What you need to be an English Teacher in Colombia, Medellin

A vibrant culture, beautiful landscapes, and warm people; Colombia has it all! Now, it’s fast becoming a hotspot for English teaching too. 

With increased government spending for English education and a growth in tourism, Medellin has seen a rise in teaching opportunities for foreigners.

If you’re interested in helping a local community while living in and exploring a new city, this may be the path for you!

Here’s the low down on everything you’ll need to teach English in Medellin.

What are the Requirements?

The specific requirements vary from company to company; however, most schools will require some qualifications and a bit of experience.

Bachelors Degree

Many schools will require you to have a bachelor’s degree at the bare minimum. However, it doesn’t matter what university you got it from or the subject. 

Having a degree will also make the work visa process run more smoothly, as immigration may ask for a certificate. 

Don’t worry if you haven’t got one. It’s still possible to land a teaching job in Medellin. However, you will have to compromise on salary and the type of school.

TEFL Certificate

A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification will indeed make your CV look that much more desirable. However, it’s not a requirement for all teaching jobs. 

But if you want to up your chances of getting a well-paid job, you can buy and complete a TEFL course online. It takes around 6-weeks to complete, as you’ll need to do some coursework. 

I found the course quite valuable; I implemented many techniques and strategies learned here in my own classes. 

These online academies offer a variety of accredited teaching courses:

  • The Tefl Academy, prices starting at $129 
  • Tefl Hero, prices start at $99
  • ITTT Online, prices start at $249

Do you need to be a Native English Speaker?

Native English speakers and citizens from countries like The USA, the U.K., South Africa, Jamaica, India, and Canada, tend to be the preferred choice for schools in Medellin. 

However, once again, it’s not impossible for you to find a teaching job as a non-native speaker. In my experience, I’ve worked with and met English teachers from all over the world here in Colombia. 

Although, you’ll need a C1 English level or above and may be asked to show a certificate as proof. 

Do you need Prior Experience?

Just like with any other profession, prior experience will help your application. For example, teaching jobs in Medellin may require one year of experience.

However, if you have the other desired requirements and give a good demo lesson, schools can overlook the missing experience.

Types of Schools

Over the past ten years, there’s been a steady push to transform Colombia into a bilingual country. Government initiatives like Colombia Very Well and the National Bilingualism Program aimed to make English learning accessible for all primary and secondary students. 

The ministry of education started by paying recruiters to place English teachers in schools, with the goal of increasing the number of high schoolers that leave education with an intermediate level of English.  

This means there’s a great demand for English teachers in Colombia and many different types of schools.

Language Schools

Medellin Institutions like Berlitz and English Center Laureles cater to adult learners who want to improve their English for business or university. 

Language schools hire more frequently but tend to pay less; $5 (USD) to $10 (USD) per hour. However, having experience and a degree will help you negotiate for more. 

Working hours are more varied than in a traditional school, but they may require you to travel to different locations in the city to work.

Private Schools

These fee-paying schools have children of all ages and pride themselves on delivering an elite level of education. 

Along with bilingual and international schools, they offer some of the highest-paying teaching jobs (up to $1200 USD per month); however, they often require a degree related to education or English, as well as a PGCE. They may also want you to teach other subjects like social studies or maths. 

With some pretty interesting perks, like free school lunches, and monthly stipends for accommodation, it makes for a competitive application process. But if you are successful, you’ll have the most sought-after teaching position in town. 

Public High Schools

The government education initiatives have also caused a demand for foreign English teachers in public schools. 

Although the pay is at the bottom end of the scale (around $500 USD per month) and the environment is more challenging, there can be up to 60 children in one class; it can provide you with the chance to help underprivileged parts of society and really make a difference. 

What is an Interview Like?

You may undergo up to 3 interviews before getting the job. If you’re applying from outside Colombia or another city, these interviews will likely take place over a video call. 

They’ll ask you about teaching techniques, classroom management, prior experience, why you want to live in Colombia, and your experiences living abroad.

One of these interviews will be a demo class. Demo classes can take place on a video call or in person. They may ask you to do your class in front of a small group of students or just with the interviewers themselves. 

You’ll be told the topic before, giving you plenty of time to prepare a lesson plan and practice!

What to Expect While Teaching

Teaching English in Medellin can be a fulfilling experience. However, the type of environment you have in your class will depend on a few factors, like the type of school you’re teaching at, the age of students, and how the company is run.

In some Colombian schools, there may be a level of disorganization. For example, not being told about meetings, schedule changes, or days off in advance can be frequent occurrences.

There can also be a lack of access to learning and teaching materials, even in the private schools. 

However, the plus side is you’ll have the opportunity to pick up lots of Spanish and have time to explore the city and country on weekends, national holidays, and school breaks.

What is an Average Class Like?

Generally, Colombian students are friendly and eager to learn, especially adult learners. They are respectful to each other and the teacher, though the odd minor incident may occur from time to time. 

Leading a large class may be a little more challenging, but it’s manageable with the right skills.

Classroom Management

One of the most critical aspects of teaching children is classroom management. Children can see you as more lenient than the native Colombian teachers, so they may try and challenge you or test your limits. 

Honestly, kids being kids. 

However, disciplinary issues take away valuable learning time. Therefore you should set boundaries, rules, and consequences from the very first day of teaching.

Preparing Materials.

In many Colombian schools, you will be responsible for creating the learning materials, like crafts, games, worksheets, etc. Although you still follow a tight syllabus, this way of lesson planning may differ from language teaching in other schools around the world. 

It’s helpful to be organized and lesson plan in whole chunks, at least a month or term in advance. That way, you stop a hefty workload from building up!

How to Find Work

The academic year starts in late August/early September in private schools. So the hiring period is in May/June. 

Public schools start interviewing in November, as the school year begins in January. However, as mentioned before, language schools tend to hire all year round.

So, you can start your job search at any time!

Agencies and Recruiters

The government pays recruiters to place teachers in specific institutions. Private schools also hire these agencies to find the best teachers. 

The great part is using an agency or recruiter comes at no extra cost to you, and they do all the tedious stuff like finding contacts and the initial communications with the school. 

The most notable agency is the Minga House Foundation, which keeps a large roster of schools and vacancies throughout the country.  

Jobs Boards

Jobs boards are the best way to find teaching jobs in Medellin. These resources come in the form of websites, Facebook groups, and WhatsApp groups. 

There are usually daily postings, so you’re highly likely to see a position worth applying for. In addition, you get direct access to people from the school without having to blindly cold email someone. 

I found my teaching job at a private bilingual school on a Facebook group! Here are some great job boards:

M-5 Visa Application Process

If you secure a teaching job in Medellin, you will need to apply for an M-5 work visa. You can apply for it on the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. The visa is valid for up to three years. 

The cost for Europeans is 217 euros, while everyone else will have to pay 282 dollars. However, many schools sponsor the application and pay for the visa cost. So it’s good to check with your school beforehand. 

These are some of the documents required for the M-5 visa application; however, immigration may request that you provide additional documents:

  • A photocopy of the information page of your passport
  • Passport photos with dimensions 3 cm x 4 cm
  • A letter of motivation from your employer
  • Your employment contract from the school
  • Bank statements from your employer

Getting a Cédula

A ‘cédula’ is a Colombian identification card. You will need this to rent an apartment and open a bank account to receive your salary from the school. However, you can only apply for this once you have your work visa.

The school will usually help you with fine details and, in some cases, pay the $60 USD fee. You will need to go to the local immigration office with the following:

  • Your blood type (if you don’t know it, you’ll need to get a blood test done)
  • Passport
  • Work Visa
  • A completed online application

Become an English Teacher in Medellin

Living and working in Medellin as an English teacher is an excellent opportunity to explore the country, give back to the community and enjoy Colombian culture!

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