Costa Rica is a beautiful teach abroad destination in Central America that’s brimming with opportunity and home to a low cost of living. Although it's not known for high ESL salaries, it is one of the best places to teach abroad without a degree. All you need is native English ability, a TEFL certificate, and a sense of adventure.
However, Costa Rica's accessible teaching jobs and vast opportunities aren't the only draws to this incredible Latin American country. It also boasts year-round warm weather, stretches of sandy coast, lush rainforests, and friendly locals known as "Ticos."
If that sounds exciting to you, here's how to embark on your teaching adventure in Costa Rica.
Snapshot of Teaching English in Costa Rica
Avg. Salary: $600-$1,000/month
Teaching Hours: 20-25 hours
Duration of contract: 6-12 months
Peak hiring season: January to May, July, year-round
School term: January to December
Visa requirements: Sponsored work visa, tourist visa
Why teach English in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is best for teachers interested in experiencing life in Central America more than the money—although a teacher's salary should be more than enough to live comfortably on. It's also an excellent place for teachers who prefer to work with adults over children, as adults and business professionals make up most of the English market.
Costa Rica also offers a laid-back way of life known as "Pura Vida." Pura Vida, or pure life in Spanish, eloquently summarizes the relaxed and easy-going lifestyle you'll find in Costa Rica, which is considered one of the happiest places in the world!
Read More: Is Teaching Abroad Alone Safe for Women?
What are the requirements to teach English in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has incredibly accessible job requirements. All you need is:
- Native English speaking proficiency
- A TEFL certificate
- A Bachelor’s degree (not required, but preferred)
Job requirements for ESL teachers in Costa Rica aren't as strict as in other destinations. A four-year degree isn't always required, but it's usually preferred and can give your salary a boost. Additionally, knowing Spanish isn't required but can help you navigate life more easily in Costa Rica.
How much can you earn teaching in Costa Rica?
English teachers in Costa Rica are typically paid an hourly wage and make on average $600-$1,000 per month. This figure may sound low, but it’s enough for most to cover the cost of living. And for perspective, the average salary for local Costa Ricans is only about $400 per month.
However, if you’re worried about money, tutoring and teaching English online are popular ways to supplement your income.
Cost of Living in Costa Rica
The cost of living in Costa Rica is affordable by U.S. standards, but is slightly higher than other Latin American countries because of its popularity as a tourist destination. Most English teachers break even each month, and find that their monthly expenses fall between $600-$1,000+. Rent in San Jose is about $250-$300+ per month, and most opt to share a flat with a roommate.
Getting started in Costa Rica can take time, especially because most schools only hire teachers already in the country. Therefore, aspiring teachers should arrive with at least $2,000-$3,000 to cover living costs while searching for a job.
Types of Teaching Jobs in Costa Rica
One of the most important things to know before teaching English in Costa Rica is the different types of jobs available.
1. Private Language Schools
Teaching at private language schools is the most popular teaching job in Costa Rica. These academies work primarily with adults seeking to better their English speaking ability. But some opportunities do exist to work with young students after school.
Private language schools often expect teachers to work workdays, weekends, and evenings. These private schools typically pay between $8-$10 an hour, and many teachers start with only ten teaching hours a week. Many English teachers in Costa Rica will apply to teach at numerous language schools, tutor privately, or teach English online in order to fill their schedules.
2. Private Bilingual and International Schools
Private bilingual and international schools teach their curriculum in English or a foreign language, and are much like “normal” teaching positions at home. However, these prestigious positions do have stricter job requirements. To be considered, ESL teachers must possess a four-year degree, previous teaching experience, a TEFL certificate, and sometimes a teaching license.
But with higher job requirements comes better pay. For example, English teachers at bilingual or international schools often earn $800-$1,200 per month. These positions typically include a cost of living stipend included on top of the monthly salary. And unlike the other types of teaching jobs, it's sometimes possible to apply to international schools online before arriving in Costa Rica.
3. Private Tutoring
Private tutoring is another common way to teach English in Costa Rica. And many ESL teachers will even tutor privately while also working at a private language school. English tutoring rates can range between $5-$15 an hour. If you can get in with the international school crowd, it’s possible to earn as much as $20 an hour.
However, it takes time to establish yourself as an English tutor, and you must be open to networking to be able to meet prospective clients.
Where to Find Teaching Jobs in Costa Rica
Once you decide which type of teaching job is best for you, it’s time to start applying! Here’s where to find the best ESL jobs in Costa Rica:
Apply In Person
As is the case with many Latin American countries, the best way to find teaching jobs in Costa Rica is while in the country. Most hiring schools want to interview you in person before offering you a job, so showing up at their office with a resume in hand tends to work best.
The Serious Teachers website is an online job board that shares open teaching positions around the world. However, this directory is particularly popular with hiring schools in Costa Rica. Prospective ESL teachers can search the website to see what schools are currently hiring and where.
Best Places to Teach English in Costa Rica
Many come seeking a teaching job along Costa Rica's coast, but unfortunately, there aren't many jobs found here. Instead, the country's Central Valley is the best place to find teaching jobs in Costa Rica.
San José is the capital and is where most teaching jobs in Costa Rica are located. It has the most opportunity in terms of number and options, but also has a higher cost of living compared to other parts of the country.
San Pedro and Heredia are smaller cities just outside of San José that are known for being University towns. The university provides plenty of private tutoring opportunities, as do the many private language schools.
Cartago, Puerto Limón, and Alajuela are other big cities in Costa Rica known for having many teaching opportunities in private language schools.
What’s it like to teach English in Costa Rica?
Before you board a plane, check out these helpful guides that share insights into teaching English in Costa Rica.
- Teaching English in Costa Rica: The Good, the Bad, and the Commute by CosaRica.org
- Costa Rica Packing List: The Essentials by De La Pura Vida
- Moving To Costa Rica: Essential Facts And Tips From Locals & Expats by Drink Tea Travel
- Interesting and Important Facts About Costa Rica That You Should Know Before You Visit by My Tan Feet
Which TEFL certificate is best for teaching in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is one of those rare teach abroad destinations that does not have strict requirements for its English teachers. However, while it’s possible to find work without a degree, many schools require teachers to have a reputable TEFL certificate.
Choosing a certificate with at least 120-hours is essential. Additionally, a TEFL course with a practicum, or in-class component, can help your resume stand out from the crowd.
CIEE TEFL’s 150-Hour TEFL Certification
CIEE TEFL is an internationally trusted brand that's recognized for being one of the best TEFL providers in the industry. CIEE not only has a proven track record of helping graduates secure teaching jobs abroad, but also equips teachers with the confidence needed to be successful.
CIEE TEFL's 150-hour certification makes it easy to complete your TEFL training online in just three months. This comprehensive course includes:
- 130 hours of ACCET accredited coursework
- 20 hour TEFL practicum
- Instruction by highly qualified TEFL tutors
- Job search assistance