Talk to almost any gringo living in Santiago and it’s more than likely that they spent at least a month or two teaching English when they arrived. I taught English myself for a couple of months shortly after I arrived, and for a large proportion of gringos in Santiago, this is their full time job.
In this post, I’ll explain how you can find a job teaching English in Santiago, what qualifications you might (or might not) need, what you can expect to earn and a little bit of background on the working conditions and lifestyle.
In addition, read on for a bonus interview with my friend Warren, who has been a professional English teacher in Santiago for a year. In this interview he talks a little about how he got started teaching English, the best and worst things about teaching in Chile, and the one essential thing you absolutely must have before you come to Chile to teach English.
Firstly, the good news. Demand for English teachers (particularly native speakers) in Santiago is at an all time high and it’s relatively easy to make a living teaching English without working long hours.
It’s an easy field to get into, and very low stress. If you’re a young person looking to pick up casual work to support yourself for six months to a year while you get the lay of the land and establish yourself in Santiago, this would be a perfect option.
Some institutes will additionally provide you with a contract so you can get a Visa Sujeto de Contrato, or provide direct assistance to help you obtain your working visa.
Where do I start?
There are four major options for teaching English in Chile:
1. Work for an English teaching company that will send you out to tutor individual clients (typically business executives)
This is probably the easiest place to start if you have no certifications and no experience. You can jump right in, start building your experience and get a taste for it to see if teaching English is right for you.
Most institutes will require TEFL certification, but some executive training companies will hire you even without certification or experience. This is how I got started.
If you’d like details of a company that offers a great salary, highly flexible hours and will allow you to start with no certifications or experience, send me an email and I’d be happy to put you in touch with the owner of a private executive English teaching company I know here in Santiago.
Usually companies will provide you with some training, teaching materials and will guarantee you get paid even if your student doesn’t show up.
The downside of teaching individual clients is that you will be teaching them in their office, and you could potentially be travelling a lot. Metro fees can mount up surprisingly quickly, and companies usually will not reimburse you for travel expenses or travel time.
2. Work for an English teaching institute that additionally gives you the option to teach in a classroom
Another option is to teach on location at a private school or institute such as Instituto Chileno Norte Americano.
You will typically teach a class of anywhere between four to fifteen students, lasting 2 – 3 hours. Often these classes are at night, from 7pm – 10pm as many Chileans like to study English after work in night classes.
Classes at an institute can work out more convenient because it’s a larger block with less travel time. The caveat is that institutes will almost certainly require you to hold a TEFL, and larger classes can be a bit more challenging.
3. Teach English for a University
You will need a university degree (notarised to be legal in Chile) a TEFL/IELT certification and about a year of experience for this to become an option.
Wages are nominally similar to those paid by an institute, but a University position comes with a number of extra perks that make this a very attractive option.
The working hours are a more agreeable 9-5, paid holidays are offered and there may be future career options within the University. If you wish to pursue English teaching as a full-time career, this might be a good next logical step after teaching at an institute for a year.
4. Freelance – find your own clients and make a private arrangement with them
This is the most flexible and potentially lucrative option. You can choose your own hours and your own students, and you are free to set your own hourly rate.
The downside is that you are on your own. Unless you can get students to come to your home, you will be travelling a lot, and the onus is on you to find and keep your students. Additionally, if your student doesn’t show for a lesson, you don’t get paid. Chilean students are notorious for being flaky, so choose your students carefully.
Freelance work could be a great option once you have gained a few months of experience and made some connections working for an established school.
What certifications do I need?
While some institutes will allow you to teach without any certifications, most will ask for a TEFL or IELT certificate.
TEFL is the most common and easiest to obtain certification. It stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. The TEFL can be taken online with or without an in-person component.
When taking a TEFL, you can choose the number of hours you wish to commit to your certification. Numbers range from 50 – 300, but the recommended minimum is 80 hours for courses with a live training component or 120 hours for a course that is solely online. Less hours than this may mean that English schools will not accept your certification. A TEFL certification is valid forever and never expires.
Bridge Chile offers a 120 hour course with a 20 hour live training component for US$250 in Santiago.
TEFLonline offer a 120 hour online course for $190.
What can I expect to get paid?
Wages vary. Some examples:
- Bridge Chile pays $4.000 per hour but reimburses for travel.
- Instituo Chileno Norte Americano pays $7.000 / hour.
- The company I worked for me paid $6.000 per 45 minute session, or $8.000 per teaching hour plus partial reimbursement if my travel time was long.
For private students you are free to set your own pricing. Typical rates are $10.000 to $14.000 per hour, but depending on your relationship with the client and your skill level, you could charge quite a bit more.
Here are some established English-teaching schools and institutes you could reach out to in Chile:
- Instituto Chileno Norte Americano
- Instituo Chileno Britanico
- Bridge Chile
- Sam Marsalli
- Open English
- English First
- Wall Street Institute
Interview with a full-time English teacher
My friend Warren initially moved to Chile from Colorado, USA and now makes his living as a full-time English teacher living in Santiago.
He has kindly agreed to answer some of my questions in order to give my readers a flavour of what it’s like to make a living teaching English in Chile. Additionally, if you have any questions for Warren, you may reach him at this email address.
In this interview Warren talks a little about how he got started teaching English, the best and worst things about teaching in Chile, and some essential advice for anyone looking to get started teaching English in Chile with no experience.