Work in Ecuador
By Christopher Sacco
One view of Quito, Ecuador.
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 explicitly aimed 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, El Hoy in Quito, and El Mercurio in Cuenca. Ads for English-teaching jobs frequently appear in these periodicals. Teachers should also check TEFL websites for job postings in Ecuador.
There is a great demand for English teachers across Ecuador. In Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, the three largest cities, and other principal population centers in the highlands and on the coast, hundreds of academies, colleges, and institutes offer English classes.
The top language institutes pay between $5 to $20 per hour for 20-25 hours a week (some pay those with experience and qualifications up to $1500 monthly). The pay may seem like little coming from North America or Europe, but it's enough to live on in Ecuador. Most of the better schools prefer candidates with college degrees and a TEFL or TESL certificate. Still, because the number of jobs dramatically exceeds the number of qualified teachers, a few schools will take a well-spoken native speaker with a neat appearance and no other qualifications. The pay, however, will be much less.
If you have yet to arrange a 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 almost all subjects, not just language classes.
Bilingual high schools typically begin their search for teachers in April and May, when their current hires must decide whether or not they will stay on for another year. However, it's common 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 not the only gainful employment you can find. The tourism and exporting industries are other places where job seekers, especially bilingual ones, can often find work.
Tourism plays an important role in the Ecuadorian economy. Even when travel worldwide was down, travel to Ecuador and other South American countries was 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. Something will turn up: a bartending gig or a desk job booking tours.
You may even be hired as a guide if you have the proper credentials or relevant experience and are bilingual. Adventure tourism is a big business in Ecuador, which means numerous interesting guiding possibilities, including birding, climbing, trekking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and working as a rainforest or Galapagos naturalist.
To begin looking for a job in tourism from abroad go to EcuadorExplorer.com,
the countrys 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., and the country uses the U.S. dollar as its currency.
The Export and Investment Promotion Corporation of Ecuador maintains a database of exporters, and some of Ecuador's chambers of commerce can help locate exporters.
Volunteer opportunities abound throughout this small Andean nation. From work with street children or rainforest reserves, the organizations that help keep Ecuador together must be more staffed. See our section on volunteering in Ecuador for more information.
Visas, Pay, and Cost of Living
In theory, work visas are necessary to secure paid employment in Ecuador. However, virtually no foreigner working in Ecuador has one because it's challenging to come by. If your employer demands you obtain a work visa or feel uncomfortable 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, can be extended. Visa laws diverge and change frequently, so read up on them carefully and stay updated via your Ecuadorian consulate or embassy.
The average Ecuadorian earns approximately $525 a month. As a foreigner living abroad, you will need more than this, and you should bring some startup money with you, usually enough to last you 1-2 months ($1000-$1500). With a likely earning potential as a tutor or teacher of English of $5-20 hourly or $500-$800+ monthly, depending upon your experience and qualifications, you can rent an apartment, buy groceries, and eat out occasionally. Options to teach English remotely will pay about the same hourly, provided you find clients yourself or through an agency.
During the last four years of living in Ecuador, I have taught high school literature, translated business documents, written grant proposals for foundations and NGOs, and content for an Ecuadorian travel portal. I'm confident you, too, can find work here. ¡Suerte!
CHRISTOPHER SACCO is a freelance writer who has worked in Ecuador for four years. He worked on an edition of The Rough Guide to Ecuador, and he regularly contributes content to various print publications.