Panama is located on the isthmus connecting Central and South America, making it home to the famous Panama Canal. Connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific, the Panama Canal provides a shipping route that is beyond essential to global trade. Away from the canal, Panama boasts lively, colorful scenery, both in its natural landscapes and its architecture. From its transparent waters to brightly painted houses to luscious wildlife, Panama is definitely a sight for sore eyes. Those who want to work abroad in Central America and enjoy the region’s natural beauty will find that jobs in Panama are a great place to start.
Although getting a job in Panama can be a challenge since the job market is somewhat competitive, it is no secret that Panama is a great country to create an international life in. If you are starting your search for jobs in Panama, and aren’t sure where to literally start your search, check out the three cities below. Each one of these cities offers a range of job opportunities, and each one has distinct attributes to make your time working abroad in Panama an exciting cultural experience.
Bocas Del Toro. With impressive biodiversity and vegetation in juxtaposition with the Caribbean Sea, Bocas Del Toro is a city that provides a tropical climate with some spectacular views. With a low cost of living, Bocas Del Toro is a small town that provides a paramount location for expats to find jobs in Panama.
Panama City is the capital and urban center of Panama, providing the most urban setting available across the (rather small) country. Located at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, Panama City is one of the most valuable cities for global trade. With an impressive skyline and landmarks like the Bridge of the Americas and the historic district Casco Viejo, there is plenty to see in Panama City outside the office. While Panama City is bustling, it is surrounded by rainforest, providing a very special urban experience.
Boquete has the most mountainous scenery of the three major cities in Panama, and an outdoor inspired culture that expats will surely take advantage of in their spare time (or it may even be part of your job description if you are lucky). From the foliage-filled mountains to the dormant volcano (and highest peak in the country), Volcan Baru, there are opportunities for hiking, rafting, and horseback riding at all times of the year in Boquete. With an exceptional climate and a community that welcomes expats with open arms, Boquete is a quaint city that provides an amazing environment for working abroad in Panama.
Jobs in Panama
Getting a job in Panama as an expat is difficult, but entirely worth it. If you can’t find a job in Panama that suits you, you can always join other expats by starting your own business in Panama too!
Foreign Affairs is a big industry in Panama, especially since it is one of the largest trade hubs in the world. Working for the Department of State as a US diplomat is just one job opportunity that allows foreigners to work in Panama and delve into foreign policy issues. Working in foreign diplomacy will introduce you to the global society that exists in Panama, which will help develop your perspective of foreign affairs across the world.
Tourism. Working as a trip leader for high school programs and tours for groups of tourists is another interesting way to work in Panama, especially for those with an interest in cultural exchange and ecotourism. Tourism jobs in Panama are also a great way to get to know the country (and maybe even get paid to go sightseeing!). Proficiency in Spanish is often required to work in Panama as a tour guide, and leadership skills are mandatory, obviously. Tourism jobs in Panama will give you the opportunity to share the culture of Panama with other travelers and expats, giving you an even stronger cultural understanding of the country too.
Teaching English is another popular endeavor for those who have a desire to work in Panama. While a TEFL/TESOL certification is essential in order to get a job teaching English in Panama, it will be well worth the commitment. For the most part, teaching jobs in Panama will give international teachers the opportunity to teach children or young adults. While the certification is often required, teaching experience is often not.
Hours of work in Panama varies between jobs, since each job is structured quite differently. For example, tour guides or trip leaders often stay with a group throughout the duration of their stay, so they would essentially be working for the entire time the group is in-country. However, other traditional office jobs in Panama will require you to work the standard Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule.
The business world in Panama is much more relaxed than what exists in the United States; it is more similar to other countries in Central America. Businesses in Panama also focus on forming close relationships within the office to make the workplace an even more enjoyable environment, which leads to the office being more informal. While work may be more relaxed environment, punctuality is still extremely important for any job in Panama.
Salary & Affordability
Panama is a country with a low cost of living, but it still provides modern amenities and has its fair share of fancy restaurants, hotels, and bars. A cup of coffee can cost as little as $0.25, and a casual dinner with a beer can cost around $10. Food stalls are a very popular and affordable way to try the local flavors when living in larger cities in Panama.
While common purchases, such as food and other necessities, are likely to be more affordable in Panama than in your home country, living accommodations will be more comparable. On average, rent totals at around $500 each month, especially if you intend to work in more populated areas, such as the capital city. The salary of expats working in Panama varies greatly depending on the position, but it is important to keep in mind the cost of living when discussing the salary needed to make living in Panama and live a comfortable lifestyle!
Accommodation & Visas
Apartments, or condos, are the most common accommodation available for expats in Panama. As mentioned above, amenities will be modern, but you will therefore pay similar prices for rent as you would in most developed countries.
In order to get a work visa, you will need to already have secured a job in Panama. The most common work visa is called the City of Knowledge Work Visa, which allows a business in Panama to hire an international worker for a set amount of time. However, the maximum amount of time you will be allowed to work in Panama under this visa is limited to three months. If you intend to make any business investments while living in Panama, there is also an Investor Visa. In general, the visa application process in Panama is more difficult than in many other countries in Central America.
Benefits & Challenges
Competitive Market. Getting a long-term job in Panama can be extremely challenging if you’re not a Panamanian citizen. While many job opportunities exist in larger cities, it can be a competitive and difficult process to get the specific job that you are looking for.
Spanish Skills. Unlike some other countries in Central America, having a strong foundation in Spanish is essential if you are interested in finding a job in Panama. The good news is, if you bring a enough Spanish skills to the table, you will surely have plenty by the time your contract ends.