sought after place for TEFL teachers because of the relatively good salaries compared to the cost of living and the number of people teaching English in Medellin and Bogota is increasing.
A few years ago, Anny from Anny’s Adventures did a useful interview about her experiences as an English teacher in Colombia. Time has passed since then, things have changed, Covid happened etc. so another expert on teaching English in Colombia, Matthew Cleary, has helped with an update, including requirements and recommended schools and English teaching jobs in Colombia.
Why teach English in Colombia?
Colombia is an amazing country. Within a one hour flight you arrive in a completely different landscape, from Caribbean coast and beaches, Amazon rainforest, desert, flat plains, mountainous cities, mountainous countryside, Pacific coast, jungle and more. Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and it’s proximity to the equator means it has no seasons. The temperature varies only between altitude, the higher in the mountains the cooler the weather. Colombia’s food is amazing, fresh and locally produced and its people are among the friendliest in the world.
What kind of English teaching jobs are there in Colombia?
There are a large number of job opportunities to teach English in Colombia. Large and small cities as well as rural towns hire international English teachers. At the time of this writing, due to the pandemic, there is a shortage of international teachers in Colombia. Every school is required to teach English at a low or intermediate level, which has created a large demand for teachers in public schools. Colombia’s major cities have a large number of private fee-paying schools, the majority of which teach English at a high level as well as other languages. A number of these private schools are international.
Colombia is also a rapidly developing country with a large number of multinational businesses establishing their headquarters in the capital city of Bogota and the second largest city of Medellin. These companies pay English institutions to teach English for employees, to be able to communicate with other branches around the world. While these aren’t usually full-time jobs, there is a high demand for these classes and teachers can create a full-time schedule working in different companies with the help of companies that organize such employment.
Which cities/areas are most of the English teaching jobs in Colombia in?
The majority of the English teaching jobs in Colombia are in the largest cities of Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga and Cartagena. There are jobs in rural towns as well, which often offer more money and benefits such as free housing.
Teaching English in Bogota
The capital of Colombia, Bogota, is the third highest capital in the World. It’s surrounded by the Andes mountains, meaning opportunities for hiking and mountain biking. The world-class architecture, cultural events and fantastic food makes it a great place to live. As a huge city, it has a lot of opportunities to teach English in schools, language schools and doing private classes.
The size of Bogota can mean you have a long commute. The traffic is busy and the transport system is not great, so you can spend a lot of your day traveling. As many jobs involve teaching business English, which means teaching people before and after work, this can be early starts in the morning as you trek across the city for a 7am class.
Teaching English in Medellin
The second largest city in Colombia, Medellin is really popular these days with digital nomads and teaching English in Medellin is becoming increasingly popular. It’s a good travel hub with easy access to Bogota and Cali and is known as the City of Flowers because it is so green. Many people choose to live there for the year-round spring climate and relatively low cost of living.
Teaching English in Cartegena
If you prefer the coast, you may be interested in becoming an English teacher in Cartegena, in the north of Colombia. As a colonial city by the beach, it is popular with expats so there may be more competition for English teaching jobs there.
What are the typical semesters?
Colombian schools have two school calendars A and B. Calendar A starts at the end of January and has four academic periods: the year ends in November and there are breaks for Easter, in June and July and a week in October. Public schools tend to use calendar A.
Calendar B schools begin the year at the beginning of September and finish in June with holidays in December, Easter and October. Calendar B schools tend to be private schools.
Teaching institutes tend to have a 6 or 7-week break over December and January as businesses take a while to get back to work at the start of the year. Colombia is a country with one of the highest number of public holidays, throughout the year they have over 16 public holidays – on Mondays and special occasions.
What’s the salary range and how does it compare to the cost of living?
Salaries for English teachers in Colombia are usually between 2 and 6 million pesos a month. Apartments are usually well under a million pesos and a room within a house can be found for as low as 250,000 pesos a month. There are jobs in international schools that pay higher, but usually these positions are only in Medellin or Bogota and are quite competitive, often requiring a BEd or PGCE and experience with American or British curricula.
The cost of living in Colombia is low, food, doctor and dentist visits, public transportation and other day to day activities are very inexpensive.
What qualifications do you need to teach English in Colombia?
To teach English in Colombia the majority of companies and schools require a bachelor’s degree, although it not compulsory. Schools prefer to hire experienced teachers, but they will train new employees.
To gain a job with one of Colombia’s many English teaching institutions a TEFL certificate is acceptable, although not always required. Teaching institutions such as the British Council or International House and Universities often require a CELTA/Trinity certTESOL qualification at minimum, meaning a course that includes assessed teaching practice.
Schools also like candidates that have experience beyond teaching, as many schools now use the CLIL method and hire international teachers for classes such as religion, ethics and values, natural science and social science.
If you’re wondering what all these courses are, you can read our post on qualifications for teaching English.
What visas/work permits do you need as an English teacher in Colombia?
To work as an English teacher in Colombia you are required to gain an M working visa. These can be issued for 1 year or up to 3 years depending on contracts. An M visa is straightforward to apply for and all that is required is information about the company and your experience. The cost is around a million pesos, ($282 USD at the time of writing).
In addition to this with any Colombian visa, you are required to gain a Colombian identity card called a Cedula which costs 220.000 pesos. This card allows individuals to open bank accounts and acts as a general ID.
Most schools and institutions will handle the visa process completely, cover all the costs, and send a detailed list of what is required from the applicant such as an apostille of degree, proof of experience, passport information, etc. It is recommended to have your apostille ready prior to entering Colombia in order to speed up the process.
Is there a maximum age for teachers to teach English in Colombia?
There is no maximum age for English teachers in Colombia, but the majority of teachers are aged between 20 and 30 in institutes and in schools the teachers are generally older due to the experienced needed to gain the job.
Can non-native speakers teach in Colombia?
In Colombia, native and non-native speakers are employed to teach English. Schools do not discriminate between teachers from native and non-native English speaking countries. If you are a qualified teacher with a good level of English, then Colombia is a good place for you to work.
Read stories of other teachers working abroad and how they started out in English teaching, including many non-native speakers, in our New Teacher Tales blog interviews.
What is peak season for hiring English teachers in Colombia?
The schools and Universities peak season for hiring are in November to start in January or May/June to start in August/September. Language Institutes hire teachers all year round.
Ensure success when applying for a job teaching English in Colombia with our advice on how to write TEFL c.v.s and covering letters.
How do most people find work teaching English in Colombia?
Most people find jobs on the internet or through word of mouth. Minga House is a good place to start. They have a jobs board with different types of positions, as well as connections with an organisation to volunteer with. There is a Facebook page called English teachers in Colombia which regularly has job advertisements and recommendations.
For our recommendations on where we find work as English teachers, read our post: Where to find good ESL jobs abroad.
Newbies can start out as English teachers in Colombia by taking their initial TEFL course there. International House run the CELTA course in Medellin, and have contacts with schools for after your course. International TEFL Academy has many graduates teaching English in Medellin, Cali and other locations in Colombia through their contacts with various private schools and programs. You can find out more about their courses through the banner below:
If you are a British citizen or have the right to work in the UK, TEFL company Gotoco has two programs for English teachers in Colombia. Their six month teaching fellowship provides free TEFL training, which can be a Trinity certTESOL, flights, accommodation and a stipend to pay for food. The Teaching Sojorn program gives a six week teaching placement, which also includes a TEFL course, flights, accommodation and food. You don’t need a degree to take part in this, and it’s a great way to start your teaching career.
What schools do you recommend working for?
It is recommended to find a city that makes you happy first, whether it is large or small and coastal or mountainous. Then from there, look at the private schools in the city or those within an affiliate corporation such as Redcol.
If you have a CELTA or Trinity certTESOL, a CEFR C2 level of English and some teaching experience, The British Council employs hourly paid teachers and sometimes offers contracts. With the same qualifications, you could also try International House, who have schools in Bogota and Medellin. International House employ directly and through their worldwide jobs site. Both of these are language schools so you can expect to be teaching a wide range of ages and levels.
Colombio Americano in Medellin is a large school group with seven schools across the city catering to young learners, teenagers and adults. They employ teachers with teaching qualifications and a minimum of a B2 level of English. In return, they provide a monthly salary, living stipend, medical coverage and air fares. They also pay for your work visa
For K-12 style schools, Anglo Colombiano employs expat teachers with a teaching qualification and a minimum of 3 years teaching in ‘reputable’ schools. They offer a two year contract with housing, health and visa support as well as 12 weeks’ holiday per year.
If you have experience teaching in international schools with the IB curriculum and a C1 level of English The English School is also private school with a good reputation. They offer 2 year contracts with a housing allowance, health insurance, visa and flights.
Another option for new teachers from the UK is to work on a language assistant scheme in Colombia, similar to those that are popular in Spain. The British Council pairs with an organisation to place English speakers in government schools to improve the English level. You will usually be working alongside a local teacher to help out with the language lessons. You need to have a C2 level of English, have A levels or the equivalent and have B1 level of Spanish. So if you have lived in the UK for 5 years out of the last 10, you do not need to have a degree or be a native English speaker to be an English teacher in Colombia under this scheme.
Have we inspired you to look into teaching English in Colombia further? Let us know how it goes.
If you are interested in other countries, check out our country and city guides with information on teaching in many other places around the World including Vietnam, Thailand, Spain and Australia
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