Welcome to part 2 of the ‘How to get a job teaching English in Chile’ series.
Today we have a guest post from August Jaenke. August opened his own English school in Santiago in 2011, appropriately called August English. The institute specializes in offering affordable and flexible English classes to Chileans, although he has recently branched out into offering budget Spanish classes for gringos in Chile. He occasionally needs teachers and always needs students. You can reach him directly by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
August was kind enough to share with me and the Ultimate Guide to Chile readers a list of tips for prospective English teachers in Santiago, Chile.
Q: Can/Should I apply for a job before coming to Chile?
Short Answer: Not if you have a little bit of money saved up for living expenses the first few months.
Long Answer: You can, but the only schools that hire teachers before they are in Chile are the big ones, and they are gonna take a huge cut of your salary. It’s a recurring theme, but there’s a big tradeoff between security and salary. If you want a good job, you’ve got to take more risks.
Q: How much can I expect to make?
Short Answer: $350.000-$600.000 per month.
Long Answer: When talking about institutes, it is critical to divide the whales from the little fish. The whales (Tronwell, NorteAmericano, Chileno Britanico, Comunicorp, E-Class, etc) usually pay $4.000 – $7.000 per hour and work with full-time contracts. I would also put many of the international institutes (Wall Street, EF) in this category even though they’re not as big in Chile. The smaller schools give you one or two classes at a time without giving you a contract, but generally pay more ($8.000 and up). It will probably take you 2 months to completely fill up your schedule if you work for smaller schools, but your patience will be rewarded by a significantly higher salary and more autonomy.
Q: Where should I work?
Short Answer: It depends on your teaching style, experience, and pay expectations.
Long Answer: Look at several factors. Do you want to be independent or simply follow a set book or curriculum verbatim? Are you capable of teaching, or do you need heavy support and guidance? Are you willing to accept a lower income the first few months in order to make more in the future? Do you want to have control over your schedule to do extra-curricular activities?
Q: What qualifications do I need to teach?
Short Answer: It depends on the school.
Long Answer: Commitment to teaching here, and responsibility. For me, those are the big two, but it’s also helpful to have a degree, teaching certification, experience, a knowledge of Spanish, intelligence, and trainability.
Q: Do I need a visa?
Short Answer: Maybe.
Long Answer: It depends on the institute. It’s certainly a benefit, but one that many teachers get around. When you’re going for the interview with the school, make sure to ask this question.
Q: How do I get a visa? What kind do I need?
Short Answer: There is no short answer.
Long Answer: There are two types of visas that you are likely to be offered: temporary and temporary subject to contract. A temporary visa essentially requires you to show that you are qualified to teach and that somebody is interested in hiring you (via a letter of intent). It doesn’t actually require a commitment on the part of the institute to hire you. Definitely try to get help from the school to fill out the application form and paperwork. To get this visa, you’ll want to bring a copy of your university degree with you that has been notarized by the issuing institution, certified by whoever oversees that notary, and signed-off on by the Chilean embassy or consulate overseeing them.
A subject to contract visa has one major benefit. It requires the institute to pay you a minimum salary every month, regardless on class size. The disadvantage is that you will likely be forced to accept a large number of classes that require ridiculous amounts of work and travel. I know one company here that once offered a contract for about $700 per month and required 4 hours of teaching from 8-12 AM, 4 more hours from 6-10 PM, and all day every other Saturday. When you add in travel and prep time, you’re basically working 65-hour weeks.
Q: Should I try to get a visa?
Short Answer: Probably.
Long Answer: Different nationalities are charged different amounts for visas. Those from the UK pay a ton ($1000+) while those from the US pay $0. You’ll almost certainly have to pay this yourself if you’re teaching English. Ultimately, the question then is how long you plan on being here and how much extra money you can make teaching legally. In addition, having a visa lets you set up a bank account, make purchases online, and sign up for many services that require you to have a national ID number.
You definitely have the potential to make more money if you already have a visa, particularly a temporary (not subject to contract) one. You will be able to bill English schools for your time each month, which gives you the opportunity to accept classes from several different companies based on pay and convenience. In addition, you can get hired by companies to teach directly without having a school as the intermediary.
(Editor’s note: See this post for more information on how to get a temporary residency visa)
Q: I’m going to teach English in Chile to learn Spanish and save up some money so I can travel.
Short Answer: Uh-oh.
Long Answer: Easier said than done. Your first few months are critical to learning Spanish because that is when you find your friend group which will determine your lingua franca for your time here. Most likely, if you’re teaching English you need to come for at least one year. Travelling? That’s tricky because salaries are reasonably low and expenses are reasonably high. If you don’t come with money saved up, plan to take 1 substantial trip per year.
Q: I’ve heard it’s easy to find private students in Chile.
Short Answer: This method works best if you bring a tent to stay in and really like eating pasta.
Long Answer: Realistically, expect to find a new private student every 2 months, and for that class to last for a 3-6 month period. You’ll probably need 6-10 private students to make a solid liveable income, so you’re gonna have to be extremely patient. It’s not uncommon that long-term teachers in Chile work accept work from institutes every now and then when their number of private students temporary declines.