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 even decide that remote working is the best option, as these jobs often pay in dollars or euros. Have a look at my post about the cost of living in Bogota so you can start to work out more or less how much you’ll want to be earning each month. I’ve used Colombian currency below as the exchange rate with the US dollar is always fluctuating, so it saves me having to update this post too often!
To give you some context, the minimum salary in Colombia (in 2018) is $260 dollars/month (nearly $800,000 pesos) and 70% of the population earns less than $1,500,000 pesos per month. Unless you are highly qualified and experienced in your field, or working in finance or in the oil and gas industry, it is generally difficult to earn more than $1,000 dollars a month working for a Colombian employer. The best bet would be to find a job that pays in dollars or euros which allows you to work remotely.
A VERY important thing to keep 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. Speaking from experience, it can be a bit of a shock when you get your first pay-check if you’re not expecting it. 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). If you’re not on a service contract, the employer will pay for your health insurance and pension contributions.
So what are the typical salaries or rates of pay for jobs that expats consider doing?
Many English-teaching institutes pay about $25,000-30,000 pesos/hour, and this usually involves travelling around the city for hours on end just to get to the classes (for which they often 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. In 2017, they were paying $61,000 pesos/hour plus benefits – health, pension and yearly bonus – which are not deducted from this hourly wage. However, if you’re hired as an hourly-paid teacher there, you’re likely only to receive 5-10 teaching hours per week (as of 2018), so you’ll probably want to combine this with other work. Similar to other teaching institutes, the working hours are often not guaranteed.
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. If you’re hoping to make a living through private classes, offer packages of classes which students have to pay for upfront (e.g. 10 classes for $400,000 pesos), and ask them to sign a contract which states that they acknowledge that if they don’t take the classes within e.g. 28 days they will lose their money and the classes. Spanish teacher, Sara Correa offers packages of private Spanish classes in Bogota and operates in this way, so if you contact her she might be able to give you a template contract.
Teaching English Online
Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of people posting on Facebook about teaching English online to students in China (which you can do from anywhere in the world). One poster, Craig McVicker, left this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org, so you could email him to find out more. The pay seemed ok (by Colombian standards). I’ve also seen people posting about VIPKID, which also involves teaching English online. Again, I’m not sure of their reputation, but seeing as more and more people are choosing to study English online from the comfort of their own homes, online teaching is a growing business. Plus you would avoid the Bogotá commute (huge advantage!). So it might be worth checking out.
Secondary school teacher
If you have a university-level teaching qualification, you can apply to work in international or private schools in Bogota, where you could 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 a lot. 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. 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, and always check the terms of your contract!
Translation generally pays at between $50 and $200 pesos per word, depending on the company/institute and whether you’re working directly for them or through an agency. Translation is a 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. In 2015, they were paying $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 and would like to add some translation experience to your CV. Alternatively, you could try contacting universities directly to offer your services or apply for translation jobs on LinkedIn.
Depending on the type of role you apply for, the salaries are usually very good in comparison to other jobs. Some positions 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 are all kinds of work advertised on Upwork, from people needing virtual assistants, to translation work, to social media management to web developers to writers. 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 in the evenings to earn an additional income and earns $9 an hour (not bad by Colombian standards). I have also found a couple of freelance writing gigs on Upwork. The great thing is that, although Upwork takes a 10-20% commission, they guarantee your payment, so you never have to worry about getting paid.
Remote working is becoming more and more of a thing nowadays, and there are now websites dedicated to advertising remote-working job opportunities. These jobs will usually pay in dollars or euros, which when converted to Colombian pesos usually goes a long way. Some of the links below are for general job search websites, so you’ll need to type “Remote” into the search box or use the filter as necessary.
- We Work Remotely
- Working Nomads
- The Muse
- Skip the Drive
- Virtual Vocations (paid membership required)
- Flexjobs (paid membership required)
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 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 $1.5 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”.
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 sales, 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! You could advertise your services on the Expats in Colombia Facebook groups, in The City Paper, The Bogota Post, and even ask local embassies if they have expat mailing lists. You can also advertise your services on Internations, and ask the American Women’s Club if they can help too.
Where to search for jobs
I’ve already mentioned Upwork and the remote working websites. You can also check Jobs in Bogota and Computrabajo, though I’ve found that the jobs listed on Computrabajo aren’t usually well-paid. People sometimes list jobs on the Internations jobs forum. If you’re interested in travel writing, sign up for MatadorU and check out the adverts on the Marketplace. Finally, I recommend sorting out and updating your LinkedIn profile if you haven’t done so recently. I’ve been approached several times on LinkedIn by people wanting English classes or Spanish to English translations.