How to get international teaching jobs

“How can we get international teaching jobs?” That’s a question I hear on a regular basis.

international school ethiopia

We spent seven years teaching at the International Community School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In fact, our twins sons were born while we lived there. It is a modern facility with great resources.

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.

read aloud in 1st grade class

Classrooms look very similar to those in the USA and they are typically fairly well stocked.

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:

international kids

Kids learn to see beyond skin color when they’re in a class with children from all over the world.

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. If you find yourself in a financial situation like this, you can always find a letting agent in Richmond to help you find a home should you be placed in the UK.

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.

facilities in international schools

Facilities are generally quite good in international schools with state-of-the-art technology. This was our school in Taiwan.

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:

International School Services (ISS) 

Search Associates

UNI Overseas Recruiting Fair

Teacher Kick (for Latin America)

Teacher Hit (for Europe)

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.

classroom in international school

The best part of teaching in international schools is the kids – it’s so much fun to have kids from many different countries.

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!

Festival in international school

Because outside social events can be limited, international schools provide many activities for the students.

celebrating Halloween in Taiwan

All major US holidays are celebrated in American schools abroad – including Halloween. This was our school in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

celebrating easter in international school

Because you’ll want to teach kids from other countries about American holidays, you’ll be able to spend more time doing things like coloring Easter eggs than you could in the USA.

 

christmas in taiwan

Christmas is always a fun holiday to celebrate – no matter where you are!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

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About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

22 thoughts on “How to get international teaching jobs

  1. Hi Nancy,
    I’ve just started reading your blog and love it! Will have lots to catch up on now…

    This is exactly what I’ve worked towards doing my whole life. It’s taken time (you know, having to put in 4 years at uni to get my BA, and then another year to get my teaching post grad degree, and then I’ve worked in New Zealand for 3 years getting the necessary experience…) but I’m finally at the point where I can confidently start the application process.

    In the process of working towards this lifelong goal, I ended up with a kiwi boyfriend. We are driving across Canada starting in May, but as of 2014 my goal is to find an international school job (anywhere!) and start a new expat life.

    Just wondering, in your opinion or experience, do you think having a non-teaching partner (we’re not married) will hinder my hire-ability?

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Kate – CanuckiwiKate, Good question, and one I should have addressed in the post. In some schools – yes, it will hinder you. They will have to pay for transport for 2 people and provide housing for 2, when they only get one teacher out of it.

    For other schools, however, it won’t be a problem. Some schools understand that having a spouse/family leads to longer stability so they won’t have as much turnover.

    In general, one child per teacher is the most that will be allowed. Since we are two teachers, we could have two kids. Our schools paid their transport, a house big enough for the four of us, and they paid their tuition at the school. There are exceptions to this rule though.

  2. Thank you!!! Two of the websites seem especially helpful for my search. Found a few jobs to apply for, and some are not far from where my uncle lives in Mexico.

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Malea, YAY! I hope it works out!

  3. This is a really interesting blog post and I’m so glad I came across it! I’m starting a teacher accreditation program soon and am on the road to becoming a high school Chemistry teacher. I have no desire to teach in the States and have extensive travel experience. (I’m 23 and have spent around 4 years total living and traveling outside the country). I really want to live in England again and plan to go there this summer to check out the job situation. Have you heard of first year teachers getting hired abroad? And what about getting hired mid-year? I’ll be finishing my course in December and would rather spend as little time unemployed as possible.

    Thanks and have a happy new year!

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Logan Johnson, Yes, it can happen. Everything can happen! In general, first-time teachers who do get hired get hired in the lower quality schools with lower pay. That’s not necessarily a bad move to make – they will pay enough to live on and you’ll be living in another country. Once you get more experience, then you have a higher chance of getting into one of the better schools.

    As for getting hired mid-year – yes, it’s a possibility. It happens that teachers head over there in August, but decide they can’t handle the demands of living overseas. Be sure to put on y our paperwork that you are ready and able to head out whenever and you might be picked up.

    AJ Reply:

    @Nancy Sathre-Vogel,
    I was hired as a first year teacher in Suzhou, China. I made 30,000 US a year with housing, utilities, shipping and airfare provided. I saved 20,000 my first year and lived very well. Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t bother if you don’t have 2 years experience. I got 5 other job offers in addition to the one I accepted. Oh, and I had never traveled internationally. Be confident, prepared and willing to go anywhere. You will get something!

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @AJ, That is great to hear! Both my husband and I were experienced teachers before we applied for overseas schools. I have heard from many people that you need experience, but you proved them all wrong!

  4. Hi Nancy!

    Your blog is great and has definitely encouraged me to try to teach in an international school. My twin sister and I will be travelling until January/February, but is it possible to get a job in the same school/schools near eachother with shared accommodation? Also, is January/February a bad time to find a job? Does it take a long time to get a position as we will be backpacking right before settling down? Sorry for all the questions but I would really appreciate your help! (Oh and we are both Irish primary school teachers with 4 years experience each). THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Leanne Hanrahan, Have fun traveling!

    As for getting jobs, it’s really hard to say if it’s possible. To teach at the level of school we taught at, you really would need to start your search by Christmas and dedicate quite a bit of time to it.

    That said, there are a LOT of schools around the world looking for native English-speaking teachers. They might not be accredited, they might not pay as much, they might be as nice, etc… but if you’re just looking to pick up a job, they might work. Be flexible and keep your eyes and ears open. You know what might happen!

  5. Hi, does being esl certified help get a higher salary?

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @marinela, I don’t know. We are professional certified teachers and the schools we worked at required teaching certificates. I don’t know how it works for just teaching English at some kind of center.

  6. Im have completed computer engineering but dint pass , and I have teaching diploma certificate and teaching experience certificate.. can u tell me what others things are required for me to get international or oversea teaching job..?

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @maya, To teach in international schools, one generally needs to have an official teaching certificate. Beyond that, each school has their own rules. Good luck!

  7. Hi,

    I love this post! I’m starting to think about teaching internationally next year (Im UK qualified) – what type of housing is normally offered to a single teacher? Are they expected to share? Is housing of a good standard?

    I am open to all opportunities but I also have a desire to teach in the US or Canada – could either of these be a possibility?

    When is the best time of year to start the application process for a Sep/Aug start? Is there any use in contacting schools I am interested in directly with my CV?

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Kayla, Good luck with it!

    As for housing – each school is different. In Egypt, our school used to be a boarding school, and now the teachers stayed in the dorms. The rooms were huge – small apartments, really, but no kitchens. We ate in the cafeteria. In Ethiopia, the school rented a house for us – it was a MUCH nicer house than we would have been able to afford in the USA.

    As for teaching in the USA or Canada – that could be hard. They typically have enough teachers and don’t need to bring in internationals, but never say never. Look around and you might find something.

    You really need to start the process in the fall. It will take a while to get all the docs together – recommendations and verification and such. The main hiring push for overseas happens in December – March, so make sure you get things lined up by then. And yes – contact schools you are interested in for sure!

  8. I am so very excited to somehow end up on this blog, this post. I am dutch, now living in the USA, married to an american that grew up in East Africa. We met in Tazania, while volunteering there. We now have two children and are very ready to move abroad again. We are looking for a teaching job for my husband. Also my dream always was to bicycle (or any other form of travel really) around the world. I hope this blog, your books, will get my whole littlel family excited. I have no questions, just wanted to say I am excited to find this all here and looking forward to read around on this blog!

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Lilian, Welcome Lillian! I’m excited to see you dreaming big. We’ve got tons of info here – and loads of inspiration. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

  9. Hello there,
    I am very glad to have come across your blog. Recently, the thought of becoming an international school teacher has been nagging at my brain more and more often.

    Just a little about how this has come about ; My father is still currently teaching at an international School in South Africa. Would me having a history of attending an international school (H.l.S) be of any benfit to any job application done In the future? Also, having a Parent still in the system be of any use to me in applying for an international School Teaching Job.

    I do have at this Moment a 7 month old baby boy and I would very much like to invest in his future, which Would also be one of my many reasons I would very much like to teach internationally.

    Another question , If I wanted to teach ESL\ LLS , do you know What qualification would be needed to attain those positions. I, do know that there are a few Degrees that Can be gotten for Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). Would having just a certificate be sufficient enough to get a teaching job?

    Thank you so much for Sharing this, It was teachers like you that made my time at international Schools So much fun . now I would like to do the same for other students like me
    a few years back mind myself. . .

    Regards, and the sweetest lazy Sundays
    Maxine, former International School Student .

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Max, Very cool! There is certainly something special about international schools.

    As for your question about the ESL certification… The schools we taught at required actual teaching certificates, not just an ESL program. By that I mean, all of our ESL teachers were graduates of a 4-year program with a degree in education, with an emphasis on ESL.

  10. Hello there Nancy,

    I have taught before as an ESL teacher in Taiwan(with an AA and a TEFL certificate), but not at an international school. I have actually returned back to college and am trying to figure out what is the best route to go to secure a job abroad at an American International School.

    When you say:

    “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.”

    What exactly would these high-demand discipline’s include? (Math and Science?)

    I am trying to decide whether it would be better to get a degree in Elementary Education or specialize in a subject matter and teach middle/high school.

    Thanks a lot and I appreciate any advice you have to offer.

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Matthew, Good luck with it! The high demand areas change periodically, so I can’t say specifically. I remember one year when our director had a very, VERY difficult time finding a music teacher – there just weren’t any out there. He was so desperate that he said he would even hire one with a non-teaching spouse AND a bunch of kids! In general though, math and science tend to be in high demand – the higher the level, the more demand.

    I would say that you would be better off getting a certificate in a specific subject area than with elementary. What tends to happen is that they look for the subject teachers first, and many of them have elementary teachers as spouses. If they have an elementary opening after that, they would look for singles, but that doesn’t happen often.

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