Everything you need to know about teaching English in Brazil


Brazil is an energetic country boasting outstanding natural beauty, delicious cuisine, sublime music and a dynamic teaching English industry. This article looks at what it’s like to teach English in five of the major urban hubs of Brazil.

Flag of Brazil

Where is Brazil?

Brazil is the largest country in South America with most of its population living in built-up urban areas. It’s the only country on the continent where the main language spoken is Portuguese and it shares its border with 10 other countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. Brazilians are football fanatics and Brazil is the only country to have played in every single world cup tournament and has won the world cup more than any other country: five times to date.   

Brazil (Brasil in Brazilian Portuguese) is one of the most expensive countries to live in South America, but also pays some of the best teaching English salaries on the continent; meaning that English teachers here can earn enough to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. 

Teachers starting out fresh can realistically expect to be earning between R$20-40 an hour, and the vast majority of work in Brazil is teaching at privately-run language schools. For teachers who are settled and have developed solid contacts, this hourly rate can rise to between R$40-60 per teaching hour. 

At the time this article was published (14th April, 2019) you could exchange 4 Brazilian Real for 1 United States Dollar. It might not sound like a lot but despite being one of South America’s most expensive countries, costs are generally quite low when compared to most European countries and it represents very good value for money in comparison.

Teaching in Rio de Janeiro

The coastal city of Rio de Janeiro is perhaps most famous for its beaches, and in particular the ones of Copacabana and Ipanema. Rio literally mirrors the contour of the coastline with mountains elevated up behind it, and the city vistas are dominated by the views of Sugarloaf Mountain and by the Christ the Redeemer statue on top of Mount Corcovado. Rio does have its fair share of violence but as long as you don’t go flaunting valuables about, you shouldn’t have any issues and Rio is an amazing city to teach English in.

Sugar Loaf Mountain and Rio de Janeiro bay

It’s a pretty painless experience getting yourself set up to teach English abroad in Brazil. 

Many schools do recruit from abroad, but our tip is to contact as many schools as you can before making the trip over – to set up interviews – and then to take the trip either down or over to then interview on the ground and where you will receive the best job offers. You can accept a job from abroad but you do run the risk of ending up in a so-so school with a so-so salary. 

Please remember that at tefl online pro we assist our graduates with ongoing job support, help and advice, so if you are a tefl online pro graduate and requiring this job assistance then feel free to reach out and contact us.

Main road in Sao Paulo

Teaching in Sao Paulo

There are approximately 15 million people living in the financial hub of Brazil, in the city of Sao Paulo, and it is the city where you will find the most teaching English opportunities. It’s also the most expensive city to live in Brazil but salaries here are among the best in the country. This is the city to teach English in if you want to save money, but the downside of settling down here is the sheer size of the city; meaning the need to travel long distances between classes if your students are not taught only in one location.

The good news is that while it is preferred, a college degree isn’t mandatory for employment as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in Brazil. An internationally recognized TEFL certificate is mandatory though and must have been awarded from a reputable TEFL school. 

The whole work visa process though is not so clear and we have received numerous reports from tefl online pro graduates who have made the move to the Land of Samba that the majority of schools try to dissuade teachers from going through the lengthy, bureaucratic process of applying for one. It seems that when a teacher does decide to apply for a work visa that the language school is required to jump through so many bureaucratic, expensive hoops that it just isn’t worth their time and energy doing so. The result of this is that many teachers choose, or are convinced, to teach on a tourist visa. 

We never recommend teaching illegally, but if you do choose to then it is worth noting that citizens of Argentina, the EU, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia and Turkey can receive a tourist visa on arrival to Brazil which is valid for up to 90 days. Citizens of the US and other countries will need to apply for a visa before arrival and for this process we recommend applying for the evisa. The application for the evisa can be completed online and will grant you the same 90-day limit. 

However, please note that whereas EU nationals and other nationals who can travel to Brazil and receive a visa on arrival can theoretically travel in and out of the country indefinitely, US nationals and other nationals who need to apply for the evisa can only enter Brazil once in any given year. This means that if you do need to apply for the evisa before traveling out to Brazil then we strongly recommend you research schools beforehand that will guarantee they will help you through the process of applying for a work permit.   

Teaching in Brasilia

Brasilia is a planned city and was inaugurated as Brazil’s capital back in 1960. It was primarily designed and planned by Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, and the philosophy behind the design was to make Brasilia a high-functioning utopian solution to urban disorder and chaos. Despite the feeling that it was built for the government to function more smoothly and not for the benefit of its population, Brasilia remains a popular teaching destination and salaries here are comparable to teaching English in Rio. 

Church in Brasilia

Brazilian students tend to be confident, enthusiastic, gregarious and generally full of beans, and you won’t find any issue here in trying to get your students to speak. 

Classes are typically taught either before students go to work or after they have finished up work, with late mornings and early afternoons free to spend your time how you like. This scheduling presents the benefit of being able to lounge around on the beach or spending time in a café in between classes, but also comes with the drawback of having to teach very early morning and very late evening classes. Many language schools can also provide lessons during the slow times of the day though and how your schedule ends up looking will largely depend on how you choose to organize your day. 

Another point to note here is that Brazilians do tend to live up to the stereotype of being creative with their timekeeping and students routinely turn up late for classes, or cancel a class at the last moment. The upside though is that most schools will still pay you if a student cancels less than 24 hours before a class, so even if you find yourself sitting alone for your early morning class you will still be paid for your time.

Main street in Salvador Brazil

Teaching in Salvador

Salvador is a charming, colonial city and is the capital of Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia. It’s sometimes referred to as being the ‘Rainbow City’ or the ‘Capital of Joy’ due to its colorful buildings and its carnival obsession. Bahia is also on the coast and definitely likes to celebrate its African roots, and this can be clearly seen in the heavy African influence on its cuisine, dance and music. Salaries here are again comparable with Rio and there are many options for teaching English; meaning you won’t find it difficult to find work here.

We definitely recommend learning some Portuguese before making the journey to Brazil as not so many people speak English and you will need some language skills to negotiate day-to-day tasks. Plus, by learning some of the language it will mean that you won’t feel so chained to local expat communities and you will be able to socialize with locals who will show you the authentic side to living in Brazil.

 Brazilian Portuguese is very similar, but not identical to European Portuguese, and some spoken differences are that Brazilian Portuguese is considered more phonetically pleasing to the ear with its open vowels, has the habit of turning some nouns into verbs, doesn’t tend to follow the same rules regarding formal and informal speech, and of course quite naturally there are some words which are completely different in both languages. 

If you choose to start off learning the basics of European Portuguese first then it will provide you with a solid foundation and then you can always continue with Brazilian Portuguese once you’re on the ground. 

Teaching in Belo Horizonte

Famous for its Mineirão Stadium and surrounded by mountains, Belo Horizonte is the capital city of southeastern Brazil’s Minas Gerais state. It isn’t an overly popular city to teach in because it doesn’t have the big name reputation that other cities on this list do, but what we like about Belo Horizonte is that it is one of the most affordable cities in Brazil to live in and while it’s true that salaries are slightly lower than in cities such as Rio, the difference is negligible and the city feels more green and leafy than other destinations.

Church in Belo Horizonte

Read more Teaching English Abroad Country Specifics articles on the tefl online pro Blog

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