Teaching English in Medellin
(Note: I wrote this article on January 17, 2015, but I have been updating every year. My latest update is, today, August 31, 2017.)
As most of you know, I have a business here in Medellin and it takes up all of my time (Red Door Studios). Before my digital marketing agency took off I was working as a freelancer from home and teaching English, part-time, at a private institution here in Medellin.
Six years ago I never thought I would be teaching English in Medellin. Yet here I am teaching, so why do I teach?
- It’s a passion – I’m not in the NBA, but I love to play basketball, and I do it practically every day. I was raised with the attitude that “If you’re going to do something, do it 100% or do not do it at all.” I love teaching and helping others, therefore, I teach English in Medellin, and I think this attitude is what makes me good at it.
- Routine – I only teach in the morning, starting at 6:00 am. This means I have to be up at 5:00 a.m. and I’m done with class at 8:00 am. This gets me going for my workday.
- Socialize – I run my business from home, so getting out, catching the bus, talking to students and co-workers, and getting to know them personally adds to my social life in Medellin.
- Power – My class is not a democracy, I am the dictator, all hail to the ME! Haha. Teaching is really fun for me, I like to lesson plan, I like to be a clown, I like to get people out of their comfort zone, etc, etc.
- Rewarding – Yeah I know it sounds cliché, but if you’ve ever taught anything and watched students progress, learn, graduate and then become teachers themselves you’d understand. It’s pretty amazing.
I have had many people from all over the world write me asking for advice on teaching English in Medellin. Therefore I will start with some advice before getting into my own teaching experience in Medellin.
- First of all, yes, a teaching certification or pedagogical degree is important. Colombia is a developing country, not some 3rd world where just because you are a native speaker you will land a job teaching kids in a hut in the middle of the jungle.
- I’ve had many friends who have landed teaching jobs with a university degree not related to teaching. So it is possible, be warned: there is a learning curve. If you’re going to teach something for two hours, no matter what it is, you must be prepared, therefore, I advise you to get some sort of teaching certificate.
- If you do not have credentials the worst case scenario is that you can get lucky and land a job teaching at a smaller language center, with low pay.
- Some private institutions that pay very low (that are not certified by the secretary of education), $10,000 per hour or so, will hire a native English speaker, and pay cash under the table, even if you don’t have any teaching certificate and/or degree or teaching experience.
- CELTA, TEFL, and TESOL are the most commonly accepted English teaching certificates in Medellin.
- Second, as an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher and test preparation teacher for over 5 years now, I am a big fan of the communicative teaching approach. I’m not a fan of the sit, read, write, grammar, repeat after me approach, which many language centers, schools and universities here in Medellin use. I, as a learner, get very bored with that methodology, thus I tend to stay away from it.
- Third, when it comes to getting a teaching job in Medellin, whether as an English teacher or not, it comes down to persistence and many times to whom you know within the company. I do suggest sending your resumes via email, but always follow up over the phone and in person.
- When you go in person you must dress sharp. No shorts, no flip-flops, shave and comb your hair, brush your teeth, and of course wear deodorant. It sucks that I have to write this stuff, but you would be surprised at how many hipster-doofuses I have interviewed.
- Fourth, Spanish is not necessary at all! You do not need to know how to speak Spanish. As a matter of fact, most of my students do not know that I am a native Spanish speaker. I do all of my classes 100% in English, if a student does not understand something I will bend over backward to help them understand, without the use of Spanish. I cut out that dreaded “Teacher, how do you say (insert word in Spanish)?”Any student with at least three months of proper English classes should be able to express themselves enough to form a question in English, and if they can not, I make them mime whatever it is they are trying to ask. For it is important to establish this in class the very first day. Why? Because most people around the world are lazy, even me. When I was learning French I caught myself asking the teacher to translate, luckily I had a great teacher who would scold me.
English Schools in Medellin
- Winston Salem – they have their own books and curriculum that you have to follow – you have to wear a tie – they pay well (well for Colombian standards, which means over $19,000 COL per hour) – salary – no help with work Visa – require teaching credentials.
- Wall Street English – (UPDATE – I walked by the school that was located on Avenida Poblado in El Poblado neighborhood and it was empty. I’m not sure if they moved or just shut down. Anyone with info please send it to me or make a comment below so I can update. Thanks) they have their own methodology which is listening first then reading and writing and finally speaking – you have to wear a tie – they pay well – require teaching credentials.
- Berlitz – Direct Method – the direct method works really well – classes are small – you have to wear a tie – they pay well, salary – help with Visa – require teaching credentials.
- Lexicom – they have their own books and curriculum that you have to work around – you have to wear a tie – they pay ok – help with Visa – I’ve had a few friends work there and they say the atmosphere is good – and according to a recent comment (below) they pay as much as $28,000 – require teaching credentials.
- Colombo Americano – they have their own books and curriculum that you have to work around – you have to wear a tie – they pay ok (about $20,000 COL per hour) – help with Visa – I’ve had a few friends that have worked there and have said that the staff and fellow teachers are competitive and kind of negative – require teaching credentials.
- Smart – they have their own material – they pay ok – no help with visa – teaching certificate required – they give their teachers a uniform – I have a couple of friends who work there and they say that they like it and that the actual facilities are nice and modern.
- Idiomas Blendex – Communicative Approach – jeans and t-shirt – no books – only worksheets – a lot of freedom – staff is great – fellow teachers are super friendly – the director is amazing – semesters start in March/April then in August/September depending on the level – pay is not so high, usually around $18,000 per hour for intermediate to advanced levels – help with work visa – always pay on time – require teaching credentials.
There are many English learning centers in Medellin, all you have to do is search online or look on facebook for centro de idiomas en Medellin, aprender ingles en Medellin, coursos de ingles en Medellin.
If I were trying to make a living teaching I would probably work for one of the bigger institutions or a university. Being entrepreneurial, I would probably start my own private test prep organization. I would set up a website (all in Spanish) optimize it for keywords to get to the first page (this is easy in Medellin) I’d use Facebook ads and boosted posts to get clients initially.
If you’re looking for a job I suggest you get on facebook and join the expat groups like Colombians and Expats in Medellin and start networking.
I had a roommate who has been a professor at a university here for a couple of years now and he said that all he did was walk into the language center of the campus and inquired about leaving his resume. The director talked to him that day and he was hired shortly after.
My Experience Teaching English in Medellin
As you can guess I teach at Blendex. Teaching English is a hobby/passion, thus the creation of the Medellin Buzz. I only work in the mornings with the advanced level classes and people there have become best friends for me.
When I started out as an English teacher in Medellin I was a little nervous. The class sizes where anywhere from 8 to 12 students and since Blendex’s methodology is Communicative the material was limited, so lesson planning was key.
The students at Blendex range from the ages of 18 to 35, and like anywhere else in the world they can tell when a teacher is not prepared for class. This is why certification in teaching English is essential. If I did not know how to lesson plan, I would be lost, and my classes would be boring. I have seen some disasters in class with native English speakers who do not know how to teach. Students get bored and at times will complain.
Most students in Colombia see English as a mandatory class in High School. English classes in public and most private schools in Colombia are shit. They use the Grammar Translation approach, hence the mediocre to poor speaking levels. It’s pretty much the same as Spanish class in high school in the U.S. I had many friends take 2 to 4 years of Spanish n high school and were still not able to have a conversation.
The majority of high school students in Medellin do not get passed the verb “to be.”
Beginner English Students
Teaching beginners is a challenge, but very rewarding. I taught beginners for a year, just to get my feet wet, and to learn the lower level teaching methodology of the institution. It was definitely a lot of work. Why? Because at Blendex the whole 2-hour class is in English, even if the students are beginners. You have to be able to communicate through body language, cognates, games, etc. This can be very demanding, but it is where as a teacher you see the most growth in the students.
Those first 6 months are amazing because they learn so much and they get very motivated. Teaching beginner classes were fun at the beginning, then exhausting. I would not want to teach beginners every semester.
I have a lot of respect for those teachers that do it day in and day out, like my friend in the picture below, Fry, one of the best-damned teachers I’ve ever seen. When I first started at Blendex I sat in on a few of his classes, the guy is very talented and I have never heard him speak Spanish, ever.
His students come to class very motivated because he pushes them and doesn’t set a bar, he keeps pushing until the students are ready for the advanced level.
Surprisingly, he is not the only great teacher at Blendex, there’s Freddy, who has a very relaxed approach, which removes pressure from the students.
There’s Peter (Venezuelan) and Juan David (Paisa), who are not only great teachers, but who become great friends with their students, so there’s never any intimidation in the class.
There’s Marco (German) whose boyish look and silly German humor makes every class a real joy.
I think the key is to incorporate one’s personality and never bring in your personal negativity into class.
Intermediate English Students
Teaching intermediate students is interesting. This is where I had to be more creative with my lesson planning. Since the classes had a varied level of intermediate students I had to really work on my lesson planning. Intermediate level English teaching for me is about speaking, speaking, speaking.
The higher level intermediate students at times feel as if they are not progressing because of the giant leap they had from when they were just beginners. So this is where I as a teacher have to be creative with the lessons to incorporate advanced grammar deductively, so as to not bore the crap out of them.
Blendex has new T.V.s, USB enabled boomboxes, DVD players, projectors, laptops, and WiFi. This makes my lessons more dynamic and fun for the students. Since I love computers, websites, etc, I am able to show students different online resources to help them at home.
Advanced English Students
For me, teaching advanced level English students is the most enjoyable. I have a lot of fun with these classes because we are all able to express ourselves in a very natural way.
Jokes, videos, movies, music, literature, poetry. I am able to use all of this in class because the students understand, at the very least, half of what is being communicated.
Advanced students are also much more dedicated than beginners and intermediates. These are students that have been studying English for at least a year and are committed to learning more. Not to mention that if they are waking up to get to a 6:00 a.m. English class they must really want to learn. So the classroom dynamic is awesome. I usually do not have to pick people to participate, they usually volunteer. They do not grimace at the mention of grammar or writing. They have favorite songs, books, movies in English. They usually have more extracurricular activities and hobbies. It truly is a joy.
Teacher Student Relations
Colombia is way different than the United States in respect to the teacher-student relation. In the United States, there is a fine line between teacher and student. As a teacher, you treat the student with respect and professionalism.
In Colombia, the teacher-student relationship is much more relaxed. Establishing a leadership role in class is very important because it is very easy to lose control if you have students with strong personalities.
Teenage female students like to hug here. Colombian people, in general, have loose personal boundaries, they kiss on the cheek upon meeting someone, so when I started teaching I was caught off guard when female students wanted to hug me or kiss on the cheek to say hello or goodbye.
Personal boundaries must be set. I give high fives. As corny as that sounds it has worked for me for five years. I still get hugs once in a while, but limiting physical contact with the students has helped me maintain the leadership role in the class.
Aside from the personal boundaries issue I also had to get adjusted to the fact that students here really do confide in me. I have students come to me with problems they have at home, relationships, business, drugs, and university.
I have become good at detecting when a student is having personal issues and I usually ask to speak to them after class. One time I had a student who was being abused at home. I spoke to her and told her that it was a bigger issue than I could handle, so I reported it to the school’s administration.
In Medellin marijuana is pretty much legal. Sometimes I have had students come to class stoned. The way I handle this is by putting the class into dyads, having them do an activity and pulling the stoner out of class. I let the student know that he/she cannot stay in class and that if it happens again I would have no choice but to report it.
When it comes to dating students I have never had an issue. At Blendex they are strict about not hitting on the students. Cesar, the director, once told us in a meeting that he understands that most teachers are there at the institution six days a week for 50 hours. Naturally, there is going to be a time that you are going to be interested in a student or a student is going to be interested in you. He emphasized the importance of handling it professionally, that it is not the end of the world to actually date a student, but hitting on students constantly and trying to get dates repeatedly is not tolerated.
Every semester there is a student that gets a crush on me. In four years I have never dated a girl that was a current student. I have however dated former students. I would never date a current student, I would hate to lose my leadership role in the class. I find that dating students is best after they graduate.
If you’re interested in my dating life here in Medellin, Colombia check out my blog post on my experience dating Colombian women.
Teaching Other Subjects in Medellin
Teaching English is not the only option in Medellin. As a matter of fact, I have friends who are elementary school teachers, high school teachers and university professors that teach different subjects. There are a few elementary and high schools (that are high-end schools) that require English teachers. Here are a few:
Elementary & High Schools:
- Vermont School
- The Columbus School
- Instituto Musical Diego Echeverria
- Colegio Canadiense
I personally have never taught at an elementary school or high school in Medellin, but I do have a few friends that do, so it is possible to land a good job with a private school.
In regards to Universities, I have only done workshops at EAFIT and CESDE. I was invited to teach at SENA, but turned the offer down due to lack of schedule availability and, frankly, the compensation was too low.
Teaching the computer workshops at the universities was very fun. They were all in English and all had to do with computer science subjects that I like: HTML, WordPress, SEO, PHP, Digital Marketing I even had a Microsoft Excel workshop.
University students are definitely very motivated to learn and always want to speak English. Just like anywhere else you’ll get those that are shy, but I always work hard on my lesson planning thinking about those shy or less motivated students.
I always incorporate some sort of group activity that doesn’t involve the use of a computer, usually an icebreaker at the beginning of the workshop. This gets the everyone comfortable with each other, I make sure that I participate in the activity too so that the students feel comfortable with me. The worst feeling for me is if a student thinks I’m unapproachable or intimidating.
Teaching English Online – Make Dollars!
It can be tough to make a living in Medellin on just teaching English at a private institution. I know because I did it for over five years. While I was teaching I was also working freelance, online, for US clients (digital marketing). I mean I like to live in a nice area, I like to go out and eat wherever I want, whenever I want, and with a Colombian English teacher’s salary that’s just not possible.
There’s a really good solution. You can teach English in Medellin and also teach English online for U.S. dollars.
My brother Francisco came to Medellin two years ago, and he has been teaching English to students in China, making $20.00 US per hour ever since. $20.00 US per hour is way more than most private English schools will pay here in Medellin.
Note, most online teaching jobs require some sort of English teaching certificate and/or pedagogical degree.
To get more information about teaching English online and making dollars feel free to contact my brother, Francisco Macia. I told him I’d be adding his Facebook profile to this blog post, so feel free to hit him up.
What makes teaching English in Medellin so awesome is the students. For the most part, they are fun and willing to learn. One thing that they all have in common, even the worst student in the class, the one that does not want to be there, will always say “thank you teacher” and shake your hand at the end of the class. I work long and hard to make my classes fun and different, so when students say thank you or that it was a good class it makes me feel great.
Landing a teaching job in Medellin can be tough. You have to deal with the way Paisas do business and the hiring process. This can take time and some ass kissing. Luckily I did not have to go through any of that. If you really want to teach English, become a great teacher, work on making your classes fun and dynamic.
My business is at a point where it requires a lot of attention, however, I still teach Monday through Thursday from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. As long as I can manage my business while teaching I will continue to do so.
About the writer – Andrew Macia
Hello, my name is Andrew Macia and I am the founder of the Medellin Buzz. I am an advanced level English teacher, and I also run a digital marketing company here in Medellin.
I love Colombian and Medellin has been my home since 2010. I like to write and I want to give back to the community. This is the best way I know how. I hope you enjoy my blog!
About the Medellin Buzz
I started the Medellin Buzz as a resource for my English as a foreign language students. A site where they could read about their city in English, that wasn’t boring. It slowly turned into a personal blog and hub for information for people discovering Medellin. I check comments frequently, so feel free to leave your comment and/or questions below.
Good article Andrew! I used to work at one of the institutes you listed. I couldn’t believe the amount of people who rocked up in flip-flops, boardies and baseball caps expecting to be fauned over just because they were native speakers. At least twice a week someone would come in dressed like that and didn’t even think to bring a resume. The breathtaking arrogance of assuming that Colombia is so underdeveloped and desperate for some backpacker to rock up and save them!
Thanks Jay, yeah it doesn’t even upset me anymore, it just makes me laugh. The good thing is that I see it less nowadays.
Thanks for sharing your experience Andrew ! I’m currently enrolled in a CELTA course in Ecuador. I spent 2 months in Medellin before coming here and loved the city. I’ve been considering teaching in Medellin and this text is very informative and helpful for me !
Hey Stan, good to hear from you. Yeah having the CELTA is a big plus. Hope to see you back here soon.
Great article! Looks like your students have lots of fun while learning, that’s wonderful. Do you teach private lessons? I am looking for a teacher to help my daughter to improve her conversation skills, would be great if you are available a couple of hours every week. If so, please send me an email. Thanks!
Hi Anna, thanks for the comment. I just sent you an email. It should be in your inbox from email@example.com.
A great article and very relevant to me right now – I’ve just moved to Medellin and I’m on the job hunt! Just to let you know though, Winston Salem require you to have a visa before you apply. I went in the other day and spoke with the coordinator there, Ivan, who was very helpful, but said they had had bad experiences in the past arranging visas so they changed their policy.
I also started to have an interview at Smart this morning, but it turns out they also require you to have a visa beforehand. Do you know if it is difficult to arrange a working visa by yourself without the help of an institution?
Also, I’ve had a few people ask me about private lessons, do you know what the going rate is here for an hour?
Anyway I’ve got a masters, a CELTA, and six months experience at language center in Guatemala. If anybody knows of any jobs going, could you please let me know.
Hi Adam, thanks for the comment. Thanks for the update on Winston Salem, I updated the post, I also added Smart on there too. I’ve never gone through the work visa process, but I can refer you to a friend who would know about it, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for private lessons I charge $50,000 per hour. I know there are some people that go as low as $20,000 an hour though.
Having a masters plus, CELTA and experience teaching will definitely land you a job here. It might take a month or two, that’s just the way things work here. You just gotta hit the pavement and go into places. I would apply at universities and high paying institutions if I were you.
Hey…must reajust salary details on Winston Salem..they pay a very low $19,800-$0,200 whereas lexicom are the ones who pay on time and at a rate of $28,000
Caza, thanks for the update. I’ll adjust accordingly.
Well written and informative article. I have been teaching ESL in Roldanillo for the past three years. Like you, I’ve found teaching beginners to be challenging. After one semester with a class of 20 beginners (actually students of different ages and knowledge levels) I said, “No more.”
Your comments regarding native speakers who think they can come to Colombia and light a fire are spot on. I am a retired psychologist whose only real teaching experience was teaching Real Estate law and ethics at the University of Washington for three years. Teaching kids a new language is a lot different!
I now teach writing to intermediate and and advanced English speakers. Most of my students are professionals or university students although I do get pressured to take a beginner from time to time. My class sizes do not exceed two students and only if they are on the same level. My writing text was authored by —– me! Plagiarized from 5 different texts on writing, it works.
Obviously I don’t do this for the money. Like you, I love what I do and it really does improve the community.
One small bit of advice. If anyone is thinking of starting their own academy; be careful who you partner with. Colombian business people could have taught Bernie Maddoff a few things!
Hey Kenneth, thanks for the comment. Sorry for the late response, but yes I agree with you on the whole doing business in Colombia bit, not just starting an institution, but all business transactions. Just gotta be diligent and careful.
I am very interested in doing short term teaching jobs in the roldanillo area. I have a masters of education in Elementary education. I have a masters in educational leadership. I wrote a very effective early intervention reading program which teaches struggling students grade K-3. I’ve been a principal, teacher, curriculum development coach and trainer. DO you have any suggestions for me? I’ve been to Roldonillo for a 3-5 weeks a year for the past 3 years.
THank you, please email me
4marge at gmail
I have lived and taught in Roldanillo for the past 4 1/2 years. Short term teaching assignments in small pueblos are extremely difficult to find. As a former partner of a moderately successful English school here I can tell you that we would hire on a semester basis only. I have a number of students who have asked me to teach privately and would certainly assist you in soliciting their business should I find you qualified. I say this only because my reputation would be on the line should I recommend you. The student levels range from absolute beginner to B2. I typically charge only $15,000 per hour and supply all materials for classes. If you would like my advice/assistance feel free to contact me at email@example.com. If you are US based you can reach me at 253-235-2600.
Kenneth, you’re awesome. I was literally sitting on this reply because I was trying to find some info to no avail. Thank you for your response!
As an advice, you should avoid comments like “most private schools in Colombia are shit”. Probably you’re right, however I consider them completely offensive. Did you tell this is a public document? It’s ok to inform your colleagues about your findings, but don’t you please disrespect and don’t put down this country like that.
Thanks for the comment. You bring up a great point. When I say that the education system is shit it’s not only because it’s my opinion (which it is), but also because it’s Colombian’s own opinion. Ask any 10 well educated Colombians for their opinion on the education system here and they will tell you it’s shit. It’s a fact, take a look at the latest studies: Colombia el peor pais del mundo en terminos de educacion, Oferta pública debe seguir siendo el eje de la educación superior del país. I know that saying that the education system is shit is a harsh criticism, and I really do hope that it offends people. I hope it offends people so much that they get involved even on a small scale to help make a difference because Colombia is my country and I love it. I myself am doing what I can to improve the education system by creating this free blog and putting together free conversation clubs, so that Paisas and foreigners can integrate with each other.
If you are representative of Colombian English teachers – ah, I rest my case. I’ve had students who have studied English for two years with certified, native Spanish speakers in Colombia. Sadly, they’ve learned and reinforced bad English for most of those two years. Andrew is right, the public education and most private systems in Colombia are broken.
I too live here and do what I can to improve things. I’ve authored a text on writing that I will make available soon. (It is in the final editing stage as we speak) I use it with my intermediate and advanced students with great results and reviews. I have always emphasized writing as a pathway to better understanding the language and finally put that into practice.
Andrew great article to read. I was too also in Colombia for two weeks looking for teaching jobs. Had a problem with landing a teaching job in Bogotá, Villavicencio, and Medellin because I did not come into the country with the correct visa. Only had tourist visa and I was only offered an hourly job 2 days a week. I’m back in the states to get exp my correct visa credentials from Colombian embassy and my TEFL certificate is completed.
Thanks for the comment and I’m sorry for the late reply, I had some issues with the site, but it’s all good now. That’s good that your getting everything arranged and getting your TEFL completed. I have a TEFL certificate as well, and it definitely makes a difference in pay here in Medellin as it probably does anywhere else in Colombia. If you’re down in Medellin look me up and if I can help you with some contacts I will.
Thanks so much for the article. Is there a time of year when more jobs are available or it is easier and also is there a time of year that it is worse? I have heard that end of January/February is the best time and that October – December tend to be not so great. I was wondering if this is true for language institutes or more applies to if you’re looking to work at a a private school for children. Thanks in advance for your help.
Hi Jill, thanks for the comment. You’re spot on with the dates for best and worst times to go job hunting in Medellin. The end of the year is an awesome time to be in Medellin, especially December, it’s a month-long party. Therefore, it’s difficult to land a job at that time. Regardless, if I were looking for a teaching job I’d still try. Being persistent is the key here in Medellin and that applies for all types of jobs, not just teaching. I wish you luck in your search. Let us know what happens.
Dear Andrew Macia:
I am a certified Foreign Language tenure teacher with 26 years of teaching experience in the American Public Education System. I have read your info and I want to tell you if you need any information and ideas about Communicative approach, I will be more than happy to share them with you. I teach Latin, French and Italian using the communicative approach method, the result is incredible. I do agree with you about native speakers view and I was really impressed, when you made a great remark in your explanation about the importance of the Lesson Plan.
As a teacher mentor for new teachers in the last 10 years,this is my focus point. To prepare and produce a meaningful Lesson Plan equip you and your students. If your goal is to foster the knowledge of the students beyond the walls of your school, those students will be productive and they will see the language as a key tool for their life.
Feel free to contact me and we can discuss and share teaching approach techniques.
Continue making communication the focus of your teaching style and you will be surprised how productive your students will be.
Andrew thanks for this very thorough post.
I’m Colombian born but left the country when i was about 2 years old and have lived in New York City ever since (I’m 35 now). I’m interested in teaching English in Medellin but not necessarily in a classroom setting, I’d be more interested in helping people with their conversational English. Taking a quick look through the links you provided above, none of the schools really offer that. My question is, I would need to look into being a private tutor, correct?
Also, I don’t have any teaching certifications, I have a college degree.
Thanks in advance
Hi Carlos, thanks for the comment. There are quite a few companies…mostly out of Bogota, that hire native speakers to do conversational English for business. I don’t know any of the companies, but I’m sure that if you post on some of the Facebook expat groups you’ll find some. Also, you can work on your own as a private teacher just offering conversation, which is also common here. Mostly professionals need this type of help, so going to businesses and/or emailing them about it could work. I do recommend that if you want to pursue teaching seriously, that you get a certificate, either the TESOL or CELTA, nowadays you can do those online, or here at a university.
I recently moved to Medellin and am taking the 120 hour CELTA course here in November. I have a BA in Economics, which institutions would be most likely to hire me? I am looking to stay here long term. Great site by the way.
HI Alex, with the Celta and a BA you should be able to land a good teaching job here for long term. Places like Lexicom that cater to professionals should be your target. I know that there are a few companies here, from Bogota, that send teachers to offices, companies, etc. to teach, those pay more and are consistent. I would get on some of the Facebook expat groups and ask around, people are usually willing to help. Good luck, if you need anything, hit me up.
Hi Andrew. Great blog great info im on my 3rd visit to Medellin. My girlfriend is looking to learn english(she has some basic basic skills but is a beginner). In your opinion what is the best school in medellin in terms of quickly developing language skills? If you know prices thatd be great. Ive heard schools like colomboamericano charge like 125usd a month
Hi Aharon, thanks for the comment. Yes my favorite place to refer people to is Blendex (http://idiomasblendex.com/) They are located downtown, they use the Common European Framework. They have intensive courses (4 hours, Monday through Thursday), their teachers are all certified (TESOL) and proficiency tested (IELTS) and their prices are very reasonable. I think it’s like $170,000 per month, but it’s best to either call or check their site. Thanks.
Thanks very much for an awesome post – it was the first I clicked on in my ‘teaching English in Medellin’ search and I’m glad it was. I’m a TEFL certified teacher from the US who is currently located in Madrid, Spain. I’m contemplating making the jump to Medellin or two reasons: my boyfriend lives there and also because Madrid’s English academy scene seems to be sporadic and unreliable, with academies treating teachers as disposible tokens at best. After just two months of disorganized unprofessionalism, I’m ready to go mad – but then I teach my students and remember why I love this profession and why I came to Spain to do this.
All that being said, I’m still completing my BA, though I am TEFL certified and have over a year of teaching experience (I volunteer taught and one-to-one tutored back home in Kentucky). Would I have much of a chance to land a decent job teaching prior to the completion of my BA?
Thanks again for your post, and for any advice you can pass along! Have a great evening!
Hi Nicole, thanks for the comment. Good questions and I’d like to organize my reply so here it goes:
1. If your boyfriend lives here, then that’s a great reason to come down in the first place, don’t make teaching the reason you want to come here though.
2. Business here in Medellin are no more organized than there in Madrid. I have had a few friends with some horror stories.
3. You have 3 advantages 1. you have a boyfriend here who can actually help you out by finding places that you can teach at before you even get here. 2. you’re TEFL certified. 3. you’re a native speaker.
Those 3 things give you a leg up, so you should start making contact with places here and have your boyfriend hand deliver your resume.
I hope this helps.
Hi Andrew –
I completed my 200-hour TEFL in May, 2015. From there I headed to Croatia to English Summer camp. I’m considering my next move and my age (52 – with the attitude of a 30-year-old) has been a big problem woth landing work in Asia. Any thoughts about teaching EFL in Columbia and ageism? Thanks!
Hey Andrew, Thanx for the post; super informative. I am interested in teaching in Bogota, Cartegena, Medellin or Cali, and I was wondering if you could provide some insight as to how to go about looking for work. I know people in Bogota and Cartegena. I have a BA, MA, and TESOL. Teaching experience (mostly in the arts, but some private tutoring as well). I am interested in work at a University, but it looks like I need to have a contact within. Any tips? Thanks in advance. C
Hi Chellz, thanks for the comment. With your credentials I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to land a decent job in any of the mentioned cities. I think it will all come down to lifestyle. Just depends on where you feel most comfortable. As for getting a job, you’ll have to start networking. There are quite a few expat websites and facebook groups. I suggest you start looking there for contacts or info on how you can get your CV in front of the right people. You can also just go to the University websites, find the email and send your resume off. All of my friends who work at Universities here in Medellin have landed their job by going to the University in person and/or having a friend working there already.
I hope this helps.
Awesome Andrew, thanks for the quick reply, much appreciated! You wouldn’t happen to know any of these expat sites or facebook pages would you? I’ve done a search and didn’t really come up with anything useful.
Sure, these two are good starts: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MedellinEntrepreneursSociety/ & http://www.internations.org/medellin-expats.
Hi Andrew, Thank you for all your information. I left Medellin when I was 9 years old. 30 Years later considering coming back with my family, I don’t have any teaching credentials. But was thinking It may be something I can do. I’m working on getting the CELTA and the TELF. Do you I’ll be ok?
Hi Paula, thanks for comment. First of all you said you have a family, therefore, I have to remind you that teachers here get paid very badly. I mean if it’s your passion and money isn’t really the issue then of course you’ll be fine. But if you want to make a living teaching English in Medellin then you’ll have to get proper certification and the CELTA is a great option. Then you’ll want to get a good stable job, that usually comes from companies that work with corporations/business to send a teacher to teach their staff English. Those jobs usually pay well and don’t require tons of hours. Remember the average work week here is 48 hours, typically you work 10 hours a day with a 2 hour lunch break. Thus, if you have a family and you’d like to spend time with them I do NOT recommend this type of full time job. It sounds like you’re in the United States. I recommend trying to find a job that you can do remotely and get paid in dollars. There are many online teaching opportunities. Thanks!
Winston Salem definitely does not pay well. They changed their policy so if you don’t receive over a certain score on the IELTS you will only be paid $17,000 now and those who those score over a certain number on the IELTS will receive $19,000. Lexicom does not require you to wear a tie but since most classes are actually out at major businesses teaching professionals you should dress business casual. They pay about $28,000 per hour, you have to pay your own EPS, Pension and ARL. Neither Winston or Lexicom will help you with a visa.
Also, Lingo for Life is another language school with 2 locations, one in Laureles and one in Poblado. They pay $20000 per hour normally but if you’re born in Colombia, like I am, then they only pay you $15,000 which is complete bullshit. Because they don’t care at all that I grew up in the States from the age of 3, no… they only care that I was born in Colombia and therefore, “not a native-English speaker.” I told them to bugger off…
Hi PPR, thanks for the info. I will update this post accordingly. I had no info on Lingo For Life, so this is great.
I am currently in the process of getting a job for Berlitz, working in Bogota. I’ve had a few interviews and the process is going well and I am confident I will get the job.
I was wondering if you could shed any light on what working for Berlitz is like or the reputation they have?
It seems like I would be teaching adults, office managers, professionals in small classes of 3-6, and sometime kids on Saturday.
I’m slightly worried because the work hours seem a lot, they have told me it would be Monday – Saturday working, with hours being anytime from 6am-9pm, split shifts etc. Lessons are 45 minute long and most likely 7-9 lessons a day. However I like the approach on teaching via conversation and talk though. I’m a little bit concerned it will be a lot of contact hours, and I’m not seeing time to plan lessons etc.
Anyway, if you could shed any light I would be extremely grateful.
That does seem like a lot of hours, and 45 minutes per class is pretty short, but it is enough time to give a good class to a small class like you’ve described. I have never worked for Berlitz, but perhaps a reader here has…that could shed light. You can also ask in the Colombia Expat facebook groups to see if anyone’s had experience working for them. As for their teaching method…you should really study the Berlitz Direct method. I did a google search and found these video results. I wish you luck, make sure to let us know what happens.
Hey, I got the job! Had a couple interviews via skype then a week long selection process which consisted on mainly learning about the Berlitz method in an interactive online session.
For only a 6 month commitment, Berlitz pay for flights from UK, 2.3m pesos salary and visa. Considering I dont have any teaching experence, just a degree from Uk & tefl certificate i really think its a good package! will be quite a lot of work but that is what I like!
So I’m moving to Bogota in 3 weeks. Can you suggest some teaching essentials that I will need? Like stationary, little things that will make the job a little easier or any general tips?!
Ollie, that’s awesome! Looks like you’re going to get A LOT of experience in those 6 months. Bogota is cool city. I lived there for 6 months and had fun. The only problem is commuting via their public transportation system, Transmilenio. At first it’s fun but after a month or 2 the novelty wears out and it becomes tough to deal with, regardless, it’s efficient. As for teaching essentials I always use the refillable markers. They sell them here in Medellin, so I’m sure you could find them in Bogota, but they might be cheaper back home. One of the popular brands is Edding. Also, boardgames in English are hard to come by in Medellin. They might be easier to find in Bogota, but probably more expensive than back home. Even if they are little games like dice games or bingo, the go a long way in the classroom. Congrats and let us know how things go when you get to Bogota.
Hi Andrew, I just submitted my resume to teach at Blendex! I am excited to hear back 🙂 I also read your article, so I wanted so say thank you for all of the helpful tips!
Hi Sean, thanks for the comment. If I remember correctly, Blendex’s semesters start in September and February. So if you don’t hear back right away it’s probably because they’ve got all staff needed. Don’t be surprised if you get contacted in December or January. All schools here are on facebook, so make sure to follow up via email and facebook message. Good luck.
Hi Andrew.I’m considering teaching English in Medellin.I heard International TELF Academy online is a really good option.The courses cost $1,245.00,for three months.What do you think? Do you know a better option? I wonder if they also help you acquire the work visa.I hope its not hard to get.Can a person make a good living teaching English in Medellin? Maybe I decide to earn a degree while there.Thank you.
Yes the TEFL certificate is accepted here at most institutions, and if you can do it online that’s pretty cool. Not only do they accept it here, but in many other countries as well, so you’ll have options. As for the work visa thing, I’m not sure if they’ll help. Getting a work visa here in Medellin is tricky, it’s probably easier in Bogota. As for making a “good living” as an English teacher here in Medellin…it depends on what you consider a good living. If you want to live in the afluent neighborhoods (renting your own apartment, not sharing) perhaps purchasing a car or a motorcycle, being able to travel, etc. It’s difficult.
Nice blog, very informative. I’m looking at teaching English somewhere in Columbia, I’m just not sure where! I’m primary school qualified and have been teaching for 6 years now ranging from grade 2 to grade 12. You can teach both primary and secondary here in Queensland with the one qualification so it’s been good have experience with different age groups. I thought about teaching English in a school, but after reading your blog I now like the idea of teaching teenagers and adults in one of those institutes you speak of. Which path would you recommend? I’m 29 now and have enough teaching experience under my belt to make the transition to teaching adults confidently. Is it possible to secure a job from Australia through Skype interviews?
It looks like you have a good amount of experience teaching kids, therefore, making the transition over to teenagers and adults should be quite easy. As for which one makes more money? Usually, teaching at an expensive private school like at Columbus School or Escuela Canadiense will pay much better than working at a local private English institute. As for interviews on Skype, I’ve never heard of people securing jobs through skype interviews. It would be a good idea to try though. I would send my CV over to everyone and their mother, create a spreadsheet, and keep emailing and sending messages via facebook and whatsapp to follow up. The more persistent the better. Good luck and let us know how it goes.
Hey Andrew, great blog my man. I have just a couple of quick questions. I’m looking to take a course with International TEFL Academy. Any thoughts on this company? I am from the US but live in Mexico and they offer a course in Puerto Vallarta which works out for me. My background is military and Crossfit Coach. Lived in Bogota as a coach for 2 years so I am familiar with the Colombian way. I do not possess a college degree but have the experience in many facets of teaching that I feel make up for it. Is it even a possibility to find work with just a TEFL cert. and no degree? I’ve made it a goal to return to Medellin for longer than a visit and think I would enjoy teaching English in the city. Some of my best friends in Colombia are paisas so I cant wait to get back Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. I speak fluent English and Spanish, even a little Colombian Spanish lol. Thanks amigo
Hi Andrew, thank you so much for this very helpful blog and taking the time to answer everyones questions!!! Im exploring the idea of moving to Medellin in June to improve my spanish and salsa, find some time to write my PhD, and probably teach a bit of English to support myself. It seems from reading above that June isn’t the best time and I may have to wait a few months until semester starts to find work? How much do you think you need to earn to live a relatively modest but comfortable lifestyle in Medellin and not living in a dive? Do you think that having a car is important? I often work on my phd on my laptop in coffee shops and Im thinking it could be a bit dodgy travelling round on public transport with my laptop. Im also thinking it must be difficult dating women without a car?
Hi Guy, thanks for the kind words. In regards to coming in June.
1. Yeah it might be a little difficult to find a teaching job at that time.
2. However, as an alternative that would probably garner more income you can look into teaching English online. My brother teaches for 51 Talk makes about $20.00 US per hour. Which is pretty much what a university professor with 10 years experience makes here.
3. You can live pretty comfortably in an estrato 4 (income levels are 0-6, 6 being the highest) on $2,000,000 pesos (about $675 US) per month. That’s if you’re just renting a room and not going out to expensive restaurants a lot.
4. Having a car is not necessary. The metro and buses are great. Taxis are cheap and Uber works really well.
5. It’s unlikely you’ll get robbed during the day if you’re just hoping on a bus and/or the metro to get to a cafe.
Thanks a lot Andrew!
I am looking to teach in Medellin long term. My Fiance and I will be there in July. I do have a bachelors degree in Child Development and I recently completed a TESOL certification. How is the process getting a job and does race play factor in decision making. I am a black man. I sometimes wonder would that be an issue. With that being said I am still coming and I am ready for the challenge. Great blog and great answers. This is super helpful!
Dan, sorry for the late reply. Been super busy, but I wanted to get back to you. So first of all it’s best to apply for jobs in person here and it’s best to follow up via WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, and phone calls. And, yes, race does play a factor, just like everywhere else in the world. Buy you’re qualified, a native English speaker, smart and persistent, so you’ll get a job, I’m sure if it. I have a few black friends here that teach English. Oh and don’t worry people here are not racist, you will not find Skinheads or KKK members, or people flat out discriminating because of your race. The race issue is mostly a problem for afro-Colombians. Let me know how things go. Good luck!
Awesome, detailed post. Thanks a bunch, Andrew! My wife and I are ESL teachers, previously having worked in China for 5+ years. We’re fortunate enough to be working online now and are currently in Mexico. We’re hoping to get to Colombia in June, and while we make enough at our online jobs where we wouldn’t need to teach, we’re still looking into the possibility of finding jobs on the ground somewhere. Medellin is already a top choice and we haven’t even been there yet. I’ll definietly bookmark your site and I hope you don’t mind if we contact you when we finally get there! Cheers, Sasha
Hi Sasha, thanks for the compliment. Teaching in Medellin is definitely possible. The problem is the pay. You’re much better off working online and getting paid in Dollars. My brother teaches for 51Talk and makes around $20.00 per hour. Typically, a great hourly wage for a teacher here is $20,000 pesos. And if you’re renting a furnished apartment in any estrato 4 (income levels are from 0 to 6) you’ll be paying around $1,500,000…so if you work 40 hours a week at $20,000 pesos per hour that’s $800,000.
So if you plan on teaching here as a social activity, to make friends and learn the Paisa culture, it’s a great idea. But if you’re planning to teach here to make a living, it can be tough.
I just stumbled upon your blog and I found your post very informative. You are doing a wonderful job. I am planning to relocate to Medellin early next year 2018.
I am a retiree and I currently live in southern California. I am interested in teaching English and French languages. As you can see from my website profile, I am a French-English translator with over 30 years of experience.
Can you point me to any local training schools where I can obtain certification to teach both English and French?
Financially, I think I will be OK because I receive social security benefits from my former country and also from the US.
In your opinion, can one live fairly well in Medellin on $3,000 [USD] a month and take teaching of English and French only as a social activity to fast-track my Spanish learning? My goal is to obtain a third citizenship.
Jacques, sorry for the late reply, I’ve been swamped with work. But yes you can get your TESOL certificate here at Blendex, https://www.idiomasblendex.com/tefl-tesol-course/, that’s where I got mine. And yes, you’ll live a very comfortable life here with $3,000 USD/month. I think you’ll be just fine! Haha.
Thank you sooo much, Andrew. I am very grateful for the info.
No problem, thank you!
Thank you for posting this! I’ve been considering teaching English abroad and found this to be very interesting and informative. A couple of questions:
Did you complete some kind of teaching certificate, like a TEFL or CELTA? Is there an on-site program for one of these in Medellín?
Also, do you think it’s realistic to try and make a living only teaching English in Medellín (without another job)? I have a couple of friends there and would love to give it a go in a city where I would at least know a few people.
1. Yes I got the TESOL. I did it here in Medellin through Blendex. They now offer certification courses. Check em out: https://www.idiomasblendex.com/tefl-tesol-course/
2. Yes you can make a living by teaching in Medellin. It’s just that it’s very unlikely that you’ll be living in areas like El Poblado, Patio Bonito, Manila or Laureles. You’ll have to live in lower income neighborhoods. Neighborhoods like La Floresta, Calazans, Belen, Robledo, or neighborhoods near downtown, there are many.
If I were you I’d get my certificate and apply to online teaching jobs in Asia or the Middle East were you get paid 3 to 5 times more than you would here in Medellin. Hit up my brother Francisco, he does that: https://www.facebook.com/FranciscoJMacia
Thanks for this incredible resource. I’ve just arrived in Medellin a few days ago and am searching for work. I’ve got my CELTA, but only one job under my belt so far. Hopefully something comes through!
I’m sure something will turn up. The CELTA should open doors.
Hi Andrew. Thanks for the article.
I taught English to 5th graders in Rome years ago. I’ve spent the last seven years writing business training courses for companies like Google and Bank of America. I’m also a graduate from a top US university. So the point of this babbling…would I still need a TEFL certificate in your opinion. I don’t need to teach full-time — just enough for spending money. Best, Alex.
As a follow-up: I too don’t like the “classroom model” of say and repeat. My professional experience has learners “doing” rather than letting their information go through one ear, etc. I’m concerned that a TEFL degree/training will focus on the old ways and not the “doing” ways that put students into an environment where they can begin experiencing a language in settings and situations that are both engaging and memorable.
Hi Alex, great question. So the answer is, no. You do not need a certificate to teach English. However, be aware that any school that hires you without certification is probably not a certified school, and will probably not be paying you very much. Perhaps $10,000 to $15,000 pesos per hour. You could also pick up your own private students and charge for conversation classes. Usually, those pay better. Therefore, if you’d like to get better pay with a certified school (by the secretary of education) then it’s best to either have a teaching certificate like the TESOL or a pedagogical degree. Moreover, certification courses teach you how to prepare for 2-hour classes via lesson planning, which I found to be imperative. If you’ve got the time and money to take a certification course, do it.
Hey, I can´t even begin to tell you how helpful this is! I recently got the urge to live in Medellín and have been looking for job options to do while I am there ever since. I have been working for an online language school and make a pretty decent salary, which is why I am not sure if it would be a better idea to keep doing this job or find a different job while I am there. Another option that I am considering is keeping the job that I have and finding a communications-related job that I can do as well (For career development). As you can tell, I still have a lot of things to figure out, haha. I speak both English and Spanish fluently which I have been told can be of great help when looking for a job in Colombia, so there is that. Anyways, I really appreciated this post and am excited to learn more about this beautiful country on my first visit which will be this August. ¡Saludos!
I’ve read everything you’ve got on your website about teaching English in Colombia and still have a question. I’m 67 years old, female, with a CELTA. I’m also a non-practicing lawyer. I have a pension of $2000 USD, so I would just like to make some extra spending money and would not have to live on a Colombian teaching salary.
Would I have to have a work visa to get a job in a language school or university? I don’t want to teach online as I’ve found I learn so much from my students in class (I’ve been teaching English to civil engineers for 26 years in Slovakia). Or would schools hire me “under the table”?
I am planning to come to Medellin next summer and take a Spanish course for a month, but I just found out I might have trouble getting a work visa or a decent job if I wanted to move there permanently.
Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Regards, Debbie
Some places might be willing to pay you under the table; however, they will probably be very low paying private institutes. The secretary of education has cracked down on this more and more in recent years, so I think it will be harder. You may be able to find private students like professionals that want to improve their English that will pay you cash. I used to do this and would charge $30,000 to $50,000 pesos per hour, depending on the student needs. The higher paying students are usually those that need to present a test.
I hope this helps.
If salary was not an issue, how would you go about finding a job in Medellin with good working conditions and hours?
I plan to make most of my money freelancing online, and want to teach as I have volunteered for a short time and found it extremely rewarding.
I’ve got no experience teaching except 2 weeks volunteering, but will have a degree, will complete a TEFL course and a native English speaker.
My worry with hours is that I read on another discussion board that some of the positions require you to travel around as a substitute teacher and lose many hours of the day in the process. I’m sure that not all jobs are like that, and was wondering how I could best go about finding a suitable job and avoiding any potential traps?
Mike, so sorry I missed your comment. I hope my answer isn’t too late.
If salary was not an issue, how would you go about finding a job in Medellin with good working conditions and hours?
I would look for a private institute that caters to young adults and/or working professionals. I personally like to teach older students. Furthermore, if it’s a private institute, you don’t have to travel around as a sub to other schools.
There are MANY private English schools around town.
I am currently doing an internship in digital marketing and translation at the Academia superior de artes in Medellin. I have a TESOL certificate and would like to teach English part time in the city. What establishment would you recommend for me? I have previous experience teaching English as I was a auxiliar de comunicaion (teaching assistant) in Madrid for a year.
Hi Samar, well with a TESOL certificate you can apply for work at pretty much any English school. All you have to do is Google “ingles en Medellin” and you’ll see a ton of schools.