Country Guide » Living and Working
Jobs in Panama are as diverse as the country’s infinite eco-systems from Peace Corps to corporate banking. The most lucrative positions may be in real estate, banking and tourism, while internships and jobs at the beach offer the benefits of a unique cultural and language learning experience. As a foreigner, you may feel like you’ve got the short end of the stick if any of the following apply to you: no work permit, little to no Spanish ability, no local contacts, etc. However, there are always a handful of positions or business opportunities out there if you know how to look for them.
Internships are generally considered international loopholes for getting a job without a work permit. This is great for those looking for benefits apart from the financial variety. For recent college graduates, the benefits are likely innumerable and include language acquisition, living abroad, career experience, etc.
If you aren’t made of savings, you will want to make sure basic living expenses are covered in your contract. This may include a basic salary or an apartment. Decent lodging in Panama City can be found for as low as $200 a month, though be sure to take food and travel expenses into consideration.
Not necessarily a lucrative position unless you have an education degree and are working in a private high school, teaching English has helped thousands of adventurous travelers around the world and back with little to no savings. Expect a break-even existence and an extremely rewarding experience. In developing nations like Panama and Costa Rica, English is often the key to success for local populations. There are hundreds of ways to get your TEFL certificate either online (around $300) or through an on-location month-long program (upwards of $1,200).
Real Estate/ Tourism:
Both of these industries have a high demand for foreigners from their target market. Be it marketing, writing or sales, a native English speaker often helps seal the deal with foreign buyers. Employers know this and you will find that the sales floor of many such companies are filled with ‘gringos’ while the finance, management and administrative side employee Panamanians, a necessity to meet the 90% local employment requirement.
Be Your Own Boss:
While this may require extensive in-country experience before you can develop your own successful business plan, creating your own company is the way to go. The benefit of doing so in Panama is that there are so many physical goods and services that have not yet been introduced to the country that you don’t have to recreate the wheel to have a great business plan. Whether you want to import luxury furniture or design websites, your native language is your first qualification for doing business targeting clients from your home country.
Uncharted territory abounds in Panama from literal land holdings to mental territory and undone business ideas. Try reading The Four Hour Work Week for some inspiration, and let the ideas flow. Two last words of advice: if any large investments will be involved, be sure to get a good lawyer and that you know your business partners like the back of your hand.