Teaching English in Rio de Janeiro

By Dorien Boxhoorn, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Every year people from all over the world come to visit the Cidade Maravilhosa, many of whom try to either stay or come back looking for work, and often find it as an English-language teacher. Now more than ever, with the emerging Oil economy, 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics on the horizon, there is a demand for Brazilians to learn English.

English school WiseUp in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

English school WiseUp in Ipanema, photo by Dorien Boxhoorn.

For many native English speakers, this means an opportunity to find work in Brazil. Job-hunting can be daunting for newcomers, but for those willing to navigate the system, the pay can be enough to squeak by in this recently very expensive city.

David Hielkema, who is traveling around the world and initially came to Rio with the intention of staying for just one week, ended up staying five months by earning extra money teaching. Hielkema describes: “Teaching in the beginning was a whole new experience for me. There is a lot to learn when you stand in front of a class, but the satisfaction is there when you see improvement in your students.”

Hielkema offers some advice on how to search for a job in Rio: “Talk to people, don’t be scared to get rejected. If you want to work you have to go to the schools, take initiative. I think this is the way it works all around the world, but especially in Brazil.”

Some schools require TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) certifications before you can start as a teacher. Other schools provide in-house training for newcomers.

Some of the major schools in Rio at the moment are Brasas, Cultura Inglesa, WiseUp, CAN and Brittania. Sources indicate new teachers should expect to be paid between R$20 and R$30 per hour to start.

In addition to working at an established school, many move on to teach independently. As a private teacher some are paid significantly more, an average of R$45 to R$55 per hour, and sometimes as high as R$120. Many teachers start of at a school and slowly transition to private lessons, as it takes time to establish a student base.

The classroom becomes the workplace for many foreigners arriving in Rio de janeiro, brazil

The classroom becomes the workplace for many foreigners arriving in Rio, photo by IKs World Trip/Flickr Creative Commons License.

For many, the biggest consideration is obtaining a work visa, which is also referred to as VITEM-V. The easiest way to obtain a work visa is to be hired by a company that is willing to take care of the visa process, which is by no means easy.

For some it works out though, and short of working for a large multinational company, teaching English remains one of the most accessible means of making a living in Rio.

Dan Markham, who has worked in Rio for the last two years, shares: “I loved teaching English in Rio. The [Brittania] school, the other teachers and staff and the students were fantastic. The relaxed and fun Carioca attitude made coming to work a pleasure.”

However, there are pitfalls to watch out for, and unfortunately Markham has ended up in a very frustrating position just as he made plans to leave the school. In essence, thousands of reais in back-pay have been withheld with little legal recourse.

Markham explains, “The school is now fining me R$7,000 for a breach of contract which I strongly dispute as well as withholding R$3,000 of miscalculated deductions.”

He continues, “Make sure you are aware of the detailed terms of any contract you may have and what the exact terms are should you wish to leave.”

13 Responses to "Teaching English in Rio de Janeiro"

  1. Adam Gonnerman  October 12, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    I tried my hand at EFL teaching in Brazil several years ago. I found it impossible to support my small family on that income and moved back to the States. We will only move back to Brazil when I have job skills and a sound job offer with a decent wage. EFL teaching in Brazil may be okay for singles and newlywed couples, but it’s no life long-term.

  2. AmericanwholivedinBrazil  October 18, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    I think you need to be upfront. Getting a work visa to teach English at an established school (Brasas, Cultura Inglesa, Wizard, etc.) is not merely difficult, it is IMPOSSIBLE. The Brazilian government simply DOES NOT GIVE OUT work visas for such low level positions, and instead prefers non-native Brazilians who have learned English.

    You can go to some of the less established, less strict English schools, who will pay you at the end of the month in cash. You won’t get a visa from these schools either, and there is another big catch. (This is the second major point you need to speak to.) English schools that allow foreigners to teach have EXTREMELY CHOPPY HOURS. This turns the life of a poor English teacher upside down. You might teach from 8am to 9am, and then from 1pm to 2pm, and then from 7pm to 8pm. So basically, you are at the beck and call of business professionals, and your life is hell.

    This article makes English teaching sound rosy and like an easy way to survive. It’s clearly not.

    (Side note: Last I checked, hourly wages were closer to 15/reals an hour, not 30 or 20.)

  3. Corey  October 20, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    Teaching English in Rio is no cakewalk…Like the last poster said, the hours aren’t the best, the pay isn’t that great, and it’s rather difficult to get a work visa. The more respected the English course (Brasas, Britannica, Wise Up), the more likely they will require you to have a work visa. I think it’s best to get started at a course, work there for that fixed income you’ll receive every month, and then try to branch out with your own private classes. The pay at these courses range anywhere between R$11 (Wizard, Fisk)/R$13 (YES!) to R$24 (Ibeu), but good luck trying to find a desirable schedule. You usually have large breaks between classes and won’t get paid for that time that you’re just sitting there, twiddling your thumbs…And being their foreign teacher, they’ll usually try to send you downtown to some of their business classes, where you’ll trek all the way downtown, for a 1 hour class…I lucked up and found a decent school that pays well, and is rather supportive. But it’s not easy…And it’s pretty difficult to have a decent quality of life funded solely by teaching English here in Rio, especially if you choose to live in Zona Sul. Most of your money will go directly to rent and groceries…

  4. charles  January 6, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    americanwholivedinbrazil,

    Teaching in private institutions anywhere in the world will give you the same hours, because you are teaching adults or young adults who work and go to school so classes are always organized around a regular work schedule. This is normal for teachers, Brazil is not an exception. I’ve worked in Argentina, Colombia, and Russia, and the hours are always like this

  5. Pingback: One English, a New English Language School Opens in Ipanema | The Rio Times | Brazil News

  6. Kelly  August 17, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    I taught in Rio between July 2005 and 2006. I had a wonderful time and managed to get a teaching job at Britannia. I was teaching in-company classes at Globo (TV station) and IBM as well as teaching adults and teenagers at two of their branches. I was on a very reasonable salary too. Around 25 Reis an hour in those days. Unfortunately it was impossible to get a work permit as has been mentioned before and I believe this is still the scenario. If you are thinking of living in Rio long-term, working without a permit does not make life easy for you and should be avoided if you can. It’s on for a holiday, but not fun otherwise.

    Yes, living in Zona Sul is expensive and most of your money nowadays and in fact even in those days would go on rent and groceries. Having said that, I loved being in Rio and working at Britannia gave me that opportunity. I was also studing for a Diploma in ELT at the time too as Britannia were running a course.

    Very sad to hear that someone is having trouble for breach of contract… I hope it is all above board. If not, I’m sure Policia Federal would have something to say about it.

    Yes, working hours are around others because they are the ones paying for them. I did all my hours Monday to Thursday and normally had Fridays free, apart from the odd one-to-one in company if I had to. This was also the case when I worked at Cultura Inglesa, as most classes are twice a week either on Monday and Wednesday or on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
    When you have windows, it can be good because you might have time to go off to the beach or have a walk or a siesta. Lots of people work later and go out later, so that’s just the way things are run, but it is fine living like that if that’s what you like. I didn’t mind it at all.

    I always go back to Brazil. It’s my second home and many people I love live there… I even dream of going back for good if I get the chance one day.

  7. Bil  January 10, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    I have three college degrees and thinking of going there to teach and live for awhile any ideals ,contacts or help?? Thanks

  8. grant  January 16, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    I am an Australian with a permanent visa with experience in teaching in big companies in Sao paulo anyone that can help me find contacts in rio let me know, regards Grant.

  9. Marlon Dos Santos  January 17, 2013 at 1:35 AM

    I am a 18 year old teenager from Brasil and speak English and Portuguese fluently. Did my High School Education linked with Cambridge University ,and would like to teach English here in Brasil one day but do not think that time is now.

    I wish all that are looking for a job teaching English here a very good luck

  10. Carolina Donner  January 28, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    Hi Bil.

    You can contact English Schools like Britania, IBEU, Cultura Inglesa (send them an e-mail), here in Rio de Janeiro. But I think they don’t help you with your work visa. Another good opportunity is giving private classes. Some teachers are charging R$100,00 (a hour). I am trying to get a private teacher to help me with TOEFL next year and I can tell you, is almost impossible find someone for less than R$80,00 (a hour).
    Hope helped you.

  11. Joel Garcia  July 5, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    I am trying to find the email addresses for the major language schools in Rio but I am unable to find them. Can someone please help me with this? I will be moving to Rio on July 30 to seek job teaching English.

    Thanks,
    Joel

  12. Niccolo Patricio  September 30, 2013 at 2:39 AM

    My girlfriend lives in RJ and I 100%am there in 2 months, I have nothing holding me back here in US, so I am taking on this adventure, and as I have read, very much a challenge, I have my B.S.B.A, I speak good prtgs, fluent in spanish, but the way I look at it… you never know until you try”) ate breve!!

  13. Raf  January 3, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    “Many teachers start of at a school and slowly transition to private lessons, as it takes time to establish a student base”

    I could be wrong, but to teach privately, you need to have a business registration like MEI (Micro Empreendidor individual), which means you get a CNPJ business registration number. To get a CNPJ, any foreigner is required to invest 150.000 Reais, no matter which his business is.

    I doubt that there are a lot of legal private English teachers in Rio.

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