Teaching English in Mexico

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Mexico Overview

The level of demand for native speakers in Mexico is very high. Unfortunately, TEFL salaries are relatively low and despite reasonably low living costs you certainly won’t be able to save much, if at all. As in most Latin American countries the students are lively and sociable and therefore a pleasure to teach. There is a high turnover of staff at many language centres which says a great deal about the pros and cons. Employers can be unreliable and have unreasonable demands such as the common one that you are effectively ‘on call’ from 8am to 8pm or similar. You are rarely paid for travelling from one location or class to another and this can take up a significant chunk of your daily schedule. There are lots of other native speakers looking for short-term employment but many leave after just a few months due to the poor pay and the fact that many private students cancel at short notice (and therefore don’t pay you). If you are experienced and hard-working then you may be lucky to find one of the few well-paid positions, such as those at bilingual schools. For the majority, however, TEFL in Mexico is a fun experience for a short period of time but certainly not a serious career option.

Type of Institution Typical salary (USD/month) Typical hours Typical annual leave
Language centres 800 – 1,500 Various split shifts and evenings and weekends 2 weeks plus national holidays
Local schools 1,000 – 1,500 9am – 4pm Monday to Friday plus some weekend work Various, depending on contract length
International schools and universities 2,500 upwards 9am – 4pm Monday to Friday plus some weekend work 10 weeks plus national holidays

Main places for jobs

Mexico City, Chiapas.

Typical requirements

TEFL certificate, local interview preferred.

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Tips

1. A CELTA or TEFL certificate is not strictly necessary, but you will find that if you have one you are eligible for better jobs and better pay. You’ll also be a more confident teacher.

2. Given the low salaries, you may need to supplement your income with extra, private one-to-one tuition. Contacts are essential and found via word of mouth and through local adverts and websites.

3. American and Canadian teachers may be at a slight advantage.

Red tape

Your employer is responsible for obtaining your work permit (FM3 visa). However, in reality, many work illegally. Despite the flexibility this allows, this is not recommended for obvious reasons. Mexican bureaucracy can drive even the most patient person insane and you should expect to have to have original documentation translated into Spanish in order to process your work visa. Most teachers arrive on a tourist visa because finding work before you arrive is very rare.

Cost of living

The cost of living is low but you will probably have to share accommodation with another teacher at first.

Tax and salary information

You should expect to be paid on a monthly basis. Make sure you actually have a contract or else you may have problems when it comes to payday.

Summary

High demand for English tuition Generally low pay and many employers are reluctant to offer proper, full-time contracts
Fantastic, sociable students Teachers are usually expected to work split shifts and spend a lot of time travelling (which is unpaid)
There are plenty of other teachers in Mexico so you should have a good social network with both foreigners and locals alike It is very difficult to find work unless you are already in the country

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Qualified English teachers please register with World of TEFL and we will contact you with relevant vacancies as they come in. This is a free service for teachers.

4 Comments

  1. Mikhail Branski says:

    Unfortunately, job opportunities are not all that are bragged about in Latin America. In Costa Rica, for example, it can be much more difficult to get a reasonable work than you might think. I have been here for almost three months and had many interviews and even some work but many of these schools that claim they want to hire you are VERY unprofessional. You may have interviews. You may be promised work. You may even get a few hours here and there. But there appear to be a glut of teachers now and finding a DECENT job can my much harder than these TEFL mills want you to believe. They are in the business of making money and so, they put the best spin on opportunities as possible.

    The quality of these schools varies tremendously. Quite a few of classrooms right next to heavy traffic. There will be NO air-conditioning. Students may not show up. You may be asked to travel AND pay for it. The average wage is $8. And there is a STRONG BIAS toward hiring the young and inexperienced who, I guess, they figure do not know any better. There is a high rate of teachers quitting which might explain the short hours you are offered and the low pages you will be paid.

    You could get lucky and get hired at $10 per hour for 20-30 hours per week. THAT is rare indeed. Be prepared for living in a Third World Country. While Costa Rica is better off than some, there are many problems. Let me name a few: computer service/connections/wideband are problematic; noise is a problem if you like to sleep (dogs, alarms, parties, horns); the phones here are garbage, so bring a high quality one from the states (for example, on the $50 phones here, a person calling CAN NOT leave a message); people are NOT as friendly as many other Latin American countries (they are NOT unfriendly either); Costa Ricans will ‘milk’ you because you are ‘rich’, so they think (worse than Mexico); the food here is generally terrible in cafes and restaurants, with few exceptions); food in the stores can be expensive, most items more expensive than the U.S. (e.g. roasted chicken in the store or street?-$12!!!!!).

    People who tout how great Costa Rica is: 1) are married or have good connections; 2) speak Spanish fluently; 3) stay for six months and move on; 4) spend a lot of time partying; 5) have money which means they do not depend on their salary earned here; 6) plan to stay short-term and really make NO commitment to their work.

    The directors at most of the schools are Costa Rica and do not speak fluent English or speak it poorly at best. I am NOT impressed. At least in Mexico, the food is MUCH better and the people much more friendly.

  2. Kelly says:

    I suggest anyone thinking about going to Costa Rica, not to take the advice of Mikhail. I’ve travelled to over 65 countries, and Costa Rica is one of my favourites. I also do not fall into any of the categories listed above. I think this person just had a bad experience which has tainted the entire country, and any readers should take this information with a pinch of salt. It’s true Costa Rica is expensive, but still not as expensive as many Western countries. As for people trying to ‘milk’ you for money – I work for a tourism attraction, which is a bridge park in Canada, they charge $40 to enter the bridge park, now tell me that’s not ‘milking’ tourists for their money – all touristic places do it!

  3. Wayne says:

    I already have a clad certification would I really need a Tefl certification as well?

    • Dan says:

      Hi Wayne. For the entry level jobs you will probably be OK but don’t expect to earn much. Most employers want to see some kind of TEFL certificate at the very least. Best of luck in Mexico.

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