How to Start a Career as an International Teacher

If you’re a high school student deciding what to major in, a college student looking for a career to jump into, or a teacher looking to move abroad, follow these steps to start an international teaching career.

Get Qualified and Certified

Most international schools require at least two out of three of the following: a Bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution, a valid teaching certification in the subject area you’d like to teach, and a minimum of two years full-time K-12 experience. Although you may find a job without a teaching certification, more doors will be open to you and salaries higher if you get certified. In the United States, teacher certification procedures vary from state to state. They usually require post-graduate level training and observation. In some states, like Massachusetts, you can get a 5-year preliminary teaching license after completing a series of examinations in English proficiency and your subject area.

Get Experience

Some international schools will hire fresh graduates, but many prefer 2 or more years of experience. International experience and travel is a plus. Think about what type of curriculum you’d like to teach. International schools generally offer either American, British (GCSE) or International Baccalaureate (IB) programs.

Join a Placement Company

Many schools prefer to hire through placement companies such as International Schools Services (ISS) or Search Associates. These companies provide a database of both schools and potential candidate, and they also arrange hiring fairs around the world. You will need to pay a fee when you apply, and be sure to apply only if you meet the company’s requirements. Once accepted, you will have access to information about international schools, the salary packages they offer, and current vacancies.

Set up Interviews

You can contact international schools via email in the hopes of setting up interviews. Many administrators prefer to interview candidates face to face, but some will do interviews over phone or internet based called. The best way to get interviews is to attend a recruitment fair sponsored by your placement company. Your application fee generally covers the cost of admission to one fair, but you must secure an invitation well in advance for the fair you’d like to attend. For example, in January 2009 in Bangkok there will be a Search Associates fair at the Royal Orchid Sheraton. 90 schools and 400 candidates will meet for the purpose of schools filling vacancies.

Do Your Research

As a candidate, you need to do your research. Know about the different curriculum options as well as information about the countries and schools you’d like to work in. Read about culture, cost of living and travel information. Join an online expat forum to read about other expatriates’ experiences in different cities around the world. Pay for a $29 yearly subscription to International Schools Review to see what other teachers are saying about the schools you’re thinking of applying to. Recruiters want to hire candidates who are conscientious and well informed about the curriculum, the school, and the host country and culture.

All the best to you as you consider a career in international teaching!

6 Comments on “How to Start a Career as an International Teacher

  1. Hi Heather, I am hoping you could give me some answers. I am a seasoned Special Education Teacher from Miami , Florida. I have taught for 15 years and have always wanted to teach overseas. But, I do not have a Country or City that I am dying to go to and it is really kindering my process. Also, there are soooo many and sooo much information and forums with such contridicting opinions, facts, and information that I am starting to get frustrated. One bit of information that I would like to find out is how the behavior of the students are in different countries, but don’t know how to find out. Any suggestions?

    • Katherine,

      Honestly your job options will be much better if you don’t have a specific country that you’re dying to go to. With your experience I’d suggest joining ISS or Search Associates and looking through the job postings in special education. Once you find the open positions, then research the individual schools (using International Schools Review, Google searches and the school website) and the country/city where the school is located.

      If you teach in a ‘true’ international school, you will have a mix of students from different countries and ethnic backgrounds. If you teach in a ‘national’ school, then the majority of your students will be from the host country. I don’t know of any resource where you can find out about the ‘behavior’ of different groups of students, and what you read on forums will be only one teacher’s opinion of a certain school or class. As a teacher I’d be wary to say “All Pakistani students behave like this or that,” since there is so much variation even within one class group. Parental involvement, student personalities, social class, discipline in the school, how past teachers have dealt with behavior issues, etc. I always take it with a grain of salt when another teacher writes something like “All students in X country are lazy, spoiled brats” or even something positive like “All Thai students are polite and respectful.”

      For you I think the more important things to find out about is the individual school’s approach to special education and the classroom setup. Often in international schools there is not a fully developed special education program, so it’s important to know what responsibilities are expected of you and what the administration’s philosophy is regarding the program and the students’ development.

      • Thank you, I so agree with you concerning the behavior of the students. I was just getting frustrated by all the negative comments I had read. I actually was just contacted by Teach Away about a position in UAE. Do you know anything about Teach Away or the educational reform occuring in UAE? I appreciate your time and advice.

        • I haven’t heard of Teach Away, but I remember reading a lot about students/teaching in the UAE on the various reviews at International Schools Review. Do you have an ISR membership?

  2. Hi. I will be moving to Miami, Florida next year as I just got married to my husband who lives there. I am from Malaysia and I have a Diploma in Early Childhood Education ( also known as Associate’s Degree in USA and Canada) and I have one year working experience as an assistant teacher at a kindergarten here in Malaysia. What should I do to start applying for teaching positions out there? I am very confused. Are my qualifications enough to start teaching there? A reply is most appreciated as I am completely clueless about what to do. Thank you!

    • Hi Kaeyshna! You should check with the Florida Dept of Education. Every state in the US has different requirements and pathways to teaching licensure.

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