Teaching English in Ecuador: What you should know before beginning your job search

Dec 11, 2020 | 10 comments

By Christopher Lux

I was already teaching when I moved Ecuador. I teach online, and I had the work set up before I moved from the U.S. In terms of money and flexibility, I feel like this is a good way for me to “teach in Ecuador.” There are a lot of people like me in Ecuador — people who work online.

Although the pandemic has reduced some opportunities, there is still a strong need for English instruction.

Still, when I moved to Cuenca, I didn’t want to fully depend on internet work. I wanted something more “physical” as well. I like to be in the classroom so I took a job with a language school in Cuenca. They offered me a small income but it included a health insurance option, teaching experience, a sense of community, and a visa (though I was already applying for my professional visa).

The best thing I got out of it was making friends with students, teachers, and other school employees. It also came with some small benefits like free Spanish classes, a mail box, a library, and people to answer questions about living in Ecuador.

If you don’t have online work, you certainly can still teach in Ecuador. Loads of people do it, and they do it from all over the country — Cuenca, Galapagos Islands, Guayaquil, Loja, Quito.

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The first thing to consider before teaching in Ecuador is the cost of living. This is a hot topic that is enough to stir heated debates just by mentioning it. Some will tell you can live comfortably for a few hundred a month; you can live modestly on between $400 and $600 a month in Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil, they’ll tell you. Others will tell you that you’ll need at least a thousand a month.

Do you have family? Do you have debt back home? Do you go out to eat? Would you like a house or a room? Do you have a pet? What type of “local” do you wish to live like? After all, the phrase “Live like the locals” has a world of meanings. You should take factors like these into account. Figure out what you really need and want, and base your budget on that. Then, decide if and how you will teach English in Ecuador.

After teaching in Cuenca for more than a year, I took a position in Guayaquil. I’m very happy with Guayaquil, so I’ll try not to let my bias show.

To help avoid my bias, I’ll let GoOverseas.com, a website that offers advice to would-be teachers, address the topic of location: “Teaching jobs are mostly found in the three biggest cities, Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca. Quito is the capital of the country and the second highest capital in the world. It is a large metropolis with incredible architecture and a rich history with plenty of opportunities for teaching. Cuenca and Guayaquil are smaller but are very popular destinations for English teachers. Outside of these cities you may have a hard time finding legitimate work and proper wages.”

In Cuenca, there seems to be more competition and lower pay than in Guayaquil. In Cuenca, you’ll find a lot of highly educated people in a fairly small area, probably because it’s popular with foreigners. I found an excellent job with a good school that I liked, but the pay was extremely low — even below the Ecuadorian minimum wage of $400 a month. Keep in mind, though, that I said I had an alternative source of income when I moved to Ecuador, so teaching at a great school even with low pay was a good fit. I also have a family, dogs, a desire to eat out and travel.

Depending on what you’re looking for, how you live, and the other sources of income you may have, my situation could work well for many teachers.

There are different types of “English” jobs to look for. For example, I teach English at a university in Guayaquil. By “English”, I mean writing and literature, like what you would take at a college in the U.S. In Cuenca, I taught English as a foreign language.

Then, there are private schools (colegios). These can be a good option if you have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. You might be teaching English language classes or English classes like ones offered in America (with literature, grammar, essays, etc.). International schools like the British, German, and American schools in all major cities are known to pay well. These are full-time teaching positions that do not allow for the flexibility in work that some expats and travelers are looking for. These positions are regular jobs that require you to put in school-day hours in addition to meetings, trainings, class prep, as well as many Saturdays.

According to GoOverseas.com, some private language academies will hire you without a bachelor’s degree in English or an English teaching certification. However, the pay will be very low at $3-5 per hour. With certifications, the pay goes higher and you can work at better language academies. The school I worked for requires teachers to: be a native or fluent English speaker; have a university degree; have completed a master’s in English or a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certificate program; and have teaching experience.

If you have strong qualifications and good work experience, you might qualify for a university teaching position. Most of these are English language classes, but at a university level. You will likely have dedicated students, but you must have the qualifications, and probably a “foot in the door” to get a good position. Universities can be the best paying jobs and offer the best benefits. They also require the most qualifications, often a master’s degree or PhD.

A lucrative alternative to teaching English in Ecuador could be giving private lessons. If you can handle the marketing, connection-making, planning, organizing, and customer service on your own, this could be a good choice. There’s a lot of work that goes into this, but the large cities in Ecuador will offer you a strong client base.

It is possible to find some jobs online from your home country, but you might find that sites are down and emails aren’t answered. To find work, I recommend that you go to the city you wish to live in with some extra money to keep fed and housed, and then begin looking for work. Not only is it the best way to find work, but you’ll get preview of life in a new city and country.

As a teacher in Ecuador, you have freedom in the classroom, unlike in other countries. The school will probably give you a curriculum, final exams, and text books. Other than that, it’s your class. They’ll check in on you and conduct student surveys, so keep the students happy and make sure they learn — that’s all there is to it.

In terms of dress, it’s fairly casual in most cases. The main exceptions are in private schools and universities. If you’re teaching ESL, you’ll be expected to “look respectable.” In other words, no shorts, tank tops, flip flops, or yoga pants.

One of the greatest benefits to teaching English is the sense of community. Your fellow teachers will be your new friends, and so will your students. Students and teachers can develop relationships and friendships. The students, you will find, are often willing and dedicated to learning. They respect their teachers and are very polite. They might take you out to eat, invite you over for Sunday lunch, or go out for coffee or beer with you.

They can be a great resource for learning about food, local customs and Ecuadorian culture in general.

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