Are you looking for a career change while travelling abroad? Are you a teacher of English as a foreign language looking for a new destination? Whatever the reason, Costa Rica is one of the most popular destinations for teaching English abroad.
Let’s see why.
‘Pura vida’ – the Costa Rican philosophy
Living in the moment, appreciating every detail that each new day brings, and a carefree, slow-paced lifestyle – this is what ‘pura vida’ means for the people in Costa Rica. But ‘pura vida’ is not just a phrase – it’s a true way of life; it’s the way the Costa Ricans (known as Ticos) live their lives, in a relaxed and simple manner.
Breathtaking beaches, majestic volcanoes, and extensive biodiversity make Costa Rica a magical place to visit and explore.
In Costa Rica, spending a day on the beach offers the perfect opportunity to relax, go surfing, and whale watching.
If adventure trips appeal to you, Costa Rica is home to the Poas volcano, which has one of the largest craters in the world, and it’s still active! Or you could visit the Irazu volcano, the highest in the country with its five craters – an ideal spot for astonishing views.
To feel in contact with nature, head to one of the many national parks Costa Rica has to offer. Thanks to its geographical position, this country presents a wide variety of climates: don’t be surprised to find rainforest, beaches and coral reefs all at the Manuel Antonio National Park!
The locals are very proud of their territory and strive to protect it. A quarter of their country has been declared a protected area.
Although the economy of Costa Rica has been stable for a few years and it has seen some increase in the Gross Domestic Product, the unemployment rate is still very high, especially among older adults. In their pursuit of a better lifestyle, Costa Ricans have been working towards better English language skills. After all, in trades such as technology, finance, tourism and business, English is the language used to communicate internationally.
Finding teaching jobs in Costa Rica
To teach English in Costa Rica, you need to have a near-native proficiency level and a TEFL qualification. Generally speaking, in Central America you have to be already in the country to be hired – an in-person interview is a must. When you get there, call to arrange an interview with the institution(s) of your choice.
Most teaching jobs can be found in the country’s major cities like Cartago, Heredia, and San Jose, the capital. If you would like to teach children, the best time of the year to look for a job is between October and December, when most teaching contracts end. On the other hand, if you prefer to teach adults, you should be able to find a job at any time of the year.
Teaching jobs in Costa Rica
As a teacher of English as a foreign language, you have a range of options.
- Private language schools are the most popular teaching option in Costa RIca. These schools will often have a curriculum in place and provide you with coursebooks and teaching materials.
- Business English courses are often organised by private language schools and are designed to accommodate the needs of professionals. This means that you’ll be teaching early in the morning or late in the evening, before or after students’ working hours.
- University teaching positions are the most sought after, so there’s a lot of competition. Universities are likely to require you to have some teaching experience and to hold a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate.
- Private tutoring is a good option to supplement your salary. In Costa Rica, private lessons are usually one-to-one classes; therefore you could set a higher hourly rate. You could even become your own boss. This would grant you a lot of flexibility, but you would need to find your own students, which could be a challenge.
- Volunteer teaching programmes allow you to teach English in primary and secondary schools, in community centres and orphanages. Volunteers work from Monday to Friday for up to 6 hours a day delivering their own lessons as well as assisting the children’s local teacher. With them, you’ll be able to teach English in Costa Rica methods that are specific to the TEFL industry.
Although some institutions are stricter than others, most language schools will let the teacher decide what classroom rules to follow. Despite having a relaxed approach to life, Ticos take great pride in their appearance and wear smart/casual clothes for work and school. You, as a teacher, are not expected to wear a tie everyday for work, but you can’t get away with a t-shirt and jeans in the classroom.
Because of the country’s laid-back approach, any kind of paperwork takes a long time to be processed – keep this in mind when you apply for your work visa. Your employer must sponsor your visa, which is expensive. They might be less likely to hire you if you are planning on staying less than a year.
Your visa is valid for six months from the date of issue but it is renewable. Both the department of immigration and the work department have to approve your request.
In order to apply, you must submit a statement from the institution that will be hiring you together with several documents, such as copies of your birth certificate, passport, qualifications etc.).
You will also need a statement of good conduct from the police and you should submit to a background check by the Ministry of Security of Costa Rica.
The Social Security office will need to verify that you have no outstanding debts or financial obligations.
With a range of exciting TEFL opportunities, wonderful places to explore, and a relaxed way of living, Costa Rica is one of the happiest places on Earth. It is definitely worth considering when choosing your next teaching destination abroad.