How to Get a Job Teaching English in Costa Rica 2019 Guide

    Teach English in Costa Rica

    Why choose to become an English language teacher?

    English is an international language and one of the top 10 most spoken languages in the world. It is also often referred to as the global language of business. More than 350 million people around the world recognize English as a native language and more than 430 million people speak English as a second language. Due to the increasing demand for English, more and more people around the world are trying to learn it and many countries have included English as a subject into their curriculums. This need to learn and be fluent in the language has created a huge demand for qualified English teachers, who now have more job opportunities around the world than ever. Therefore, it will not be wrong to say that this is a good time to be an English teacher, especially if you are looking to get some valuable international experience by traveling abroad to teach English as a Foreign Language.  

    Why teach English in Costa Rica?

    Costa Rica is home to tropical rain forests, exotic animals and great wildlife. The people in Costa Rica are laid back and easy going, making it a friendly place for foreigners. You can enjoy the beaches, lush green jungles, mountains, and islands, along with Central America’s most stable democracy while staying in Costa Rica.

    Costa Rica has an extremely high literacy rate and you can find teaching jobs throughout the year in the country.  The demand for English language teachers is high because most Costa Ricans need to know English in order to grow in their workplace or find jobs with high paying salaries. As a teacher, you can not only get great international teaching experience but also enjoy nature to the fullest.

    Here are a few other reasons why Costa Rica is a good option for English teachers:

    • Low cost of living – One of the most important factors to consider before moving to another country is its cost of living. If it is too high, then it may become too difficult for you to save money and maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Costa Rica is great in this regard, its low cost of living will make it easy for you to enjoy a good social life and even travel. On average, you may be able to live comfortably on $500 per month, however, it may be higher in bigger cities.
    • It is safe – Safety is a huge concern for many expats but in Costa Rica, you can breathe a sigh of relief. The country is quite safe, however, you are advised to be careful at night and avoid the areas that are considered unsafe by the locals.
    • You can earn privately – Most of the educational institutions in Costa Rica allow their teachers to earn privately by becoming private tutors. Therefore, you can easily supplement your regular income and save more money.

    What qualifications do you need to teach English in Costa Rica?

    • A degree – Most institutes in Costa Rica hire native English speakers as English language teachers and don’t require them to have a formal degree but having one will certainly increase your chances to get better and more job opportunities. Higher level academic institutions, such as universities, may even require a Master’s degree from you.
    • TEFL, TESOL or CELTA – As for TEFL, TESOL or CELTA, these certifications are not required but having any one of them will give you an edge over other candidates. You just have to make sure that you do your certification training from an internationally recognized program.
    • Teaching experience – If you are a native speaker, you may get entry-level or even better jobs without any major teaching experience. However, if you plan to teach at the university level or some of the international schools you may need to have prior teaching experience.
    • Native speaker – Yes, it is not officially a requirement but native speakers are mostly preferred to non-native teachers. Being a native speaker may even make up for your lack of other qualifications, such as degree, a certification or even experience.

    In short, the job market for teachers is quite competitive in Costa Rica, therefore it is highly recommended to have a TEFL certificate before you apply for a job. Having a Bachelor’s degree along with a TEFL certification will definitely increase your chances of landing a job with good salary packages.

    Do you need to know Spanish to be able to teach English in Costa Rica?

    The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish but many Cost Ricans can carry a conversation in English as well, which makes it very easy for people to teach in the country without knowing the native language. Although, you can conveniently work as an English teacher even if you don’t know Spanish, however, making an effort to learn the language will benefit you. Knowing Spanish will help you connect with your students on a deeper level and you will be able to better understand their struggles and teach them more effectively.

    You can take up Spanish classes in your spare time for a few hours. Simply getting yourself familiarised with the basics of the language would not only make you a better teacher but will also enable you to socialize more and connect with your peers and other locals.

    What type of visa do you need to work as a teacher in Costa Rica?

    The process of getting a work visa for any country is the toughest part, perhaps even tougher than getting a job. That is why moving abroad is never an easy thing to do. Not only does it involve financial expenditure but the process and paperwork can be quite confusing and difficult to manage.

    To help you figure out how to get a work visa to teach English in Costa Rica, here is a brief guide:

    • Work Visa – Getting a work visa in Costa Rica is not only a lengthy process but it is a difficult one as well. The school that will hire you will need to sponsor you and then you will be required to submit the sponsor letter along with all the necessary documents to the migration office, which is located in San José. Once the work visa is granted it can easily be renewed when needed.

    Following is the list of documents that you will be required to submit;

      • You will be required to submit a copy of your birth certificate
      • You will be required to provide copies of your passport
      • If you are married, you will need to submit your marriage certificate
      • Proof of financial stability
      • Background check/ character certificate from the police
      • Background check conducted by the Ministry of security at Costa Rica
      • Passport size photos
      • Copies of your degrees or diplomas
      • Sponsoring an employee is quite expensive, which is why most institutes do not require their teachers to have a work visa.
    • Visit Visa – Since obtaining a work visa in Costa Rica is a difficult process and it takes a long time to get it, many teachers choose to teach in the country on a visit visa. Most passports can get a visit visa for 90 days and then you just need to get your passport stamped upon arrival. At the end of 90 days, teachers will border hop to Panama or Nicaragua to get their visas renewed for another 90 days. This is a common practice and most teachers do it while working in Costa Rica but it is not a legal way to work.

    The job market for English language teachers in Costa Rica and the average salary

    There are many teachers who want to travel all the way to Costa Rica but do not know where to look for jobs. Before you make the big decision it is very important that you not only know the kind of jobs you can find but also the average salary they offer. This is important because you can only calculate your earnings and savings and see if the move is worth all the effort. Moreover, knowing where you work will help you see how many hours your job requires and does your pay justify those hours.

    • Private Language Institutes – Private language schools are like tuition centers, which provide additional tutoring to students who need it. Private language schools operate after regular school hours, which means you will have to work during the evening or even over the weekends (in some cases). You can even have a regular day job and use language schools as a secondary source of income. This will help you earn and save more.  

    Private language schools also provide Business English classes to employees of different companies. You might have to travel to different locations for this type of tutoring. The Private Language Institute that you work for, find the students and schedule the classes for you. These types of institutes are located in all the major cities of Costa Rica and they provide the teachers with all the reading material, textbooks, and curriculum that you need to follow.

    If you come without much teaching experience, then you can earn around $10 per hour at these institutions.

    • Public and Private Schools – Although the government of Costa Rica has invested a lot of resources into the country’s education and the average literacy rate of Costa Rica is quite high, the public school system of the country is still not up to the mark. Private schools generally lack computers, books and other resources which makes teaching harder. It is, therefore, not surprising that private schools offer much lower wages to their teachers.

    Private schools in Costa Rica are slightly better than public schools. However, there are different standards of private schools and some are and pay better than others. It is advisable that before accepting a job at a private school, you should do your research and accept a job at a reputable school.

    • Colleges and Universities – The colleges and universities in Costa Rica have a lot of demand for qualified English language teachers. Universities offer higher salaries to their teachers and also require their English teachers to have at least a Bachelor’s degree along with TEFL certificate. Being bilingual will be an added asset if you are applying for a teaching job at a university.
    • Private tuition – If you want to make extra money and have a flexible working schedule than private tutoring is a great option. Many families want private tutors for their children and many businesses also hire private English tutors to help their employees become more fluent in English.

    Private tutors generally charge anywhere between $20 to $35 USD per hour. You would need to look for teaching material and textbooks yourself and also find students on your own if you opt for private tutoring.

    The average salary of English language teachers in Costa Rica

    Most institutes in Costa Rica pay their teachers around $8 to $10 per hour, which can round up to around $600 to $1000 per month. Private tuition can enable you to earn more than traditional teaching jobs in the country. Your qualification and prior experience can also help you earn a little more than other teachers. One of the best ways to increase your income is to get a regular day job and supplement that income with a private job.

    How much does the accommodation cost in Costa Rica?

    The overall cost of living in Costa Rica is quite low, however, you will have to spend the most on housing. One bedroom apartments can range from $400 to $500 USD per month. The rent may vary depending on the location but the difference is not too significant. Most expats prefer shared living to cut down on the cost of rent.

    How much does the transportation cost in Costa Rica?

    Transportation is quite convenient and affordable in Costa Rica. You can get a one-way bus ticket for 0.75$ USD which is a very insignificant amount. You can get a monthly pass for just $30 USD.

    Do English teachers in Costa Rica have to pay taxes?

    According to the law, if your salary is more than $8,000 per year then you have to pay income tax, however, the average salary of a teacher in Costa Rica is quite low and in many cases, it may not go over the limit. Therefore, if your salary does not reach the limit then you must get a Tax Identification Number. To get one, you have to register with Tributacion – a government office. Your tax number also allows you to work legally in Costa Rica, however, you will still have to get your visit visa renewed after every 90 days.

    Many of your employers may find different ways to report income that does not meet the tax limit.   

    In order to register with the office, you will have to have a valid address. Moreover, the Tributacion you register with must be in the city where you live.

    What difficulties can you face while working as a teacher in Costa Rica?

    While Costa Rica is a great place for English language teachers and you can find a job of your liking easily, however, there can be some difficulties that you might have to face.

    • The limited number of resources in schools can make it hard for you to maintain the quality of teaching. Most public and private schools are run by people who are not qualified, hence it will be up to you to be creative with the curriculum and plan your lessons as best as you can.
    • Most institutes in Costa Rica are run by unqualified administrators who have no idea about teaching a language. The administrators tend to fill up classes merely to make money without monitoring the quality of the lessons.
    • The students in the country have the same laid back attitude that everybody else in Costa Rica has. Many times the students are not punctual for their classes and there can be last minute cancellations for private lessons.
    • The salaries are not as high as offered by some of the other non-native countries. Therefore, you may have to take up private teaching jobs to earn and save more money. This can add extra burden and working hours and may make it difficult for you to find time to relax during the week.
    • If you do not know Spanish then you may have to face a little trouble while communicating with the locals. This may make it difficult for you to do simple tasks such as order your favorite meal at a roadside food stall or ask for directions.

    How can you gain international teaching experience without moving to another country?

    Packing your bags up and moving to a foreign land can get overwhelming. There are many things to consider before making that kind of a decision. You need to take care of visa formalities, accommodations and finding a job amongst other things. If all of that makes you feel anxious then teaching online is a great option for English language teachers who want to gain global teaching experience but do not want to move to another country.

    VIPKID – an online English teaching platform

    VIPKID is a website that hires English language teachers to teach English to students based in China. Currently, there are around 500,000 Chinese students that are learning English through VIPKID and around 60,000 teachers are teaching through this platform.

    Why choose VIPKID?

    • International experience – Teaching online through VIPKID can make you gain international teaching experience from the comfort of your home. You don’t have to go through the hassle of moving to another country or worry about the difficulty of getting a work visa.
    • Convenience – Teaching through VIPKID is convenient as you can choose your own schedule and take classes according to your own convenience. There are no mandatory working hours, you can choose to work full time or keep it as a part-time hustle for extra income. This flexibility of working hours is great for those who have regular day jobs and are looking for more ways to earn some extra cash.
    • Reading material is provided – VIPKID provides the curriculum and all the reading material to the teachers. You don’t have to do any research and all you are required to do is plan a lesson and deliver it. Again, this is a great thing for those who are working more than one jobs and do not have enough hours in the day to search for authentic teaching material.
    • High salary – VIPKID pays from $7 to $22 per hour, which is a competitive salary rate for English language teachers.
    • Instant payment method – You don’t have to wait until the end of the month to get paid because VIPKID has its own method of paying as soon as you are done delivering a lesson.

    What are the requirements to get hired by VIPKID?

    In order to be able to teach through VIPKID, you need to have a Bachelor’s degree and at least one-year experience of working with children. If you meet both the requirements, you can apply online for a job. The application process includes an online form that needs to be filled and submitted followed by an interview.

    The interview is a live teaching session. If your interview clashes with your schedule, then you can pre-record a demo of your lesson and send it to VIPKID.


    Teaching English in Costa Rica can be a great option for English language teachers looking for international teaching experience. Becoming an English teacher in Costa Rica can not only help you earn but also allows you to explore a new place and experience a different culture. However, not everyone can afford to leave everything and move to a different country. There are many things to be considered, like how much money you will make, what is the living cost, how is the weather, what job opportunities can you get, etc. Before moving you should weigh the pros and cons thoroughly and make an informative decision.

    If moving to another country is not your cup of tea, then teaching online through VIPKID is the best option. You can not only gain international experience but also have an extra source of income while staying right where you are.