By TED Staff
Teaching can be a tough job for someone who loves to travel. Assuming a teacher even makes enough money to both live and explore the world, travel opportunities are limited to short breaks and summertime (expensive!). One solution for a teacher who wants to both teach and travel is to teach at an international school.
But how does one become a teacher at an international school? In this article, we break down the eligibility requirements for teaching overseas. We even offer tips for the international school job search.
What is an International School?
There are all sorts of “international schools” — that is, schools located in a country other than one’s own. These might include adult English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, camps, or other programs.
In this article, however, we use the term “international school” to describe K-12 learning institutions that:
- are non-profit or private, and completely separate from the local government
- have students, teachers, and staff from a variety of countries
- teach in English, or primarily in English
- follow the International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, British GCSE/A Levels, or another internationally-recognized curriculum
Nearly every capital city in the world has at least one international school.
Students are typically the children of expats, though some local children may also be admitted into the school. Teachers are hired from all over the world, with American, British, and Australian teachers being most common in “American” or “British” international schools.
How to Become an International School Teacher: Step-by-Step
Perhaps surprisingly, becoming a teacher at an international school is very similar to becoming a teacher at any other public or private school.
Step #1: Earn your bachelor’s degree and teacher’s certification
The vast majority of international schools are private. However, unlike private schools in the United States, they require all of their teachers to be properly credentialed. Thus, your first step to becoming an international school teacher is to get your bachelor’s degree and teacher’s certification.
Generally speaking, your bachelor’s degree can be in one of a multitude of subjects, though most aspiring teachers choose to major in something like Elementary Education, Special Education, or similar. Some high school teachers choose to major in the subject they are most interested in teaching, such as chemistry or history.
If you’re hoping to teach in a country in the Middle East, then your bachelor’s degree must be in the subject area in which you teach for reasons pertaining to work visas. For example, if you plan on teaching high school French, then your bachelor’s degree must be in French.
Many international schools look positively at applicants who minor in English as a Second Language, as international schools often have students from all over the world, and not all list English as their first language.
Requirements for teaching credentials vary by state. The majority of teachers are able to earn their certifications in their U.S. home states because most international schools will accept any state’s credential.
It may be helpful to note that international schools also hire for positions like athletics director, IT support, and school nurse. None of these require a teaching degree or credential.
Step #2: Gain some experience
Most international schools require applicants to have at least two years of teaching experience.
If you are currently a teacher in the United States, then chances are you have already satisfied this requirement.
But if you are a recent graduate, then you have a couple of options. The first is to spend at least two years teaching at a school in the U.S. or your home country. Two years go by quickly, but if your goal is to live abroad, then two years can seem like a big obstacle.
The second option is to find an internship teaching position. These are most common at international schools where students board. In most cases, a teacher-intern will teach one or two classes, while also living in the dorm and supervising students.
Step #3: Search for jobs and begin applying!
When and Where to Begin the International Job Search
Unlike U.S.-based schools, which begin their recruitment process in the spring, international schools typically start looking at applicants in the fall and winter.
The usual hiring period for international school teachers is December through February. It’s best to have your resume ready to go by October 31 at the latest. If you intend to register with a recruitment agency, then you will also want to be registered by this time.
Besides recruitment agencies, there are a number of websites that are helpful to those searching for international teaching positions.
The International Educator (TIE)
This monthly newspaper reports on all things international schools, and always includes listings of job openings.
A recent merge between the online teacher recruitment organization Schrole and International School Services has resulted in this very helpful resource for anyone interested in teaching abroad.
Search Associates is one of the most popular resources for aspiring international school teachers.
This British publication includes resources for teachers and a free listing of international school jobs.
The International School Interview
Once you are a credentialed teacher with a couple years of experience, you are ready to begin applying for teaching positions at international schools! There are two main ways teachers and staff are hired:
International School Job Fairs
Pre-pandemic, the most common way for a teacher to be hired by an international school was via an international school job fair. Unfortunately, these job fairs are not such an easy undertaking.
First, would-be teachers need to register with the recruitment agency that hosts the job fair. This usually includes a fee. Then the applicant attends the job fair, which more often than not requires:
- taking time off work
- purchasing a flight and booking a hotel room
- making a quick trip to a foreign country
If the aspiring teacher is not hired at the job fair, then time and money has been wasted.
As borders closed due to Covid-19, and as video conferencing technology improves, more and more teachers are finding positions at international schools from the comfort of their own homes.
Most schools are now advertising open positions on their websites, and even adding links to online applications. If a school decides they want to interview a potential candidate, then they can arrange a time to “meet” over Zoom or Skype.
Helpful Tips for the International School Applicant
Earning a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential isn’t always enough to land the job. Below, we’ve listed some helpful tips aspiring teachers can use to separate themselves from the pack during the interview process.
Be Comfortable Leading Groups and Activities
Most international school teachers do more than just teach their classes. They coach sports teams, direct school plays, supervise Model U.N., and take on a slew of other leadership roles. If you have experience leading extracurricular activities, working with kids outside of the classroom, or coaching sports teams, then this experience will likely to be valuable.
Don’t Limit Yourself to One Geographical Region
Lots of aspiring international school teachers dream of living and teaching in Europe. Unfortunately, international schools in European cities are some of the most established in the world. They require lengthy resumes of international experience. Many will only hire candidates who are themselves European.
Get Comfortable With Technology
Especially Apple products. If you are hired to teach at an international school, you will almost certainly be expected to incorporate technology into your students’ learning. Many schools provide their teachers with Apple laptops.
Learn Another Language
Learning another language is a huge plus when it comes to applying to international school teaching positions. It shows discipline and the ability to study and learn. It also shows you are interested in other cultures.
Pros & Cons of Teaching at an International School
- Allows teachers to combine a love of teaching with a love of travel
- Opportunities to see the world and live abroad
- Students and colleagues come from a variety of countries cultural backgrounds
- Dependents can usually attend the school for free
- Excellent benefits, including fully furnished housing
- Typically pays about as much as a domestic teaching position (though income is not subject to U.S. tax)
- Does not usually give a teacher the opportunity to save money
- Can be a rough transition living and working so far from home
- You may not find a job in the part of the world in which you are most interested
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a teacher make at an international school?
Teachers at international schools can expect to make about as much as they might teaching anywhere in the United States. Generally speaking, teachers are paid well enough to live comfortably in the country in which they are teaching, but aren’t always paid enough to save a ton of money or do a lot of extras.
Are international schools private schools?
International schools are private schools in the sense that they are not affiliated with the local government in any way. However, they differ greatly from private schools in the U.S. Most notably, international schools require their teachers to be fully certified in order to be hired.
Should aspiring international school teachers register with an organization?
Just a few years ago, it was practically a requirement that any teacher who wanted an international position register with a recruitment organization. These days, it isn’t necessary, though it remains beneficial. Teacher recruitment organizations provide their teachers with a searchable database of international schools, complete with information like salary, benefits, and hiring practices. Many schools often work directly with organizations, and can search their databases of teachers and contact them directly.
When do international schools begin hiring new teachers?
International schools typically hire new teachers and staff from December through February. Such an early start gives them plenty of time to screen applicants and organize the proper visas and work permits.
Finding a teaching position at an international school is a great way to marry your love of teaching with your love of travel!
Finding a job at an international school can be as simple as applying on a school’s website and taking part in an interview. Aspiring international school teachers can also register with a recruiting organization to benefit from their extensive database.
Though there are lots of teaching opportunities overseas, a true international school will follow an internationally recognized curriculum and be free of any influence by the local government. These international schools also come with furnished housing and other competitive benefits, if not a competitive salary.
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