In case you have ever questioned my sanity or my craziness, let me make it clear just how crazy and dedicated I was (am?).
Long story short, I have wanted to teach at an international school ever since I realized that it was a thing (more specifically, back in college). Even when I was still a student, I used to research the American School of Paris and the American School in London and the International School of Nice and TASIS England and look at relevant job postings and dream of getting hired at one of those schools. I researched different ways of how teach internationally and the best ways to get a job (especially as a young, eager, recent graduate with an American passport, little experience and her heart set on Western Europe. And obviously, I landed a great job at a GREAT school in France, and could not be happier.)
My (not so) secret post-grad plan was to
- A.) Participate in TAPIF
- B.) Be a Lectrice
- C.) Teach at an international school in Europe
I honestly, still cannot believe I was able to accomplish all of these things, but especially the last one, at 26 years old.
Since being hired and starting my new job, I’ve gotten a ton of questions and inquiries from readers, friends, fellow expats, aspiring teachers, etc. So, I’ve decided to create a post laying out all of the things I’ve learned and the most common types of questions I’ve received since starting my new job.
Question 1: What’s the Difference Between Teaching EFL or at a Language School vs Teaching at an International School?
Firstly, there is are a few distinct differences between teaching EFL at a language school versus teaching at an international school. Of course, specific things will vary from school to school and from country to country, but here are some of the basics.
A. Teaching EFL at a language schools / teaching EFL in a foreign country typically:
- Pays significantly less
- Usually requires a Bachelor’s Degree
- Usually DOES NOT require teaching certifications from universities
- SOMETIMES requires / encourages a CELTA / TESOL / TEFL certification, or something equivalent (or if anything, means a pay raise if you have it.)
- Usually does not provide work visas
- Usually does not provide many benefits (ie: salaried pay, health insurance, pension, permanent contracts, etc.)
Typically, when you teach at language schools / EFL this involves something such as the Peace Corps, EPIK South Korea, the Auxiliar program in Spain, Japan’s JET Programme, etc. In France specifically, this may / could include Babylangues, Excelangues, Wallstreet English, and Berlitz, among others. This also includes the TAPIF program and lecteur / lectrice / maître de langue / vacataire positions in France.
B. Teaching at an International School typically:
- Almost always requires a Bachelor’s Degree in Education AND a valid teaching certification from your state / country of origin in your content area(s).
- Recommends / Encourages a Master’s Degree, plus two years of full-time teaching experience, especially in popular, high-demand areas (ie: Western Europe.)
- Usually comes with sustainable contracts, salaries, benefits, and pensions.
- Is typically a school you would find in your home country (ie: USA, Canada, the UK) and transplanted to an international location (ie: France). Most schools serve military / international business families, as well as local families from the area.
- Usually provides work visas.
**For the record- I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Education with a Teaching Certification / Licensure for French (ages birth – 21) and English as a Second Language (ages birth – 21) from the state of Wisconsin, and have been teaching since 2013.
Question 2: How do you get hired at a language school / for ESL teaching position and at an international school?
A. Language Schools / ESL Positions
- You can apply through a government-sponsored program (such as JET, EPIK, TAPIF, etc.)
- You can show up at the establishment and apply directly for the job (hence already having working papers or being in a country such as Thailand or Taiwan where it is easier or even possible to get a working visa without returning to your home country.)
B. International Schools
Typically, there are two different kinds of contracts for international schools:
- Local Hire- If you are already in the country, you can apply and solicit the school directly (obviously, this is what I did). However, this will (most likely) mean that you receive a “local hire” salary and benefits. This can significantly differ depending on the school and the country. (For me, this meant I received no relocation package or assistance on housing / settlement allowance.) In international schools, your salary is based upon your years of experience and your degrees. Each school offers different pay and packages depending on the country as well as the clientele. Obviously, in less desirable locations, there is a higher turnover, so the salaries / packages / benefits are usually much more generous. Since most people want to teach in Europe, the turnover is lower, the visa sponsorships are fewer, and the packages are less attractive. Most contracts are initially for two years.
2. Attend a Job Fair: The absolute best way to find a job at an international school is to attend a job fair. Needless to say, most employers want to meet the person they’re hiring face to face before extending a contract and sponsoring a visa, so this is where the magic happens. However, these fairs are super competitive and super intense; they’re not for people who just want to “shop around” and “check things out”– they mean business! There are quite a few reputable international job fairs, and the best advice I’ve received is to attend a fair on the continent you’d like to teach (for example, your heart is set on Asia, come to the fairs in Bangkok; if you’re itching for Europe, hit up the fairs in London; for the Americas, try out Boston or San Fransisco.) You really only need to go to one fair, but the top dogs and most well-known are:
There are also a few smaller, but still great fairs, including:
Question 3: What are some job ad-based websites for international schools?
I’ve used / checked out the following:
- A List of International Schools in France by ELSA
- TIE Online– I’ve signed for this website twice; it costs $39 per year and you have access to a ton of different job ads all over the world; you also can post your resume / CV and cover letters / letters of recommendation so schools can find you easily. You also get free newsletters, which willkeep you up to date with current trends and information within the international school community. Back in 2014, I actually landed a job offer for an American school in Shanghai through TIE.
- Enseigner à L’Etranger- There are a TON of job postings all over the world on this website (including the job I eventually landed in Lille!) What’s even better is their Facebook page, which is easy to follow and it keeps you informed.
- Department of Defense Schools- If you’d like to work on an American military base, this gig could be for you. I applied for DoDS last year but it was super competitive.
- TES & The Guardian– I used these websites a lot last year to apply for schools in the UK; it’s mostly for schools in Europe, but it’s free and there are also a ton of teaching resources.
- TESOL France– If you’re interested in job opportunities in France specifically, this is a great resource. For 49€ per year you get access to weekly job advertisements and postings around France, as well as the opportunity to attend all professional development conferences for free.
- International Schools Review- This is almost like GOMI but for international school teachers / aspiring teachers. It is a paid, membership-only site on which former employees review schools. It is unfiltered and contains a lot of negative reviews, so while it is very useful / insightful, proceed with caution.
Additionally, Amanda from Teaching Wanderlust has an extensive list of websites.
Finally, this guy further breaks it down and goes further into more specific details in regards to international teaching.
In addition to all of these things, I’ve also found that a lot of networking, a solid CV or resume and cover letter catered to the host country, great interview skills and lesson planning preparation, and a stroke of luck will get you where you need to go.
Have any more specific questions? Drop me a comment down below.