Argentina

TEACHING ENGLISH IN ARGENTINA

Argentina is Latin America’s largest Spanish speaking country, covering over a million miles of the continent’s raw, natural beauty. The grandeur of its cities, awe-inspiring landscapes, fantastic ecotourism, and thriving culture are just a few reasons why many foreigners choose to settle here.

Business professionals are flocking to Buenos Aires for better job opportunities; as the economy climbs, English is becoming more of a necessity for international business. This means the demand for ESL teachers is on the rise, not only in the capital, but across the country.

FINDING A JOB

Larger concentrations of people and business professionals equate to more job opportunities for English teachers.

Buenos Aires is the largest city with almost 14 million people, and it attracts people from across the country and the region. It has often been called “the Paris of South America” and offers all the amenities and entertainment found in any major city.

Cordoba, Rosario, Mendoza, and Mar de Plata are also popular destinations for ESL teachers.

Buenos Aires is the most lucrative job market, but there are a number of positions available in rural areas. Positions in small villages and rural areas will fully immerse teachers into the culture, but you will likely be the only foreigner if you accept a position outside a major city.

Finding a Job Online vs. On the Ground

While you may find positions available online, the majority of schools will probably require the teacher to be in country for a face-to-face interview. In fact, it is often possible to obtain a job quickly by contacting the dozens of English institutions which frequently hire teachers on the spot.

Be ready to interview with a copy of your credentials and your resume/C.V. Many national newspapers such as Clarin and La Nacion advertise job openings in the classifieds section. The Buenos Aires Herald is an English publication which is a great starting point in your job search.

When Jobs are Available

The peak hiring seasons are during the times of year when other teachers’ contracts are ending so you will have a better chance of finding a position in February/March and July/August.

Salaries: How Much Does an English Teaching Job in Argentina Pay?

With the high demand for native English speakers, some teachers can afford a relatively comfortable lifestyle and receive job security. That said, however, many English teachers in Argentina complain that making ends meet is not always easy, and even if you do, there’s not much left over.

Wages in Argentina are often considerably lower than other ESL destinations, but the cost of living is also lower. Salaries range from 1,200 – 4,000 ARS ($225-750 USD) per month with approximately 20-30 hours each week. This does not allow many teachers to accrue savings, but it will cover living expenses. Your schedule will cater to the students’ schedules, so there’s a chance you may be working evenings and/or weekends.

Typical Benefits for English Teachers

Since most teachers are hired when they are already in country, airfare is not covered.

The only benefits which may be offered are paid holidays and health insurance.

Contracts

Contracts are usually drafted for either six months or one year, although many schools encourage teachers to extend their contracts for the benefit of their students.

Students of all ages seek English instruction and classes may range from one-on-one lessons to a filled room. It is best to observe lessons and speak with other teachers before signing a contract.

TYPES OF POSITIONS

Public and Private Schools

With the growing economy, the Argentinian government recognized the importance of English. The number of positions in both public and private schools has greatly increased.

The public system accounts for about 46 million students through university level, meaning there are many more positions available in state schools. State run schools may require a Teacher Training College qualification. However, the new trends towards charter, parochial, and magnet schools provide new venues for ESL teachers. Many international schools also cater to the expat communities in larger cities, especially Buenos Aires.

Smaller schools tend to have more supportive staff and professional training, which can be a great benefit for new teachers with little or no experience. Wages in private schools and at the university level are much higher, but teachers with more experience and graduate degrees will receive preference.

Tertiary institutions are also more likely to hire teachers with a degree or background relative to the courses they will be teaching.

Language Schools

There are numerous language schools which offer private and group language instruction. Students range from young children to adult professionals seeking to learn both general and business English to advance within their career field.

These schools vary from small, private institutions to large chain schools such as ABS International, Winton International, and the Wall Street Institute. Wages tend to be much lower in these chain schools, but they provide a supportive environment with many other foreigners and valuable experience for new teachers.

Some schools place a higher priority on the business aspects rather than the quality of instruction, so it is important to observe lessons and speak with other teachers before accepting a position.

Private Lessons

Many teachers also offer private lessons to earn additional income. You will have to recruit students, but this can be easy since so many people seek English instruction.

Teachers can earn up to twice the amount you make at a private language school, but there is no guarantee of job security. Rates will depend on your location, personal qualification, and experience, but most teachers charge 20-50 ARS ($3-9 USD) per hour.

The greatest demand is among business professionals since English is the international language of business. Most teachers have good experiences with private students and offer private lessons in addition to working for an institution.

QUALIFICATIONS

Standards for English teachers in Argentina are much more relaxed than many other countries in the region. Schools prefer that you have experience and a bachelor’s degree, but teachers can still find work without these qualifications.

A language certification such as TEFL/TESOL/CELTA is a minimum requirement, and many institutes will not proceed with the interview process without one. There are many agencies and online options for certification which offer courses and guaranteed job placement.

WORKING LEGALLY IN ARGENTINA

Visa requirements will vary between schools, but it is always best to get a work visa to avoid any consequences of working illegally on a tourist visa.

Work visas are complex matter in Argentina since most teachers enter on a tourist visa and begin the job search under that visa. Some schools will assist you in obtaining a work visa while others are content to let you work illegally.

If you teach on a tourist visa, you will need to renew this every 90 days by crossing a border or taking a ferry ride to Uruguay from Buenos Aires.

In order to obtain a work visa, you must already have a job offer. When you apply for the visa, you are essentially applying for residency. Your application will require the following documents:

  • Valid passport and stamp proving your legal status in Argentina
  • Criminal Background Check for Argentina and home country from federal or national policing agency (translated to Spanish)
  • Verification of Residence
  • Letter from your future employer which must be signed and notarized
  • 2 passport photos
  • Application fee of 600 ARS ($110 USD)

Once you receive approval, you will receive a residencia precaria, which is a temporary work visa valid for 30 days. This document will allow you to be officially hired by the school or company and receive the actual work visa. Your employer will register you in AFIP (Administración Federal de Ingresos Públicos) to receive a CUIL, which is an official work number. You will need to present your official documents from AFIP to receive your work visa. If you do not, you will start the entire process over.

The visa is valid for one year and provides health insurance. The process can take several months and most schools willing to assist will require at least a one year contract.

Since visa processes can change, or you may be required to present additional documents, it is best to contact the nearest embassy or consulate to confirm the requirements. If you are already in country, you should contact the nearest immigration offices with any questions.

Below is a list of some commonly searched for embassy in Argentina:

Another site that may be of use is this English language version of the Argentine government website – Migraciones.gov.ar.

COST OF LIVING

The currency in Argentina is the Argentinian Peso, and had an exchange rate of 5.4 ARS = 1 USD as of July 2013. Even though the cost of goods and services is much lower than the United States or Europe, the monthly salary is usually only enough to cover living expenses.

One of the most common pitfalls for foreigners is that they immediately think that many things seem so cheap, yet they often forget that they themselves are earning local wages. If you fall prey to this type of thinking, you will exhaust your budget very quickly. It’s possible to afford a decent lifestyle, but your budget will be greatly affected by your location and spending habits.

The Cost of Housing

Housing is the largest expense, which is why many teachers choose to live with coworkers in order to cut costs. If you choose to live on your own, a one-bedroom apartment will range from 1,800-2,500 ARS ($325-450 USD) per month with utilities averaging an additional 420 ARS ($75 USD) per month. Cheaper housing will usually require a commute, but transportation is very cheap with a one way ticket priced at 2.5 ARS ($.50 USD) and a monthly pass at about 100 ARS ($18 USD).

Cost of Food

Although food prices have inflated in recent years, it is still relatively less expensive than other developed nations. Imported foods and upscale restaurants can be very expensive, but local markets offer reasonable prices.

An inexpensive restaurant will average about 50 ARS ($9 USD) for a meal, but street vendors provide much cheaper options. For a more complete list of market prices and entertainment costs, you can visit the website Numbeo for Argentina.

SAFETY

Most tourists and foreigners travel through Argentina without incident.

Like any major cities, Buenos Aires and other large urban centers suffer from street crime, but there are simple precautions you can take to protect yourself.

Thieves, pick-pockets, muggers, and scam artists operate in high traffic areas and often work in groups. You should be extra cautious on the street, at transportation hubs, cruise ports, and other places frequently visited by tourists.

Don’t carry large amounts of cash or valuables on your person, keep purses and bags closely attended, and always be aware of your surroundings.

Traffic accidents have also received national attention, so if you are driving extra cautious. Many drivers disregard traffic laws and speed excessively.

Keep yourself informed of current events where you live and be vigilant of our surroundings. You can visit official government websites for the most current information and travel advisories.

EXPAT COMMUNITY

Argentina has attracted immigrants from across Europe, which has had an intense cultural influence. Elements of the many immigrants groups from across Europe are still visible in the architecture, customs, and values.

Due to the sheer size and population, Buenos Aires has the largest concentration of foreign workers. Just like business professionals across the region, many people are drawn to the cities because of the number of job opportunities.

With more people and international business, this means it is also a hub for ESL teachers. As the economy continues to grow, the number of expats and demand for teachers will also increase.

Argentina has also been voted among the best places to retire due to the low cost of living.

Outside of the capital of Buenos Aires, there are also many expats in Mendoza, Mar de Plata, and Cordoba.

TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES

Most TEFL teachers choose to fly into Buenos Aires, and there are 16 international airports across the country. There are also dozens of regional airports with domestic flights, but schedules are often delayed and tickets are often overpriced, especially if you are a foreigner (some claim). It may be best to make reservations online if you fear being overcharged.

Despite major reductions in long-distance services, rail services are still available but extremely sporadic. The excellent bus network is by far the most reliable and affordable option. Hundreds of bus companies serve different regions, but most cities have a central terminal where each company has their own ticket window. Some of the largest companies include Andesmar, Chevallier, El Rapido International, and Via Bariloche.

There are a limited number of boat services, but there is a ferry to Uruguay which operates daily from Buenos Aires and to Chile via the Lake District. The city of Ushuaia is also a major sea port with ships sailing around Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica.

Transportation within the cities is facilitated by the highways and road,s meaning bus and private cars are the most popular options.

Buses are the option utilized by most locals, although taxis are readily available. Buenos Aires is the only city with an underground train with a number of suburban trains which service the Great Buenos Aires area.

If you have the time and resources, there are a few trips you should definitely plan to take while in Argentina.

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls is one of the most spectacular national parks located at the border between Brazil and Argentina. This enormous waterfall is truly awe-inspiring and has earned its title as one of the Seven World Wonders of Nature. A trip here will surely be unforgettable.

Wine Country

Argentina is also world renowned for its fabulous wines. The vineyards around Mendoza, Cafayate, and San Juan provide some of the best malbecs, cabernets, torrontes, and syrahs in the world. There are so many in such close proximity that you can take tours at several vineyards in a single day; many travel agencies arrange for tours and transportation of the region. Even for those who are not interested in winetasting should visit the city of Mendoza to experience its rich heritage and fabulous views of the Andes.

ENTERTAINMENT/CULTURE

Argentina provides a wide range of activities for every personality; there are endless opportunities to enjoy cultural tours, museums, winetasting, tango, fine dining, and the thriving nightlife in Buenos Aires alone. The country also has some of the most spectacular nature reserves and national parks on the continent for those more interested in ecotourism and outdoor activities.

With the endless opportunities and attractions, you might check out travel sites such as Lonely Planet – Argentina or Rough Guides – Argentina.

LOCAL LANGUAGE

While Spanish is the official language of the country, there are over 40 languages spoken across the country. Due to the immigrant heritage, languages such as Italian, German, English, and French are still commonly spoken. There are also 23 native languages like Mapuche, Guarani, Toba, Wichi, and Quechua which are spoken by the indigenous tribes in the country.

Becoming fluent in Spanish will definitely increase your job prospects, but it is not required since schools require English to be spoken in the classroom. Spanish here is different than that spoken in Spain and Central America. The grammar, dialect, and vocabulary vary greatly, so if you are looking to become fluent in the local version, you should look into classes once you arrive in Argentina. Many schools also offer language instruction free to their teachers.

CULTURAL HABITS

Due to its European heritage, many aspects of the culture are similar to other western countries. There are also many Latin American traditions which pervade daily life. Men and women usually greet each other with a kiss on the cheek while handshakes are reserved for formal situations.

Although everyone is allowed to practice their own religion, Roman Catholicism is the official state religion and provides the foundation of social values.

For many foreigners, life in Argentina moves at a much slower pace than they may be used to, and you may find yourself needing patience. As a teacher, this becomes most apparent in student punctuality.

Life will be much easier if you can adapt and go with the flow. It is also important to venture out and meet locals, because some of the best opportunities present themselves in the most unlikely places. This is also the best way to meet and recruit students for private lessons.

There are hundreds of ways to experience Argentina, but the most important thing is to venture out and explore your surroundings.

THE WORST PART ABOUT GOING ABROAD

As a general rule, the worst part of going abroad (to any county) is typically the time BEFORE you go. Nothing breeds uneasiness like being in the dark. Hopefully, the information above can bring a little light to the situation and help demystify being an English teacher in Argentina.

If you found this guide useful, please help others by letting them know about it via email, on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, on forums, in your own blog, etc.

Thanks for reading, and if you’re heading to Argentina, buen viaje!