Teaching English in Mexico City: What Kind of Qualifications Do I Need?

Finding a teaching position in Mexico City isn't hard
and it allows you to visit beautiful places like Acapulco!
Hi guys! Another reader question today from Molly in the United States:

I am very interested in relocating there and even though I am a hairstylist here, I am also bilingual and I was thinking that teaching ESL in Mexico City might be one way that I could potentially find work when I relocate in a few months, What do you think? I have some college but no teaching certifications, would this even be an option for me? 

The short answer is that if you look and sound foreign you will have an incredibly easy time finding ESL teaching work in Mexico City.

Yes, it can be that easy. Especially if you're from Canada, the United States, South Africa, Britain, Australia or New Zealand.

Now let's get into the nitty gritty.

Do I Need a TESL Certificate to Teach English in Mexico City?

Generally, no. Most English schools don't require it nor will private students. Most ESL employers are desperate for teachers. There's a lot of stigma attached to the city and teachers aren't plentiful because of that. So you will find that employers have fewer requirements.

What About Previous Teaching Experience?

In a word: no. You don't need any experience teaching anything, including English. Some English schools will hire total newbies because what they really want is a native speaker. They figure that they can train you to do the rest. If you have a fairly clear accent and demonstrate that you have a friendly personality and willingness to learn you should be fine.

Do I Need University Education to Teach English in Mexico City?

A bachelor's degree (regardless of subject) will impress potential ESL employers in Mexico City. I have a degree in English Literature and even though that's not really related at all to ESL teaching, bosses and clients seem to like it.

That said, I've known ESL teachers in Mexico City who only have high school or some college education. So it's not impossible. However, teaching English well is more difficult than it seems.

If you only have high school, take a TESL course first or join an ESL school that offers training (and you should be paid for this training or at the very least it should be free).

Teaching English grammar to beginners or business English to executives is tricky without some kind of training. Check out my resources section at the end of this post for courses and books that will help you.

Teaching ESL in Mexico City also gives you access to the amazing food here.
Quesadilla anyone?
OK, But Do I Need a Visa?

For English schools and private clients (students you find online and work with directly) you only need the standard 180 day tourist visa. I'll cover this in detail in a later post.

I'm an ESL Teaching Newbie. Where Should I Start?

Search Craigslist for teaching jobs and try to look for schools that have a dedicated location and training programs. As I said in a previous post, chains like Harmon Hall and Interlingua pay terribly so I'd steer clear of them.

Interact, BE Business English and the English Workshop are better options. Email me and I can get you in touch with their recruiters.

Teaching at a school is great for newbies because they source the clients for you, they provide the lesson plans and training and they (hopefully) provide you with steady work. Reputable schools will also pay you on time. Ask lots of questions about payment method and frequency, training and hours before you accept a position.

As you get more experienced, you can put up an ad on Segundamano advertising your services as a private ESL teacher.

What About Public Elementary/High Schools? Can I Teach There?

You may be able to get an elementary school gig without any qualifications. Private high schools will definitely require university education and possibly even a teaching degree.

However, formal school contracts often require a proper working visa. You can apply for a work visa in your home country or ask the school to sponsor you (good luck with that!). I've never gone down this route because I prefer the flexibility of freelance English teaching.

ESL & TEFL Books:
TEFL Courses:
  • i-to-i Professional TEFL Certificate (120 hours): I haven't taken this course but I did a ton of research when I was thinking about getting certified and this one was highly recommended by a variety of sources.
Related Posts:
Let me know what you think in the comments below or share your own experiences.
  • Have you taught English in Mexico City before? What qualifications did you have?
  • Are you thinking of teaching English in Mexico City?
  • Post questions for me in the comments or email me directly.
Resources:

7 comments:

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Arne said...

Hi B.

I was scanning through your blog and I think your stories are absolutely inspiring.
I will also be moving to CDMX soon, but being able to provide for myself is still an issue. I would love to teach as well, were it not for the fact that I am not a native English speaker.
However, I did spend a year in the United States, where I obtained the CPE (Cambridge certificate for proficiency in English), which corresponds with a C2 level of English. When combined with the CELTA teaching exam, could those qualifications get me a teaching job in CDMX? Or is the fact that I am Belgian really going to affect my chances?

Thanks for taking the time to read this! :)

B.Kienapple said...

Hi Ame, thanks for reading my blog! I think you'll be fine as a Belgian. Weirdly enough, if you LOOK like a certain type of native speaker (i.e. white American or British) you should have no issue. This is totally not fair because native speakers who aren't white are actually discriminated against. Very strange. Then again, I can't assume you're white. Anyway.

The only problem would be if you have a very strong accent. The more neutral your accent the better.

The CELTA is super expensive and teaching in Mexico does not pay like Korea/Taiwan/the Middle East. I would just stick with your current certification. A big mistake people make is over-certifying to work in Mexico City. The market just doesn't demand certification. I have no certification AT ALL and have never had a problem.

Arne said...

Hi B.

Thank you so much for your response. I am indeed white and very American/European looking, so I guess that will come in handy. As much as my Mexican boyfriend tries to minimise the issue, classism in Mexico was one of my main preoccupations when deciding whether or not to move to DF. But that's a completely different story though, just funny you should mention it in your comment.

Anyway, thanks a lot for your tips on certifications and so on. That makes things a lot easier actually. Looks like I'm headed for Monterrey instead of DF now, but my boyfriend and I will definitely check out your AirBnB space next time we visit.

Best of luck with the blog. Very enjoyable to read!

Owen Lynch said...

Hi,

Great blog. I am currently in mexico and moving to Mexico city next week to look for a job as an an English teacher. I have a degree and I did the CELTA course before I left Ireland. Do you have any tips on who to contact for positions?

Cheers 😀
Owen

Owen Lynch said...

Hi,

Great blog. I am currently in mexico and moving to Mexico city next week to look for a job as an an English teacher. I have a degree and I did the CELTA course before I left Ireland. Do you have any tips on who to contact for positions?

Cheers 😀
Owen

Deborah, BS Business Management said...

I just returned from teaching English in Mexico. I think it would be best to do a little research. I was in Hidalgo,not too fancy a place, and they were becoming more and more strict with regard to qualifications. The government is pushing for tighter standards. It will become more difficult in the future to get a decent job with no relevant credentials.

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