Teaching Programs in Costa Rica
Guide to teaching English in Costa Rica
Costa Rica boasts thriving biodiversity, active volcanoes, and lush rainforests making this destination a fantastic choice for adventure travel as well as teaching English!
Interested in becoming an English teacher in Costa Rica? We’ve got you covered! Keep reading to learn more about the types of teaching jobs, average salaries and benefits, and how to get an ESL teaching job in Costa Rica!
Types of teaching jobs in Costa Rica
Teachers in Costa Rica will have a range of options when it comes to working in schools. These jobs will vary in their requirements, benefits, and workloads. Regardless of the type of English teaching job you're interested in though, it is recommended that you're TEFL certified.
- Private Language Schools: As the most popular Costa Rica teaching job, private language schools offer an abundance of opportunities. Generally, the school will provide you with the teaching curriculum, as well as any textbooks and materials needed to teach your classes.
- International School: International schools pay more but also require a higher amount of contact hours and admin work (grading, assigning homework, and so on) outside of school. Teachers interested in working at an international school typically need a teaching license from their home country and previous experience.
- Universities: Landing a job teaching English at a university in Costa Rica is significantly more competitive. Typically, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in English, TEFL, or education.and a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certification, such as TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA. Having teaching experiences and a master’s degree will likely be preferred by many employers.
- Private tutoring: Private tutoring is a good option for English teachers who want flexibility. You can teach young students, and language institutes offer business-level English classes in Costa Rica to help adults develop English skills within corporate environments. However, you will have to build up your own clientele, which can prove difficult in a new country. You can take on private lessons to supplement your other teaching income as long as it doesn’t violate the contract with your school.
Average salary and benefits for teaching English in Costa Rica
On average, an English teacher's monthly salary in Costa Rica is between $600-$1,000 USD. While less than the average wage in the US, Costa Rica has a lower cost of living, so your salary goes a long way. If you want to supplement your income, many English teachers take on private students or teach English online.
- Private Language Schools: English teachers in Costa Rica can earn between $600 to $1,000 USD per month teaching at a private school in Costa Rica.
- International schools: International schools will typically pay towards the higher salary range when it comes to teaching in Costa Rica. Teachers at an international school can earn upwards of $1,000-$2,000 USD per month.
- Universities: Teaching English at a university in Costa Rica will typically pay more for fewer hours. English teachers in Costa Rican universities typically earn around $1000 USD per month.
- Private tutoring: Your hours and salary per hour may vary week to week when private tutoring. What you charge for private tutoring will depend on your qualifications, experience, negotiating skills, and also who you will be tutoring. Business professionals are likely to pay more for English for specific purposes (ESP) training than students will for general English training.
Cost of living in Costa Rica
You can live comfortably on an English teacher’s salary in Costa Rica if you are not too lavish with your budget. Here is a list of common expenses and their average cost in Costa Rica:
- Housing: $300 to $600 USD
- Food: $150-$300 USD
- Transportation: $20-$70USD.
Where to teach English in Costa Rica
In addition to the capital San José which offers a range of opportunities for those who want to teach English in Costa Rica, there are many locations around the country that are enticing for teachers.
The most popular area in Costa Rica to teach English is the capital, San José. This is where you will find most opportunities to teach English in Costa Fica and also the highest salaries through private institutions, international schools, and universities looking to hire TEFL certified English teachers.
Located on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, English teachers may be drawn to Limon due to the lack of tourists and lower cost of living. Limón is home to beautiful coastlines and a quiet and laid-back lifestyle. Prospective teachers should note that the salary for teaching English in Costa Rica is likely to be far lower in this area.
Rife with colonial architecture, coffee plantations, and natural formations such as volcanoes and waterfalls, Heredia is a location which will keep English teachers busy during their free time. Known as the city of flowers, Heredia is the perfect balance between lively city amenities and the relaxation of rural Costa Rica.
As the first Spanish colonial settlement in Costa Rica, Cartago is full of history and was the capital of Costa Rica until 1823. Situated only 30 minutes outside of San Josél, it is a great option for those who want to experience life in a smaller city while not being too far from the amenities of San José.
Sprawling with natural wonders and rich biodiversity, Monteverde lies 2 hours outside the capital and is the perfect destination for English teachers in Costa Rica who want to spend their free time close to nature. Opportunities to teach English may be harder to find here than in major cities like San Jose.
How to teach English in Costa Rica
In order to teach English in Costa Rica, you will need to be a native or native-level English speaker. If you are not a passport holder from a country recognized as English-speaking, you will need to prove your fluency through a test such as IELTS. While a bachelor’s degree or TEFL certificate are not a legal requirement, these will help boost your employability and salary when teaching English in Costa Rica.
- Search for jobs: In order to find a job teaching English in Costa Rica, many teachers arrive in-country to search in-person, however, you can also find opportunities online beforehand through third-party programs or with the help of recruiters.
- Submit your application: The school year in Costa Rica typically begins in early February. While some private academies hire all year round, most don't. The best time to start your job search is between October and December.
- Prepare for the interview: You should be prepared to answer a range of questions commonly linked to TEFL jobs. Not only should you be ready to explain why you are a valuable asset to the school and why you would thrive in Costa Rica, you should be prepared to ask your interviewer questions to show your seriousness in the role.
- Apply for a visa! A school or company must sponsor your visa, which is expensive and might be difficult if you want to stay in Costa Rica for less than a year. Typically, when you obtain your work visa, it will be valid for six months from the issue date. Work permits are renewable and can be submitted to the department of immigration.
Classroom culture in Costa Rica
It is imperative to research and understand the cultural nuances you will experience in the classroom while teaching abroad. There can be vast differences in the way students and teachers interact, so ESL teachers should be respectful and understanding while adapting to a new classroom environment.
- There is a fine line between being strict and laid-back in the classroom, and it all depends on the school or institution you work for. A language institute is more likely to have lenient rules in terms of classroom management
- Ticos (Costa Ricans) dress very nicely for work and take pride in their appearance. In general, the dress code is business casual (again, it depends on where you're teaching). This means no flip-flops, shorts, jeans, or beachwear!
- Shaking hands and keeping eye contact when meeting new people is important, and a kiss on the cheek is a common greeting among friends and family
- Pura Vida (“pure life” or “good life”) is a common way to say hello and goodbye, and is essentially a way of life in Costa Rica
View the latest teaching job postings on our job board.
Is Costa Rica a good place to teach English?
Yes! Not only is Costa Rica home to some of the happiest people in the world, teaching English in Costa Rica allows teachers to maintain a good work/life balance while earning a liveable wage.
Can non-native English speakers teach in Costa Rica?
Yes! Non-native English speakers can teach English in Costa Rica. You may need to provide evidence of your proficiency through an IELTS certificate or equivalent.
Do you need to know Spanish to teach in Costa Rica?
No, you do not need to speak Spanish to teach English in Costa Rica. You may have an assistant teacher who communicates with students in their native language if needed but full English instruction is preferred from you.
Is it expensive to live in Costa Rica?
No. While it may be more expensive than other Latin American countries, the average monthly rent for a city center apartment is around $300-$600 USD. As an English teacher in Costa Rica, you should be able to live comfortably if you are frugal.
How do I get a work visa for Costa Rica?
To get a work visa in Costa Rica, a school or company must sponsor you. You will have to fill out an application, attach the school's statement of work, and provide proof that you don't have any debt in Costa Rica. Work visas last for six months and can be renewed.
Do you need a degree to teach in Costa Rica?
No, generally, you do not need a four-year college degree to teach English in Costa Rica. Many teaching positions do not have this requirement. However, it's a good idea to take a TEFL course to be more competitive for job opportunities.
How do I become a teacher in Costa Rica?
To become an English teacher in Costa Rica you should be a native speaker and have a TEFL certificate. Although a teaching certificate isn't required, it will open more job opportunities to teach English abroad.