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So, you want to teach ESL in Colombia...

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Joined: 22 Feb 2009
Posts: 56
Location: Bogota, Colombia

PostPosted: Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:10 pm    Post subject: So, you want to teach ESL in Colombia... Reply with quote

If you are currently overseas and thinking about coming to Colombia to teach English, hopefully the following will help you.

What do I need?
A reputable qualification. CELTA, Trinity, Degree in ESL Teaching. This is not 100% essential, but absolutely expidites the job search process.
Funds to last you at LEAST 2 months. Most private language schools pay for hours taught at the end of the month. So even if you find a job right away, you'll have to wait at least one month or more for a full paycheck. (I won't go into accommodation etc., not today anyway).

Where to look for work?
The best place to START is the yellow pages (paginas amarillas). They have a website which is cheaper to advertise on than the physical copy, so there are many more language institutes there. Be patient when sending emails. Colombians take their time in replying. Your best bet is to call and arrange an interview. If you call for example 15 institutes, you will be guaranteed at least 2 interviews.

What kind of work to expect?
If you're a new arrival, the fastest way to get up and earning money is through a language institute. There are two types of work involved: at the school and in-company/houses. For some schools, working at the school means fixed hours, and sometimes lower pay. In-company/houses means travelling by public transport and working early mornings, lunchtime, and evenings. Transport is cheap and some schools pay extra for this.
The vast majority of positions involve travel.

What kind of money to expect?
At institutes, with a reputable qualification, take nothing less than $25.000 pesos a class (90mins). If you have experience teaching, then $28 - $35.000 pesos is more like it. The maximum I personally have received working for a language institute was $36.000/hr. Institutes pay by class taught.
Be aware, since most of your students will be working professionals, you will need to budget for cancellations. No class, no pay. In my experience, planning for 40% cancellations and hoping for 20% has worked out about right.
Working for several institutes is an option. Expect between $800.000 & $1.800.000 pesos a month depending on cancellations and institute pay.
N.B. There are some fixed wages, which vary between the above amounts.

What kind of job to expect?
Most institutes will give you nil training, with minimal support. Some will provide an "Introduction course" on how to use their materials or a certain book. This is not an orientation, you won't be paid (in my experience).
At first you will not be offered a contract. It is illegal to work in Colombia without a visa, and when you first arrive you will not have a visa. A couple of institutes provide visa support which includes health insurance (if it doesn't, you will HAVE to pay this - it is illegal for any employee to be without insurance).
No contract is fairly standard, and most institutes will honour the classes you have taught in the month (in my experience only one school refused to pay me - British Alliance). You will have plenty of time to practice your Spanish as there will be large gaps in your timetable (this is the usual case).

And the students?
Fantastic! Of course ))

What about universities and colleges?
When you have been here some time you should start looking at these options as the pay is better, contracts are provided, and the hours are much better too. In order to find a place at a college or university you need to make contacts. Again, something you can do once you have been here a few months or so.

What city to work in?
For starters, Bogota is perhaps best. There are plenty of schools and of course lots of people who would like to learn / practice English. There are, however, a plethora of language schools throughout the country.

Can I apply by email?
Sure! I even know of people who have been offered jobs while overseas (without a contract). However, Colombians prefer to meet people face-to-face in general. There are reasons for this, the main one tending to be that if you are in the country then you are obviously serious about working in Colombia.

And finally,
the information above is based on my experience working in Bogota. If there's anything else anybody in the know would like to add...
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Joined: 05 Jun 2008
Posts: 183
Location: Bogotá, Colombia

PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 9:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quality info here. I'd make the following comments:

-Especially for institutes, try dropping off your resume in person. Try to talk to someone in charge of hiring when you do this, if they're available.

-Regarding cancellations, if you're teaching one-on-one classes to corporate clients you will get a lot of cancellations. I don't think I experienced a 20% cancellation rate, but it was up there. In my experience, most institutes will still pay you for canceled hours if the cancellation happened with less than 24 hour notice, which it often is.

-If you get a contract with a school, be aware that there are two contract types: a normal employment contract and "prestacion de servicios."

under a normal employment contract, you pay 4% of your salary for health insurance (and your employer pays another 4%). You also are required to pay another 4% of your salary into a pension fund (while your employer pays another 4%). Almost certainly you will not pay any income tax with this contract type (your employer is responsible for paying it). You also get an extra half month's bonus in June, and an additional full month in December.

under the "prestacion de servicios" contract (which is probably the only type of contract you would be offered at a language institute), you pay 8% of your salary for health insurance, and additional taxes are deducted (not sure exactly how much). You will not receive any bonuses unless this is specified in your contract.
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Joined: 28 Apr 2009
Posts: 31

PostPosted: Sat Dec 04, 2010 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the great info. Look forward to you going into the rest please.
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Joined: 18 May 2010
Posts: 12
Location: Minnesota, United States

PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all the great info!

I prefer to teach on a set schedule so I am searching for jobs at international/bilingual schools. So far I have attempted to visit schools to drop off my CV and hope to talk to someone, but they just end up telling me to email my CV.

Does anyone have any advice on the appropriate way to approach Colombian schools? I attempted to draft a few cover letters, but someone told me schools don't bother with cover letters and prefer a profile/CV? I am going to keep trying to search for international schools until next semester starts in January, then I will focus more on institutes with year-round hiring.
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