Five Things You Need to be Able to Teach Internationally

The Oregon Tulip Festival just before beginning my Master of Arts in Teaching

Teaching License/Certificate

In Oregon, we have teaching licenses. It means that the State of Oregon has seen your Praxis test scores and your content area test scores and deemed you worthy.  Generally, in Oregon at least, people complete a Master’s degree in Teaching or Education before they can get licensed.  In some places, you can get a teaching license with a 4 year Bachelor of Arts in Education, which brings me to my next point.

Master’s Degree

Some of the newer schools or hard to staff schools will take teachers who don’t have Master’s degrees, but most schools want teachers who have a Master’s degree.  The parents at international schools are paying a lot of money for their student to attend school and they want to feel like they are paying for the best.  Even if you are a great teacher who has been teaching for a while you might not get the best jobs unless you have a Master’s degree.

Of course, if you are a great interviewee, you know the right people, or you can prove just how amazing you are, you can still get the job. Also, like I said before, you can always go to a hard to staff area (like where I am currently teaching in a small dangerous spot in Venezuela) you can get hired without a Master’s degree if you promise to get enrolled in a Master’s course. The school might even pay for your Master’s degree!

Two Years of Teaching Experience

Most reputable schools will all say that they only want to hire teachers who have two years of full-time teaching experience. A practicum that you take while in school and substitute teaching don’t count.

So how do you get that first international teaching job?!

You have a few options for getting around the two-year rule: 1) take a job that pays poorly; 2) Take a job that pays well but is in an undesirable location; 3) work at a new school or school that isn’t really an international school; or 4) teach ESL full time to get teaching experience and just know that it won’t count for a bump up on most pay scales.

International Experience

Even if you have all of these things, some schools can be hesitant to hire you if you don’t have some kind of international experience.  What if you don’t handle culture shock well?  What if it turns out that you can’t handle being away from your family for a long time? What if you get stressed not speaking a language different from yours? These are all valid questions, and I have seen teachers leave after only working for a month or two.

Go participate in a volunteer project. Teach at a summer camp abroad (I loved Camp Adventure Youth Services).  Travel around the world during a gap year. Go on lots of family vacations out of the US. Ride your bike across the country or the continent.  GO SOMEWHERE new, uncomfortable, challenging, different and just… BREATHE.


Sometimes you can get jobs with a good dose of luck and by being in the right place at the right time!

Riding and elephant in Thailand with my friends. I would love to teach in Thailand!

Go somewhere! This is me riding and elephant in Thailand with my friends. I would love to teach in Thailand!


7 responses to “Five Things You Need to be Able to Teach Internationally

  1. Great list. I would add something about knowledge/confidence/persistence. I got into the IB by showing my passion and knowledge through persistence. (Getting into IB is just like that first year catch 22 all over). There’s definitely something to be said for those things that can’t be seen on paper.
    Just FYI, the link to “The International Job Fair: What You Need To Know” from the best of page isn’t the right link. I’m really lookin forward to reading that one when I can find it.


    • Thank you for the heads up about the incorrect link; I’ll have to look at it the next time I have some computer access (instead of my cell phone!).

      The whole IB thing does feel like another Catch 22, and while I would like to work at an IB school because I agree with what I’ve read about IB so far, I don’t worry about it too much. There are still plenty of schools that don’t use IB so teachers don’t need to stress quite as much as when they were trying to get their first job!


  2. I love your blog! I’m a former EFL teacher about to obtain my elementary teaching certificate, and would like to start working in international schools. Do most international schools prefer that your masters is in education or teaching? My BA is in French and my MA is in linguistics, so I’m wondering if it would be prudent to return for an MA Ed.? Keep the posts coming, they’re great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Alyssa,

      I think that most international schools don’t really care what your degree is really in as long as you have an MA or MA Ed and a teaching LICENSE. However, I know that to obtain a teaching license in Oregon that you need to take coursework, teaching practicum, and then several tests. In fact I know someone who has a BA in Architecture and a minor in French and he ended up working with me at an international school in Ojeda where he was able to have the school pay for him to get a MA Ed which he then had to take somewhere in the US to do some follow up tests to get a teaching license. This is a very rare case, though.

      As for me, I had no trouble getting hired with my MA in Teaching and then I got the MA Ed just because I needed to do some coursework to renew my teaching license.


    • My current school in Egypt has never had so many applications! I am sure you can always find somewhere to work without experience, but most of the top schools will expect at least 2-5 years of experience to get hired.


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