“How can we get international teaching jobs?” That’s a question I hear on a regular basis.
My husband and I are both professional teachers and spent twelve years teaching in international schools. We first moved overseas to teach in 1993, and spent two years teaching in Alexandria, Egypt (I taught 3rd grade, he was our computer coordinator). We then moved to Ethiopia where we taught for seven years. Our next stop was Taiwan, then on to Malaysia, before deciding to move back to Idaho.
I’ll do my best to answer this question here.
I have two caveats to point out: First, I should say that we left the international school jobs scene and moved back to the USA in 2005. With the rapid pace of technology, a lot is changing and I hear more and more teachers are securing international teaching jobs via Skype rather than attending job fairs. Be sure to be open to all options and ask lots of questions. Things change quickly in the international scene.
Secondly, we are both long-time, certified teachers. We are not ESL teachers and we did not teach ESL classes. We taught in international schools that were accredited in the USA – meaning they were just like the school down the street from you, except they happened to be located in another country. Our students were children of diplomats, aid workers, or any other child who needed/wanted an American style of education.
What do you need to apply for international school jobs?
Generally speaking, you will need a teaching certificate from any state in the USA, Canada, the UK, or Australia. Each school is different, and some accept certificates from other countries. Be sure to check the regulations for each school.
At least a few years teaching experience is a big plus. It is very expensive to move teachers abroad, so they want to make sure you know what you’re doing before they invest in you. If you are in a high-demand discipline, there is a chance you would get a job straight out of college, but not for most teaching jobs.
International experience is another plus. This can take the form of extensive travel or volunteer work. Again, because it’s expensive to move you over there, they want to know that you can handle the demands of living in another country.
Why you should consider teaching abroad
The education YOU will get will change your life. By immersing yourself in foreign cultures, you’ll learn to be more tolerant and understanding of other people.
International teaching jobs can be more financially rewarding than teaching in the USA. I say CAN because that’s not true for all schools. Some schools will pay you barely enough to live on, but there are schools that pay handsomely. For most of our years abroad, we got paid about the same as we would have gotten in the US, but since housing was provided and we didn’t have to pay taxes on our income, the net result was more savings. Our first two years in Egypt, however, we were paid $11,000/year for full-time teaching, with room and board provided.
Benefits of teaching abroad
Each school is different, so it’s important to specifically ask what the school provides before you accept a job. We taught at four different schools, which were all different, but in general they provided:
Transportation to and from country: All schools should pay your transportation from your home of record to the school and they should pay to fly you back home at the end of your contract. Our schools also provided yearly trips back home. Not all schools do that.
Housing: Most schools will provide either housing or a housing allowance. If you will get a housing allowance, be sure to ask what kind of house that can pay for – I’ve heard of schools that pay very little that is not nearly enough for a decent house. We always had to pay utilities ourselves.
Teaching materials:This varies tremendously from school to school. Some schools are more open and will allow you to teach the way you want, while others are more strict about sticking to a set curriculum. I hear that, because the US schools are so ingrained with No Child Left Behind now, that international teachers have had their freedom curtailed as well. Be sure to ask specifically what you will be expected to do.
Awesome kids:For the most part, the kids attending international schools are great. They’ve got a lot of parent support and you won’t have major discipline problems at all. That said, certain parts of the world are known for having more problems. From what I hear, schools in the Middle East tend to have more problems because the kids come with a sense of entitlement and fully expect to be able to buy their grades.
How to get a job in an international school
Like I mentioned above, things are changing quickly. We used to travel to job fairs when we were looking for new international school jobs. All teachers looking for jobs and directors of schools looking for teachers converged in a certain place for a weekend. With any luck, you would find a good match and be hired. Now, you might not need to go to the job fair, but be sure to communicate with the directors of schools you are interested in to find out.
Be aware that international schools have a very different timeline than schools in the US do. Whereas you will most likely be hired for a new job in July for the coming school year in the US, overseas schools do the bulk of their hiring in February. Any positions that were not filled at the February job fairs will be filled as soon as possible, but there is a June job fair for last minute hiring.
Here are some organizations that will be invaluable in your search for an international teaching job:
The first phase of the process will be completing the applications and getting your references submitted. You will not apply to each individual school, but will do all that through the organizations listed above. You may choose to go through only one organization or many, depending on how badly you want a job. Start early because this process can take some time.
Next, you will start to receive notices about jobs available. Each organization handles this differently, but they’ll walk you through it. Look through the notices for jobs you think you are qualified for. Be aware that you will need to be certified to teach that position.
Contact the director of the school asking about the position. Many times, they won’t write back so expect that. Many of them simply expect that you’ll be at the job fair and they’ll meet you there, but it won’t hurt to write in advance.
*****Be open to everything.***** The main problem I’ve seen is people having specific ideas about where they want to go. The trouble is that the places they want to go are most likely the places everybody else wants to go as well. Sometimes the best schools and most amazing experiences can be found in the least “desirable” countries. People tend to love teaching in Sudan or Cambodia so don’t rule them out.
We spent twelve years teaching in international schools and those years have shaped my life. I highly encourage you to check it out!