Teaching English in Costa Rica
When, Where, and How to Land a
Waterfall in a forest of Costa
I lived and taught English in Costa
Rica for almost three years. Costa Rica is largely a lush,
tropical country known for its hospitable people. In Costa
Rica you can experience their own unique version of traditional
Latino culture, dance to salsa music, and escape the
big city of San Jose where many jobs are located to the
For most Costa Ricans, speaking English
is a way to get hired or move up the ladder in their jobs
or careers. This means that many people need to know English,
and there are many ESL jobs available.
If you are considering teaching English
in Costa Rica, here are a few tips that might help you along
Search for the Job While in Costa
First of all, there are not many schools
that will hire you from overseas. However, many will hire
you on the spot if you walk into their office, speak English,
have a college degree (in anything), a TEFL certificate,
and an agreeable personality. Many companies will hire
you during the period in which you are on your tourist
Costa Ricans place a high value
and a neat, professional appearance will make a good first
impression during an interview. Men should wear slacks and
a nice shirt to an interview, and women should wear nice
pants or a skirt. The laid-back, “I just got back from
the beach” appearance turns Costa Ricans off. They even
have a special derogatory name for the way gringos look
when they are traveling, “gringos cucinos,” which
means “dirty gringos.” Editor's note: We believe it is a
matter of respect
and good manners to adapt to the way of living in traditional
cultures such as Costa Rica and elsewhere, of course.
Certification Not Absolutely Necessary
As for TEFL certification, it is generally
necessary as years go by.
Some schools here do not require certification, but it is
a huge plus, and likely will result in a slightly higher
starting salary. Most language schools in Costa Rica do
not provide enough TEFL training to develop a comfortable
feel for teaching English to natives. Therefore, getting
some sort of TEFL training before you arrive in Costa Rica,
or while in the country, is highly recommended.
When hiring, some schools make
no differentiation between a TESOL degree that was earned
in two weeks on the Web and cost $200, and a course that
cost $4000 and was completed in six months. Again, the teaching
environment is becoming more competitive with so many wishing
to work in the idyllic surrounds, so having a certificate
from a recognized institution is always a plus. Having a
Master's in TESOL will impress the employer and improves
your chances of landing a job, but you will not necessarily
be paid extra for your expertise.
Teaching Income in Costa Rica
On average teachers make about $600-1000+
dollars per month in 2018. You may supplement your income
by teaching private classes to businessmen. While teaching
around 20-25 hours per week for a private language school,
I usually made about six hundred dollars a month.
Although this sounds low, I actually got by
on that income just fine. In Costa Rica, this represented
enough money to live in a basic apartment, go out for a beer
after work, travel to the ocean a few times a month, and
generally enjoy life. Your income will not enough to save
money or pay off big student loans. Most people come here
with a few thousand US dollars to spend, which is recommended
both for start-up costs and to enable travel to the many
fascinating and often less expensive nearby countries during
available free time.
When to Look
It is also important to look for a job
at the appropriate time of the year. In Costa Rica, the
school year begins at the end of January and ends in early
December. The best time to be looking for work is at the
beginning of January through February and there is another
hiring season starting in July. For the first season, It
does not hurt to get a resume in at the beginning of December
such that employers have you in mind when they are hiring.
Teachers are often hired at the last minute.
The tendency for last-minute hires is
due to the fact that schools do not wish to offer jobs until
they know how many students are actually enrolling for the
new year. After the beginning of the year, the next big
opening for jobs usually comes in April, when some North
American teachers quit and head back to the states for the
summer. A few jobs become available in September, but after
September, it is difficult to get hired until the following
Types of Schools in Costa Rica
Other important factors to consider
are the type of school that would be the best fit for you,
your length of commitment, and where you want to live. Most
paid teaching jobs in Costa Rica are located in the Central
Valley. San Jose, the capital city, has many schools, but
it is noisy, polluted, and can be a little dangerous until
you know your way around the city. There are some schools
located in smaller surrounding cities such as Heredia, Alajuela,
and Cartago. I consider these areas more livable, but it
all depends on where you feel most comfortable and what
is most important to you.
I worked for three schools after I arrived
in Costa Rica.
The first school for which I worked, The
Sarapiqui Conservation Learning Center, offered
a volunteer position teaching English and environmental
education to children in the northern, rain-forested
region of Costa Rica.
San Jose was the second school for which I worked, and there
I was able to travel around the city and give private English
classes to businessmen. This job was the most lucrative,
but it was stressful to travel downtown all day, and the
noise and car exhaust could soon drive anyone crazy.
I then worked for Intercultura in
Heredia. The school was well run and had a supportive community
of teachers to rely upon. It is now a Spanish
In sum, Costa Rica is a great
place to teach. The students are laid back and friendly.
Weekends it is easy to jump on a bus and lay on
a tropical beach with warm water while drinking the
cold, relatively cheap beer. Costa Rica’s most famous
saying says it all: “Pura Vida” or "life
For More Information
Below are some private schools, programs, and recruiters that you can contact for further information. Requirements and pay changes on a regular basis—as
in any economy.
TEFL offers an online training course with job placement
to teach English in Costa Rica.
Berlitz Costa Rica is the local franchise of the international
Berlitz chain for adults, kids, and features
company classes as well.
Maximo Nivel offers a TEFL Certificate program and job placement in a country where there is a steady demand for teachers.
TeachAway is a recruiting firm that offers paid jobs teaching English in Costa Rica.
assistance for those with TEFL certificates already
to find jobs in Costa Rica and offers a program
for you to gain a English
teaching certificate (TESOL) while in Costa
Language Corps Costa Rica offers year-long programs that include training and job placement in Costa Rica or anywhere in the world.
New Learning Academy in Costa Rica sometimes offers teaching positions.
For more information on teaching
English, visit the websites above as well as forums,
such as ESL Cafe, for a discussion
of jobs and issues teaching
English in Costa Rica.
Visit Transitions Abroad's
section for teachers for more resources on teaching
in Costa Rica,
and for more resources on living in Costa Rica
please visit the Expatriate
Resources for Costa Rica section.
Laura Dulin taught
English for over three years in Costa Rica and holds
TESOL Certification and a B.A. in Anthropology
and Literature. She has traveled throughout Central America and Europe.