So, you’re thinking about teaching in international schools, uh?


It’s a positively life-changing, career-shakin’ move, and you just might become permanently hooked!

Teaching in international schools is a satisfying and rewarding alternative to teaching stateside, and many overseas educators have no intention of going home anytime soon.

But what exactly makes teaching in international schools so great?

A LOT!!!!!

I taught in Central and South American international schools for nine WONDERFUL years!

The experience was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! AMAZING!

So I’m going to share with you…

  • Characteristics of Overseas International Schools
  • Qualifications You Need in Order to Work in a Good International School
  • How to Search for Your First International Teaching Job

Ready, set, let’s go!

Photo Credit: gorillaimages,

Characteristics of International Schools

Depending on past work experiences, teaching in international schools may be nothing like you’re used to. 

You could be pleasantly surprised or slightly disappointed.

How you feel about the following characteristics is a good indicator as to whether you’ll enjoy working in these types of schools!

Student Demographics 

Ironically, teaching in an international school does not always mean teaching an “international” student body.

In a significant number of these schools, the majority of students are the children of wealthy host country nationals with other nationalities sprinkled in. 

Support staff, such as maids, drivers, and nannies, plays a significant role in many of these students’ lives.

Depending on whom you ask, the students are…

  • motivated
  • impartial about learning
  • entitled
  • affectionate
  • chatty
  • dependent
  • close-knit
  • loving
  • selfish

Sounds like kids anywhere, right?! 🙂

School Curriculum & Identity

Many overseas schools identify themselves as international. 

That is a blanket term that includes a range of schools found overseas.

A significant portion of the schools fall under the umbrella of American Schools abroad, meaning that they are assisted in some way by the U. S. Department of State. They are usually nonprofit, independent and nondenominational.

Other overseas schools identifying themselves as “international” do so based on the type of curriculum they implement.

There are also schools that promote themselves as Canadian, British, and International Baccalaureate (IB).

These schools expose students to a wide variety of academic themes and topics through extracurricular activities such as art, music, drama, foreign-languages, after-school clubs, and sports. 

The language of instruction is typically English, although the school may operate bilingually.  

Some schools encourage the speaking of English in all aspects of the school’s life.

When teaching in an international school, expect to adapt to these differences.


Teaching in an international school opens your eyes to the weird world of “teacher classes”. 

Teachers at international schools roughly divide into three main groups sometimes referred to as Category 1, Category 2, and Category 3.

Compensation and employment benefits vary among the groups.

Category 1 teachers are those hired overseas, usually holders of Canadian, U.S, or European passports.

They hold a stateside teaching license in their respective teaching area.

Their teaching contracts are generally for two years, and they receive benefits such as round-trip airfare and a housing stipend. 

Category 2 includes teacher expatriates hired locally.

They currently reside overseas, in the respective country, when they apply for a teaching position.

They usually receive the same pay as Category 1 teachers, minus perks such as round-trip airfare and a housing stipend.

Embassy spouses, former Peace Corps Volunteers, and missionaries usually fall within this category.

Category 3 teachers are citizens of the host country. They receive compensation and benefits based on local wage standards.


One of the best things about teaching in international schools is the parent support.

Parents are involved, open, and responsive to teachers’ concerns and opinions about their kids.

They are prompt to hire tutors, psychologists, or other forms of outside help for their child if needed.

A Few More Interesting Things about Teaching in International Schools

1. No Common Core!

I confess. I am not the biggest fan of Common Core.

There, I said it.

The idea behind it is okay, but the reality of it leaves a lot to be desired.

While teaching in an international school, you may face Common Core (OH NO!), but…

Because these schools are private, they are free to choose whatever curriculum suits their school mission best. I found this to be very freeing as a teacher; there was SO MUCH flexibility! 

No more teaching to the test! 😉

 2. Days Off for U.S and Host Country Holidays

Schoolteachers stateside get ample vacation, but it can’t compare to vacation time in international schools.

It seemed as though there was a holiday every few weeks.

That’s sweet!

To put icing on the cake, the opportunity to travel to other nearby countries during these breaks makes it all the sweeter.

3. The Work Schedule is Fabulous!

I worked my butt off teaching in the States, and my students learned.

My workload was much less abroad, and guess what?

My students still learned.

Less is more, people!

Add to that ample planning time and a 180-day school schedule.

Just can’t be beat!

4. Worldly Students

No, they aren’t sinful little creatures. 🙂 

When teaching in international schools, I found the students to be well-traveled and well read.

For such a young age, they had amazing life experiences and so much to say.

5. Fewer Discipline Problems

Students in international schools are far from perfect, but violence, cursing, fighting, etc. are uncommon.

Discipline behaviors may manifest themselves in other ways:

  • excessive chatter
  • ignoring instructions
  • rudeness

Not the best, but I’ll take it!

Teaching in international schools isn’t perfect, but there are plenty roses among the thorns.

So, Are You Still Interested in Teaching in International Schools?

If so, let’s see if you have the qualifications needed to succeed! 

Almost all international schools recommend that candidates have at least the following characteristics:

  • At least two years teaching experience in target area
  • A teaching license/certificate from a state in one’s home country
  • Be a single candidate without dependents or a teaching couple
  • Flexibility in teaching location
  • Open-mindedness about cultural differences

Ok. So you’ve got all the qualifications!

Yeah! Now, the juicy stuff.

Find Your First Job Teaching in an International School!

Attend an international teaching recruiting fair.

It is arguably your best bet for securing a teaching or teaching-related job in an international school.

The recruiting season usually begins in early December.  A list of major players is below:

1. The Association of American Schools in South America (AASSA)

This is THE job fair to attend if you want to teach at an international school in Central or South America.

This job fair is devoted solely to international and American schools in these two regions, and it’s the first major fair of the recruiting season.

The AASSA fair is held annually in Atlanta the first weekend in December. Registration to attend begins a few months before.

2. University of Northern Iowa (UNI)

This fair is held every February in Waterloo, Iowa. It showcases schools from around the world.

Those new to the international teaching scene traditionally attend this fair.

But it’s really anyone’s game (new or seasoned); if you have what a school’s looking for, you’re in!

3. International Schools Services (ISS)

One of the biggest fairs for international teaching, ISS offers several fairs throughout the year, in different locations around the world.

Take a look at their website to see which fair is most convenient for you to attend. 

What’s great about ISS is that it’s leading the way in official online interviews with iFairs, a sort of virtual job fair. Check it out!

4. Search Associates

Search Associates is another major fair that holds several recruiting fairs throughout the year, in various locations around the world.

If looking for a leadership position, Search Associates posts several vacancies during hiring season.

Regarding these international recruiting fairs, do some research to decide which is best for you to attend. Each one has its own set of requirements.

Be expected to pay a registration fee upwards of $100 and to submit an online application.  Not bad at all!

Where to Find More Information about Teaching in International Schools

You don’t have to attend a job fair to land a job teaching in an international school, but it is a start.

Also check out Tie Online, a good website with a varied list of overseas education-related job postings!

If you get an interview (YEAH!), do a little more in-depth research on the school by checking out the site International Schools Review.

This website is great. It has articles about various topics related to living and teaching overseas plus anonymous reviews from teachers from international schools all around the world.


Teaching in international schools is a great experience that you may want to consider in the future.

If you have any other questions about teaching and living abroad (especially Central or South America), holla at me!

I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have!

Hasta luego!