10 Tips To Become An International Educator

by Gary Mason

Are you a K-12 educator looking for a teaching job in your home country but that dream job has been hard to find? Have you often thought about teaching abroad but not sure how to start the process? It is possible to take the degree you have earned across borders and overseas. There are around 6,400 International Schools in the world with over 300,000 full-time staff making for lots of opportunities.

Teaching children in an orphanage in Haiti
Teaching children in an orphanage in Haiti. Photo By Gary Mason

Certifications and Requirements

If you meet the State Board of Education (SBE) test requirements, complete an approved education program, and meet the background check requirements you can be certified to teach English overseas. Don’t let these requirements intimidate you they are easier than they may sound and in some cases, schools will provide an internship and help with the certification process if you are not certified.    

Types of Schools

The three types of International Schools are composed of U.S. Department of Defense Schools, US Department of State Schools, and finally Independent Schools. These schools follow an American or British curriculum and many offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. The IB international education is a specialized program organized by age and career pursuits. Although there are no formal additional requirements to teach these programs, It is a good idea to look at ibo.org for certification options since many international schools are IB affiliated.     

The When and Where of Getting Hired

The high season for hiring is December through March with the school year beginning in August or September of the following year. The primary means of obtaining a teaching position for new teachers is attending one of the job fairs held in cities around the world. Three of the main organizations for international job fairs are Search Associates, International School Services (ISS), and Council of International Schools. Two other important fairs to know are the University of Northern Iowa Overseas Recruiting Fair in Cedar Falls, Iowa, USA and Queen’s University job fair in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The job fairs are typically held from December to May/June.

Job Fair Locations

Asia:  Malaysia,  Bangkok, Thailand and Hong Kong, China

Africa:  Johannesburg, South Africa

Middle East:  Dubai, U.A.E

Australia: Melbourne, Australia

Europe: London, England

North America: Atlanta, Georgia (USA), San Francisco, California (USA),  Boston, Massachusetts (USA), Cedar Falls, Iowa (USA), Kingston, Ontario (Canada) and Toronto, Ontario (Canada)

Ten Tips To Become an International Educator:

1. Start in November or earlier for a teaching job that will begin the following August or September.

2. Determine if you qualify. Do you only have a BA when the requirement is an MA?  Do you have International Baccalaureate (IB) experience?  

3. Find a school, then send them a cover letter, CV or resume, two letters of recommendation and transcripts from your university. One tip for getting hired is having your professional reference rate you in terms of being in the top 10, 25, or 50 percentile of the candidates. Make sure they do this confidentially so the recommendation will be deemed valid.  

4. Indicate when you would be available for an interview. You may just receive an interview by Skype which saves a trip to a job fair.   

5. Register with an agency like Search Associates, International School Services, or Council of International Schools. Find the agency that best suits your needs.  

6. Think about which fair is closest to you and register for one or more fairs. You will need to cover all costs for attending the fair.  

7. Request information from the job fair one to two months before attending regarding how many schools will be in attendance that meet your qualifications so you can research in advance and know which schools to focus on. 

8. If you don’t get the job, keep looking and don’t give up. Some teaching jobs open up between June and September. Many first time teachers find a job the second year of their search.  

9. If traveling, why not visit a school or two with your cover letter, resume/CV, recommendations, and university transcripts. Ask to see the director of the school if available. If not available, leave the packet of materials with your contact information with the office staff. Getting to know and making a good impression on the office staff is always a good thing.  

10. If you don’t want to go the job fair route you can work with a bespoke agency like Teachers International Consultancy, Teach Anywhere, and Seek Teachers. These bespoke agencies work directly with international schools. 

Persistence, willingness to travel to a job fair, and a good internet connection goes a long way in landing that dream teaching job at an international school. Staying open to different country placements is also very important because chances are you may not receive an interview for the school and country that was your first choice. Stay open to new possibilities that will present themselves. You may end up on a different continent than you originally intended, but find the perfect fit!