Sao Paulo is a city where Brazilians from far and wide flock to make it big. The skyscrapers flooding the Sao Paulo skyline are filled with international companies, and there is an almost infinite demand for Business English in this 17 million plus metro area. The challenge in teaching English in Sao Paulo is overcoming the sprawling nature of the city, which often leads to nightmarish wait times on the public transit system.
Therefore, you must diligently research your surroundings to make the city work for you instead of against you. If you can develop a plan to master the metropolis, then you will find teaching English in Sao Paulo to be very rewarding.
In this guide we will cover the basics of what you need to do in order to get started off on the right foot as an English teacher in São Paulo.
If this is your first time visiting this site, you may also want to check some of the other articles that have been written about English teaching in São Paulo.
How to Start Teaching English in São Paulo
It’s natural for Westerners to want to have a job lined up before they get here, but it’s almost unheard of to receive an offer after a Skype interview or email exchange. Brazilians prefer to meet you face to face, and want to know that you’re going to stay in São Paulo before they offer you a job.
Some schools require you to have a college degree and a TESOL certificate. Other schools are more informal, and may not even require that you’re a native English speaker, nor have previous teaching experience.
As a native English speaker, you’ll find the interview process to be fairly easy, and most schools will start you off with a few students right away. Once they receive good feedback from the students, they’ll start to fill up your schedule.
Teaching experience, graduate degrees, and practical business experience make you more marketable to both schools and students. However, being a native English speaker also provides the advantage of being a cultural expert of English-speaking countries, and that will ultimately build strong relationships. Brazilians have a healthy appetite for other cultures, so make sure you feed that beast!
Visas for English Teachers
Unfortunately most schools will not be willing to offer you a Visa. Yet, they will have no problem hiring you on a Tourist Visa, and typically schools will pay you by cash or a check you can cash at the bank. For United States citizens the Tourist Visa initially lasts 90 days, and can be renewed another 90 days (180 total). Over staying your visit will result in a daily fine of a little over R$8 a day. For a more thorough explanation of Visa Issues in Brazil check out these earlier blogs concerning the Brazilian Tourist visa and Student Visas.
Different Situations for Teaching
There are a few different types of work profiles that you will encounter in your career as an English teacher in Brazil. Let’s take a look at the three most common.
Long Days in a Classroom
Option #1: Teach group classes at a school. This option is the most likely one to lead to obtaining a work visa, but you will be severely underpaid. The typical pay for teaching beginner to intermediate level students in a grammar-focused classroom ranges between R$15 to R$40 an hour.
This option does allow you to work longer hours since you do not have to commute from student to student, and it provides the structure and material of the school, but the reduced rate ends up diminishing the value of being able to work more hours.
1- on-1 with a Middle Man
Option #2: Teach for a school that sends you to the students. These classes are called aulas particulares, meaning the student gets a 1-on-1 private lesson catered to their personal needs and interests.
If you choose this option, odds are you’ll spend half of your day in transit to and from your students’ preferred locations. This can be a hectic schedule to maintain, but it does provide you a great opportunity to get familiar with the city.
The quality of these schools can vary quite a bit, as many of them are informal schools that solely serve as a middleman that connects you with students, and do not offer any material to assist you in teaching. However, the biggest advantage to working with this type of school is that they will round up students for you fairly quickly, and will serve as a buffer for payment or attendance issues with students.
The biggest disadvantage to this type of school is that they usually take at least half of the student fee just for middlemanning first contact. The average pay range for these schools is about R$45 to R$60 an hour.
One last consideration is that you will likely find most classes will fall between 7 am- 9am, 12pm- 2pm or 6pm- 8pm due to student preferences for these times. These time limitations may leave you with anywhere from 15-30 teaching hours a week.
Teaching Aulas Particulares
Option #3: Completely private classes also known as aulas particulares. This option is the most lucrative, and most teachers only get here after working with a school for a few months. Many teachers stay affiliated with a school on some level to ensure a minimum amount of teaching hours before breaking out on their own. Being your own boss allows you to limit yourself to fewer locations, maximize profits, set your own schedule and determine the rules that govern the relationship with your students.
It is important to have your students sign some type of agreement. Brazil is a very carefree place, so if you do not clearly lay out what you expect of the students, they will take advantage of your relaxed structure. The two most important things to include in your student-teacher agreement are a 24 hour courtesy policy (student pays if they cancel within less than 24 hour notice) and getting a monthly payment upfront. The typical rate for a private class can be anywhere between R$70 to R$100 an hour, depending on your qualifications. The more experienced and educated you are the easier it is to request more money.
Also, paulistanos typically assume that anything that costs more money is a better product, so you may be selling yourself short and discouraging potential students by setting a lower than market average price to attract their attention. Remember that the particulares schools may charge anywhere from R$100 to R$150 per hour, so the student is usually already getting a discount even though you are increasing your hourly rate. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
If you are curious about what those figures look like in your home currency, click here for a currency converter, then set the currencies to yours and Brazilian Real.
In choosing schools and students I would always consider: 1) the distance to the business, home or school, 2) the cancellation policy, and 3) the commitment level of the students.
Where to Work and Live in São Paulo
Commute times in São Paulo have been known to exceed two hours, so don’t take it lightly when I say that location is key. As an English teacher, it is essential that you ensure that work and home are as close as possible. The two most vibrant business sectors in São Paulo are Paulista Avenue and the Vila Olimpia/ Itaim Bibi areas.
By living between or close to one of these neighborhoods you can maximize your earning potential. After all, if you teach 1-on-1 business English you’ll be using public transit up to 4-5 times a day. Limiting the area where you give classes to one of these prime locations can help reduce your time in transit and get you quite a bit of cash in the process.
If are looking to teach children and teens, you’ll also find that concentrating on specific neighborhoods is helpful. For example, affluent neighborhoods like Morumbi and Higieonopolis.
Have a look at this map of the metro to get a better idea of proximity of neighborhoods to metro lines and stations.
Typically you will find that living in Zona Oeste (the West Zone) maximizes your potential for teaching opportunities. Some popular neighborhoods for gringos in this area include Vila Madalena, Vila Mariana and Paulista Avenue. Paulista Avenue is the most convenient area in São Paulo, and is generally seen as the central cultural hub of the city.
Living on Paulista Avenue gives you convenient access to museums, restaurants (a variety of international cuisines not as common elsewhere), shopping, the metro and even a hipster-ish clubbing area known as Augusta. Vila Mariana is a convenient and low-key neighborhood, which has easy access to restaurants and one of the biggest gems in Sao Paulo – Parque Ibirapuera. Vila Madalena is a bohemian neighborhood filled with bars and shops that allows you to immerse yourself in Samba music and other local delights.
Websites to Keep You in the Know:
Depending on your expectations for your living arrangements, you may be able to find a room or apartment to rent between R$800 to R$2000. Personally, I pay R$1200 to rent a room on the edge of Vila Madalena, which, based on my unscientific study of like-minded English teachers, is about average.
Finding a room to rent can be challenging because the majority of Paulistanos live in their parents’ house until they get married. This means the single room rental market isn’t as vibrant as you would normally find in other big cities.
You’ll probably have to see several places before you settle on something because the advertisements don’t often give full disclosures. For example, you might think a room is for rent and then find out it’s a shared room. You have to be diligent about asking questions pertaining to exactly what you want.
While you’re searching for a more permanent place to lay your head, some great options for extended stays are AirBnb, Hostels and Republicas. Republicas are a Brazilian blend of hostel, frat house and dormitory. They’re normally filled with young people, and provide a private room with shared amenities, like kitchen and laundry room. You can also check out this article about how to find a place to stay in Brazil.
Be advised that many of these options may restrict guests and impose other rules upon you. However, if you are a complete stranger to São Paulo this is a great way to make new friends.
If you’d like to do a cost of living comparison, Numbeo will show you just how well one city stacks up to another.
Teaching English to Brazilian Students
Brazilian students are an absolute pleasure to teach, as they’re almost always engaged and truly desire to know more about your life. You will find yourself not just building a business relationship, but often counting some of your students as some of your closest friends.
Your success as an English teacher depends primarily on the relationships that you build with students. Filling your roster of students in São Paulo tends to be more about word of mouth, so building a connection with students beyond the classroom is one of the most effective marketing strategies you can invest in.
Unfortunately, the carefree nature of Brazilian culture leads to a fair amount of cancellations and rescheduling. Similarly, some students have frequent difficulty completing homework assignments because of their busy schedules. As a consideration to students, I try to keep the material simple, such as 10-15 minute videos, 2-3 page articles and simple handouts. Always keep in mind that some students will have to review the material multiple times.
To ensure you don’t become the victim of scheduling hazards, it’s best to be flexible in ways that aren’t customary for most Europeans or Americans. For example, if you have a minimum number of hours that you want to work weekly, try to schedule for about 25 percent more to accommodate for cancellations. So if you want to work a minimum of 20 hours weekly, then schedule around 25.
Things will inevitably come up at the last minute even if you charge for cancellations. In fact, don’t work for a school or make an agreement with a student that does not agree to you being paid for all classes canceled with less than 24 hours notice. If you don’t have this protection from your school or in your contract you will have problems making ends meet during slow seasons. Speaking of slow seasons….
Vacations and Brazilian Holidays
Vacations are constant and holidays are frequent in Brazil. By law, if an employee has worked at the same company for over a year the company is legally required to give that employee 30 days of vacation. The majority of Brazilians will use those days, and by law their company will not be allowed to pay them out more than 10 days if they decide to work.
This means a gainfully employed student will have, at minimum, 20 vacation days. This is separate from National Holidays (11), which the government and private companies typically observe by closing the business for the day. Always be aware of upcoming holidays and do your best to schedule makeups in advance.
Take a look at this list of Brazilian holidays so you can prepare accordingly.
The saying “Brazil doesn’t start until after Carnaval” isn’t an exaggeration. Around mid-December students taper off as they prepare for Christmas and summer holidays. This continues until about mid-February, after Carnaval, when it’s not only English students that start firing on all cylinders again. This will, without a doubt, be the slowest part of your year. Be advised that if you plan to work right away, you shouldn’t arrive in December or January.
Even though most companies don’t hire until you arrive in Brazil, teachers generally start to fill their schedule after a few weeks of interviews with schools. If you would like to stay in Brazil for more than a year keep an eye on saving for slow months including December, January, February and July.
Bus Bud and Click Bus are two bus booking sites if you are plan to arrive during the slow months and want to travel by land, and BlaBla Car is a ride sharing service that get you a faster ride and help you make some new friends.
Overall, Brazil is a beautiful country with extremely warm people that make for some of the best friends you can imagine. Teaching English is a great way to experience the culture, and absorb the unique vibe that Brazil emits. It’s a decision you won’t regret, and an adventure you will cherish for the rest of your life. São Paulo is a great place to start that adventure!
If you have any experiences about teaching English in São Paulo that you’d like to share, or are considering making the move, feel free to leave a comment below.