Ask yourself this: if your job was located in the middle of a tropical island, surrounded by sandy beaches and glittering turquoise waters, is it actually work? Made up of over 7000 islands, less than 10 percent of which are populated, the Caribbean is an explosive salvo of colorful fruits, mysterious caves, and crazed Johnny Depp fans. From the Bahamas to Haiti to Barbados, the Caribbean shares similar characteristics across the region, yet each place is distinctly unique, and relatively unchanged since colonial times. There are opportunities aplenty for those who are qualified and willing to look, making jobs in the Caribbean the perfect mixture of paradise and work.
Spread across the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean region is made up of over 20 countries, and each country is unique in the types of jobs it provides. Gain experience with teaching English in Puerto Rico or put your engineering skills to use in Haiti. Come with an idea of your dream job, or even an open mind if you’re still indecisive, because along with cute sea turtles, the Caribbean has a variety jobs that might interest you.
A territory of the United States and primarily Spanish speaking island, Puerto Rico is home to year-round 80 degree weather, 270 miles of beach, and possibly buried treasure. That’s right, the infamous pirate Roberto Cofresi used to call Puerto Rico his home. With its capital located at San Juan, Puerto Rico is one of the larger islands in the Caribbean and utilizes the American Dollar as its currency. Outside of the condos and traffic jammed streets of San Juan, there are places like Boqueron and Vieques that scream culture with restaurants specializing in suckling pig and clubs hopping and dancing to Salsa. As one of the Caribbean’s larger countries, there are lots of jobs available for those who are qualified, but native English speakers will have the easiest time finding teaching jobs, since students are required to learn English.
Even with its turmoil filled past, the Dominican Republic is now known for its apparent baseball culture, humpback whale sightings, and an abundance of majestic waterfalls. With cities that are a mixture of romance, past dilapidated ruins, and sprouting new towns, the Dominican Republic is truly an extraordinary country. Whether it’s old men playing dominoes along the hundreds of miles of coastline, buying fresh coconuts from a local vendor, or dancing merengue under the stars, living on this lovely island will seem like a fantasy. Those looking for work in the Dominican Republic will find that foreign language teachers are in high need, making teaching positions fairly easy to obtain. Also, if you are searching for a job in hospitality, the Dominican Republic’s multitude of resorts are always hiring entertainers, activity planners, and organizers.
Due to the earthquake in 2010, Haiti is still in the process of rebuilding and rejuvenating its community. Although the earthquake really shook things up and created a dark cloud over the country, the positive side is that there are now plenty of available jobs in healthcare, engineering, and education. Beyond the need for repair and growth, Haiti has a growing tourism industry, and consequently many hospitality jobs to be filled. It is also a tropical paradise that can rival any of its neighbors in terms of beauty and weather. However, Haiti isn’t really for those just looking to relax, as it can be harder and more expensive to travel around due to recent issues.
Jobs in the Caribbean
Since the Caribbean is in close proximity to the United States, the largest area of employment for foreigners is English and foreign language teaching. Besides this, the Caribbean has one of the largest tourism industries in the world clearing the way for positions in tourism and hospitality. This isn’t exactly surprising, since the weather in the Caribbean is warm 365 days a year, about the same number of beaches in Antigua.
Besides the English speaking countries in the region, known as the Commonwealth Caribbean, there is a need for English teachers through the region. From the elementary to university level, those with certification in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) will be able to find jobs in the Caribbean fairly easily. Salaries will depend on the level of expertise the teacher has, and the types of students they are teaching. It will also be possible to gain extra money through private tutoring.
Because of its position as the paradise-hunter’s holy grail, the Caribbean is in a constant state of receiving foreign visitors and tourists. As a result, there are a large number of jobs in the Caribbean in the tourism and hospitality industry. Those with an interest in any of these career paths will have no problem finding jobs in the Caribbean’s vacation heavy hotspots, such as Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago. Most hospitality jobs in the Caribbean pay hourly for both full and part-time positions. Proficiency in English or a foreign language is always a positive attribute to have in the tourism and hospitality industry, and could also lead to higher pay rates.
For those with backgrounds in nursing or health services, there is a huge need for help in impoverished nations or natural disaster stricken areas, such as Haiti. Working either in hospitals and clinics, or even with local NGOs, foreign healthcare professionals can help treat people that don’t have regular or easy access to health care. These jobs can be challenging and require mental endurance, so be well-prepared and have realistic expectations about what a typical day of work will look like.
Salary & Affordability
Due to the vastness of the region and of the multitude of countries, salaries and affordability of living varies greatly from place to place. For example, the average hourly wage in Haiti is $0.35, which may not seem like much at all, but keep in mind that this wage is in U.S. dollars. One of the more realistic expectations to have is that the more qualified the worker is, the higher the salary will be. Got skillz to pay the billz?
The Caribbean is heavily situated in the developing world meaning salaries will be lower than they would be in the United States or Western Europe. For example, English teachers will have a salary that is dependent on qualifications, experience, and what kind of school they’re teaching at. Universities and private language schools will pay foreign teachers the most. In tourism heavy areas, salaries for hospitality jobs are likely to be increased as well.
Affordability also varies around the Caribbean. The countries that draw in huge crowds of tourists such as the Bahamas and Jamaica, will likely see the cost of living soar, whereas places that don’t have too many foreign visitors, like Grenada and Montserrat, will be a bit more affordable. For a lot of countries, the American Dollar is an accepted currency, but there are a few countries in the Caribbean that use other currencies. A good tip before you depart is to familiarize yourself with the local currency. In general, compared with the developed world, the Caribbean is a pretty affordable place to live, considering beach access and tropical smoothie sipping is basically 24/7.
Accommodation & Visas
Due to the large number of nations in the Caribbean, the quality and type of housing will vary, along with the kinds of visas that are needed and the subsequent requirements. The best way to be prepared for your job in the Caribbean is to do extensive research on the specific country you will be living in.
In larger cities like San Juan or Santiago, accommodation may include condos or apartment high-rises. However, the further the job is from a big city, the less amenities the housing will be equipped with. One important amenity to look for in all types of housing is the type of air conditioning it comes with, as the Caribbean is hot all year round; taking five showers a day and waking up drenched with sweat is no fun when you have to go to work all day. However, most accommodations will not include air conditioning, and if they do, be prepared for an expensive electricity bill. Let’s just say mosquito nets and electric fans will be your best friends during your job in the Caribbean.
Many Caribbean nations will have the standard 90 day free tourist visa that is available upon arrival. However, official foreign workers will have to apply for a work visa in most cases, which also varies heavily from place to place. For those that are planning on spending a long time in a country, most companies will assist with acquiring the necessary work visa that allows workers to stay legally for the allotted amount of time. For more information, make sure to check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Because it is a large region and still developing in most areas, the Caribbean presents its own sets of challenges and benefits that foreign workers will have to overcome. But don’t worry, we’re sure the abundance of Caribbean rum will help you forget about the awkward tan lines, and the amount of mosquitoes you had to smack away throughout the day.
One of the main problems that the the third world can present to foreign employees is the difference in the pace of work. Across the Caribbean, things tend to move at a slower pace (I mean, the people are living on a tropical island), and punctuality can be a foreign concept. Take this with the grain of salt though, and view it as an opportunity to change perspectives and to adapt to the lax environment.
The climate is also an issue for a lot of foreigners, whether it’s the constant heat, the mosquitoes, or the seasonal hurricanes. All of these factors combined could be oppressive to a newcomer, but this is the price paid for living in paradise. The heavy rains and sun result in some of the most green forests in the world and amazing wildlife, not to mention that year ‘round summertime means year ‘round beach time.
Hope you’re a fan of coconuts because the Caribbean is one of those places that people always see on postcards and say “Man, I’d love to live there”, but could only merely dream. Working abroad in the Caribbean is the perfect chance to experience more than what the postcard shows, get paid in the process, and to not “let your dreams be dreams”.