Ultimate Guide to Teaching Abroad if You’re Already a Teacher

I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was in eighth grade. I made the decision while I was helping my friend with our math homework. While yes, I’ve questioned my decision off and on since then, one of my motivating factors to still staying on the path of becoming a teacher was the fact that I could teach anywhere in the world. Especially math, I mean math doesn’t change much county to country. Well other than some weird vocabulary words (see US vs UK Math Terminology). When I was in ninth grade I met my Mom’s old college roommate who at the time was teaching on a U.S. military base in Japan with the Department of Defense. I realized that teaching not only allowed me to share my passion of mathematics, it also gave me an avenue to traveling the world.

After getting my teaching credential and Masters in Education (at the young age of 22, I might add), I was planning on immediately taking a position abroad but an amazing opportunity came up to stay at a charter school in the SF Bay Area. I took it but knew that if I continued to work there I would never take the risk of moving across the world. A year later, I quit and set about finding a job in the South East Asia. There are a lot of resources out there for finding English teaching jobs in foreign countries for people without a teaching degree but very little for people who are already experienced teachers.  Through the application process, and now working for a U.S. company in Malaysia, I’ve figured out some ways to going about converting your current teaching job to an international one.

Finding a Job

First of all, don’t listen to anyone that tells you, you can’t do it. One teacher I talked to, who taught for a year in Budapest, said “International schools won’t hire anyone without 3 years of experience.” Ya, that’s crap and completely not true. Ok, maybe it’s true in Europe but definitely not in Asia and South America).  I’d also point out that if you have 2 years of student teaching experience you should be selling that in both your applications and resumes. Don’t down play the roles you’ve played in the classroom, whatever they may be.

Secondly, there’s no reason for you to get a TEFL or a TESOL certificate if you already have a teaching license. You have teaching experience, you have a degree. You will already stand out from other applications. However, I think people have a tendency to oversell ourselves and what subjects we are capable teaching. If you don’t know physics, don’t say you can teach it. Otherwise you’ll end up in an awkward skype call trying to bullshit your way through an explanation of how electricity works (or maybe that’s just me, ha.).

If you don’t want to be in a local school teaching English, target international schools. I had no idea how many international schools are in major cities all across the world. Just within the 10 mile radius of my house there are three British schools, one American school, a Canadian school, an International Baccalaureate school and an Australian school. Kuala Lumpur has a large expat population as does most big capital cities. If you google the city you are looking into followed by “international schools” you’re bound to find a pretty large list. Look at their websites and even if they don’t say their hiring send them a resume. Teacher turnover at these schools are high because most people only want to be abroad for a year or two.  The U.S. State Department has a pretty large list of schools that they work with as well.

Don’t be afraid to apply to schools that not aligned with your country of residence. For some reason, most of the teachers at the American school near me are Canadian. I have no idea why. Additionally, make sure to know at least a little bit about the British system if you are interviewing with a British school. It’s completely different than the American system in terms of grade levels and what we call high school. Kaplan (who I really hate to link to because I often think of them as my work’s competition) has a great infographic and article that explains some of the difference between the UK and U.S. systems.

12 Years a Student infographic

If you are worried about teaching in a foreign language but don’t want to be in an English speaking country, look into the Department of Defense. They have schools all over the world on U.S. Military bases. Since American citizens live on the Military bases, the instruction is still in English. While they do tend to hire more experienced teachers, it’s definitely with a shot. And they have great benefits.

Most websites for teaching jobs abroad cater to people who have no teaching experience. But there are sometimes jobs posted for experienced teachers on these cites as well. Especially TeachAway.

If you do want to teach English as a foreign language there’s a ton of places out there who want to hire you. Check out Serious Teacher and Dave’s ESL Café for job postings.

Also, don’t rule our tutoring centers (or tuition as the British say). Unlike in the U.S., students in most Asian countries go to tutoring after school every day for at least two hours. These places need teachers too. And they provide a stark contrast to some of the concerns of whole class teaching. I mean, I went from having 30 different students every hour, 5 to 6 hours a day to having one student for two hours at a time. Talk about a major difference. There are definitely days where I miss whole-class teaching, but most of the time it’s a nice change of pace. My company always seems to be hiring so feel free to email me your resume directly and I can see if we have a position for you!

Whatever you teach, remember that you are in demand all over the world. It’s not hard to find a job abroad.

5 Things to Check for When Accepting the Job

1) Flights- are you supposed to pay? Or are they going to fly you out? Most jobs abroad will and should include, at the bare minimum, your flight to and from your home city.

2) Visas – Make sure to bring this up if your future employer hasn’t already. I know people who took teaching jobs in China and have to do Visa runs every few months because they’re employer didn’t want to go through the process of legally employing them.

3) Background Check the Company – Do a quick google search and see if anything negative pops up. I got a job offer from a Tutoring Center in Hong Kong while I was looking for a job. After a quick google search, I found out that the place was completely disorganized and the manger was a jerk and hit on his female employees. Um, no thanks.

4) Look into the city, especially the cost of living – See if the salary they’re offering fits with the cost of living. Also take into account apartment costs if the school isn’t providing you with accommodations.

5) Read your contract carefully – This is true of any job, but especially one overseas. Make sure to look at what happens if you leave your job early. How much notice is required? I had a friend leave a job early and they contacted him a month later and said that if he didn’t come back they were going to fine him for breach of contract and if he didn’t pay he wouldn’t be allowed to enter that country for the next 10 years.  Also, what kind of benefits do you have? Health insurance? What are the taxes like? Most countries have higher taxes for foreigners.

Negotiate your contract!!! I am always so surprised to hear how many people do not negotiate their contract, especially when moving to a country in Asia, where everything (I mean absolutely everything!) is negotiable. Ask for more money or moving expenses! The worse thing that could happen is they say no and you take the job anyway.

When You Get There

While this last bit is going to ultimately change depending on what country you move to, but the best advice I can give you is to go with the flow. Other countries do not move at the same pace as the U.S. does. There’s often less of a sense of urgency. Schedules often change at the last minute. You are sometimes told that you have 30 students sitting in your room waiting for classes when you were told they weren’t supposed to start for another week. Take a breath and go with it.

Keep in mind that what may have worked in your classroom in the U.S. doesn’t necessarily work aboard. I used to have some go to analogies for math concepts; most of them just don’t make sense in the context of Malaysia. The first time I said them here my students looked at me like I was crazy.

Don’t forget to laugh at yourself and take in as much culture as you can. It’s truly a whirlwind living in a country different than your own.

Make the jump today and you could start living in a new country within the next month!


Read Next: How I Live Abroad with $100,000 in Student Loans


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Megan is from sunny California and is currently living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She funds her travels by teaching students with learning challenges and students applying to U.S. universities. She loves traveling like a local, eating amazing food and is always up for an adventure. Check out her about me section to learn more!

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