The Ultimate Guide to Becoming an International Teacher
Written by Kristina Daniels
March 27th, 2018
Are you a teacher who has always dreamed of working and traveling internationally? Perhaps you’ve become tired of the daily grind and want your life to have a sense of adventure? Then it’s time that you seriously considered international teaching as a career. According to the International Consultancy Group, there are now more than 9000 international schools worldwide, a figure that has been steadily growing for the past decade. As an international teacher myself, I took my first job abroad in 2012 and have never looked back. Since then I have had the opportunity to work in many exciting and diverse places including Romania, Singapore, Germany, and Myanmar as well as travelling during this time to more than 20 new countries! It has been the greatest professional and personal venture of my life, so to help you find the best opportunities possible, I’ve put together the Top 10 Tips for Becoming an International Teacher:
1. Qualifications for Teaching Abroad
International schools offer teaching opportunities for every age group, from newly qualified to experienced teachers and everything in between, so the first step if you’re looking to teach at an international school is to make sure you are qualified. That means you should have:
After you have these things, you are qualified to work at an international school. Some schools accept teachers without a teaching license or related degree, though these are becoming less common and should be avoided if you are looking for a quality school. For UK teachers, there are some schools that allow teachers to complete their NQT internationally so make sure you research them. If you have none of these things then you can always consider ‘Teaching English Abroad’ programs.
2. Where to Work and Live
Yes, the world is vast and the choices are seemingly endless but as an international teacher, you have the opportunity to teach anywhere and in any environment that you desire. Want to work near a beach in the Caribbean? Or in the hustle and bustle of downtown Hong Kong? You can.
But my best (and counterintuitive) advice is:
“Don’t cast your net too narrow.”
Sure, you can focus intently on getting a specific school in a specific city in a specific country but the competition in the international scene can be fierce and there is a possibility that you might not be picked for a certain school or even location the first time around. So if you want something very close to home, try picking the nearest five countries. If you feel a bit braver, look for jobs in the continent next door. Or if you want to truly experience the world, then look for jobs in all the countries and see what takes your fancy.
3. Different Types of International Schools
Now you’ve decided where you want to go, you need to know what you’re looking for. International schools come in all shapes and sizes. Schools vary by:
The most common international schools are:
A school’s culture is reflected in its curriculum choice, values, policy and its expectations of staff. However, more schools are moving towards a ‘truly international’ school style and are adopting more global values. It’s usually relatively easy to spot a school’s culture by looking at their website.
Usually follows the culture of the school but more are moving towards International Curricula e.g. IB. The most common are:
School sizes range from small communities in the Greek Islands to city schools owned by multinational corporations such as Nord Anglia, GEMS or SABIS. Both have benefits and so it really depends on the environment you prefer.
Remember, you don’t have to make a fixed choice until you have a job offer. It is just something to consider when thinking about your perfect position.
4. How to Find International Teaching Jobs
When it comes to finding an international teaching job, you have a few different choices, each with their pros and cons. Let's break it down:
Free Job Listing Services
Paid Job Listing Services i.e The International Teacher
5. Be Organized
It is important to stay organised, watch for jobs that you are interested in and as soon as they arise, apply! Some schools provide application deadlines for their advertised positions while others leave it open and simply remove them as they find the right candidates.
Either way, it is important to get your foot in the door as early as possible. Make sure your résumé/curriculum vitae and cover letter is prepared so that when the right job comes up, you are able to apply as soon as possible. Some schools may also ask for letters of reference and/or a statement of philosophy. Waiting and getting these items organized after you see a job you’re interested in could cost you valuable time in the application process. Have your documents ready when you start looking for positions so you are able to apply at your leisure.
6. Refine Your Curriculum Vitae / Resume
When you find a position you are interested in, make sure to think carefully about how you present yourself. It is important to remain professional, show that you are qualified and most importantly, STAND OUT from the crowd!
According to a 2012 study, recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds looking at an applicant's resume. With so little time, it is important to grasp the attention of your potential employer showing them all of the reasons that make you great! Review your résumé and commit to revising it until it is perfect. First, think about design. Will it stand out from a pile of 100 other applicants? Are you still using a sad Microsoft Word template from your first ever position?
It might be time for an upgrade.
Consider using a new template (check out what Canva has to offer) or create your own. This is the 21st century, don’t be afraid to be modern and even use a splash of color - just don’t go too crazy.
Once you pin down a modern design, consider what makes you the right candidate and ensure that it is highlighted on your resume. Remember, you’ve got 6 seconds to WOW. What is most likely going to get you the job? Have specialist experience? Talk about it! Hold multiple degrees? Put that at the forefront! Contributed a great deal at current/previous positions? Make sure they know! Don’t wait until page two to say you’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize! Oh and while we’re on the subject, keep your résumé to two pages or less with the contact information of three referees on the second page. It’s industry standard.
7. Professional Development
Another key aspect of your CV should be professional development. Make sure you show off your newly learned skills in professional development courses, ideally on the front page of your CV. In my own experience, I have received far more contact for interviews from my CV highlighting PD courses on the first page of my resume than my second. Schools want to know that you are up-to-date on current curriculum and instruction trends as well as your own commitment to bettering yourself. Don’t worry about courses you completed more than a couple years ago, stick to what is relevant. If your current school doesn’t offer a lot of PD, there is plenty of free or low-cost development teachers can do on their own time!
8. Show you Have International Mindedness
An International School’s students and staff are a melting pot of the world’s nationalities. While schools are happy to take both experienced and inexperienced teachers, they want to make sure you possess international mindedness with a strong sense of interest and respect for other cultures. It is also important to potential employers to know that if you do move abroad to work with them, you’ll do just fine adjusting. Think about giving a sense of your personal interest in traveling/learning about new cultures in your cover letter or highlighting past international experience on your CV - if relevant! Being a part of an international school is like joining a new family. Principals want to make sure you are going to fit into the community and not to get a terrible case of, “What did I just do?!” shortly after moving.
9. Interview Advice
It is possible that you could interview with some schools in person, either via a job fair or their own arrangement, however most international school interviews take place via Skype. No matter how you’re interviewing, the most important thing to remember is: Keep it professional!
International schools are looking to see if you are qualified, will add value to their community and make a good addition to their team. First impressions go a long way, so even if it’s on Skype don’t be tempted to sit in your pyjamas. Be sure to dress like it is an in-person interview and set up your computer ahead of time to test the view they will have. It is great to have a plain wall behind you instead of showing your whole living-room off to them. Feel free to add some plants and guitars to liven up your background if you want! Skype interviews usually follow the typical format of introductions, interview questions from them and then a short time at the end for you to ask them questions. Come prepared with some questions in mind. Showing interest in their school and evidence that you have read their mission statement and school vision online can put you that extra step ahead. Remember to give real-classroom examples of lessons and things you are currently doing, and it doesn’t hurt to throw in a joke or two as well! Typically you won’t hear about salaries unless you are offered a formal contract so try to refrain from asking questions that could turn a good interview awkward.
10. Do Your Research Into the School, Seriously
Once you are offered a contract, take your time to decide. Remember that it is important to vet a school before you lock yourself in for a typical two-year contract so...
DO YOUR RESEARCH!
Revisit the school website and check for anything that might make or break it for you. Read about their resources, curriculum and school schedule. Search online for reviews from current and former employees. One such website for this is International Schools Review. Read your contract thoroughly. If anything catches your eye, ask the principal or Human Resources manager about it. The only time you have the power to change anything in a contract is before you sign it!
It is not unusual for an international teacher to turn down a few contracts before choosing a school to sign with so remember to choose what is RIGHT FOR YOU. If you do turn down a contract, ensure that you remain professional and keep all those bridges intact. The international community is a close-knit one. If you believe the position, location and contract are a good fit and you choose to sign with that school, we here at The International Teacher want to wish you the best of luck in your new adventure!
Interested in easily finding your next teaching job abroad?