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Teaching as an International Career

An old school in London.
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 school?

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 different learners?
  • What is your approach to classroom management?

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 common perk.

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 the way.

For More Information

Individual school websites often post vacancies and benefit packages.

The International Educator is an information website and newspaper, as well as a subscription website ($39-$49) with both teaching job ads and a resume bank. In addition, access to job fairs around the globe is available for members.

International School Services is a membership site offering education career services for members.

Search Associates is a membership site offering access to international teaching jobs and job fairs.

Council of International Schools offers access to international education careers with a membership.

University of Northern Iowa Placement Service for Educators offers a registration packet or a free online registration as well as an annual recruitment fair.

Related Topics
Teaching Abroad
International Careers
Related Articles
International School Jobs: How to Plan a Successful Interview
The International School Route: The Facts on Starting an Overseas Teaching Career
Travel and Teach

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