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Are you thinking of applying for a teaching job abroad? Good idea! My husband Joshua became an international teacher in 2018. Becoming expats was by far the best decision we ever made.
 
Not only do we get to live somewhere interesting, but the pay is also great and we do not need to pay any rent. How do you become an international teacher? How do you get a job teaching abroad?
 
In this guide, I will explain what you need to do to become a teacher abroad.
 
If you want to know more about international teaching, also have a look at my other blog posts: 

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Almost everywhere in the world, you will find international schools. Expats pay big money to send their kids to well-known, great institutes of education. As these schools often follow the British, IB or American curriculum, kids are able to secure a spot in a US or UK university.
 
You will not be able to teach without having the right teaching qualifications. The required teaching qualifications differ depending on what school you apply to. International schools following the British curriculum will need a PGCE or PGDE. Full State Certification is often needed when applying at an American international school.
 
Some schools might also accept Bachelors in Education but there aren’t many that do.
 
If you do not have a PGCE or a Full State Certification, I would recommend getting one before looking to teach abroad. Why? Getting your PGCE will only take one year. At the same time, it equates to a larger chance of getting that teaching job abroad. Having a PGCE also means you get much better packages, pay and accommodation.
 
Keep in mind that some teaching jobs abroad need a bachelor’s degree PLUS your PGCE or full state certification.
teaching abroad dubai

How much experience do I need before becoming a teacher abroad

When you have your eyes set on a job teaching abroad, you want to check how much experience you will need to land the job. I wish there was a simple and logical answer to this question, but there isn’t.
 
Everything depends on the subject you teach, the school you apply to and the country of the school. In Dubai, you can land a job as an NQT while most schools in Thailand expect at least 2 years experience.
 
Yet, as I mentioned before – a lot depends on the subject and key stages you teach. Primary school teachers have it easier landing a job abroad than a secondary teacher. There are more jobs for secondary English teachers than for secondary history teachers.
 
Joshua is a history teacher. Our search for a history teacher job abroad was not very easy. As a teacher with 2 years of experience at the time, he was unable to secure a job in South East Asia. We decided to take a teaching job in Dubai to kickstart his teaching career abroad.
 
Our goal was to move to South East Asia or China. Getting a history teaching job in that area turned out to be challenging. To put it into perspective: Josh interviewed for a job with 10 other people. There were over 1500 applicants in total. One Thousand Five Hundred.
 
What kind of experience do you need to teach abroad? There are two kinds of experience a school can ask for. Teaching experience and International teaching experience.
It is a good idea to build these two kinds of experience at the same time.
 
Some schools will prefer teachers with international experience over teachers without. Why? Because teachers without international experience are a flight risk.
 
Wait? What? Repeat that again!
 
Teaching abroad is not for everyone. Every year new international teachers break their contract or in some cases even “do a runner”. This is where teachers pack their bag and hop on a flight home without warning the school. This leaves the school at a considerable loss. They paid for plane tickets, accommodation, visa services, and working permits. It is normal for schools to try and minimise the risk of runners or teachers to break their contract early. That is why some schools prefer to hire experienced international teachers as it minimises the risk of a financial loss.
 
Countries where it is easy to build experiences as a teacher abroad are the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuweit and Saudi Arabia. Teaching in Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia might have a big (negative) impact on your personal life. These countries are rather conservative. Living there might require a large number of personal adjustments and sacrifices.
 
We received an offer to teach in Dubai after 2 to 3 weeks of applying to schools in the Middle East. We had been applying for 4 months to schools in Asia and South America. Teacher packages in the Middle East are not as amazing as the ones in big parts of South East Asia. But these packages are sufficient and great for starting international teachers.

Where to find teaching jobs abroad

Where to find job openings for teaching jobs abroad? The first website to check is the TES.com website. Most of the international and private schools you want to work at will post their job openings.
 
Posting a job opening on TES costs quite a lot of money. Applying for jobs at schools that spend a lot of money attracting good teachers is always a good idea. Not only do these schools understand the power of recruiting good teachers, but they will also have a larger budget to keep employees happy.
 
The TES community forum will also give you an insight into the lives of international teachers. You will be able to ask questions about the countries and the kinds of roles you are prospecting. When signing up to TES -especially when you want to use the forum , it is important to stay as anonymous as possible. Choose a username that cannot be tracked to you as schools do look through these forums – especially when their school is mentioned.
 
Teaching abroad is a dream of many young people. And where dreams and ambitions are on the line, there will also be people that ask a lot of money to make those dreams and ambitions come true. These people come in the forms of companies that ask a lot of money to find teaching jobs abroad for you. They will take away the stress and hassle of applying, but only do this in exchange for a large fee.
 
Now: will this help you land your dream job? Yes and no. Yes: because – if you have a big list of schools to apply to, you have a bigger chance of landing the position. No: because 98% of the schools on that list will also have posted their job opening on TES. This means you are paying to apply to the 2% of schools who did not post free websites and have fewer applicants.
 
Another free way to apply for jobs is by contacting recruiters. This is how we landed ours. There are two kinds of recruiters. First there are recruiters that take your CV and knock on the doors of international schools. This service costs a lot of money (except for applicants living in the UK) and I would stay away from them unless you are VERY desperate.
 
Second, you have the kind of recruiters you are used to in your own country. The kind that will put up a job on their website and contact you after you have applied. They will want to do an intake call and can match you with other jobs that come up throughout the year. Be polite and eloquent during the call. This is the service we used and will be using in the future.
 
It is also a good idea to reach out to be proactive. Reach out to recruiters even when they do not have anything for you at the moment. Something might come up in the future. That way you are one of the very first people that they put forward.

How to apply for teaching jobs abroad

teaching abroad shanghai
Applying for international schools is almost a full-time job. No – I am not joking. You will have noticed that I of speak of “we” instead of “Josh”. I do this because I was a key part of the process. I would spend 2-3 hours a day googling for jobs. I would look through school websites for their job openings. Every day I requested information from recruiters and filled out application forms.
 
Application forms are the worst. I filled out more than 100 application forms. Almost all application forms are different. This means you will spend +- 45 minutes per application form. Not all schools will require you to fill out an application form. You will come to see these job openings as magical unicorns in a field of cotton candy trees. At least I did.
 
I would suggest keeping track of your applications on an excel document or a Google Sheet. Note down the country and city of the job opening, the school you are applying to (if mentioned), note down the link to the job opening, when the job opening closes and when you sent in your application. You can colour code with green and red depending on whether you have applied, whether you have received a response, whether you have an interview etc.
 
It is very important to keep your spreadsheet up to date since you will be applying (especially as a beginning teacher) to over 100 job openings.
 
It might be a good idea to hide your Facebook Profile from the search results, and to update your linked-in.

Can you bring your partner when accepting a job teaching abroad

Bringing a partner with you as an international teacher is possible. Although it might be difficult bringing a boyfriend or girlfriend. Most schools only accept married couples or couples who are both teachers. This has to do with local laws, accommodation and visa procedures.
 
Another important detail when taking the plunge with your spouse is to make sure that he or she will not be bored. International schools have a big problem with teachers quitting after a year due to their partner being bored or homesick. Especially since finding a job can be hard for your partner.
 
”What does your wife do?” was actually one of the first questions recruiters and schools asked Josh. They were happy to hear I worked from home. Your partner can also look for a job abroad. But few people are actually able to land a job.

Conclusion

In Dutch we have a saying and it goes like this “Bezint eer ge begint”. It means that you have to think before you do. And that is very much true when wanting to peruse a life as an international teacher. It will take a lot of time and effort to get a job, and you need to be 110% sure that this is the life you want. Most schools offer 2 year contracts. It might not seem that long, but trust me: when you are in a strange country and you have to build up a completely new life, those 2 years can be the longest of your life.
 
Make sure you are organised and you keep track of all your applications. If you are taking a spouse, make sure he or she can work remotely, as a freelancer or can almost immediately land a new job.
 
I hope this article was helpful. If you have any questions, comments of other tips and tricks, please let me know in the comments.
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