Brazil has a huge market for English teachers who are searching for English teaching jobs abroad and is probably one of if not the largest of the countries in our teach English in central and South America list. The ability to teach English in Brazil is not as difficult as some of the other more sought after locations. The country is on the fast track of development and globalisation. The demand for English speaking skills has grown in proportion to the growth in Brazil’s trade and business links with the rest of the world. But the demand for English teachers is matched by an equally aggressive supply.
Brazil rates as one of the most sought after destinations and always features highly in lists comprising of the best countries to teach English for teachers exploring opportunities to teach abroad. If you are trying to unearth opportunities for teaching in Brazil, be warned that you are in a highly competitive segment. It makes sense to research and study the Brazilian market carefully before sending out your applications.
Patience is the key to success in your teach English in Brazil campaign. This is a laidback country and you may be a little surprised at the initial lack of response to your applications. Do not get disheartened. The schools where you have sent your applications will get back to you – it takes a little longer than it does elsewhere to get replies to your emails and enquiries. But this easy approach to life is what attracts so many people to Brazil.
If you are a native English speaking teacher in Brazil you can expect to earn R$20-40 an hour teaching at a school, and somewhere around R$40-60 an hour teaching to private students. This works on average between $1000 - $2000 USD.
Yes you can teach English in Brazil without a degree, however to secure the best English teaching opportunities a degree will be required.
Language can be a barrier to enjoying your Brazilian experience. If you can pick up at least the basics of Portuguese, it will make your life much easier. There is a lot of officialdom and bureaucracy in the country and you will need your Portuguese speaking skills more than your English skills when dealing with it. It is also easier to make friends if you familiarise yourself with the language and culture. Brazil can be overwhelming initially.
Making friends with the residents will help you navigate through the initial confusion. But, as we stated earlier, you need to know the language and culture to be accepted readily and easily. Investing in a short Portuguese language course is worth it.
While we will discuss the process of getting a visa later on in greater detail, here is a quick heads up. Getting a work visa for teaching in Brazil is very difficult. Several teachers overstay in the country because of problems in obtaining a work visa. We advise you to avoid getting into any such situation. There is always the risk of being caught, fined and deported.
Most of the teaching opportunities will be in big cities. During your research, do look out for language schools or corporates looking for English teachers in locations like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. But here’s a pro-tip. There is also a shortage of English teachers in smaller cities which are experiencing an economic boom.
This is because most expatriate teachers tend to concentrate in Sao Paulo or the capital Rio De Janeiro. This is the time to explore the relatively unknown – at least internationally – cities like Belo Horizonte, Curitiba and São Luís. The market for English teachers here is not as competitive as in the bigger cities.
Apart from the cities mentioned above, other cities with significant number of language schools are Brasilia, Florianopolis, Fortaleza, Manaus, Porto Alegre and Salvador.
Be prepared to spend time in Brazil looking for a job. It is somewhat more difficult to land a job with long-distance emails and Skype conversations. Schools in Brazil will want to meet and interview you in person. They will also expect you to take a few demo classes before they finally decide on hiring. The first step in your campaign to get a job teaching in Brazil will be to arrange funds for a stay of a few months in the country and to apply for a tourist visa.
Most language schools start their hiring process by mid-February. You have to get your applications ready by January-end to grab the first-mover advantage. Though recruitment continues till August, the opportunities peter out as schools steadily fill up their vacancies. However, if you entered the game late, do not hesitate to apply even in July and August. You might still manage to land a job before the beginning of the academic year in September.
Opportunities for teaching in Brazil are available in elementary public schools, private international schools, language schools and private tutoring. Teaching in elementary public schools is not easy. You will be dealing with children between seven to 14 years in rather tough working conditions at a not very attractive salary. However, you will have a regular job within a structured work environment.
Private international schools offer good salary, work environment and benefits. Do apply if you meet their criteria and qualifications. Most teachers with TEFL and other English-teaching credentials apply to language schools. The classes will be smaller and diverse.
Working conditions will vary depending on individual schools. But this is where you are likely to find the most opportunities. Private tutoring options are also worth exploring. There are two ways in which these can be arranged. The first is approaching an agent (there are plenty in Brazil!) who connects you to students seeking individual, one-to-one lessons in English.
There are also schools/companies in the business of arranging private lessons. The disadvantage is that a lot of your time will be eaten up travelling from one location to another. You would also have to give a percentage of your earnings as commission to the agent. You can also tap private tutoring opportunities at an individual level.
However, until you build up a network, it is wise to take up at least a part-time job in a school. This will give you credibility when you enter the private tutoring market. Once you have established yourself, you will find enough clients to enable you to quit your school job.
The qualifications required to teach English in Brazil vary depending on the kind of work you choose to do. Being a native English speaker is enough for private tutoring opportunities. However, your ability to get more clients is based on the credibility and reputation you build up when you start teaching in Brazil. Therefore, it might be wise to do at least an online teaching course before going to the country.
Certifications like TEFL, TESOL or CELTA give you an edge in the competitive language school segment, especially as the reputed schools in bigger cities insist on it. Language schools in smaller cities often struggle to meet the demand for English teachers. If you do not have any certification or teaching experience but are keen to work in a language school, try out the lesser-known cities. The international schools are strict about their recruitment criteria. There is little chance of getting into them unless you have a teaching license, a bachelor’s degree and a few years of experience
A major hurdle for English teachers seeking work opportunities in Brazil is the visa process. There are several types of visas with specific conditions attached to each category. This detailed categorisation of visas is cumbersome and you may find it difficult to figure out the category under which you are supposed to apply. As per rules, schools have to give certain guarantees regarding their newly recruited expatriate staff. Given the paperwork involved most schools prefer not to get into the bureaucratic red tape. It is mostly international schools that take the effort to ensure that their employees have the right papers.
Here is a summary of the visa process for Brazil:
Once you are formally hired, the school will apply for your work permit to the Labour and Employment Ministry. The documents to be submitted by the school include:
The authorities may demand more documents if they deem fit. The school has to translate the documents into Portuguese and certify them before submission. The ministry will inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when your application is approved. This information is then passed on to the Brazilian consulate or embassy in your home country. Once this is done, you will have to formally apply for a work visa at your Embassy.
Documents required include:
Most English teachers apply for a temporary work visa. These are valid for two years and can be extended by another two years. During this period you are not allowed to change your employer without permission. Once the four year period is over, you are eligible to apply for a permanent work visa.
You can start working legally once you receive your work visa. But your paperwork is not yet complete. The next step is to apply for the Foreigners Identity Card (CIE). You need to fill and submit an application form and make the requisite payment at a local bank or post office. The card will be issued after you submit the required documents and proof of payment to the local police station.
Yet another essential document is the Tax Identification Number or the Cadastro Pessoa Fissical (CPF). This is like the US Social Security number. It is important to get the CPF as it makes your life easier. For example, you will need it to open a bank account or get a mobile connection.
One of the only real downsides if you decide to teach English in Brazil is that there are no standardised working conditions in Brazilian schools. That is why it is important to do your due diligence before accepting any job offer. Teachers have to face challenges like delayed payments and poor work environment in some of the less reputed language schools. However, if you do get into a good school, you have the advantage of having a structured work plan. This is not possible in private tutoring, where you will have to be much more creative. You will be working simultaneously with students who have differing levels of proficiency in English. This can make your pre-lesson preparations more intense.
The best paycheques and facilities are offered at international schools. Language schools normally offer contracts extending between six months to a year. Pay scales range from $500-$1000. Of course, almost all teachers take up private tutoring, so your total income will be higher. A few schools offer assistance in obtaining your work visa and also reimburse you for off-site work travel.
Have no illusions. Brazil is an expensive place to live, especially Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Food, rent and transport will account for almost 65 per cent of your total income. Rents are lower in Curitiba and Porto Alegre as compared to Rio de Janeiro.
The biggest expense is housing. You will have to pay at least $300 for a small one-bedroom apartment in the centre of the city.
Managing the budget will be tough with such high rent outgo every month. If you decide to take an equivalent sized apartment away from the city centre, you would still have to pay $200. Also, your transport costs will increase. A monthly transport pass is priced at $50. It might become necessary to opt for shared accommodation, at least until your private tutoring sessions take off! This will cut your rent and monthly utility bill by half. On average, the utility bill for a one-bedroom house will be $75.
Brazil has excellent produce, both meat and vegetables. Food – vegetables, meats, fruits – are available in plenty and not very expensive. Milk (per litre), bread (per loaf), rice (per kg) and egg (one dozen) are priced at 77 cents, $1.30, $0.87 and $1.5 respectively. A kilo of apples will be $1.40 and onions sell for less than a dollar a kilo. If you decide on a night out with a friend, a meal in a mid-range restaurant with appetizers, a main course and dessert will cost you $23. If you decide to take in a movie too, it will set you back by an additional $14. Monthly membership of a fitness club is priced at a reasonable $24.
Salaries are low and the cost of living is high. Yet Brazil is among the most popular destinations for teachers seeking work opportunities abroad. What explains this dichotomy? It is very simple. Your Brazilian adventure – which includes your career experiences, your daily life anecdotes and your exploration of the country – add an intangible value to your life in terms of unforgettable memories of your exciting life in this vast land.
Your daily life in Brazil can be a joyous experience. For amidst the buzz and grind of life, Brazilians take the time to shake off their worries and enjoy themselves. The calendar is chock full of festivals and the country celebrates each of them with verve and enthusiasm. The Holy Week, the Oktoberfest of Blumenau and of course, the grandest of them all – Carnaval. The colours, costumes, parades, flowers, music, dance are simply mind-boggling.
How can one live in Brazil and not fall in love with football? You may know little about the sport, but the Brazilian passion for football infectious. From Sunday morning dribbling sessions at neighbourhood parks to loud exuberance at the stadiums during professional football matches, Brazil’s love for the game is irresistible and you will soon be a part of the Brazilian army of football fans
What do you do in the evening, after you are done with your classes? Well, dance the samba, of course! There are samba clubs in most cities. Swivel your hips in the typical samba style and say goodbye to all the stress and strain of the day. After the dance session, you can always wander around the streets of the city in a culinary journey, stopping at various street stalls to taste the Caldinho de Feijão, Pastel, Coxinha or Açai na tigela!
When you get a long weekend break, disappear inside the jungles. Float down the Amazon in a canoe. Listen to the chatter of the monkeys. Admire the nonchalance of the sloth draped on a tree. Admire the beauty of the macaws. Climb a tree. And come back home refreshed and rejuvenated.
Treat yourself to a summer holiday in one of Brazil’s white, sandy beaches. If you want to be in a hip, happening place head for the Copacabana Beach. If you want to be far away from the maddening crowd, there is the Lagoinha do Leste. Yes, it is true! Brazil has a beach to suit every kind of mood!!
Of course, if you are in Brazil you must attend the Carnaval. Be a part of the never-ending parade. Dance the samba at one – or all – of the street parties that happen spontaneously in streets across Brazil. Don your costume and join the revellers. The fun begins weeks in advance and reaches a crescendo on Ash Wednesday. It will probably take you a few days to recover from the Carnaval, but being a part of the extravaganza is worth it.
Teaching in Brazil gives you a chance to celebrate life. The country’s stunning beauty, the lovely people, the fabulous food and the carnival-like atmosphere are just one of many things to enjoy in this wonderful country.
The drawbacks include low salaries and high cost of living. However, with a bit of budgeting, you can save enough to fund your discovery of Brazil. And that is truly priceless!