Central America can be a land of great opportunity for individuals interested in a variety of professional sectors and the prospect of working abroad. As a largely underdeveloped region, many jobs in Central America are directed toward economic growth and community development. From its beautiful beaches and tropical rainforests to the enriching urban life of its growing cities, there are job opportunities located all over Central America.
Central America is bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the south, and the Caribbean isles to the east. It is a region of incredible biodiversity, containing over seven percent of the world’s variety of flora and fauna in just 0.1 percent of Earth’s landmass. It is safe to say that you will not be underwhelmed by nature and wildlife outside of your work in Central America.
There are seven nations that comprise Central America, which combined host a total population of about 43 million people. From north to south, Central America includes Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. With 14 million citizens, Guatemala is Central America’s largest country, by a significant margin. Belize, the smallest of the group, is the only country whose national language is English, while all others speak Spanish.
You can find jobs in Central America in both rural and urban areas. However, the largest cities tend to hold the largest number of job opportunities; some of the largest cities in the region include Guatemala City, Panama City, San Jose, Tegucigalpa, San Salvador, and Managua. Rural versus urban living in Central America will present an extremely different experience with its own unique set of challenges, so make sure to weigh all the pros and cons before deciding where to look for work abroad!
Jobs in Central America
The most commonly available jobs in Central America are generally in community development positions, such as teaching, healthcare, and social work. Many citizens of Central America lack consistent access to these basic resources, and foreign workers can help make a big impact by lending their services. English teachers are in high demand throughout the region, as are doctors, nurses, and other specialists.
Environmental conservation is another popular field for jobs in Central America. Many of the region’s native species have become threatened because of deforestation and human expansion. Working to maintain and preserve Central America’s immense biodiversity can be a very rewarding job opportunity, which can also expose you to one of the world’s most naturally wondrous territories.
As Central America is a developing region that has seen significant growth in the past decades, business and entrepreneurship opportunities also abound. Economic hubs, such as Panama City and Guatemala City, are some of the fastest growing cities in the world, and have become hotspots for startups, because of their relatively low costs of operation.
Additionally, it is possible to find jobs in Central America through work abroad programs. Typically these type of jobs are short-term though, lasting for one or two years. While speaking Spanish is not always required for jobs in Central America, it will be a great help both in and out of the work place.
Salary & Affordability
Central America is a poor region, so do not expect to make a king’s ransom working abroad in any Central American country. Obviously your salary will depend on the type of work you are doing; jobs in finance in Panama City will earn you significantly more than teaching in rural El Salvador, for example.
Regardless, you will make enough to live comfortably during your employment in Central America, and employers will sometimes help compensate you with a combination of housing, meals, and transportation stipends as well. As a whole, the costs of living are quite affordable in Central America, especially for workers coming from highly developed countries, so day to day expenses need not be of too much concern.
Accommodation & Visas
Your housing situation will depend largely on whether your job is in an urban or rural area. Most expats choose to find their own apartments in bigger cities, where rent prices are generally still affordable. In rural areas, foreigners will typically either live in a homestay with a local family or in group housing with other foreign workers, which is normally provided by employers.
The visa situation will vary greatly based on what country you are working in, how long you are staying, and the home country you are traveling from. Usually work abroad programs will help you obtain the proper documentation for shorter term jobs in Central America, while you will have to work directly with your employer for authorization if you plan on making a more permanent career move to the region. You can check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory for more information from each individual Central American consulate.
Benefits & Challenges
Embrace Diversity. Central America is an incredibly dense and diverse region. Geographically, culturally, linguistically, you will find a melting pot of different influences and manifestations working abroad in Central America.
Professional Development. Not only will you mature as a person from the challenge of working in Central America, but you will also gain invaluable professional experience within a different cultural context. In our globalizing world, employers are thrilled with prospective candidates who have made the leap to work abroad.
Improve Your Fluency. Wherever you are in the language acquisition process, living and working in Central America is a great way to improve your abilities with the Spanish language. Making the effort to speak in Spanish as much as possible will set you miles ahead of the curve.