Jobs Abroad in South America

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A Guide to Working Abroad in South America

The twelve diverse countries that make up South America seem to have all perfected the art of balancing rich cultural heritage with the necessary growth and development required to remain relevant. Individuals interested in working abroad will be hard-pressed to find a region more personable, passionate, proud, and with more verve for life than the ethnic melting pot that makes up South America. Jobs in South America exclude no one, as professionals with all levels of experience and expertise can find work in this beautifully biodiverse region.


Each boasting special strengths and its own unique flavor, the following five countries make up the most popular destinations for jobs in South America, and also where the majority of opportunities can be found.

Argentina. Given the extensive Italian and Spanish immigration to flood Argentina the past 150 years, Argentina continues to maintain European influences as evidenced by the pizza and pasta dishes that can be found alongside traditional parrillas (steak restaurants) country-wide. In addition to teaching, other popular jobs in Argentina include those in the following fields:

  • Tourism and Hospitality
  • Advertising
  • Business and Finance 
  • Real Estate

Brazil boasts the largest bay on earth and one of the seven natural wonders of the world: the harbor of Rio de Janeiro. Projected host of the 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil continues to foster its relevant reputation in the world. The majority of jobs in Brazil can be found in the hectic and ethnically diverse city of São Paulo, which is the largest city in South America (by population). The expanding international trade, ever-increasing tourism rates, and continued industrial development have contributed to Brazil’s success in making a name for itself as an economic powerhouse in South America. Brazil offers numerous jobs for specialists in a variety of fields, including but not limited to:

  • Agriculture
  • Engineering and Environmental Management
  • Food Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Oil and Gas Renewable Energy

Chile. Sandwiched between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, individuals who choose to work in Chile can experience some of the most varied and extreme landscapes in all of South America, and simply relax and enjoy the hospitality of the locals over maté tea. Chile was given official endorsement by the World Bank in 2013 as a fully developed nation. However, the large income gap and resulting social inequality additionally ensures endless nonprofit job opportunities across the country. An emerging international presence combined with the fact that Chile is known for having the lowest level of English language skills in South America create high demand for English teachers.

Ecuador. Despite the steady drop in poverty rates over the past decade, high-paying jobs can be tough to find for expats interested in working in Ecuador. Environmental and wildlife preservation, research, or unpaid jobs can more commonly be found on the famous Galapagos islands 600 miles off the mainland coast, while jobs located in Quito allow individuals the opportunity to work in the world’s highest capital city. While some business positions can be found in the larger urban areas of Ecuador, the majority of jobs in Ecuador reflect the need for societal development.

Peru. Home of the must-see Machu Picchu, the toughest decision for foreigners working abroad in Peru will be where to visit next! While mining and agriculture are the largest industries in Peru, with constant employment opportunities popping up, the most common form of employment in Peru is (of course) teaching jobs, as well as positions working for international organizations. However, those looking to work in the tourism industry in Peru need look no further than the capital of the former Inca Empire, Cusco.

Jobs in South America

Teaching. While some countries offer a more extensive array of employment options than others, the most common job in South America, across all twelve countries, is teaching. Teaching jobs in South America vary greatly in atmosphere, audience, hours, and curriculum, and generally speaking, the more qualified you are, the higher the pay will be. English teaching jobs are especially available and lax when it comes to credentials, length of commitment, and visa requirements.

Multinational Organizations. For those already working for a multinational organization or business, relocating to a branch in South America can often be the best course to take for working abroad long-term. Although, it can be difficult to obtain a professional job in South America if not already on a company’s radar, it is possible for expats with the appropriate qualifications. 

Specialist Positions. Since the majority of countries in South America are developing economies with a gradually expanding international presence, locals often lack either the language ability (English) or specific skills required to fill some employment positions. Therefore, individuals who possess the desired experience and relevant education can often find work in South American countries experiencing growth in specialty sectors.

Environmental Efforts. While the highest number of jobs and higher-paying professional placements will be found in major urban areas, the incredibly biodiverse and pristine landscape of South America warrants the need for its protection. From conservation and sustainability to zoology and wildlife research, environmental job opportunities can be found scattered across the region in smaller towns and rural areas.

Work Atmosphere & Etiquette. The two official and most widely-spoken languages in South America are Spanish and Portuguese. Some level of fluency is always more desirable, and often required, for jobs in South America; although some types of employment allow foreign workers to get by with very little knowledge of the local language, such as teaching English.

A typical work schedule will vary according to the job in South America, and salaried positions generally hold more stable, traditional hours and even overtime pay and paid vacation. While punctuality is not strictly enforced, it is always best to remain professional and respect job responsibilities. Self-presentation is extremely important in South America, and small-talk and relationship building is also generally expected and will prove beneficial in any field.

Salary & Affordability

As it would anywhere, salaries for work in South America vary according to the specific position and field, and are often based on experience and credentials. Location also plays a huge role in the amount of pay one should expect, and likewise, a developing country will reflect a lower paycheck. Luckily, salary and affordability go hand in hand, so whatever type of financial compensation one receives, it will almost always be enough to cover all basic living expenses and possibly even accumulate some savings.

Accommodation & Visas

Accommodation options available to foreign workers in South America will vary based upon your location. But, it is safe to assume that the further you venture outside the major urban areas, the more basic your accommodation will be. For expats relocating long-term, looking into real estate may prove to be the most economical option, while shared or individual apartments can often be rented very affordably for those needing something less permanent.

Obviously, renting with roommates will prove the most beneficial for those looking to cut costs, or for those who simply enjoy living in the presence of potential new friends! In some cases, especially when working for organizations that cannot provide a large paycheck, a living stipend or housing assistance may be included as part of a compensation package. 

More often than not, some type of work or business visa will be required to work abroad in South America. In some cases, obtaining an additional residential visa may also be necessary. Be sure to ask your employer well in advance, as the application process can be time-consuming and almost always requires some type of endorsement from the organization or business you will be working for. Although it is not legally correct, teaching English in South America is often the one exception to the work-visa-rule, as foreigners can generally get by doing short-term stints (less than six months) on a tourist visa.

Benefits & Challenges

  • Glass Ceiling. Social status, physical appearance, age, and sex all too often continue to play a part in determining recruitment, management practices, and wage scales for jobs in South America.
  • Networking. Relationships carry much weight in the South American work force and recommendations may influence what job opportunities are made available to what people. Building connections in South America will prove invaluable to any person’s South American career.
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A Guide To
Working Abroad in South America


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