Salaries in Bogota can vary hugely, so if you’re considering moving here, you’ll definitely want an idea of how much you could potentially be earning once you find a job. You may also find this post about the cost of living in Bogota useful. Note: As of October 2015, the exchange rate is approximately $3000 Colombian pesos = $1 USD. Due to the currency fluctuation, I have changed all of the amounts from dollars to pesos. You can check the current exchange rate on Google or xe.com.
To give you some context, the minimum salary in Colombia (in 2016) is $235 dollars/month ($689,000) and 70% of the population earns less than $1,500,000 pesos per month. Unless you are highly qualified and experienced in your field, it is generally difficult to earn more than $1000 per month.
A VERY important thing to bear in mind is that as an expat you will be taxed 33% on your monthly earnings in Colombia until you have been living here for at least 6 months, after which you are a resident. It can be a bit of a shock when you get your first pay-check if you’re not expecting it (trust me!). After that, income tax is very low, I think between 5 and 10% (sometimes even less, depending on your earnings), but you will need to make separate contributions to a health insurance policy and pension plan if you are on a service contract (check this with your employer when you apply for a job).
So what are the typical salaries or rates of pay for jobs that expats might look into?
Many English-teaching institutes pay about $25,000 pesos/hour, and this usually involves travelling around the city for hours on end just to get to the classes (for which they usually don’t pay you extra). However, if you’re seriously considering teaching English in Bogota for some time, invest in a CELTA TEFL course at International House or the British Council. If you perform well in the course at the British Council, you can then apply for a job there afterwards, where they pay $61,000 pesos/hour including benefits (health, pension and yearly bonus) which are not deducted from this hourly wage. Working 15 teaching hours a week at the British Council you would earn $3,660,000 pesos per month. If you search for private, corporate clients who want English classes, you can charge (and earn) even more, although private classes are often unpredictable, with students regularly cancelling at the last minute.
Secondary School teacher
If you have a PGCE or equivalent secondary teaching qualification, you can apply to work in international or private schools in Bogota, where you could expect to earn $5 million pesos/month plus bonuses, or more if you are hired on a more lucrative international contract. But the quality of schools (even private schools) and working conditions vary. I know, for example, that many teachers in private schools earn between $2 million and $2.5 million pesos/month, and are under huge amounts of stress – and in public schools teachers earn a lot less (downwards of $1.5 million) – so make sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for before you apply!
Translation generally pays at between $50 and $150 pesos per word, depending on the company/institute, and is another good option if you have a high level of Spanish and English. You could get in touch with Inglés Bogotá, which offers teaching and translation work. They pay $50 pesos/word for translations, which is quite a low rate given that universities will usually pay $150-200 pesos/word, but you might find it ok if you’re just getting started. Alternatively, you could try contacting universities directly to offer your services.
Depending on the type of role you apply for, the salaries are usually very good in comparison to other jobs. A role as an Entry Clearance Officer at the British Embassy, for example, will pay between $4 million – $5 million pesos/month. An administrative role will pay around $2 – 2.5 million/month. Obviously there are a lot of expats competing for these roles! Also check the US Embassy and Canadian Embassy‘s job listings.
If you prefer to earn in dollars and avoid the 33% income tax here in Colombia during your first 6 months of living in Colombia, you can set up a profile on Upwork, an online platform for freelancers. There is all kinds of work advertised on Upwork, from people needing virtual assistants, to translation work, to social media management to web developers to writers and the best thing is that you can work from the comfort of your own home (or wherever you want!). You can set your hourly rate, or you can apply for assignments which offer a fixed fee. My boyfriend works on Upwork to earn an additional income and so far it’s going well; and if I find myself with too much free time on my hands, I may well do the same. I recommend starting with a low hourly fee in order to accumulate some hours and good employer reviews, and then you can up your rate.
If you speak good Spanish and have experience in administration, you could look for a job in this area, but they usually pay pretty badly; I mean between $1 and 2 million pesos per month (and you’d be really lucky to get an administrative job paying $2 million pesos per month!).
Working full time (48 hours, 6 days a week) you could earn around $1 million pesos a month, maybe a bit more if it pays commission. There’s no guarantee that this sort of employer would sponsor you for a work visa though (and who really wants to work in a call center anyway?). But if you want to have a look, try Computrabajo and in the ‘Palabra Clave’ (keyword) box on the left type in “call center” or “English”.
If you want some casual cash-in-hand work, you could approach small bars and restaurants, but expect to be paid the minimum wage ($660,000 pesos/month) or even less for working 6 days a week.
Torre Technologies is a fast-growing company, based in the US but with offices in Colombia. They’re often recruiting for English and Spanish speakers in the area of writing, technology, management and administration, so check out their job vacancies page and see if there’s anything that you might be suited to.
From what I’ve heard, I don’t think it’s that easy to practise law or medicine in Bogota as a foreigner, but I have seen that there are expats who are qualified psychologists and who have set up their own practices, charging $200,000 pesos +/hour. So if you are qualified in a particular field, you may be able to set up as an independent consultant. Bogota is, after all, the city of opportunities!