Requirements to Teach English in Costa Rica: A Detailed Overview


One of the most meaningful gifts you can give yourself is the ability to learn and communicate in another language – and teaching English in Costa Rica gives you the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in one of the most rewarding ways.

Whether you’re looking for a long-term career or finding an opportunity to spread your wings and explore a new culture, getting certified to teach English in this Central American country can open up numerous unique opportunities.

But before you pack your bags and head south, it’s important to understand the requirements and qualifications to teach English in this exotic destination.

Well, you don’t have to worry – we’ve got you covered! In this post, we’ll break down the prerequisites to teaching English in Costa Rica so your teaching journey is smooth sailing. So, please grab a cup of coffee, and let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways:

No matter what kind of teacher you want to be, having a deep understanding of the English language, TEFL certification and a degree from an accredited institution will help you get a better teaching job in Costa Rica. So, if you’re hoping to start teaching English in Costa Rica, make sure you’ve got a solid foundation to build on – otherwise, it could be like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole!

Costa Rica is a beautiful Central American country with lush forests, friendly people, and delicious cuisine. The Costa Rican government is doing its best to ensure its educational system is top-notch, and as a result, there are plenty of opportunities for English teachers.

With competitive salaries, flexible teaching hours, and an opportunity to explore the wild, you are sure to live in the lap of sunshine and adventure.

Requirements for teaching English in Costa Rica

  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • TEFL Certification
  • Language Requirements
  • Age Requirements
  • Teaching Experience
  • Health Certificate
  • Valid Visa

Now let’s look at each of these in detail to understand the requirements to teach English in Costa Rica.

1. Bachelor’s Degree

If you’re looking to teach English in Costa Rica, it’s important to know that having a bachelor’s degree is typically required. While there are some exceptions, most language centers and schools prefer teachers who have at least this level of qualification – not to mention the fact that it may also be a legal requirement for obtaining a work visa.

So, to guarantee a successful teaching experience in Costa Rica, having your degree is essential. However, it doesn’t necessarily need to be an education-related degree; any field will do so long as you also have a TEFL certificate under your belt.

But keep in mind that it’s also important to be aware of the legal requirements and risks associated with teaching in Costa Rica without a degree. So, do your research before diving into this opportunity!

2. TEFL Certification

If you’re interested in teaching English in Costa Rica, obtaining a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification is one of the most important requirements you’ll need to meet. This certification is recognized by the Costa Rican government and will allow you to work as an English teacher there.

Having done a TEFL or CELTA course demonstrates that you have received training and preparation for teaching English to non-native speakers and can help ensure that you provide effective and engaging instruction to your students.

Obtaining a TEFL certification can also help you feel more confident and prepared as a teacher and can enhance your skills and knowledge in lesson planning, classroom management, and language assessment.

You can earn a TEFL/CELTA certificate from many reputed institutions, online and offline.

Even though you can technically get a job without a TEFL certification, finding a teaching position without TEFL is much more challenging.

So, if you’re serious about pursuing a teaching career in Costa Rica, obtaining a TEFL certification is an essential step you will want to consider.

3. Language Requirements

Being a native English speaker is often considered an advantage for teachers in Costa Rica. Many schools and language centers prefer native English speakers due to their natural grasp of the language.

However, it’s important to note that being a native English speaker is not always a strict requirement for teaching English in Costa Rica. You can still be considered for teaching positions as long as you can demonstrate high English proficiency and have the necessary qualifications, such as a TEFL certification and a bachelor’s degree.

Some schools and language centers actively seek out non-native English speakers who can bring unique cultural perspectives and teaching approaches to the classroom.

4. Age Requirements

There is no specific age requirement to teach in Costa Rica, but most teachers are in their 20s or 30s. There are a few reasons for this. First, Costa Rica is a relatively young country, so there are fewer older teachers with the experience and knowledge that comes with age.

Second, Costa Rica is a popular destination for gap year students and recent graduates, typically in their 20s.

And finally, the Costa Rican education system emphasizes classroom learning over research and writing, so younger teachers who are fresh out of college tend to be more familiar with this teaching style.

That said, there are a few older teachers in Costa Rica, so it’s possible to find a teaching job if you’re over 40.

5. Teaching Experience

While prior teaching experience can be an asset when applying for teaching jobs in Costa Rica, it is not always a strict requirement. Many schools and language centers in Costa Rica happily consider candidates new to teaching as long as they have the qualifications and are passionate about teaching and working with students.

However, having prior teaching experience can give you an advantage when applying for jobs. But, if you are new to teaching, highlight your relevant skills and experience, such as working with children or volunteering as a tutor, to demonstrate your readiness for a teaching role.

6. Health Certificate

Applicants must have a valid health certificate to become an English teacher in Costa Rica. This certificate must be dated within three months of the application date and issued by a licensed physician.

You may need to undergo a physical examination and provide documentation of your medical history and any vaccinations you have received. Some schools or language centers may also require you to undergo additional health screenings.

While the specific requirements for obtaining a health certificate may vary depending on the school or language center you are working for, it is important to know that this is a common requirement for teaching in Costa Rica.

7. Visa Requirements

The visa requirements to teach English in Costa Rica vary depending on your nationality. Generally, suppose you are from a country outside of the Central American region and wish to stay longer than 90 days. In that case, you must apply for a temporary residence visa or a work permit. For stays shorter than three months, citizens of most countries can enter Costa Rica on a tourist visa.

To qualify for either of these visas, you will need documents such as the following:

  1. A valid passport with at least six months of validity remaining
  2. A clean criminal record from your home country or a background check conducted in Costa Rica
  3. A job offer or contract from a school or language center in Costa Rica
  4. A health certificate verifying that you are in good health and free from contagious diseases
  5. Proof of financial stability, such as bank statements or proof of employment
  6. Payment of visa fees

It is important to note that the visa application process can take several weeks or even months, so starting the process well before your planned start date is recommended.

Why should you teach in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is a beautiful country.

Costa Rica is located in Central America and is known for its lush rainforests, beautiful beaches, and friendly people. The country is also home to various wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, and toucans. Teaching in Costa Rica would allow you to experience all that the country has to offer.

The cost of living in Costa Rica is relatively low.

Compared to other countries, the cost of living in Costa Rica is relatively low. This means that you can save money while living in the country. Additionally, many schools in Costa Rica offer housing allowances to their teachers, which can further reduce your living expenses.

You can learn Spanish while teaching in Costa Rica.

If you want to learn Spanish, teaching in Costa Rica is a great way to do so! While most people in the tourist areas of Costa Rica speak English, you will have plenty of opportunities to practice your Spanish skills with your students and colleagues.

There is a high demand for English teachers in Costa Rica.

Due to the growing tourism industry in Costa Rica, there is a high demand for English teachers. Therefore, many schools offer competitive salaries and benefits packages to attract qualified teachers. Additionally, many schools offer paid vacation days and health insurance plans.

There are many opportunities for adventure in Costa Rica.

In addition to its stunning natural beauty, Costa Rica offers many opportunities for adventure. From zip-lining through the rainforest to surfing on the Pacific Coast, there is something everyone can enjoy in Costa Rica. If you love being outdoors and staying active, teaching in Costa Rica will be an excellent fit for you.

When to apply for a teaching job in Costa Rica?

Although the job market in Costa Rica is tight, teachers with the right qualifications can find work if they know when to apply. The hiring process for teachers usually begins in February or March, when schools prepare for the upcoming academic year.

However, it is common for teachers to be hired as late as June or July, particularly if a school has experienced high turnover or unexpectedly low enrollments.

While teachers may have better odds of being hired if they apply early in the process, it is important to be patient and to wait for the right opportunity.

How long can a foreigner teach in Costa Rica?

According to the Costa Rican Ministry of Education, teachers who are not citizens of Costa Rica can obtain a work permit that allows them to teach in the country for up to three years. After that, they must apply for a new work permit.

The application process for a work permit is relatively simple and can be done online. However, teachers should be aware that they must submit documents such as a letter of intent, a CV, and copies of their educational qualifications. Once the application is approved, teachers can begin working in Costa Rica.

Culture and Etiquette in Costa Rica

Although Costa Rica is a relatively small country, it is home to diverse cultures and traditions. For example, the country has a strong tradition of respect for teachers, and students are expected to show their teachers courtesy and respect.

Costa Ricans also place a high value on personal space, and giving others plenty of room when talking or standing in line is considered polite. In addition, Costa Ricans are generally laid-back and enjoy joking around. However, they also take punctuality seriously, and being late for appointments or meetings is considered rude.

Understanding and respecting these cultural differences ensures an enjoyable and productive time in Costa Rica.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is it necessary to know Spanish to teach in Costa Rica?

While it’s optional to know Spanish to teach English in Costa Rica, it can be helpful to have some knowledge of the language. This is because many students in Costa Rica may have limited English proficiency, and being able to communicate with them in their native language can help to build rapport and facilitate learning.

Can I teach in Costa Rica without a degree?

While it is possible to find teaching opportunities in Costa Rica without a degree, it is important to note that most schools and language centers in the country do require a bachelor’s degree, particularly for obtaining a work visa. However, if you do not have a degree, then a TEFL certification can be handy.

Is there a dress code for teachers to follow?

In Costa Rica, teachers are expected to dress professionally. This means avoiding casual clothes such as t-shirts and jeans and opting for more formal attire such as shirts and slacks. However, there is some flexibility in the dress code, and teachers are allowed to wear skirts or dresses as long as they are not too short or revealing. In addition, teachers are generally expected to dress in a way that shows respect for their profession and students.


If you meet all the requirements, then go ahead and apply for your dream job. Even though the process of becoming certified and finding a job can be challenging, the experience of living in this beautiful country and helping students learn English is well worth it.

With the right qualifications and a positive attitude, teachers can find work in Costa Rica relatively easily. However, being mindful of the cultural differences between Costa Rica and your home country is important.

By respecting the customs and traditions of the Costa Rican people, you can ensure that your time teaching in this beautiful country is both enjoyable and enriching.

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This article was originally published in Jan-2023 and was last updated in Jul-2023.

Author: Sara Djumic

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