Why do people move abroad to teach in an international school?

Teachers move to international schools for a variety of reasons, but the top motivation is rarely just the career perspective.

Travel and Cultural Exploration: the main motivation for working in an international school

In a recent survey conducted in partnership with COBIS (full details here) people moved internationally for travel and enjoyment as a primary motivation.

Reason for working in an international school. COBIS 2018 report.

Location, Location, Location

Anyone from the UK or Australia will be familiar with the long-running TV show, Location, Location, Location, in which the program’s hosts aim to find house-hunters their perfect property.

For anyone considering an international school move, there will be a great location for you. There are now more than 10,000 international schools and demand for an international school education will continue to grow.

As with everyone at Searchality, I’ve personally worked in multiple locations. In fact, I have lived and worked in 7 countries, across 4 continents (so far!).

Living in a new country can be very rewarding

Having been brought up in England, the predictable weather of many other countries has been a huge part of the appeal. It’s not that another country (whether a cold, snowy one, or a deserty, hot one) has less comfortable weather, it’s simply that often the seasons do stick to reliable patterns. Unlike in the small island of England weather is more predictable. You can predict that there’ll be monsoon rainfall in many parts of southeast Asia in October, or that there’ll be extreme heat in the middle east in July.

One thing I have learnt: everywhere has good and bad months. The cold dark slog in England at the start of the year leaves you wanting to nest at home. In Dubai (a top location for international school teachers) the summer is brutally hot. Therefore in Dubai in summer (as in England in Winter) you are forced to spend much of your time indoors (in air-conditioning).

Look beyond the stereotypes too. To me, I assumed Dubai would always be hot. So much so that after living in southeast Asia for a while I was surprised by how ‘cold’ January in Dubai could be, especially at night without any heating. In fact, Dubai’s weather for 8 months of the year is wonderful.

Salary and Savings if you teach in an International School

As the teacher survey results show, “Salary” is a key motivator for teachers looking to move abroad. The reasons are clear: salaries for working in an International School can be higher than a similar role back home. However, it’s important to consider the full package and your net income.

When considering your income in an international school job, also consider:

  • Monthly salary
  • Tax (as this can range from high, to non-existent depending on location)
  • Currency (is your salary in the local currency or in a foreign currency which can fluctuate?)
  • Accommodation (does the school provide somewhere to live, or an allowance?)
  • Gratuities/end-of-service payments (which are common in the middle east)
  • Flights home (possibly once or twice during a 2-year contract)
  • School places for dependents (will all your children be educated for free at your school? If not suitable – due for example to your children’s ages, will the school fund places in a different local school?)

The big unknown will be your actual cost of living. You can get a very rough idea of the costs of living in one city vs another in this International Cost of Living calculator. But, having lived in many countries myself, I know you can live expensively or cheaply. You certainly need to adapt your habits. If you eat like a local your costs will be lower. If you eat imported goods from your home country, they may well be high.

Moving abroad will also give you opportunities to travel. If you take full advantage of these, then your spend (investment!) in travels may well cost more than  it would have done at home. (Have a look here for some other great ways to make the most of your time at an international school).

If you are looking to save more while you’re away, consider reading the most recent book from Andrew Hallam. Andrew used to be an international school teacher. He then wrote a book, Millionaire Teacher, about his experience – and recommendations – for investing and saving. Since then he writes on financial matters and gives talks worldwide (for free) to help others. His latest book, Millionaire Expat, is worth reading. You’ll be happier and richer in the future if you do!

Ways that your international school experience will help your career

As with any job, each new experience teaches you new things. Working in an international school may well expose you to a variety of new challenges and opportunities (not least in engaging ESL students as some top locations have a very mobile and transient population).

As you go through the interview and selection process with a potential new school, be ready to ask them questions. Consider elements such as:

  • How is your induction and introduction to the school and community managed?
  • What CPD and training opportunities does the school provide?
  • What opportunities are there to evolve into additional responsibilities within the school?

If you are getting ready for an interview, have a look at this guide to international school interview questions.

How to find your perfect international school job

There are multiple ways to find an international school job. At Searchality we’ve designed a process to make it simple for you as a candidate to instantly apply to all suitable jobs. You can find out more about how we help teachers here.

As a short summary:

  • Select as many or as few locations as you want
  • Define your perfect job
  • Get matched instantly to every job you fit.
  • Review a school’s details before you agree to be interviewed

This approach means you don’t need to narrow down your search too soon. You tell us what you’re looking for. Schools tell us what they need. It means you no longer need to worry about individual applications, one-by-one, form-by-form. We apply instantly on your behalf if you match what the school needs. You are then highlighted on their shortlist as a suitable candidate. With one click they can ask to interview you and start to schedule a time that suits both of you.

If you are keen to find a job in an international school, also review carefully the soft skills that you’ll need to enjoy your new job abroad. There are some wonderful benefits of moving and working abroad, but it can be a shock to the system. Check that you (and your immediate family) are ready for it. Then take the plunge. It’ll be worth it!

If you are specifically looking for an international school admin/leadership position, we have reviewed what it takes to be a successful leader.

International school opportunities: jobs, travel, learning, savings

Each opportunity will be different. With schools in so many locations, from large to small, hot to cold, new to established, there will be a great opportunity for you.

If this is the first time you are considering making a move to an international school job, think about your motivations, consider where you’d like to work, then let Searchality help to find you the perfect job.


The smarter, simpler approach to hiring

For schools, Searchality helps find the best global talent for international school jobs worldwide. Read more about how we’ve transformed recruitment for schools.

If you’d like to know more about how we’ve built Searchality to make the search for a new school job much simpler, faster, and better, read more about how we help candidates.

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