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How to Find a Job Teaching English in Costa Rica

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My first encounter with Costa Rica was to obtain my TEFL certificate.

I remembered trying to buy pizza and the shop owner literally going to the back of the shop, returning 5 minutes later. She was teaching herself how to say, “Welcome to my shop,” in English. Right there and then I saw something I had never seen before and I told myself that I wanted to live in Costa Rica.

So, I made it happen as an English teacher.

If you want to follow in my footsteps and teach English in Costa Rica, here's everything you'll need to know to get a teaching job and enjoy La Pura Vida in Central America.

Short on time? Here's the cheat sheet:

🏫Costa Rica is one of the best countries to teach English abroad

👩‍🏫The main requirements are: 

☂️The cost of living in Costa Rica continues to rise, forcing English teachers to sometimes have more than one job but...

☀️Teaching English in Costa Rica gives you the chance to experience the laidback lifestyle and stunning landscapes this country has to offer.

Requirements to Teach English in Costa Rica

📍Playa Manuel Antonio

Like many Latin American countries, the requirements to teach English in Costa Rica aren't as lengthy as you'll find in say South Korea or Japan.

This opens the doors to different nationalities that may struggle to get a teaching job with a sponsored visa in other countries, making it one of the best countries to teach English abroad.

For the most part, the only requirement, other than having a native or near-native level of English is to have your Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate.

There are some programs that offer you the chance to get your TEFL certification in Costa Rica, even offering a guaranteed job placement at the end of the course.

If you'd rather take your TEFL course online, we recommend ITTT International TEFL & TESOL Training. This is the course, Kat, the founder of A Way Abroad did. While it's not the cheapest option, it is a great choice for those that truly want to get prepared for the classroom before stepping foot inside of one.

Your Nationality & Accent Matters

Most schools and language institutes are American owned and will only hire Americans, Europeans, Canadians ….you get the point.

For native English Caribbean speakers, Asians, and Latinos who speak native-like and South Africans, send a video to compliment your CV, so they can evaluate your accent.

While annoying to have to do this if you're a native English speaker, it's the harsh reality of teaching English in Costa Rica.

Getting a Sponsored Visa

Firstly, you can only apply for a working visa upon arrival. You will need your prospective employer to file for your working visa.

If you’re filing on behalf of yourself, you will need a lawyer. The process is tedious, expensive and you need to know their immigration law, which is always changing.

Without being married to a Costa Rican, having a family member to file for you, having a child from Costa Rica, or having a job, the only way to get a working visa is their digital nomad visa and you must make a minimum of 3,000 USD online.

However, if you’re an English teacher, there are some language institutes that will file for your working visa. Such as:

If you want to make the visa process as easy as possible, I'd suggest checking their available teaching positions before applying to other teaching jobs.

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English Centers vs. International Schools


While this article is geared at teaching English in Costa Rica, another option is to teach at international schools.

If you want to earn more money, you’re better off at international schools. The salary starts at $1,300 USD monthly up to $3,500 USD. Remember though working at a school is not the same as a language institute so you'll need to figure out which one best suits your lifestyle.

While there might be some exceptions to this rule, in general, to teach at an international school, you'll need to be a certified teacher from your home country. Instead of teaching your students English, you'll be teaching them regular subjects. The students would already be expected to know English.

Teaching at an international school is as close to what it's like teaching in your home country, except your school most likely has a bigger budget since technically these are private schools.

Normal Schedule of an English Teacher

Full-time teachers at English centers tend to work split shifts, 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the evening. Most teachers who work at language institutes have 2 jobs.

Best Places to Live in Costa Rica

📍San Jose, Costa Rica's capital

I lived in Barva de Heredia, and I loved that town. The people are very friendly, patient and kind.

Although most expats seem to live in Heredia, San Jose and Limón.

San Jose is the capital, if you’re into the busy lifestyle, it will suit you just fine. It’s obviously very accessible to everything.

Limón is the Caribbean side, for those of you who enjoy and embrace Caribbean culture, food and music. The people speak their Spanish with a Jamaican Caribbean accent. It's very interesting to experience.

Cost of Living

Costa Rica has become expensive to live due to…..well, us expats.

Language institutes average salary starts from $15 USD an hour. If you work full time, you’ll have a fixed salary.

Rent is pretty expensive; you can rent a room in a shared accommodation starting from 250 USD. Most TEFL teachers chose this option. American owned international schools provide shared accommodation for their teachers. If you’re lucky to get jobs that pay $2,500 to 3,500, you can afford your own space.

Things to Do in Costa Rica

📍Volcano Arenal

There are so many wonderful places to see and things to do in Costa Rica: beaches such as Jaco, Playa Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, and Playa Conchal are stunning and make for the perfect weekend away.

If you want more adventure, visit the Arenal and Poás volcanoes, zipline and bungee jump in Monteverde, ATV tours in the jungle, even check out the jungle crocodile safari in Puntarenas.

If you want nature and tranquility, try the Llanos de Cortes and La Paz waterfalls. You can hike in Rio Celeste, Santa Juana Mountain and Parque Nacional Corcovado.

There are more than one places to see bioluminescent bays in Costa Rica and you must visit Parque Nacional Marino Ballena in Uvita. When the tide is low, a sandbar is revealed and from above you will see the shape of a “whale’s tail.”

Even better, compared to someone just traveling to Costa Rica, if you live here, you'll get to experience all the seasons in Costa Rica. Even though you won't get 4 like you might be used to, the wet and dry season brings about completely different views and activities.

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Will You Try Teaching English in Costa Rica?


I think that people chose to make Costa Rica their home because of the warmth and friendliness of Costa Ricans. I think the amazing sightseeing and adventures are just a bonus.

Visit Costa Rica yourself and see why they use the term “Pura Vida." It’s the only way to experience why everyone falls in love and tries to stay longer here, just like I have.

All pictures courtesy of depositphotos.com.

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