The easiest way for an English speaker to make money in Colombia is by teaching English; and teaching English in Bogota has become a big business. Everyone seems to be setting up a ‘School of English’ nowadays; needless to say therefore, that there is a huge variation in quality, working conditions and pay.
If you don’t have a CELTA certificate but are considering moving to Colombia for some time, and expect to earn a living teaching English, doing a CELTA course will be a sure investment. There are far too many ‘cowboy’ language institutes which are exploiting native English speakers who are desperate to start making some money in Colombia, and don’t have any formal qualifications. Some pay as little as 15.000 pesos/hour, and don’t reimburse you for the time you have to spend travelling to classes, which can often be all over Bogota (and sometimes outside).
CELTA courses in Bogota
The two places which offer the CELTA course in Bogota are the British Council and International House. IH runs intensive one-month courses every month, and is a bit cheaper than the British Council. The British Council’s CELTA courses are less regular, and you’ll have to keep a regular eye on the website to see when the next one is coming up. As of 2017, the British Council offers the intensive one-month course (which I did, and would recommend!), and occasionally the blended CELTA course, which means you study all of the theory independently and then go to the British Council for the teaching practice part. The blended CELTA is part-time over three months. The one-month intensive course is well worth doing at the British Council, as the teaching quality on the course and the teaching facilities in the classrooms are outstanding, in my opinion. Also, if you do well on the course, you already have British Council contacts if you want to try to get a job at the best English teaching organisation in Colombia. You will also find that the contacts you will make at the BC will be really useful.
Teaching English in Bogota: institutes and universities
The best place to teach English, without a doubt, is the British Council. If you have a CELTA qualification and some post-CELTA teaching experience (they say at least 2 years, but they often accept less if you perform well in the interview and demo lesson), this will provide the best working conditions – free training, 61,000 pesos/hour as an hourly-paid teacher or around $5 million/month starting salary as a teacher on a full-time contract, and a lot of support and good people to work with. Furthermore, most of the classes are on-site at the British Council, and when you need to travel to an off-site class, the BC will arrange for private transport to take you to and from the class, and reimburse you for the time spent travelling.
International House is an ‘OK’ option for teaching English post-CELTA; the pay is less, at around 25,000-33,000/hour for hourly-paid teachers, and I think contracted teachers are paid a bit more than 2 million pesos/month. If you are on a contract, you will be obliged to work a certain number of hours a week, and to accept whatever classes (in whatever part of the city) you are given if it means making up your contracted hours. It is a well-known global organisation, and would look good on your CV if you’re considering making a career out of English teaching, however, the IH Bogotá operates as a franchise, and I have heard rants/grumblings from a number of former employees about how they treat their staff. They will sponsor and pay for working visas, but if they pay for your visa they will expect you to commit to working for them for at least a year, and if you don’t honour this commitment, the cost of the visa will be deducted from your final wages. I heard from a couple of hourly-paid teachers that they ended up leaving before the year was up because they just weren’t being given enough classes to be able to earn a living from.
Executive English Training is a relatively new English teaching business offering General English and Business English classes to business executives at their offices. The pay is 40,000 pesos/hour for General English classes and 60,000 pesos/hour for Business English, and the lady who runs it is very nice, organised and professional. Rachel, the director, can be contacted by email at email@example.com. Note that only CELTA-qualified native English speakers with a confident knowledge of English grammar will be accepted, as clients are often keen to improve their accents through contact with native speakers, and often ask very specific grammar questions which they expect to be answered!
Bogota Business English pays between $30,000-38,000 pesos/hour for off-site business English classes and all of the materials are provided. You will need to travel to wherever your classes are, and they will sponsor (but won’t pay for) work visas. You will need to have a teaching certificate and a university degree or teaching experience. They will set up your health insurance (EPS) and pension funds for you. BBE also works with a foundation just outside of Bogotá where teachers can go and play football with the children, help with cooking classes and teach the children English – excellent for people who are looking to do some voluntary work while they’re in Bogotá. There’s more information about this project on their website.
Inglés Bogota has a very good reputation in terms of quality, and paying their teachers and translators. The director is British and a nice but serious guy – you won’t be messed around and you’ll receive a handbook when you start. They pay between 27,000-33,000 pesos/hour depending on how far you have to travel for the class – all classes are off-site. When I went for an interview there at the beginning of 2014, they said they would require me to already have a work visa (this may have changed by now though), and they will ask for a TEFL qualification or previous teaching experience.
American School Way is an option for native and non-native English and French teachers. It doesn’t pay brilliantly (around $1.8 millon – $2.2 million per month for full-time native speakers, working Monday – Saturday (45-ish hours a week); up to $1 million per month part-time), and doesn’t require the CELTA (but they will test your knowledge of English grammar). Personally, I don’t agree with their teaching methodology, and it is clear that profits have been prioritised far above quality or student progress. One person described studying there as more like gym membership; go and study what you want, when you want, with a teacher there supervising. Apparently SMART institute works in a similar way. However, if you don’t have a teaching qualification and want to earn a fixed monthly wage in Bogota (and get a working visa so that you can stay in Colombia and eventually move onto better places!) American School Way is not the worst option out there. At least the people there are friendly (in my experience, when I went there) and you’ll be teaching onsite, and therefore not have to travel all over the city.
Con Inglés is another well-known English teaching company, but I haven’t heard good things about the pay and working conditions; 17,000 pesos/hour (as of 2014) and they will send you to teach all over the city. They’ll sponsor a working visa, don’t require a CELTA qualification, and will pay your (public) health insurance and pension contributions, but from what I’ve heard, it’s not worth the trouble.
Wall Street Institute and Berlitz are well-known globally and are fairly popular in Bogota. I’m not 100% sure about what they pay (I think about 25,000 pesos/hour), and some people have expressed doubts about their teaching methodologies (including former students that I’ve met).
Personal Growth – There are some bad reviews online about this company, but I can’t vouch for how much truth there is to these.
Some of the universities in Bogotá may be options in terms of teaching English, but in my experience universities have a habit of requiring you to have a master’s degree (in any subject) in order to teach English there. Most won’t have heard of or won’t recognise the CELTA/DELTA qualifications. This was what I was told at the Universidad EAN at my interview. They had some off-site classes where the requirements weren’t as strict, offering pay of $55,000 pesos/hour, but I was told ‘Forget about working at a university as a teacher if you don’t have a master’s degree’.
In an online forum, I saw a post saying that Universidad Central pays punctually, helps you to get a visa and offers employees free gym membership.
The English Workshop has been mentioned in terms of having ‘great teachers and great people’ on the Facebook group English Teachers in Bogotá! The contact email address given is: EnglishWorkshopBogota@yahoo.com.
I’ll add some more places and more information in due course, but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with these questions that you ought to be asking yourself when searching for English teaching work:
- How much will they pay you per hour? Remember, you could spend 1-2 hours planning a lesson, an hour or more travelling to a class, 90 mins to 2 hours teaching a class, and an hour travelling back home. If they’re paying you 50,000 pesos for the 2-hour class, when in total you’re actually investing 6 hours of your time, is it really worth it?
- Is the hourly wage before or after tax deductions and benefits contributions? Income tax is less than 10% here (up to a certain amount) once you’ve been a resident for 6 months (before that it’s a staggering 33%) but it’s important to check.
- Will they make health insurance and pension contributions on top of your salary, or will you have to pay for those yourself out of what they pay you?
- How much and how far will you need to travel to get to classes? The time you can spend on public transport in Bogota is shocking, and if you’re going to end up travelling a total of 3 hours each time you have a class, you need to ask yourself if it’s really worth it for what they’re paying you. (you can of course request classes which are easy/quick to get to from where you live, but you might then restrict yourself).
- If you are on a contract where you have to work a minimum number of hours per week, how far will they expect you to travel, and will you be obliged to accept classes at any time of the day? (bearing in mind the busiest times of day for English classes are from 6.30 – 8.30am and from 17.30 – 9.30pm, and on Saturdays).
- Will they provide you with free training/professional development opportunities? (as the British Council does)
Have you had any experience teaching English in Bogota for the companies I’ve mentioned (or any that I haven’t)? Please do leave your comments and opinions below.