What are my chances to find a good job in South America? Good question!

Whether you can find a job in Latin America is similar to whether you can find a job in other areas. A lot depends on your skill set, your education, and the situation in the country of your choice.

First, if you will be looking for a job on the local market, unless you speak Spanish the outlook is going to be pretty grim. A retiree who lives here or a person with an international business catering to English speakers is quite different from someone looking for a job on the local market. Uruguay is doing its best to establish itself as an international IT center and so there are frequently job openings for qualified people in that field.  Chile is doing the same. But in our experience, it’s a lot easier to land a job if you speak at least some Spanish.

However, there are a number of U. S companies operating in Buenos Aires that have English-only employees. We spoke to one of those employees recently who markets to English speakers. Thanks to modern technologies, it is possible to sit in South America and phone prospects in another country and the recipients of the calls have no idea they are talking with someone in South America. But our advice would be to look for those companies and apply for a job while you are still in your home country.

One occupation in demand here is English teachers for whom English is their first language.  I am informed that you can get a job teaching without being certified, but that the pay is very low.  It is better to be certified. There are different certification programs available. Some take weeks; some require a four-year degree. In Buenos Aires an English teacher with a TEFL certification makes a little more than $6.00 per hour.  If you have a four-year degree and an ESL certification you can get more than that. Of course you can always teach privately which could provide a pretty good income. But it involves building a business rather than getting a job.

This might be a new thought for some, but since we brought it up, what about becoming an entrepreneur? If you’ve never done it before of course there’s a lot to learn—marketing, accounting, etc. But you learn as you go. And that way you are not looking for a job, you can make your own job almost anywhere in the world.  There is opportunity everywhere in this part of the world with what we call Yankee know-how and the work ethic that is built in to so many expats from English-speaking countries.  Here are some examples of entrepreneurs we know in South America:

  • One man born and brought up in the states by Uruguayan parents, moved to Uruguay and opened a disco. He did have an advantage because the family spoke Spanish in the home.
  • A stock broker who sells and services customers in the U. S. With both Magicjack and Skype you can have a phone number in the area where you do business, even if you are thousands of miles away; and if people call that number, you answer in South America and it is a local call.
  • One small book publisher who writes and designs books, then has them printed in the U. S. and sells via book outlets and the Internet, using a fulfillment company in the States to fill orders.
  • Several people with various types of Internet businesses that they developed before they came.
  • A couple that bought a small farm. They kept the hired hand who was with the original owner for years. Through his experience, they were successful but then they took a vacation and saw Bariloche, a ski resort in Argentina. They decided that was what they wanted. They sold the farm and opened a real estate management company in Bariloche, managing short-term tourist apartments for various owners.
  • A couple who moved to a beautiful paradise-area of southern Chile and started a real estate brokerage. You can see what they are doing if you click on their banner ad on our web site. They market largely to an English-speaking clientele. If you are considering Chile, probably the most economically stable country in South America right now, you might want to stop in and see them.
  • We think that many skills are in demand here. For example, if you are good with home remodeling, repairs and maintenance, there is a need for that type of service.  Those skills are usually in demand in most markets and the newcomers here need someone who speaks English as a rule. But of course good work and good reputation are most important.
  • Last of all, here is an example of creative use of skills that most people might not even notice. A young couple came here with two small children. His skills were in the computer field and with Uruguay building that field, prospects looked good for him—except for one thing, he spoke no Spanish. Employers needed English speakers, but they also wanted employees to speak some Spanish. But they had skills between them. One of those skills was her incredible baking ability. She makes the best dinner rolls I ever ate. But she also makes cookies and snacks. They decided to try selling on the street. They broke up the products as samples for people to try and the first day they sold everything. Eventually they were invited into government offices. You can’t just go into those places. You have to know someone who has the authority to arrange it. In short, they almost immediately were meeting their expenses. Last time I talked to him they have decided to focus on developing a commercial market. One of their recent customer acquisitions is a restaurant. They’re on their way. All from a skill that many people would overlook.

These are just idea starters.  If you have a four-year degree, and speak Spanish, probably you would find a lot of opportunity for jobs in Buenos Aires. Same in Santiago, Chile and probably in Montevideo. The salaries would not compare with first-world countries in most cases. People here are impressed with high levels of education. Degrees are common here (as elsewhere) because the university in Argentina is free. In fact, you can come here from another country–any country–enter the university and get a free education if you can speak the language.

For my part, in South America I would opt for the life of the entrepreneur. We encourage your comments. Plus if you think we can help you with anything, don’t hesitate to email at info@fourflagsjournal.com.

Copyright Arlean Kelley 2012 All rights reserved