Teaching as an International Career
By Tamara Studniski
and Peter Burnside
|School in London.
You have backpacked through Europe
teaching ESL in East Asia. The time to grow up and choose
a career has come. If you want to continue the thrill of
living abroad but also want a respectable career, teaching
at an international school may be for you. If you already
have the career as a teacher, an international school could
provide the adventure you’ve always wanted.
What is an international
From Argentina’s American International
School of Buenos Aries to Zimbabwe’s Harare International
School, international schools are created to provide education
to students in expatriate communities. In some cases, embassies
or companies open schools as non-profit organizations. Other
schools are proprietary; still others are non-secular. International
schools come in all shapes, sizes and colors, but as a general
rule, they all exist to serve an expatriate student body.
What do international
schools look for in a teacher?
Different schools look for different
kinds of teachers. Most schools prefer teachers with at
least two years of teaching experience; however, some schools
require four or five years of experience while others accept
applicants with less experience. Teaching candidates who
do not have overseas experience (studying, working, or growing
up abroad) should demonstrate a strong commitment to working
in an international education environment. The study of
a foreign language might prove advantageous.
Since schools are trying to fill various
positions and usually provide housing, they consider marital
status when hiring. Some schools prefer to hire married
teaching couples without children while other schools welcome
children. Singles are preferred by other schools. A school’s
preferences can vary throughout the hiring season: couples
being preferred early in the hiring season, and the remaining
vacancies being filled by singles. Bigger, well-funded schools
have the reputation of hiring whoever is believed to be
the best for the job—regardless of marital status.
While the characteristics of flexibility,
creativity, and sense of adventure will be important to
most principals, strong teaching ability will usually be
the priority when hiring. The majority of interview questions
will reflect this priority. Sample interview questions from
The American School in London include the following:
- How will you get your students to
do things that they don’t want to do (e.g. homework,
following instructions in the classroom, etc)?
- What adaptations do you make for
- What is your approach to classroom
What are international school contracts?
Most internationals schools offer a
two-year contract with the benefits including housing (often
fully furnished), air tickets or travel stipend, health
insurance, and moving allowance. Teachers with children
should look for travel stipends, school tuition, and health
insurance for dependents. Professional development is another
Finally, all schools claim to offer “competitive
salaries.” When thinking about salaries, the real
question concerns savings potential relative to the cost
of living and not just total net income. Obviously perks
and benefit packages are part of the equation. There are
tools such as Numbeo that
can help you calculate the cost of living for a given location
before accepting a contract should you wish to maximize
savings or know the basic cost of living and adjust accordingly.
Teaching overseas is an incredible opportunity,
but before accepting any contract you would be wise to research
very carefully. See the resources below to help you along
Peter Burnside and
his wife Tamara Studniski have lived
overseas for years and currently teach at Qingdao International
School in Qingdao, China.