Teaching Abroad: How to Get a Job in an International School


I get a lot of questions from friends (and friends-of-friends, and friends-of-friends-of-friends) about how to get a job in an international school. This doesn’t really surprise me – as I’ve said before, I think I have the best job in the world. I get to do something I love and I get to do it in different countries around the world. There’s a ton of information about this online already, but I’ve decided to share my story, as well. Who knows…somebody might find it useful one day!

My best tip: register with an education recruitment company. There are two big ones: Search Associates and CIS. (I’ve only worked with Search Associates, so will be sharing that experience, but I’ve heard great things about CIS, as well.) These recruitment companies work to match teacher candidates with international schools. You have to pay to register, and for that fee you gain access to the job listings database. This in and of itself is worth the fee – many international schools only advertise through Search or CIS.


When you register, you will be assigned an associate to help guide you through the process. Associates are generally based on your location; I got lucky my first year, as my associate was based in the city where I lived. Don’t worry if your associate is a bit further away, though – they’re great at communicating via email and Skype, and you’ll still feel supported!

However, the most useful resource provided by these companies is the recruitment fairs. These job fairs take place through the year all over the world. Dozens of schools and hundreds of candidates attend the fairs, and they can be a pretty intense experience.

227.jpgThe chaos of a Search Associates job fair.

The three-day fairs are filled with school presentations, networking opportunities, teacher workshops, and interviews. The fairs always take place in a hotel, and I would recommend booking a room, even if the fair is taking place in your hometown. A lot of the networking takes place outside of scheduled events – I’ve had run-ins in elevators lead to interviews with heads of school, and have had informal interviews over drinks or dinner. The fairs are crazy busy for everyone involved, particularly school representatives, and so you really need to make the most of every minute you have.

I’ve attended two fairs – both Search Associate fairs in Cambridge, MA – and have left both with multiple job options. At my first fair, I was hired to work as an associate teacher (essentially a teaching intern) at an international school in Italy. I had exactly zero years of experience in teaching, and was only just finishing my degree. This internship path is a fantastic opportunity for aspiring teachers. They give you the chance to work full-time as a teacher and learn more about what the job entails without committing to training as a teacher beforehand. For many teachers I know, this experience simply makes them feel more certain that teaching is the right career choice for them. For a few of my friends, these internships have shown them that teaching isn’t the right fit. All of my friends agree, however, that their year as a teaching intern was incredibly formative.

IMG_8430_2.jpgMy first international teaching placement.

At my second fair – after my year as an associate teacher in Italy and a year back in California getting my MA in education – I was offered three other roles: a classroom teacher position with a school in Germany, a classroom teacher role in Italy, and another intern role, this time with a much bigger school in Belgium. While I found the decision difficult, in the end I went with my gut and chose the intern role at the best school I could find. This gamble paid off. I moved to Brussels, where I was set up in an apartment with the other interns, and completed a comprehensive orientation program to help prepare me for the year ahead. I met my lead teacher and started to familiarize myself with her classroom. In a rather sudden twist, the night before school started, I received a call from my head of school: one of the pre-kindergarten teachers had to go on immediate maternity leave, and the job was mine if I wanted it.

IMG_3907.jpgMy school in Brussels – not every day was this sunny, but I loved every second of it!

It wasn’t the traditional way to get a classroom teaching role at an international school. This would be my first “real” teaching job. Most schools, particularly those in Europe and Asia, require teachers to have two years of experience before they’re hired. I remember feeling excited, anxious, ready, and terrified all at the same time on that first morning. I had no lead teaching experience, I’d never really thought about teaching pre-k, I’d just moved to a new country,  and I wasn’t close with any of the other teachers. Those first few weeks (okay, months) were challenging – I almost never felt completely confident – but my administrators and colleagues were incredibly supportive and made sure that I had everything I needed to grow as an educator. I continued on in pre-k for another year in Brussels, and then moved to a second grade role – a position I would never have reached so quickly had I not taken the risk and accepted that first intern role.

The great thing about education recruitment fairs is that there are opportunities for everyone, no matter what kind of experience you have. As long as you’re flexible (in terms of both role and location) and you’re willing to take a risk, you have a good chance of finding a job.

Other tips for finding jobs in international schools:

  • Do your research! Look around online at different schools. Register with International Schools Review, a online forum where educators share their experiences in and opinions about different international schools. Look at school websites. You can find out a lot about what schools are looking for this way, and can ensure that your CVs and cover letters are more targeted for the jobs you really want.
  • Be open-minded. Like I said, I didn’t come to my current job through the traditional route. I had to challenge myself to take a risk and make a decision that maybe didn’t seem like the “right choice.” You’ll get a feeling about a role pretty quickly; trust your gut. If something feels right, it probably is, and if it’s not, your contract won’t last forever.
  • Many schools are now recruiting primarily through their own websites. Most will accept speculative applications; if your timeline is flexible, it’s definitely worth reaching out to schools and letting them know that you’re available. You never know when a school will have a mat leave to fill (hello, how I got my job!) or a sudden influx of students just before the start of the school year.
  • Network! Honestly, the best way to get a job in an international school is to know someone who works in an international school. I’ve helped more than one teacher friend get a job, and I’ve had teacher friends help me. Schools are taking a big risk by hiring someone unknown – when you work in an international school, you truly become part of a community – so I think they always feel better when they have someone they trust recommending a candidate.

Are you an aspiring international school teacher with questions, or are you an international school teacher with more tips? Share them in the comments!

Where to Begin?

I’m struggling at the moment with where to begin with this move. My to-do list is long and is growing by the minute. Trying to take a step back here and tackle things one at a time…

James will be moving to Dublin a few months before I do, and will be staying with a friend during that time. This means that apartment hunting has been put off for a bit, which is honestly a relief. I’ve done a lot of research into the Irish market, and all I’ve discovered is that renting is expensive and we’ll never find what we want. Instead of sulking in that disappointment, I’ll shove it to the side for now as we have more pressing issues to deal with.

First on the to-do list: figuring out who I am. We got married over the summer and I’m changing my name. I think it makes the most sense to legally change my name and get a new passport before moving to Ireland, as my Irish visa will be stamped in my passport. So step 1 is sending my marriage license and every form of identity I’ve ever had to the Social Security office at the US Embassy in London. Once I have the new Social Security card, I can move forward with the new passport. I’m dreading that bit. Every expat will tell you that your passport is your lifeline. Giving it up – even for just a few weeks – makes you feel trapped, and it’s terrifying.

Next, determining a timeline. My boss is the most wonderful woman in the world and has basically told me that I can move whenever I feel I need to, notice period be damned. The flexibility is wonderful, and I appreciate it so much, but I sort of wish I had someone telling me how to do this. At the moment, it looks like I’ll move over to Ireland at the beginning of December. That is dependent upon my passport situation (will it be back in time??). More updates on this later, I guess…

If I am moving at the beginning of December, I need to start organizing someone to move all of our stuff. I have a few quotes already, but I need to decide which company will work best for us and figure out the right time to get them to move. The quotes are actually a lot more reasonable than I’d expected, and we’re lucky that James’ new firm has offered us a relocation package. But finding that happy moving date can be tricky – we’re shipping all of our furniture, so I won’t be able to stay in the house after it goes. But we don’t want to leave it too late because we don’t want to get stuck paying for another month’s rent in London. Maybe aiming to have everything shipped on November 30th is a good call? (Can you tell that this post really is just me typing out my anxiety?)

img_3276My last move (from Brussels to London) was much smaller. I don’t think we’ll get off so easy this time…

Speaking of which – what to do with our flat? We’re still not sure what the situation is with our lease, but are hoping to hear back from the landlord soon. Best case scenario: we can leave whenever we want without any consequences. More likely scenario: we’ll need to find someone to take over our lease. My brother and his girlfriend are interested, but it means figuring out timing that works for them, getting them approved by our management company, a probable overlap of tenancy, etc.

Once I do finally get out of our flat and get everything shipped to Dublin, there’s a big problem (the biggest problem, really): finding a job. Ireland frustratingly has a rule that you cannot teach primary school unless you speak Irish. To be fair, I do speak some Irish – I can count to ten, say “cow,” and I can tell people to sit down. (What more do teachers need, really?) But apparently that is not enough. This means I’ll most likely have to change careers. I’d love to continue working in a school even if I can’t be a classroom teacher. I’ve emailed a few schools already asking about opportunities for a teacher like me, but am still waiting to hear back. If that doesn’t pan out…well, I honestly don’t know what else I’d like to do. I love being a teacher and can’t really imagine working in a different field. So I need to spend some time looking at options.

IMG_0287.jpgI will miss having a classroom to organize.

Alright, I think that covers the biggies on my list. I’m sure a million other little to-dos will be added in the next few weeks, but it does feel good to have started processing all of these important tasks. Will keep you updated!