Teach English in Panama

a world of opportunities

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Kirsten Colquhoun
August 23, 2023

Contents

Why teach in Panama
Best places to teach
How do I qualify
Types of jobs
Average teaching salary
Cost of living
Life and culture

Are you an adventure seeker? A nature enthusiast? A culturally curious creature? But don’t want to sacrifice the convenience of living a modern life?

Throw away the idea of thinking Panama is a third-world state, and prepare to be schooled. Panama, in fact, is economically thriving with a strong banking, tourism and trade industry. The city is sprawling with skyscrapers and first world amenities. 

You’ll love exploring Panama’s tranquil beaches, lush rainforests and spectacular coral reefs. In terms of culture, festivals and celebrations are hosted all year round. 

Why start teaching English in Panama?

Many Panamanians struggle with their English language skills, making English teachers highly sought-after. There is a growing demand for English teachers to supplement Panamanian education.

Panama is a welcoming and friendly country, and is known for its low cost of living. This means that you can earn a decent average income while living affordably in the country. 

Furthermore, Panama has a strong expat community, making it an excellent place to meet new people and experience new cultures. 

Best places for English teaching jobs in Panama

Panama City

For the $$$

For the best teaching opportunities and the highest salaries, Panama City is ripe for the picking. Panama City jobs offer you the opportunity to teach in language schools, private tutoring, or in-company.

There are several national parks, one of the favourites being the Metropolitan National Park, where you can take a leisurely stroll. Casco Viejo, the old part of the city, is another popular destination with visitors.

David and Bocas del Toro

Best for relaxed teachers

Looking for a more laid-back lifestyle? TEFL jobs in Bocas del Toro and David are ideal for you if you want to live a slower-paced lifestyle.  These two coastal cities are an excellent choice if you want to live near the beach or in a more rural area. There are many things to do: surfing, hiking, snorkeling, dolphin watching and water sports. There are quaint museums to meander through too.

Boquete

For the outdoor adventurer

With a cooler climate, gorgeous landscapes and a thriving expat scene, this charming mountain town is a great place to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, birdwatching, or getting a caffeine kick with coffee tours.

How do I qualify to teach English in Panama?

Visa requirements

It’s quite common that TEFL teachers work under a tourist visa, even though it’s, strictly speaking, illegal. With a tourist visa you can stay in the country for around six months (180 days to be exact).

To take the safer route, you need to obtain a work permit. The process of getting a work permit can be tedious- so be prepared. You’ll need the following:

  • Copy of your work contract 
  • Clean criminal background check 
  • Health check 
  • Letter to Immigration and Labour Ministry

TEFL certification

A TEFL certification is not always required to teach English in Panama, but it is helpful. Many Panamanian schools and language centres prefer teachers who have completed a TEFL course.

If you already have teaching experience a standard Level 3 TEFL certificate (120 hours) will do. If you don’t, a Level 5 TEFL certificate (168 hours) is a good way to get  10 hours of teaching practice.

Bachelor’s degree

The majority of schools and language centres in Panama require a Bachelor’s degree in Education or a related field.

Experience

Experience is not always required to teach English in Panama, but it can be quite helpful. Many schools prefer teachers who have experience teaching English as a foreign language.

Start-up capital

We recommend having start-up capital of between $1,050-$1,350. This will help cover expenses such as your flight, accommodation, transport, and food until you get your first paycheque. 

Note: The Panamanian currency, the Balboa, is pegged at 1:1 to the US dollar. All costs in this article will refer to USD.

Accommodation: If accommodation is not provided by your employer or included in your salary, you’ll need the first month’s rent and a security deposit.

TEFL certification: A TEFL course can cost between $100 and $500, depending on the length and level of the course and the course provider. 

Document fees: Any costs related to certifying and notarising your degree and TEFL certificate.

Flight ticket: Variable. 

Visa application: The cost of getting a visa is subject to your home country. You can expect to pay between $100 and $600.

Living expenses: You will need one month’s worth of start-up capital of about $500 to live off until your first paycheque.

Types of English teaching jobs in Panama

English teaching jobs in Panama can be found in private Panamanian schools, language centres, universities, and private tutoring.

Language schools

  • Requirements: TEFL certificate
  • Class schedules: Afternoons, evenings and weekends. 
  • Students: Mainly college students and corporate professionals. 
  • Average Salary: $15-$16 an hour. 

Private Schools

  • Requirements: Certified teachers are usually only eligible 
  • Students: Elementary to high school

International Schools

  • Benefits: flight reimbursement, housing allowance, resettlement allowance
  • Contract Length: 2 years
  • Teaching Experience: 3-5 years and sometimes no experience at all!
  • Qualifications: Teaching certificate and Bachelor’s degree.

Private Tutoring

  • Students: All ages (retaining long term students is a bit difficult as absenteeism is common)
  • Average Salary: $15- $25 an hour
  • Work hours: Flexible

What is the average teaching salary in Panama?

Salaries and benefits at international and private Panamanian schools will be higher and better than at language academies and public schools. The minimum wage for a TEFL Teacher is $900.

How much can you earn in Panama? The average income ranges from $800 to $1,500 USD a month.

What is the cost of living in Panama?

The cost of living can be slightly high in Panama, less so outside the biggest cities. Here is a brief list of average costs you can expect when living in Panama:

Accommodation

  • One-bedroom apartment in city centre: $800
  • One-bedroom apartment outside city centre: $450

Utilities

  • Gas, water, electricity: $92

Transport

  • Monthly pass: $30
  • One-way ticket: $0.35

Food and groceries

  • Monthly shop: $400
  • Meal at an inexpensive restaurant: $8

Internet

  • Unlimited: $45

Entertainment

  • Gym, cinema, going out: $150

Common benefits for TEFL jobs in Panama include health insurance, paid holidays, and a housing allowance. Some Panamanian schools may provide airfare reimbursement and assistance with obtaining a work permit.

What's it like to live and work in Panama?

Spanish is the national language of Panama, and having some basic knowledge of the language will help you to orient yourself, and aid your job search. 

American English teachers are highly valued in Panama due to their familiarity with American culture and accents. Jobs for Americans are quite easy to procure due to this fact and the closeness Panama has with the U.S.

The quality of healthcare is of a high standard, and you will most certainly find an English speaking doctor, so no language barrier to worry about.

Panamanians are known for their slower paced work ethic. The Mañana Principle is used to describe the common attitude of the locals, which is them putting something off for an undefined time in the future. It will get done, but just not today.

There are two constants in Panama: weather and traffic! So be sure to factor this in when deciding where you want to work. 

Start your teaching journey with an accredited TEFL course provider.

Contents

Are you an adventure seeker? A nature enthusiast? A culturally curious creature? But don’t want to sacrifice the convenience of living a modern life?

Throw away the idea of thinking Panama is a third-world state, and prepare to be schooled. Panama, in fact, is economically thriving with a strong banking, tourism and trade industry. The city is sprawling with skyscrapers and first world amenities. 

You’ll love exploring Panama’s tranquil beaches, lush rainforests and spectacular coral reefs. In terms of culture, festivals and celebrations are hosted all year round. 

Why start teaching English in Panama?

Many Panamanians struggle with their English language skills, making English teachers highly sought-after. There is a growing demand for English teachers to supplement Panamanian education.

Panama is a welcoming and friendly country, and is known for its low cost of living. This means that you can earn a decent average income while living affordably in the country. 

Furthermore, Panama has a strong expat community, making it an excellent place to meet new people and experience new cultures. 

Best places for English teaching jobs in Panama

Panama City

For the $$$

For the best teaching opportunities and the highest salaries, Panama City is ripe for the picking. Panama City jobs offer you the opportunity to teach in language schools, private tutoring, or in-company.

There are several national parks, one of the favourites being the Metropolitan National Park, where you can take a leisurely stroll. Casco Viejo, the old part of the city, is another popular destination with visitors.

David and Bocas del Toro

Best for relaxed teachers

Looking for a more laid-back lifestyle? TEFL jobs in Bocas del Toro and David are ideal for you if you want to live a slower-paced lifestyle.  These two coastal cities are an excellent choice if you want to live near the beach or in a more rural area. There are many things to do: surfing, hiking, snorkeling, dolphin watching and water sports. There are quaint museums to meander through too.

Boquete

For the outdoor adventurer

With a cooler climate, gorgeous landscapes and a thriving expat scene, this charming mountain town is a great place to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, birdwatching, or getting a caffeine kick with coffee tours.

How do I qualify to teach English in Panama?

Visa requirements

It’s quite common that TEFL teachers work under a tourist visa, even though it’s, strictly speaking, illegal. With a tourist visa you can stay in the country for around six months (180 days to be exact).

To take the safer route, you need to obtain a work permit. The process of getting a work permit can be tedious- so be prepared. You’ll need the following:

  • Copy of your work contract 
  • Clean criminal background check 
  • Health check 
  • Letter to Immigration and Labour Ministry

TEFL certification

A TEFL certification is not always required to teach English in Panama, but it is helpful. Many Panamanian schools and language centres prefer teachers who have completed a TEFL course.

If you already have teaching experience a standard Level 3 TEFL certificate (120 hours) will do. If you don’t, a Level 5 TEFL certificate (168 hours) is a good way to get  10 hours of teaching practice.

Bachelor’s degree

The majority of schools and language centres in Panama require a Bachelor’s degree in Education or a related field.

Experience

Experience is not always required to teach English in Panama, but it can be quite helpful. Many schools prefer teachers who have experience teaching English as a foreign language.

Start-up capital

We recommend having start-up capital of between $1,050-$1,350. This will help cover expenses such as your flight, accommodation, transport, and food until you get your first paycheque. 

Note: The Panamanian currency, the Balboa, is pegged at 1:1 to the US dollar. All costs in this article will refer to USD.

Accommodation: If accommodation is not provided by your employer or included in your salary, you’ll need the first month’s rent and a security deposit.

TEFL certification: A TEFL course can cost between $100 and $500, depending on the length and level of the course and the course provider. 

Document fees: Any costs related to certifying and notarising your degree and TEFL certificate.

Flight ticket: Variable. 

Visa application: The cost of getting a visa is subject to your home country. You can expect to pay between $100 and $600.

Living expenses: You will need one month’s worth of start-up capital of about $500 to live off until your first paycheque.

Types of English teaching jobs in Panama

English teaching jobs in Panama can be found in private Panamanian schools, language centres, universities, and private tutoring.

Language schools

  • Requirements: TEFL certificate
  • Class schedules: Afternoons, evenings and weekends. 
  • Students: Mainly college students and corporate professionals. 
  • Average Salary: $15-$16 an hour. 

Private Schools

  • Requirements: Certified teachers are usually only eligible 
  • Students: Elementary to high school

International Schools

  • Benefits: flight reimbursement, housing allowance, resettlement allowance
  • Contract Length: 2 years
  • Teaching Experience: 3-5 years and sometimes no experience at all!
  • Qualifications: Teaching certificate and Bachelor’s degree.

Private Tutoring

  • Students: All ages (retaining long term students is a bit difficult as absenteeism is common)
  • Average Salary: $15- $25 an hour
  • Work hours: Flexible

What is the average teaching salary in Panama?

Salaries and benefits at international and private Panamanian schools will be higher and better than at language academies and public schools. The minimum wage for a TEFL Teacher is $900.

How much can you earn in Panama? The average income ranges from $800 to $1,500 USD a month.

What is the cost of living in Panama?

The cost of living can be slightly high in Panama, less so outside the biggest cities. Here is a brief list of average costs you can expect when living in Panama:

Accommodation

  • One-bedroom apartment in city centre: $800
  • One-bedroom apartment outside city centre: $450

Utilities

  • Gas, water, electricity: $92

Transport

  • Monthly pass: $30
  • One-way ticket: $0.35

Food and groceries

  • Monthly shop: $400
  • Meal at an inexpensive restaurant: $8

Internet

  • Unlimited: $45

Entertainment

  • Gym, cinema, going out: $150

Common benefits for TEFL jobs in Panama include health insurance, paid holidays, and a housing allowance. Some Panamanian schools may provide airfare reimbursement and assistance with obtaining a work permit.

What's it like to live and work in Panama?

Spanish is the national language of Panama, and having some basic knowledge of the language will help you to orient yourself, and aid your job search. 

American English teachers are highly valued in Panama due to their familiarity with American culture and accents. Jobs for Americans are quite easy to procure due to this fact and the closeness Panama has with the U.S.

The quality of healthcare is of a high standard, and you will most certainly find an English speaking doctor, so no language barrier to worry about.

Panamanians are known for their slower paced work ethic. The Mañana Principle is used to describe the common attitude of the locals, which is them putting something off for an undefined time in the future. It will get done, but just not today.

There are two constants in Panama: weather and traffic! So be sure to factor this in when deciding where you want to work. 

Start your teaching journey with an accredited TEFL course provider.

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