As South America’s largest country, Brazil is home to endless miles of beaches, tropical rainforests, and cosmopolitan cities.
Boosted by the upcoming FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games, the tourism industry is booming. In addition, it has also emerged as a hub for international business creating an unprecedented demand for certified ESL teachers.
Its geographic proximity and trade agreement with North America make English an invaluable asset. Many companies also seek English instructors to improve communication skills of their employees. With the rapidly increasing demand, teachers truly have unlimited possibilities for employment.
FINDING A JOB
Like any country, the majority of teaching positions are concentrated near large urban centers. There are about 15 cities with a population exceeding 1 million people, meaning there are opportunities across the country for ESL teachers.
Sao Paulo, the financial capital, and Rio de Janiero, which is the country’s tourism and cultural center, present the most teaching opportunities. Other popular destinations include Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador, Belo Horizonte, and Brasilia.
When to Apply
With the number of large chain schools and companies seeking instructors, it is possible to find work year round. Since the school year lasts from February until December, the peak hiring months for schools is in February/March and July/August. This is when old contracts finish and new courses commence. Most contracts only last six months and require face-to-face interviews.
Where to Find Jobs
There are a few listings on international job boards, but like the rest of Latin America, the majority of schools will hire teachers already in country. Many teachers are hired on the spot, so be prepared to interview; bring copies of your resume and certifications since your employer will ask to see these.
It is much easier to search for jobs after you arrive through local classifieds and specialized job sites. For more information, you can search the classifieds on SaoPaulo.AngloInfo.com and RioTimesOnline.com for the most current available positions.
TYPES OF POSITIONS
ESL teachers will have options to teach in public and private schools, tertiary institutions, language schools, and private lessons. Most will probably find themselves working with professional adults.
Wages vary greatly with location and personal qualifications, but average wages range from 800-3,000 BRL ($350-1,300 USD) per month.
Most teachers work 20-40 hours per week, depending on the type of position and needs of the employer. There are few benefits included since most teachers are hired after they have arrived and established themselves in Brazil.
Public and Private Schools
The school year runs from February to December and resembles the two semester system of North American primary and secondary schools. There are few positions available during the hot summer months of the holiday break. (Remember, if you’re from the Northern Hemisphere, summer and winter are “reversed.”)
Education is compulsory from age 7-14 in the public system, but there are many Catholic run institutions across Brazil.
The government has also allocated many resources towards improving higher education, resulting in many federally funded public universities and private colleges. These institutions also hire many English teachers, but there is much more competition for these positions because they offer higher salaries. Teachers with more experience, language skills, graduate degrees, and a relative background in course material will receive preference.
Private language schools are the most popular employment option because they hire many foreigners. At the same time, they provide valuable experience for new teachers.
There are many large chain schools such as Berlitz Brazil , Cultura Inglesa, and CCAA which are well established with many locations across Brazil. These schools provide supplementary education and tutoring which caters to students’ schedules, meaning most classes are in the afternoons, evenings, and on weekends. Wages are typically higher than in the school systems, but you may need more qualifications in order to gain a higher starting wage.
Businesses and corporations also seek private instructors to assist employees with communication and language schools. With the increasing international business and trade agreements, these schools are becoming a popular option for young professionals. These companies are also willing to pay higher wages for experienced teachers.
Tutoring is a common option for ESL teachers since they can be flexible with their hours and earn substantially more money. Your location, personal experience, and qualifications will determine your wages, but most teachers charge 25-50 BRL ($10-20 USD) per hour.
Brazilians often lack the opportunity to practice English, so there are many potential students. While this does not provide as much job security as a school, it can be much more lucrative. You will need to network and establish local contacts to build a loyal base of students.
Requirements for teachers vary between institutions, but the most important is that applicants are native speakers from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa.
While many institutions will not require language certification or a bachelor’s degree, these will certainly increase you prospects and wages. Some schools will provide in-house training, and should you seek certification, you will receive valuable communication and teaching techniques to overcome the language barrier.
ESL positions do not require teachers to be bilingual, but this can greatly assist in your daily and professional life.
WORKING LEGALLY IN BRAZIL
Officially, teachers are required to obtain a work visa to be legally employed. Due to the lengthy process and costs, many institutions employ teachers on a tourist visa. Tourist visas are only valid for 90 days, meaning you will have to renew your visa at the local police office. You are also not allowed to remain in Brazil for more than 6 months on a tourist visa each year. EU citizens are issued a visa upon arrival, but all other nationalities will need to obtain one before traveling.
Potentially Special Case for Kiwis
Teachers from New Zealand have the additional option to apply for a Working Holiday Visa (VIFET) with work or study being a secondary intention. This is intended to provide a broader traveling experience through short term employment. It is only available for people between the ages of 18 and 30 for a stay up to 12 months. For more information on the requirements, you can visit Brazil.org.nz.
Most schools are unwilling to sponsor a work visa, but if you remain in country long enough, you may find a school or company for sponsorship. The catch is that you will likely have to cover the costs.
This long and complicated process to receive approval from the Brazilian Ministry of Employment needs to be initiated by your employer. If approved, you will need to return to your country of residence to submit your application and obtain the visa from the Brazilian consulate. You will need the following documents:
- Valid passport with at least 6 months remaining and 2 blank pages
- Completed application
- Employment contract with letter of invitation
- Passport photos
Since there are a variety of visas and documents required, you should contact your nearest embassy or consulate for current information. The process and required documents are subject to change; the consulate may also ask for additional information.
COST OF LIVING
The local currency is the Brazilian Real which has an exchange rate of 2.27 BRL=1 USD as of July 2013.
The cost of living varies greatly between each region and is significantly more in large urban areas. Your monthly budget will largely depend on your personal needs and spending habits. If you choose eat out and partake in the vibrant nightlife every day, chances are your salary will not last. A teaching salary will allow you to live comfortably, but you’ll likely not be able to save much or pay off debts.
Cost of Housing
Your greatest expense will be housing, which leads many teachers to find a roommate to reduce the cost. If you choose to live alone, a one-bedroom apartment ranges from 700-1,000 BRL ($300-450 USD) per month and an additional 200 BRL ($90 USD) for basic utilities. Cheaper housing usually requires a longer commute, but transportation is extremely affordable. A one-way ticket costs about 3 BRL ($1 USD) and a monthly pass about 125 BRL ($55 USD).
Cost of Food
Food costs are about the same as other developed countries, but do vary between regions. It is much more cost effective to cook at home, but if you choose to eat out, an inexpensive restaurant will cost about 15 BRL ($6.50 USD). For more information on market prices and entertainment costs, you can visit Numbeo – Brazil.
This is a topic of major concern off and on in Brazil. Several organizations operate along Brazilian borders trafficking illicit goods and drugs. It is important to exercise extreme caution when travelling near borders and in the remote areas of the Amazon basin. You should also be aware of current events and travel advisories.
High crime rates are a growing concern across Brazil, and street crime is highest in urban centers like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Visitors and tourists are often the targets of street crime, but there are measures you can take to protect yourself.
Thieves, pick-pockets, and muggers often work in groups and usually operate at night. Incidents of crime against tourists are greater in areas surrounding beaches, hotels, discotheques, bars, nightclubs, and other tourist destinations.
Make sure you are always aware of your surroundings; don’t carry valuables or large amounts of cash on your person; don’t carry electronics in plain sight; and leave important documents locked up. Be especially cautious around banks and ATMs, and closely monitor your accounts since numbers are often cloned.
Use your common sense and be vigilant at all times to protect yourself.
For both general information and the most up-to-date information on Brazil, you can visit the US State Department website for Brazil.
Brazil is home to an ever expanding expat community; many international businesses are attracted to the rich resources and tourist destinations across the country. The agricultural, mining, and manufacturing sectors offer a range of job opportunities for expats.
The capital of Brasilia is home to over 100 embassies and consulates. It’s also the headquarters for many national companies which employ foreigners.
Rio de Janiero is the second largest urban economy, housing the corporate headquarters for several oil, telecommunications, and media companies. It is also the seat of the research and development sectors of Brazil.
As the largest economic center, Sao Paulo is home to the stock exchange and the majority of the country’s international businesses.
Large concentrations of international business mean more job opportunities for teachers, and with such a large population, Brazil has a multitude of options. It is best to visit the cities you are most interested to teach, but most urban centers have a thriving expat community.
Many retirees are also drawn to the beautiful beaches and warm temperatures of Brazil. There are several large expat communities around the large centers of Fortaleza, Recife, and Salvador.
With all the natural beauty and tourist destinations, you will likely be traveling at some point during your time in Brazil.
There are literally hundreds of airports across Brazil, with many international airports in major urban centers. There are also many regional airports to facilitate intra-country travel for those with extra spending cash. The three major carries are Gol, TAM, and Azul.
Buses and Boats
However, buses are the primary form of long distance transportation. Bus services are generally excellent adhering to strict schedules; they also provide comfortable and clean transportation. Road conditions in well-traveled areas are always in good repair, but this varies greatly in the more remote regions.
There are many bus companies, so you may want to shop around, but a good place to find schedules and prices is BuscaOnibus.
There are also many boats and ferries that service those traveling into the Amazon basin, Pantanal, and the islands off the Atlantic coast.
For transportation within large cities, local bus services run frequently and offer cheap fares. Just be aware of your belongings and don’t travel with any valuables on the bus. Rio de Janiero and Sao Paulo also have excellent subway systems. Taxis are the best option to get around at night since they are available in every city and village. Just make sure to negotiate prices since many taxis don’t have meters.
Brazil is one of the most multicultural countries in the world with a mixture of European, African, and Asian influences. This is affected every aspect of the country’s rich cultural heritage. This vibrant mix can be experienced in the wonderful museums, foods, music, and lively nightlife. You should have no problem finding something to do.
While in Brazil, a few sites should not be missed. The city of Rio de Janeiro is the cultural and tourism center for the country. It is home to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue as well as endless beaches to soak up the sun. You can also ride a cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain for a spectacular view of the city and Guanabara Bay.
If you travel south, 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. There are no words to describe the raw beauty and power of this place; a visit to this National Park is one you will never forget.
In this truly massive country, there are endless tourist attractions where you can spend your free time. With the thousands of opportunities, you should visit a travel site to narrow down your options to the areas you will be visiting. Sites such as Trip Advisor (Brazil) and Lonely Planet (Brazil) provide comprehensive guides for all the major cities and attractions.
Portuguese is the official language of Brazil and is spoken by more than 99% of the population. While many jobs will not require an understanding of the language, it will definitely make communication in your daily and professional life much easier. Many schools offer language instruction, but there are also many online and local outlets where you can learn the basics. Like any language, practice is the most important component to becoming fluent.
There are over 210 languages spoken throughout Brazil, 180 of which are indigenous languages. There are also dozens of minority languages from the vast number of European and Asian immigrants throughout the country. While English is the language of international business and is spoken in major urban centers, it is not common among the general population.
Like many countries in Latin America, life in Brazil moves at a much slower pace with a laid-back attitude and a time-flexible lifestyle. Be patient and expect to wait; this is a good opportunity to learn some Portuguese, so you may want to carry a phrase book to pass the time. This is even more true when it comes to transportation, so make sure to bring reading material.
You will also need some time to adapt to the dietary changes. Make sure you wash your vegetables and thoroughly cook you meat to avoid getting sick. The water is not potable, so make sure you boil it or buy bottled water from a reputable company.
The most important thing is to bring your sense of adventure and go with the flow. In such a large country, there are endless places to explore, food to try, and experiences to have. Meeting new people will also open new doors and possible employment opportunities.
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