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Work in Ecuador

Both Paid and Volunteer Opportunities Abound

By Christopher Sacco

Ecuador offers English-speaking job seekers abundant work and volunteer opportunities.

If you are already in Ecuador, you should start your job search with the notice boards frequently found in coffee shops, Internet cafes, laundromats, and hostels. In Quito, the myriad travelers’ haunts in La Mariscal, the city’s main tourist district, often have extensive notice boards aimed specifically at travelers. The South American Explorers Club, on Jorge Washington, a few blocks east of Avenida 6 de Diciembre, also posts job listings. Bartending, hospitality, teaching, and volunteer positions are regularly advertised here, especially from May through September, tourism’s high season.

If you are abroad, you can begin your job search online. Check out the web versions of Ecuador’s daily newspapers—El Comercio and El Hoy in Quito, El Universo in Guayaquil, and El Mercurio in Cuenca. Ads for English-teaching jobs frequently appear in these periodicals. Teachers should also check TEFL websites, such as Dave’s ESL Café and TEFL.com.

Teaching English

There is a great demand for English teachers across Ecuador. In Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, the three largest cities, as well as other principal population centers in the highlands and on the coast, there are literally hundreds of academies, colleges, and institutes that offer English classes.

The top language institutes pay between $5 to $10 per hour. This may not seem like much coming from North America or Europe, but it's enough to live on in Ecuador. Many of the better schools prefer candidates with college degrees and a TEFL or TESL certificate, but because the number of jobs greatly exceeds the number of qualified teachers many schools will take a well-spoken native speaker with a neat appearance and no other qualifications. The pay, however, may be much less: between $3 and $5 per hour.

If you have arranged no job before arriving, don’t despair. Just turn up at the right time: September or January, just before the semesters begin. Teachers inevitably bail at the last minute and schools chronically underhire.

Bilingual High Schools

Teachers with credentials or experience may find long-term work at a bilingual high school. A few of the more prestigious ones recruit their teachers from job fairs in North America; others rely on the Internet or hire from among the local gringo community. Because their curriculums are bilingual, these schools hire English speakers to teach most all subjects, not just language classes.

Bilingual high schools typically begin their search for teachers in April and May, the months when their current hires must decide whether or not they will stay on for another year. However, it’s not uncommon for high schools to need immediate hires at other times throughout the year.

While work as an English teacher is the easiest to find, it’s by no means the only gainful employment to be had. The tourism and exporting industries are other places where job seekers, especially bilingual ones, can often find work.

Tourism Jobs

Tourism plays an increasingly important role in the Ecuadorian economy. Even now, when travel worldwide is down, travel to Ecuador and other South American countries is on the rise. And where there are flocks of tourists there are jobs for foreigners. Often, all that is required to find a job is the ability to speak English, an amiable personality, and good timing. Just locate the main travel district in the city of your choice and hit the streets. Travel agencies and tour operators are usually packed together within a few blocks of one another, and many of the popular hotels and bars will be close by. Whether it’s a bartending gig or a desk job booking tours, something is bound to turn up.

If you have the proper credentials or relevant experience and are bilingual, you may even be hired as a guide. Adventure tourism is big business in Ecuador, which means that there are numerous interesting guiding possibilities including birding, climbing, trekking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and kayaking, and work as a rainforest or Galapagos naturalist.

To begin looking for a job in tourism from abroad go to www.ecuadorexplorer.com, the country’s most-visited travel portal.

Export Sector Jobs

Ecuador’s export sector hires English speakers in droves because the nation’s principal trading partner is the U.S.

The Export and Investment Promotion Corporation of Ecuador maintains a database of exporters, and some of Ecuador’s chambers of commerce can be helpful in locating exporters.

Volunteer Work

Volunteer opportunities abound throughout this small Andean nation. From orphanages to rainforest reserves, the organizations that help keep Ecuador together are severely understaffed. Go online for a list of Ecuadorian NGOs.

Visas, Pay, and Cost of Living

In theory, a work visa is required for securing any sort of paid employment in Ecuador. However, because it’s so difficult to come by, virtually no foreigner working in Ecuador has one. In the event your employer demands you obtain a work visa, or if you don’t feel comfortable without one, you should contact the nearest Ecuadorian consulate.

The 90-day visitor’s visa, which North Americans and citizens of most European nations automatically receive when they enter the country and can be extended. Visa laws change frequently, so read them carefully and stay updated regulalrly.

The average Ecuadorian earns approximately $200 a month. Obviously, as a foreigner living abroad you will need a bit more than this. If you have even a few years of university, you can earn considerably more. If you are bilingual you can do even better. With $600 or $900 per month you can rent an apartment, buy groceries, and eat out occasionally.

Ecuador Awaits

During the last four years of living in Ecuador, I have taught high school literature, translated business documents, and written grant proposals for foundations and NGOs and content for an Ecuadorian travel portal. I’m certain you too can find work here. ¡Suerte!

English Language Schools

A few of the larger English academies and institutes that regularly need teachers:

Berlitz Language Center: www.berlitz.com

The Experiment in International Living: www.eilecuador.org

Inlingua: www.inlingua.com

CHRISTOPHER SACCO is a freelance writer who has worked in Ecuador for four years. He worked on the 2004 edition of The Rough Guide to Ecuador, and he regularly contributes content to various print publications.

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