International Teaching: Is it the right fit for you?

You’ve just graduated from a teacher education program in your home country and are thinking about having an adventure before settling down.

Maybe you are years into your teaching career and feel you need to shake things up.

Could making the move to international teaching be the right move for you?

Well, of course, that is hard to say. We are all different people and have different perspectives on life and different expectations. An international teaching experience could be as different as the school who hires you and the country/culture you find yourself in.

The first thing you need to do is start job hunting. Most big international schools don’t advertise on open job boards. International teaching is a very different beast than say, searching for English teaching work. For those qualified teachers out there, English teaching will probably pay a fraction of what you could make at a large international school.

The job hunting season for the following year is normally from October to about February. That hiring season is normally for jobs starting in August (almost all international school start their school year in August and finish in mid-June).

Two of the best-known head-hunting sites for finding international school jobs are ISS Schrole and Search Associates. You’ll need to make an account with one or each. ISS Schrole membership costs $75 USD a year while Search is $225 USD. Setting up an account takes some time. It’s pretty complicated with professional and parent references needed and a lot of other things. It takes several weeks to get things up and running. Then you will have access to their database and in theory, they’ll help you find work.

Now, before you set up an account with one of these organizations, ask yourself a few questions about international teaching to see if you are made of the “right stuff.”


Possible Challenges:

Are you open-minded enough to work in a country where you don’t understand the language and the customs are completely different than those of your own country?

Are you prepared to work in a country where parent expectations of teachers may be different than in your own?

Would you be willing to work in (as the military say) a hardship post? Some schools offer great packages (tax-free high salary, free housing/airfare and more) because it is a challenge to live there. Maybe the air and water quality are poor. Maybe it is a challenge to find the amenities of life you are accustomed too.

Would you be willing to work for a management or administration team that due to cultural differences, have very different expectations on staff behavior/workload and what is acceptable behavior of parents and students?

Would you be able to devise a “Plan B” if the management of your school isn’t transparent and potentially do not honor the original contract you agreed to?


Possible Awesomeness:

Would you be prepared to work with a dynamic and global team of educators?

Would you be prepared to have a lot more freedom and autonomy in an international education setting than teachers in your home country probably don’t have due to bureaucracy?

Would you be willing to learn about new cultures and have opportunities to travel?

Would you be willing to possibly have the chance to have more professional development training opportunities than in your own country?

Would you be willing to work in a school that possibly has far more resources than schools in your own country?

International schools are often more high-tech and innovative than schools in your native country. Could you deal with that?



Taking the plunge and entering the world of international education is thrilling and daunting. Things are of course far more complicated if you have a family as part of the equation. Lots of research and deep thought is necessary to make the right decisions and the ones that fit you and your family best.

Put lots of thought into this. Never rush into anything. The more you research and prepare, the better your decisions will be.




About the Writer:

Kevin O’Shea is a PYP/Nature/Outdoor educator currently based in Beijing, China. He is a father, husband, and avid conservationist. Kevin is an advocate for outdoor play and nature education.  He is the host of the long-running Just Japan Podcast and is currently developing the Making Better Teachers Podcast!

Twitter: @MadForMaple





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