Located on the southern border of Brazil along the Atlantic coast and bordered by Argentina to the west, Uruguay is an attractive prospect when it comes to teaching English in South America.
Economically, the country is in a great period of growth after a slow start to the new century, which was mainly brought on by the troubles in its larger neighbor, Argentina. The country has a temperate climate and is graced with some beautiful natural beaches and bays, along with exquisite colonial and modern architecture. To most people, Uruguay is primarily known for football, hosting and winning the inaugural FIFA World Cup in 1930 and then winning a second time in Brazil in 1950.
Visas & Qualifications
For those looking to travel to Uruguay, entry for 90 days is available on arrival for citizens of most North and South American countries, as well as European countries. For a small fee this can then be extended up to 180 days upon request. A permit is needed to work in the country, however, and this is usually looked after by the employer.
Most prospective English teachers should at least try to have a TEFL Certificate or a degree upon arrival. Like most places, experience goes a long way in Uruguay also. Also, the higher the qualifications (e.g. The IWeb TEFL Certificate Course, CELTA) and the number of years experience, the quicker the chances of landing a well paying job at a quality school. Those with a full teaching qualification from their own country along with experience will generally find it easiest to land the better positions.
Uruguay, particularly the capital Montevideo, is home to numerous international schools, which are where applicants with the highest qualifications should start.
Although it might be a good idea to email ahead and let schools know that you will be arriving, the best chance to find work comes when you are actually in the country itself. This is best done by visiting the schools in person and asking to see the head or DoS. Applicants should dress smartly in order to give an impression of professionalism and be in possession of an up to date TEFL/TESOL CV/Résumé, along with their relevant certificates and degrees. Copies of these should also be made so that they can be left with the school. If the head or DOS is unavailable, try to make an appointment or come back later, as dropping C.V.’s off with administration staff is usually of little value.
Pay & Conditions
Salaries in Uruguayan language schools and centers are quite low by international standards, mainly varying between $500 USD (€396, £318) and $1000 USD (€791, £636) a month on average. Greater experience or specialization in certain areas such as Business English could result in a higher income, however.
For teachers at international schools, the pay is considerably higher, reaching as high as $2500 USD (€1978, £1591) in major cities like Montevideo.
The relatively low salary is offset somewhat by the low cost of living, but English teachers should not expect to save a lot of money teaching in Uruguay if they mean to maintain a comfortable lifestyle.
Teaching hours are usually between 8.00 or 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. with a break of varying length depending on the school in the middle. Weekend work or working on call is also a strong possibility.
By all accounts, teaching in Uruguay is a real pleasure due to the open and friendly students, and those seeking a South American experience with a difference should certainly look into one of the continent’s lesser known gems.