A good level of English is amongst the requirements of many employers in Costa Rica, consequently Costa Ricans attend English courses on regular basis to improve their chances of landing a good job. Needless to say this creates a demand for English teachers.
English lessons are compulsory in primary schools and a priority elsewhere.
Requirements & Conditions
As for qualifications, a degree and a TEFL Certificate are the usual requirements and will help get more when it comes to negotiating your salary. If you apply from abroad then you definitely need both qualifications to feature in your resume to get through the first screening stage.
If you are in country (especially in remote areas) then there’s a chance you’ll be able to find work without the usual qualifications, however most employers will like to see some proof of your teaching ability and will often ask for a TEFL certificate or a sample lesson at least. In Costa Rica you will definitely find that the less schools ask of their teachers, the less they will treat them!
If you are a native English speaker and are properly qualified then finding a teaching job in Costa Rica is fairly easy, particularly if you happen to be already in the country. Here walking in on a school on spec will yield good results and be prepared to be hired on the spot. Look smart, be friendly but act professionally, and you are sure to make an impression on your potential employer. In fact, most jobs are found this way and it’s only occasionally that jobs will be advertised outside the country.
Often schools will require a work permit however these are notoriously difficult to get and cost $350 USD (€277, £223) each year. Some schools include this in their job offer; many schools do without with teachers working on a tourist visa and doing a regular visa run every 90 across the border to renew it.
Most jobs are teaching Business English.
Wages and Cost of Living
As a teacher you should expect a workload of between 20 to 25 hrs per week. On average the hourly rate is $6 USD (€5, £4) but business classes are paid slightly more.
The average pay is around $500 USD (€396, £318) to $1000 USD (€791, £636) per month depending on the hours you work. This seemingly low pay is actually enough to support yourself. To give you an idea of the cost of living in Costa Rica accommodation runs to about $350 USD (€277, £223) per month. This is for an unfurnished apartment. If you want it furnished then it may be up to $550 USD (€435, £350).
Average households bills (water, electricity, cell phone and apartment land line) amount to an average of $30 USD (€24, £19) per month. Food and drink will set you back just a few dollars for each meal and supermarket prices for local produce is very low. Imported produce is higher but still about 30% cheaper than in the US.
Generally speaking anything imported is expensive; anything local is at least 30% less than the US. Your teaching salary will allow you to enjoy a few of the perks that being in such a wonderful nature’s paradise offers but you won’t have much left to put aside. If you are planning on visiting the nearby countries then you might want to come equipped with a few thousand US dollars to spend.
Private health insurance is around $45 USD (€36, £29) per month. Some schools include this in their job offer.
The hiring season starts in January, with the school year beginning at the end of January and ending in early December. Schools usually wait until they have a good idea of how many students they can expect to register in their courses and then they start looking for teachers. The next big opening for jobs is in April, when some teachers leave and head back home for the summer. A few jobs become available in September, but after September, it is difficult to get hired until the following January.
Having said this, the situation is such that if you turn up almost any time of year and are prepared to put yourself about looking for work then you should be able to find something.
Costa Rica’s Central Valley is where the majority of teaching jobs are, with San Jose, the capital city, being the prime location in terms of number of schools. San Jose though is not necessarily the best place to live so you might consider looking for work in the smaller surrounding cities such as Heredia, Alajuela, and Cartago.