How to Get a Job Teaching at an International School

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

  1. A.) Participate in TAPIF  
  2. B.) Be a Lectrice    
  3. 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:

  1. 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).
  2. Recommends / Encourages a Master’s Degree, plus two years of full-time teaching experience, especially in popular, high-demand areas (ie: Western Europe.)
  3. Usually comes with sustainable contracts, salaries, benefits, and pensions.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

  1. You can apply through a government-sponsored program (such as JET, EPIK, TAPIF, etc.)
  2. 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:

  1. 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.



25 thoughts on “How to Get a Job Teaching at an International School

  1. Dana,
    I am so glad I found your blog, for I am not an avid blogger myself. I am struggling to find a teaching job, and could use any words of advice you have to offer! So here’s my situation, I have a BAS, only one year of teaching experience at a bilingual school in China (not international, but luckily with IB/PYP curriculum). I am currently living in France with my soon-to-be French husband, teaching online temporarily. My biggest difficulty has been the language. My level of French is very low, and applying mid-year has been rough. Do you have any advice or direction you could offer? I would greatly appreciate it!

    1. Hi there! I think you could definitely play up your IB experience at some of the international schools / sections in France. Mid-year might be complicated, but prime hiring season is about to begin! Check out the ELSA France website to get a list of international schools to find one in your area. Also, sign up for some French classes- that will definitely ease your transition. Good luck!

  2. I really want to teach English in France but the only problem is that here in Canada the official website says that you need to have a Bachelors Degree and I didn’t go to University. I went to college for baking. It was only a 2-year course and sadly I only got a diploma from it. Do you think if I were to get my tefl certificate from the international tefl website that I would be able to find jobs? Maybe through Tapif? I really want to do this but I don’t know what to apply for at University to get a bachelors degree.

    1. Unfortunately TAPIF has become very competitive and it seems like a 4-year degree is the norm. I think if you come over on a spousal / partner visa (Vie Privée Familiale) you could find more jobs easily but to come and get sponsored with only a TEFL will be very difficult… Perhaps look into the working-holiday visa between France and Canada?? That may be an option that Americans don’t have. good luck!

  3. Fantastic! My husband and I dream of moving the France or Spain! I’ve been teaching secondary Social Science and been the Director is Student Activities for 10 years—> and feel inspired to take the leap!! Would they hire without meeting me in person?? Any leads or connections is much appreciated thx!!

  4. Hello! I am a teacher in New York and I am applying for jobs at International Schools in Paris. I was wondering if you have an example of a CV and cover letter that you might be willing to share. That would be super helpful! Thank you!

  5. Hi Dana!

    Your blog is super helpful to me, especially since I am currently doing TAPIF and wondering what my next step will be after the program! I have been thinking about applying to international schools, but as I read through this post and watched the video about the requirements, it seems like it would be really difficult with my lack of experience. I have a Michigan teaching certificate with a TESOL endorsement, only a few master credits, and no full-time teaching experience (outside of my internship year in Michigan).

    Did you end up getting your full-time teaching experience solely through being a Lectrice? Or was it a combination of US and France teaching? Also, in your opinion, would it be smarter to go back to the US, get 2 years of teaching experience + a master’s degree, then apply for an international school? I love living in France, and one of my long-term goals is working at an international school (in either France or any other European country). Sorry for the long comment–any small piece of advice/your 2 cents would be helpful and greatly appreciated! 🙂


    1. Hi! I think it ultimately depends on what you want… If your goal is to live in France than apply for both… but if you really want to do international schools you should get solid experience in a k-12 schools. You’ll get there!

  6. You could definitely see your skills within the work you write.

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  7. Hi Dana – Excellent info in one post! I’ve been trying to get to Western Europe for years, but only managed a year here or there in Paris, London, etc. I have12 years of teaching experience, 2 MAs and a CELTA, but I could never find a good way to get in the door long term…plus I’m getting older and older!! But this post encourages me to keep trying. Thanks so much and well done you!

  8. i know you’ve been working at your international school for a while now, so this is a little late, but still, congratulations on making this happening! setting a goal, going after it, and achieving it! that is super cool! and thanks for all the practical info you share for others as well! 🙂

  9. Always so amazed you were able to land the silver unicorn, aka the job that gave you a work sponsored visa at a school that was not a government sponsored program and didn’t involve you marrying a French partner. If I had any inclination to teach again, this would be an awesome post for me to follow.

    I am in the midst of reevaluating my career and while I don’t want to expand on that too much since I make a practice never to talk about work online, this post really motivated me to keep doing what I’m doing to find something that makes me happy.

    1. Thank you so much! I still can’t believe it either … it is Never too late to reevaluate or change paths… ever 🙂 happiness is so important!

      Thanks for reading xx

  10. Great post! Love what you have to say about getting a job teaching at an international school. Reading through your points, I’m now inspired to strive for doing the exact same thing; I hope to slowly work my way up (from assistante to lectrice to international school teacher), so we’ll see! Your information comes in very handy for this!

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