So you’ve decided to take the leap and move to Mexico City. No matter your reasons for moving to this megatropolis - whether it be for the adventure, the ability to live a more low-cost lifestyle, to gain experience after earning your teaching English certification, or maybe just to eat the food - Mexico City is a bustling city full of opportunities for native-English speakers. A bit of basic information to answer some frequently asked questions about teaching English in Mexico City:
- Can I make a living teaching English in Mexico City? The answer is “yes, you can!” There is plenty of work here to go around although wages are all over the place. One can enjoy a decent, comfortable life living on teacher’s wage but don’t expect much in the way of being able to save anything.
- Do I need TESOL/TEFL/TESL certification to find a job? The answer is “no,” although I am reluctant to state this as I consider myself a professional language teacher who spent time and money to earn my TEFL certification. But the truth is, there are many schools that will hire you purely for being a native English speaker and having a college degree. However, keep in mind that it is common practice for private “adult” language schools to hire you, give you a book and tell you that your first class is tomorrow. So, having little to no experience might be fairly overwhelming.
- How fast can I find a job once I am settled in Mexico City? You can find one pretty fast, under a week if you are in the right place at the right time. Definitely no longer than a month. Be mindful though that your first job offer might not be the best one. Word of advice: make your move to Mexico City with a little padding in the savings account so you aren’t strapped for cash and forced to take the first job offered to you.
- Will most schools sponsor a work visa? Unless you are accepting a full-time job offer, the answer is normally “no.” However, I wouldn’t worry too much about working legally in Mexico during your first 6 months to a year. If you are a US, Canadian or European Union passport holder, Mexico opens its arms to you with a 6 month tourist visa. Seeing as there are hundreds of taco stands in broad daylight who most definitely are not claiming their earnings or paying full taxes, it’s only natural that private English “adult” schools follow suit as well. Most do not require a work visa (nor sponsor one) and it is a very common practice to “pay under the table.” If you plan on staying in Mexico for an extended period of time, then I would recommend finding a school that will sponsor your work visa, or find a handsome muchacho or muchacha to marry to take care of the visa issue.
- What details should I factor into accepting a position? Number one thing to take into consideration should be travel time from your home. Personally, I don’t accept any job that I have to ride public transportation to. That might sound a little “snooty” however having to ride public transportation every day can be exhausting not to mention time consuming and costly. On the flip side, I am fulling willing to walk 2-3 miles and/or ride my bike, but that’s a personal choice. If it’s a full time job, with benefits at a school you love, then it may be well worth it to commute over an hour. Second thing that should factor into your decision is how many hours the position is offering. Is this position going to be twice a week for a couple hours or will you be able to fill your schedule? Sometimes it better to decline a job that offers you a few hours a week to keep your schedule open for those full-time positions. [On a side note: when looking for a place to live, I highly recommend choosing a centrally located neighborhood such as Roma, Condesa, around Paseo de La Reforma or El Centro in order to broaden your scope of job opportunities. Although areas such as Coyoacan and Polanco are lovely, they really limit you in terms of job opportunities as you are rather secluded from other parts of the city. And whatever you do, don’t move to Santa Fe!]
So, what types of jobs are out there and where should you start looking?
[Note: At the writing of this blog, the peso was at an all time low (21.5 to the dollar) and projected to lower over the following months and so I purposely did not list “typical” hourly wage amounts as these will most likely change over the coming months/year.]
- Craigslist - this is a great place to start your search. A number of private and franchise schools exclusively advertise here and you can get a job quickly that pays decent wages. I personally worked for a great “Business English” school called Wall Street English, although, in the end, Business English was a little too dry for me (but could be a great fit for others!) Word of advise: The interview process a school takes you through is a great way to gage its quality. Generally, they should ask you to do a short “mock teaching” presentation on a grammar topic either in front of the English Coordinator or sometimes in front of actual students while you are observed. Moreover, if hired, they should offer some sort of training on curriculum or a review of the book they use. It should be a red flag, if after reading your CV and talking to you for 15 minutes they hire you on the spot and ask you to start tomorrow.
- Teaching at an Elementary School - If you’re looking for a stable income and enjoy working with children, then teaching at a private elementary school is a fantastic option. Aside from stable income, elementary schools in Mexico City offer paid holidays and vacations during the summer and Christmas breaks. If you are looking to land a year-long contract, it’s best to get yourself moved over to Mexico City in the early Spring and begin job searching. Most of these schools look to fill their yearly contracts in the Spring to start in August for the new school year. They are also going to want to see that you are settled and already living in Mexico City. Here is a list of International and Bilingual Schools is Mexico City. Note on working at private elementary schools: At the end of the day, it’s important to keep in mind that these schools are businesses. Parents invest a lot of money into putting their children in these fine schools and don’t want to see that investment go to waste. Similarly, the administration does not want to see an unhappy paying client and thus blatant verbal attacks from unhappy parents and disrespectful children are a common reality for teachers. This is by no means a blanket description for all private schools in Mexico City, but it’s more prevalent than unheardof.
- Going at it on your own and advertising your teaching services - This is a great way to make a higher hourly wage by cutting out the middleman of teaching through a school or agency. You also cut out travel time by choosing a place to meet that is close to your house as well as enjoy the freedom of making your own schedule. Most people advertise their English classes on Craigslist however, there are some downsides. Scheduling and cancels/no shows as well as finding reliable students can be tricky - also teachers run the risk of being stiffed (always ask for payment up front!). Word to the wise: never meet at your house unless you know your student well and feel comfortable inviting them into your home. Also, set a price that is accessible to a middle-class, Mexican population that makes an average of $15-$20 USD per day. Lastly, consider choosing coffee shops in centralized, safe areas that are easily accessible by metrobus or metro such as Condesa, Roma or el Centro Historico. Advertising classes in Polanco or around Paseo de La Reforma may draw up some business from the wealthy elite and/or businessmen and women, although many of them may choose to go through an agency that screens their teachers rather than finding one off Craigslist.
Links that I found helpful when starting my job search in Mexico City:
- Teachers Latin America Hiring Fair - They normally hold this in April or May and you can do some mass interviewing with some top schools. I attended in 2016 and found it very well-organized and professional. I got two job offers out of it! (Any questions, feel free to contact Mark Webber, firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s very responsive to emails and well connected with primary schools in Mexico City)
- The American School Foundation Jobs Page - Although they do a majority of their hiring in the Spring, they have ongoing job openings, including subbing. Also, they are one of the few schools who has international hiring fairs in the USA, so check if there is one going on near you!
- Montessori Schools in Mexico City - There are actually quite a large number of small, private Montessori schools in Mexico City, and to secure a job at one of them it may require you to do a bit more research. First, check if the school as an English component to their classrooms and if they do, reach out to them directly via email. Keep in mind that the primary language at these schools is Spanish and that English classes are a supplementary component. So, if your Spanish is sub-par, it may be more difficult for you to excel at the school when it is more difficult to connect with other colleagues and the administration. However, Montessori schools can offer you a more personable experience by working in a small school environment.
- How to Get a Teaching Job Your First Week in Mexico City - I thought this was a well written, step-by-step process for landing a job in Mexico City.
Good luck and happy teaching!