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Home / Teach English in Costa Rica the Complete Guide for TEFL Teachers | Reviewed May 2022

Tefl Jobs In Costa Rica

There is so much on offer for English teachers in Costa Rica. It is a stunning landscape that combines white sandy beaches, lively cities and the most amazing rainforests. You will find that there are lots of vacancies for English teachers in Costa Rica, giving you a great experience and the chance to earn money while following your passion.

Because tourism is one of the largest industries in Costa Rica, English teachers are required to help locals improve their skills and get jobs. The higher the English skills, the more they will be able to earn, so they are committed and keen to learn. Comparatively, the salaries on offer for English teachers in Costa Rica are lower than you may be used to, but this is all relative, and your cost of living is much cheaper, so you can easily afford to live and work and have a small amount left over to spoil yourself.

It is likely that an English teaching job in Costa Rica will be in one of the cities, but there is still plenty of scopes to get out and explore places like Corcovado National Park or head to the Pacific coast to surf. The public transport system of Costa Rica is very cheap to use, if not the most modern. Costa Rica is also doing incredibly well at managing environmental issues, with 25% of the country being protected.

In this guide, you will find everything you need to know about starting a career as an English teacher in Costa Rica. Learn where to find work, the cost of living, the culture and etiquette, and plenty more so you can decide whether it’s time to head on your next English teaching adventure abroad.

Job types

Private Language Schools

There are plenty of vacancies on offer in private language schools for English teachers in Costa Rica. Generally, this will be working with adults who are seeking to better their English speaking skills however, occasionally, you will get younger pupils after school hours. It’s the most flexible way to work, as they are generally open during the day, weekends and evenings, so hopefully, you can set up a schedule that works for you. Depending on how many hours you are offered, it is common for English teachers in Costa Rica private language schools to have more than one contract and change venue during the week.

Private Bilingual and International Schools

Higher paying opportunities are on offer at private bilingual and international schools however you must also have a certain level of qualification in order to apply. You will be required to have your bachelor’s degree, demonstrate previous experience as a teacher, your TEFL qualification and, in some cases, a teaching license in your home country. These prestigious establishments will also offer extra benefits to their teachers, including a living stipend. You may well find these jobs advertised on the Internet and start the application process before travelling out to the country. It is not possible to get one of these high-paying jobs if you do not meet the qualification criteria.

Private Tutoring

If you have secured work but do not feel that the income will be enough, you can look into private tutoring. Most language schools are happy for you to take this on as a second income. It will take some time for you to get your name known in the area, and you may also be competing with other English teachers in Costa Rica who have the same idea. Another alternative is to teach English online, and the Internet connection tends to be good enough for you to be able to do this however, while you may be able to work at some of the language schools on a tourist visa, you cannot teach privately without the correct work visa. The process for obtaining a work visa is quite arduous if you are planning to stay in Costa Rica as an English teacher for any length of time, it is advisable.

Finding a job

Finding work in Latin American countries tends to be easiest in person. Although you may find vacancies online, most institutions like to interview candidates in person. So, if you have the time to go out and take a wander with your CV and qualification paperwork, you are likely to find a vacancy and be recalled for an interview a couple of days later. You may find details of vacancies using online job boards, but again in-person interviews are definitely the way they prefer to hire their staff.

Qualifications

A lot of countries in South America, including Costa Rica, will offer work to people who only have a TEFL certification. Some positions are limited because the applicant will need a degree or teaching license, but it is perfectly likely that you will find work without this. Of course, you need to be proficient in speaking English if it is not your native language, but in order to obtain your TEFL in theory, you would have already proven your competency.  The primary language in Costa Rica is Spanish, there is no requirement for English teachers in Costa Rica to speak Spanish, but of course, it will help your transition and help you fit into your local community if you have some basic Spanish skills.

Visa Requirements for English Teachers in Costa Rica

For short-term work, it is possible to teach English in Costa Rica on a tourist Visa. However, if you plan to stay for any length of time, you will need to obtain a work permit. There is a lot of documentation involved, and it is not the easiest process however, many schools will help. You will need copies of all of your documentation, including your passport, birth certificate, marriage is difficult if applicable, as well as all of your qualifications. Obtaining a work permit requires sponsorship from a school or company, but that will come once you are offered a job. You also need to be able to demonstrate that you have no criminal records and adequate finances to support you. There is also a requirement that you are background checked by the Costa Rican Ministry of Security.

Need to know

The government mandates that children as young as primary age are taught English in the classroom. So this has seen an upsurge in skills and standards over the last few years. However, the teaching of children is usually undertaken by local teachers, and there aren’t vacancies as such for English teachers in Costa Rica unless you are a local. However, there are lots of vacancies in the adult sector for people who were not taught English as a child.

Many people dream of teaching English in Costa Rica along its amazing and impressive coastline, but sadly, they’re not that many jobs to be found around that area. Central Valley is the more likely place to find work and San Jose, which is the capital city, has the biggest chance of finding work. The only downside to living and working in San Jose is the cost of living which is higher than in other areas, but if you have good qualifications, you can secure a higher-paid position.

Both San Pedro and Heredia are smaller cities found close to San Jose, and these both have universities located within them. If you happen to have a Master’s degree and can find one of the prestigious jobs on offer at the universities, you would do well to hang onto it. For people without a Master’s degree, these cities are still great places to look for work because many students will be looking to improve their English therefore, the demand for private tutoring is great, and sensibly there are plenty of English language schools dotted around the area.

Other places that have good private language school coverage and, therefore, a lot of opportunities for English teachers in Costa Rica include Puerto Limo, Cartago, and Alajuela.

Culture and Living in Costa Rica

One of the main attractions of teaching English in Costa Rica is the lifestyle, as the positions are not the best paid. But do remember that everything is comparable, and although you are not paid as much as you may expect, the cost of living is significantly lower. Primarily your pupils will be adults, although there is some scope to work with children. Often you will find business professionals who need to improve their English skills for work purposes.

Latin America does not have the best reputation for safety, however, Costa Rica is one of the safer countries in the area. As with any area, some of the onus on staying safe is on you, so do not travel alone at night, be careful of pickpockets and keep your bag close to you, and be sure that you are not seen showing off expensive jewellery or gadgets.

Classroom & work culture

Most jobs in language schools or bilingual schools require you to observe a smart casual business dress. If you happen to have a volunteer position or are tutoring privately, it is, of course, up to you what you wear, but you do have an image to present. You will find that your students are engaged and willing to learn, and the classroom is a friendly and welcoming environment for new teachers.

Culture & etiquette tips

The Costa Rican locals are a very laid-back community. Nothing rushes along, everyone is very mellow, and it is a lifestyle known as Pura Vida, which means pure life in Spanish. Costa Rica is an excellent place to teach English as it is one of the happiest places in the whole world.

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LIVING COSTS

Out of all the countries in Central America, Costa Rica is the wealthiest. However, this does not necessarily equate with high pay, and English teachers in Costa Rica may find the pay less than they hoped. If you live in the capital city, then you will be facing the highest living costs, but of course, relatively, this is also where you can earn the most money. Generally, living and working in Costa Rica is a balancing out that works out fine for most people.

There are two distinct seasons in Costa Rica, and during the rainy season, you may want to join the locals in spending time on indoor pursuits. There are plenty of museums, craft beer and local brewery tours, spa days, or just hanging around chatting with friends in coffee shops. One thing that is worth getting wet for is spotting turtles who like to come out during the rainy season. Public transport links are very good, so you can get pretty much anywhere, and they don’t cost much money. It is always cheaper to use buses, not taxis.

When the weather dries up, the outside becomes much more accessible, and beaches are very popular with ex-pats and locals alike. It’s also a great place to try out some local cuisine with famous dishes including rice beans, onions, red peppers, and cilantro known as Gallo Pinto, a slow-cooked stew called olla de carne, rice and pork topped with avocado, chimichurri and lime, which is known as chiifijo and many other amazing local delicacies.

In order to provide the most accurate cost of living figures, we use numbeo.com, the world’s largest cost of living database, updated regularly.

  • Accommodation: £539–£674/$620–$774/€620-€774
  • Utilities: £44/$52/€52
  • Health insurance: Cost of a typical visit to a GP: £54/$66/€66
  • Monthly transport pass: £25/$34/€32
  • Basic dinner out for two: £15/$22/€20
  • Cappuccino in ex-patt area: £2.49/$3.49/€3.24
  • A beer in a pub: £1.64/$2.30/€2.20
  • 1 litre of milk: £0.97/$1.37/€1.30
  • 2 litres of Coca-Cola: £1.80/$2.52/€2.44

Tefl Jobs In Costa Rica: KEY POINTS

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AVERAGE SALARY

$500–$800

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EDUCATION NEEDED

Bachelors degree

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TEFL CERTIFICATE NEEDED

120-hour TEFL qualification

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MAIN JOB TYPES

Public & private schools

KEY FACTS

  • Popular locations for TEFL jobs: Heredia, Cartago, San Jose, Alajuela, Puntarenas, and Limon
  • The average salary for EFL teachers: The basic monthly salary for full-time positions is likely to be in the region of 300,00-615,000 colones (£300–£700/$345-$810/€345-€810) per month. Positions are often advertised with an hourly wage, around 4,000–5,500 colones (£5–£6/$7–$9/€7–€9) per hour.
  • TEFL qualification requirements: A 120-hour TEFL qualification will be required for most positions
  • Prerequisite university degree: Required for most positions
  • Term times: March 1st–December 1st
  • Currency: Colon
  • Language: Spanish
  • Teaching programmes: Voluntary, Language Schools, Business English, and International Schools
  • Age restrictions: None
  • Previous teaching experience: Required for most positions but not impossible without.

Facts about Teach English in Costa Rica the Complete Guide for TEFL Teachers | Reviewed May 2022

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LANGUAGE

Spanish

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POPULATION

50.9 million

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TEFL TEACHER DEMAND

High

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CURRENCY

Costa Rican colón

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CAPITAL

San José

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OUR COSTA RICA TEFL RATING

3.5/5

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Tefl Jobs In Costa Rica: FAQS

Q:

How much can I earn as an English teacher in Costa Rica?

Living and working as an English teacher in Costa Rica means you should be earning in the region of £300–£700/$345-$810/€345-€810 per month.

Out of all the countries in Central America, Costa Rica is the wealthiest. However, this does not necessarily equate with high pay, and English teachers in Costa Rica may find the pay less than they hoped.

Yes, you can teach English in Costa Rica without a bachelor’s degree. A TEFL certification is mandated, and for some positions, a degree will be necessary however you can find plenty of work without it.

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