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Feature photo by akahodag. Mexico City, above. Photo by pulpolux

From certifications to work permits, this concise guide gives spells out what you need to know about teaching English in Mexico.

I was inspired to teach English after studying abroad in Mexico as an undergraduate. Learning a foreign language opened up my mind on so many levels that I wanted share the experience with others. Mexico, with its culture of hospitality, is one of the world’s most rewarding places to teach.

However, like most places in the developing world, it’s a challenge to earn a living.

Practical Info

Certification

Don’t be intimidated by all the acronyms for English teaching (TESOL/TEFL/TESL etc.) The skill-sets are mostly interchangeable. While some teachers do snag a job without certification, I strongly recommend having one.

Most reputable schools prefer to hire certified teachers. But perhaps most important: when you find yourself in front of the classroom, having training and a certification helps you feel less like a deer in the headlights!

Still, no four-week certification program is a substitute for classroom experience, but a reputable program (such as those offered by School for International Training, Trinity College, or International Teacher Training Organization will give you the basic tools to help you develop as a teacher.

Some of their courses are even offered in Mexico, with guaranteed job placement upon completion.

Photo by omar_eduardo

Pay

Average pay for English teachers in Mexico is less than you’d make flipping burgers home, about 50 pesos/hour (you may do a little better in urban areas like Mexico City and Guadalajara). In Mexico 50 pesos/hour is nothing to sneer at.

The problem is that few schools can offer you full-time hours. Most teachers cobble together a living by juggling classes at more than one school and giving private lessons on the side.

Migration

Foreign teachers in Mexico are required to have an FM3 work visa, which costs over 2,000 pesos (or 2/3 the average English teacher’s monthly wages). The visa can take months to process, and you can’t file for it without first obtaining a written job offer.

This is why most schools allow you to begin teaching as long as you’ve at started the FM3 paperwork (yes, there is such thing being as an illegal US worker in Mexico!). Sometimes it’s possible to expedite the process by getting an apostille stamp on your university diploma or TESOL certificate before departing for Mexico.

Photo by esparta


Types of Teaching Jobs

Never accept a job without first checking out a school’s reputation. If you can’t speak to current or former teachers in person, the best place to find the inside scoop on schools are Internet forums like the ones at Dave’s ESL Cafe or TESOL Worldwide. Another option is going through a job placement program like LanguageCorps, which I worked for in Oaxaca.


Private Language Academies

These small schools usually offer a relaxed (sometimes to the point of unprofessional) work environment, both in and out of the classroom. Pay is average.


Franchise schools

These include chains like Berlitz, Cambridge Academy, and Harmon hall. These tend to have a more regimented work environment (you might have to wear an unfashionable uniform) and teachers have less control over curriculum and methodology.

While they pay only a little better (or the same) as private schools, some offer contracts guaranteeing a certain number of hours in exchange for commitments of six months or a year.

Photo by cfrausto

Universities

In general, university classes are larger and students less motivated. Public universities are also plagued by bureaucracy and labor disputes.

Pay ranges from 50 pesos/hour to 12,000 pesos/month with benefits (especially if you’re experienced, or willing to work in a remote rural area). Universities are more likely to offer contracts and assume the cost of your FM3. On the other hand, most will not allow you to start teaching without a visa in hand.


Corporate Classes

Some schools and private agencies provide teachers to big- shot corporate clients who don’t have the time to attend regular classes. The pay is excellent, 80-100 pesos/hour, plus transportation, but hours are limited. My best teaching experience was teaching corporate classes at the Oaxaca airport.

Interview/hiring process

The interview/ hiring process in Mexico can be very informal by US standards, especially at small, private language academies. The most important factor is the personal impression you make on the director.

You may be asked to teach a class while the Director or EFL coordinator observes you. This can be nerve racking, but remember they’re probably more interested in how you interact with students than how well you can explain the mysteries of the past conditional tense.

They want to see that you care about students and teaching and not just looking for a way to finance a Mexican vacation! If the later is the case, forget: teaching is a demanding profession and at 50 pesos/hour you will not be able to afford the lifestyle you enjoy at home, much less that of tourist sipping tequila under the palms!

Community Connection

Matador contributor and podcaster Craig Martin has been funding world travels since 2003 using ESL. He explains more in his podcast How to Get Work Teaching English as Second Language.

For a complete listing of blogs, feature articles, and guides on Mexico, as well as local experts and travelers travelers to link up with right now, please visit the Matador Community.

ESL Teaching


 

About The Author

Anna Barto

Anna Laird Barto holds an MFA from Emerson College and is an Assistant Editor at Fringe Magazine. She has published short fiction in Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments, and her travel writing has appeared in GoNomad, Intravel, and Transitions Abroad. After living everywhere from Wisconsin to Mexico, she has settled in Charlestown, Massachusetts, where she works to broker peace between Townies and Toonies.

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  • sweta

    is there a university/institute in mexico city that provide teaching certificate for primary education that i can also use in india.The medium of instruction should be in english.

    thanks

  • http://tesolcertification.net/ Tesol Australia

    There are various options available that provide you online courses and these are all also reliable.

  • Valeria

    Well, im not sure if i wana work in mexico, its just that i think its beatiful; but they pay 50 pesos and here for fresno its just 5buck’s! Thats a little bit :\ but on the side i think ima be a salon worker too. But i dont know; should i or should i not!? Please Help pertty soon i have to make my choice.

  • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/rastaman aadil elgadiri

    I’m a university degree student major English Studies aged 24 who would like to work as a teacher or a volunteer abroad!
    Please contact: +212 650 597 356

  • sarah

    or you could just make a poster board sign saying that you are an american offering particular english classes. thats what i did and i make more than double the hour than what i made teaching at one of the chain schools.

  • http://www.tefl-chalkboard.com/honor/ Honor

    Great guide! Thanks for sharing :) My advice for anyone thinking about teaching abroad is to just go for it – it’s an incredible experience!

  • Eileen

    I´m very interested in becoming an english teacher, i live in Guadalajara and have been doing some research on what is needed to become one. I was born and grew up in California so my english level is really good but I know that´s not all I need to teach the language.
    The certifications are quite expensive but I think it´s the best option.
    I see it as an investment. Maybe at first I´ll get paid little but with experience and being certified I think I´ll have a better chance of finding a well paid job in the near future..

    Thanks for the info. It´s very realistic, maybe the pay isn´t that good but I think if you love what you do, that doesn´t really matter. (Well it does, of course, people have things to pay.. but in the long term it´s more satisfying to have a job you like then getting paid well and not liking what you do.)
    :)

  • http://hikerjch.wordpress.com Jess

    Great to the point article. I’m looking into teaching for a year or so. Good Job Anna!

  • Osvaldo Broch

    is there a university/institute in mexico city that provide teaching certificate?
    thanks

  • http://none Osvaldo Broch

    I’m looking for university/institute in mexico city that provide teaching certificate?
    thanks

  • http://www.yaxcheelmontessori.com Liliana Guevara

    We are looking for an native english teacher for a preeschool named Yaxcheel Montessori in México City, very near Polanco.
    Please call to: 52 82 42 97 or 90
    Please let me know if we can have an interview or if you know someone else that could be interested.
    Greetings
    Liliana Guevara

  • mayra

    Hi. I’m interested to teach in Mexico too. I’m actually in the proses of becoming a teacher for California but once I graduate with my degree I plan to go back to mexico and Teach there. I know my both language well enough to understand both of them. Like I mention I’m on the proses of been a teacher but if here in California I plan to be an elementary teacher Do i have to be an elementary teacher in Mexico to or I could go higher and teach at a secundaria ( middle school) or a Prepa ( High school) with my degree. Or should I get my teaching credentials to for California?

    • UZIEL

      NO THE THING IS THAT BECAUSE YOU KNOW ENGLISH YOU CAN TEACH A HIGH SCHOOL OR HIGHER UP. THE THING IS THAT I AM IN THE UNIVERSITY AND LOT OF THE PEOPLE THAT ARE LEARNING ENGLISH ARE BEING THOUGHT THE ABC’S AND HOW TO COUNT. ALSO THERE ARE LOT OF SCHOOL THAT NEED MORE ENGLISH TEACHERS BUT THEY DON’T KNOW WHERE TO LOOK I KNOW BECAUSE I JUST WENT TO MEXICO AND THEY ARE THINK OF MAKEING ME AN ENGLISH TEACHER AND I AM ONLY 19 YEARS OLD

    • Mauriceloz

      I would strongly advise you to learn how to write first. You have so many grammar errors that you saying that you want to teach scares me. Please make sure you can at least spell correctly and what you write is cohesive. Sorry, I don’t mean to sound like a jerk but you belittle yourself and the education you have received. I live in California (LA) and public education is much greater than what you seemed to put together on top.
       

  • Helen

    Does anyone out there know of any schools in Mexico who are hiring? Or how to get connected to potential schools

  • Patrick

    Hello All:

    I have been teaching here in Thailand for just over 5 years now and am looking for a change. I am not sure what the cost of living is in Mexico, will 50 Pesos an hour do it?

    Here in Thailand I easily make 45,000 Thai baht a month (around $1,500 USD) working 16 hours a week. The average pay for Thais is around 8,500 – 10,000 Thai Baht a month, so with 45,000 baht you are put strait into upper middle class.

    I am not sure what rent is for a place in Mexico, I can only give you examples for Thailand and hopefully that will give you an idea.

    For example I currently live in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath town house in Bangkok in a good location with easy access to the BTS Sky Train (Mono rail), MRT (subway) and within walking distance to huge western style malls, gyms, movie theaters, etc. in which I pay 7,000 Thai baht ($ 230 USD) a month. But when I lived in Southern Thailand (Hat Yai) without all the western stuff, I paid 3,500 Thai Baht ($ 115 USD) for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house, with a large back yard. I guess I just don’t know how to compare and if Mexico is a good choice or not. If someone has some insight into the cost of living and what you can get as far as accommodation and amenities in Mexico please let me know. Thanks for your help.

    • Kirsten

      patrick, I don’t know where you are now but my company is looking for english native speakers in mexico city. send me an email if you are still interested at kirsten @rcgkids.com. thanks!

  • Dwight cardoso

    Hello everyone!

    I’m a 20 year old community college student. I can speak and write both English and Spanish fluently. I lived in Mexico for 9 years and been living here in the Dallas, TX for 11years now. I’m a US citizen but I hear that since my parents are mexican I can automatically get my mexican citizenship.
    I’m planning on moving to Mexico in July, to cuautla, Morelos to be specifc; and I wanted to know how I can look for a job as an ESL teacher. Is it better to talk directly with the school? And do I need a college degree?
    If anybody in here can help me out that would be awesome!

    • Eduardo Longoria

      Hello, Dwight
      In Mexico it is very important to obtain a Teachers diploma from a School or College that is SEP Incorporated.  I recommend Teachers College Mexico City at http://www.colegiodeprofesores.com and http://www.teacherscollegemexicocity.com  You can get your diploma in 6 weeks through distance learning. Try it out.  All my collegues are graduates of Teachers College.  Great school. 
      Eduardo Longoria

  • Bruce Jones

    One of the top TEFL training schools that will help you become certified and teach around the world is International TEFL Academy.  http://www.InternationalTEFLAcedemy.com .  They have 2 different TEFL classes in Mexico and also Onlne TEFL classes.  Good Luck!

  • PAULSAINSBURY1

    Hello ! my name is Paul,   I have just taken an on-line TEFL Course and only need to complete my practicum. Does anyone know of any organizations where i can take them ?
    THANKS

    PAUL

    • Kirsten

      I am the director of a company looking for native english speakers. No training necessary. Please contact me at kirsten@rcgkids.com. Would  love to chat.

      • Kimberly

        Hello, Kirsten! My name is kimberly, I am from th U.S.A, but I now live here in Mexico City with my husband and his family and loving it! I am interested in hearing what kind help you are in need of that requires native English speakers! This is my e-mail feel free to send me your reply… mengalo72@yahoo.com

  • B Pangea

    Hello,

    I am about to start a CELTA course. 4 weeks intensive full-time. (part-time option would be either 3 or 6 months but I don’t have money and time for this).
    Celta is the only course not mentioned in the article and the comments…. is there a specific reason or don’t you know it? I’ve done a great deal of research before applying and eventually thought that it’s one of the best courses to learn teaching and one of the most sught after by employers.
    Can I teach with a CELTA qualification in MExico? Moreover, I am not a native English speaker butI spent almost 5 years in UK and I think my English is definitely fluent. Do you think it would be harder for me to get a job?
    I really hope I;m not wasting my money (and hopes) with all this teacher training thing…

  • Kimberly

    My name is Kimberly and i live in Mexico City, was born in the U.S.A, but am looking for schools in my area who need a subsitute teacher in English, I enjoy teaching Elementary school students! Does anyone know or know anyone who can help? Thank you! mengalo72@yahoo.com
                                                                                                                     

  • Danny Holland

    In terms of what you can earn an hour teaching English in Mexico city, this article is mistaken!

  • Anonymous

    In fact teaching English in Mexico is a good way to earn easy money, some times it does’t matter, if the teacher knows nor not, I know too many people they are teachers , nor they want to be an English Teacher and they not even know how to speak English,( they just want to your money,) I would say In Mexico anybody should be careful, we have to know where, how and with who are going to learn English. I, m learning English, I just want to learning cause I need to, I would like to know what do I need to be an English teacher in Mexico nor work as a teacher but I know is not easy to be a teacher to be an English Teacher, we have to be focus on our Student and behind them and push them forward and have not just a good English. I would like to know, I got my certificate from California, can I work with it.

    Thanks.

    • Ana Alcala

      Hello, Marco. Teachers College Mexico City offers a distance-learning Teachers Certificate in different durations: 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, or a year. visit http://www.colegiodeprofesores.com

    • Ana Alcala

      Hello, Marco. Teachers College Mexico City offers a distance-learning Teachers Certificate in different durations: 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, or a year. visit http://www.colegiodeprofesores.com

    • Ana Alcala

      Hello, Marco. Teachers College Mexico City offers a distance-learning Teachers Certificate in different durations: 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, or a year. visit http://www.colegiodeprofesores.com

  • Rodolfo Palma Nieto

    looking for the fastest way to obtain ESL teachers certificate in mexico; have experience but no certificates of any kind, if anybody can point me in the right direction ll b deeply appreciated.

  • Steve Bell

    Keep in mind folks, the immigration laws have changed. The FM3 visa no longer exists! Do your research before you come!

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