Our guide to teaching English in Chile

Whether you want to volunteer or work for pay, teaching English is a great way to set up a home base and immerse yourself in Chilean culture.


If you’re a native English speaker living in Chile, one of the easiest ways to earn some money or make a worthwhile contribution is by teaching English. And standing in front of a class of children or adults explaining the ins and outs of the “present perfect” can be a surprisingly enriching and fulfilling life experience.

The demand for English in Chile is strong and people from all walks of life are signing up for classes in a bid to boost their career or expand their horizons. Most students relish the chance to practice talking with native speakers and are usually more than happy to share their culture with the foreign ‘profe’.

Before getting started, check out these handy hints for English teachers in Chile.

Preparation: Previous teaching experience is not essential for native English speakers who want to teach in Chile but it does help, particularly in some of the private institutes. If you haven’t taught before, obtaining an internationally recognized qualification such as the CELTA TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate can be useful. But more than anything else, be ready to demonstrate that you are keen, creative and able to work in new and different work environments.

Volunteering: Launched in 2003, English Opens Doors (Inglés Abre Puertas) is a volunteer program that allows native speakers to work alongside Chilean teachers in public and semi-private schools. Funded by Chile’s Education Ministry and the United Nations Development Programme, English Opens Doors accepts volunteers between the ages of 21 and 35. Part-time volunteers usually teach between four and 16 hours per week while full-time volunteers are usually given roles in Chile’s regions with placements lasting from 10 weeks to 12 months. The full time load is generally 25 hours per week of face-to-face class time with 10 hours of extracurricular activities. Volunteers board with a host family that is connected to the school community, enabling them to improve their Spanish while taking part in a genuine Chilean experience. No teaching experience is required for this program.

Working: If you’re looking for an English teaching job in Chile, it’s a good idea to start by approaching major universities and well-known language institutes such as Wall Street, Tronwell and The British Institute (El Instituto Chileno Británico de Cultura). All the major institutes have websites with contact information but it’s best to show up in person with your resumé and ask to speak with the Director of Studies (‘Director de Estudios’). If you want to broaden your search, Chile’s Yellow Pages (‘Las Amarillas de Publiguías’) are a useful source; just look under ‘Institutos de idiomas’ (language institutes) and ‘Escuelas de idiomas’ (language schools). Be prepared to start off with part-time work and then look for more possibilities. Once you’re inside the system, fellow teachers are usually willing to provide information and contacts about further work prospects. After securing a contract, it is possible to obtain a ‘subject-to-contract‘ work visa (‘visa sujeto a contrato’). Another option for Australian, New Zealand and Canadian citizens is a working holiday visa.

Where to teach: The majority of the English teaching jobs are based in the capital city, Santiago, but there is increasing demand in the industrial centers in the country’s regions. Two of the best places for teaching jobs are the southern city of Puerto Montt, with its strong focus on international shipping trade and salmon fishing, and the northern mining center of Antofagasta. University towns like Concepción and La Serena also offer a range of teaching possibilities and most of the larger institutes have branches there.

When to come: The academic year starts in March and that is when most positions are available. The English teaching workforce is relatively transient, however, so opportunities continue to pop up throughout the year.


By Tim Dixon