Can You Negotiate a Higher Salary?

Transplanted from the ISR forum
Forum poster – Is a salary offer a take-it or leave-it proposition?  I want to come back to the school with a number at least 5k higher.  Will schools shut the door if you just ask for it? Other benefits seem fine.
Reply – if you’re looking to wheel and deal with a for-profit school for a higher salary or extra benefits, don’t be surprised if, after you’ve signed on the dotted line, they nickle and dime you to death and perhaps aren’t so willing to approve your request for a PD trip or new materials for your classroom.  So maybe your negotiation skills would be better served to meet the educational needs of your students rather than your pocketbook.  Just a thought.
Forum poster – If you think that I am going sacrifice my own fiscal well-being so that the school can save money, you are naive.  I am not a missionary and I am not interested in working to enrich the owners of a school.  I am a professional, who can help students learn with experience and expertise. I will participate in a fair exchange: my knowledge and work  for money.  I’m going to get paid every single dime I am in a position to earn…
What’s your opinion and feelings on this topic?

54 thoughts on “Can You Negotiate a Higher Salary?

  1. I have negotiated well in most schools I have been to. however there are still schools which have offered less experienced staff more money. whilst in the UAE I was shocked to hear an Arabic teacher was getting at least 25%more than me in one school. she had only 2 years experience teaching in another school and of course no teacher training beforehand. she always turned up late to lessons and shouted at the children. never took part in extra duties etc.I was holding a master degree and more than 10 years teaching experience.

    I decided to move on to better things. I know salaries are never going to be fair but I am a better negotiator and try to get the best deal for my family.


  2. I think people are ignoring the issue of teachers at the same school being paid unequally due to gender, favouritism, possibly their own negotiating abilities when accepting the contract and other obscure reasons.

    After some time at my first school I realised that some of my colleagues were being paid a lot more than I was. It really sunk in when a male colleague with a similar level of experience to me made a flippant remark about his salary and I realised it was almost double what I earned. He was a favourite of the director… I was not.

    This school had a pay scale which was shown to staff once at a faculty meeting but was not published internally, let alone externally. That kind of attitude suggests the pay scale in question was a piece of paper more than anything else.

    Same thing happened at a fair recently when I encountered a 30 something male science teacher teaching at an obscure school in China who was pulling in a Tier 1 salary.

    This is what I have in mind when thinking about negotiation.


  3. Gawd. I just read through most of this blog thread. Just really makes me want to barf to read the posts from “teachers” trying to justify themselves as somehow being worthy of extra pay or more pay then their colleagues. If for some reason you somehow think that what you teach is any more valuable than what somebody else teaches, then for the sake of your students, get the hell out of the profession and go sell shoes or something. If I were any more cynical, I’d say run for the US Senate. But for the love of god, you DO NOT belong in the teaching profession.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m late joining this chat but just wanted to add a quick notation.
    I’ve spent years in international ed, usually entering schools towards the bottom of their scale as schools tend to give a maximum entry point of 5 years experience, I think partially to encourage people to stay within their school. Like Yes! I have found that I have been asked to mentor and to do more than people who are getting paid a lot more than me (in one case my year level supervisor) with reference made to my experience and knowledge, which I gently pointed out that they were refusing to pay me for.
    In my fourth post another teacher told me that I was stupid if I did not negotiate as she was getting extra benefits. I asked my boss and he lied and said it wasn’t true. I left the school because of that.
    At this point (3 years ago) I was studying for an additional degree, and at summer school we were discussing the current shortfall in international teachers. Schools are changing their recruiting strategy and many more are taking first time international positions, some without any teaching experience. At that point I decided that I had a marketable commodity. Not only did I have valuable experience and knowledge, but I had recent studies in my field and was also known as a good mentor and trainer of young teachers. For my next post and my current one, I negotiated with the school after their initial offer. Both times I was realistic and both times I was successful. Knowing what other people in my school are paid, I believe this was the fair and right thing to do. And yes, both schools have a published scale, both also have a top out point. And the school I am currently working at is held in high regard generally.
    One thing I wish that administrators would consider is the type of training people have undertaken. Time and again I have worked for schools where there is a high recompense for an MA. Yet I know many people who have garnered their teaching qualification through an MA through distance learning rather than an initial education degree or a postgraduate education training. Theoretical knowledge and the ability to write essays is no replacement for classroom training, and it is grossly unfair when people are paid for these kind of ‘advanced degrees’ which could arguably be seen as inferior preparation for teaching than a practical training.

    Well that should put the cat amongst the pigeons once again!


  5. Forum poster, I take my hat off for you. We are one of mind. I have recently decided to move on to other schools in Kuwait and have discovered that I will have to move from a salary of over 1000KD to a salary of 700kd and sometimes even less.

    This is modern day slavary and it’s really sad that teachers are accepting these low offers while schools are making a huge profit. Here is a small example of a school in Kuwait:
    a) School fees for a KG pupil per year is 1250d
    b) There are 27 children in this class.
    c) The school offers the KG teacher a salary of 700Kd. This means that you are being paid less than 1 of the kids school fees as a salary per month. About 8 pupils fees will go to you and the rest to the school as profit.

    The worst of all is, that you will have the same job load as your colleague next door (sometimes even more) and she will be earning nearly double your salary.

    Schools also tend to disregard your amount of years experience these days! If a school can not publish their salary scales on the net or if it is not available on request, I woud suggest you stay away from it.


    1. You seem to forget that the classroom teacher is the not 0nly person/thing in the entire school. For a 4th grade teacher your class might have a different music teacher, PE teacher, art teacher, computer teacher, custodians, counselors, principal, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and assistants. I have not even went into computers, transportation for teachers, etc.

      I am not justifying the wages, but we as teachers seem to think we are the universe – we are not.


  6. I’m the guy who originally posted in the forum. This exposure on the website has finally given me a variety of posts and opinions that clarify the issue. I will update my post with the results of my negotiation. Everyone has contributed, and I do not want to repeat what has already been said. Just two things. The negotiation topic went beyond just salary. Salary is tough to move. It is a contract for many other things, and we can’t pretend like all those things are equal. If one teacher is traveling from Singapore, and another is moving from Canada, why should freight and airfare amounts be equal? Also, to fall back on the logic that a school cannot pay more because “it is not our policy” is weak. I’ve got a ‘policy’, too! To work for better pay. Is the schools policy more valid than mine. If you accept that the school, its owners, and its administrators are superior to you because they write down policy- you have lost.


  7. I completely agree with your idea that more years teaching does not make one a better teacher. But we’re not teaching kids how to publish books or fly to the moon (or low-earth orbit, actually) are we? As an administrator, those skills are great for guest speakers; as classroom teachers? No. As worthy of extra pay as a classroom teacher? Makes no sense.


    1. actually, i think that depth of knowledge of the content area is one of the biggest factors in classroom success. Of course, they have to also be able to deliver that knowledge. And yes, of course we are training the students to become all of those things. And doctors, lawyers, teachers, and so on. One of the recurrent complaints at the university level is that students are leaving high school without an adequate education.

      Having those kinds of teachers in AP and upper level classes would be a very refreshing change of pace. I’d send my kids to a school that boasted those kinds of teachers.

      If we are talking about 4th grade, then the physics teacher is not going to be a huge value add. I’m commenting more about the high school level.

      Having lived both sides of the coin, i’m going to go out on a limb and that there are more Scientists who would make great science teachers than there are science teachers that would make great scientists.

      I am not saying that all scientists would make good teachers, or that all teachers are sub-standard. That is obviously not the case.

      The teaching profession is archaic in many ways. Just in this thread there are many supporters of a system that rewards only longevity and degree (regardless of quality of said degree). Why would any good or better teacher be comfortable with a system that rewarded everyone in the same way. I believe that, for better or worse, that this will not be the case 20 years from now.

      I appreciate your feedback and comments, thanks for that.


    2. You seem pretty confident that you know what a scientist is? Being a “scientist” doesn’t necessarily make you a great communicator and as I tell my students all the time, if you can’t get your message across then you have failed.


    3. that many scientists are not good, or even great, communicators is a myth put forward by educators to justify ed school as the only path to the classroom.

      In my experience, a large majority of the scientists that i have worked with have also been excellent communicators on many levels.


  8. one more note: the top schools don’t negotiate on salary. Even for the hard to find positions. I’m with ISBangkok, and if you’re a highly qualified IB whatever teacher who doesn’t readily agree to the terms offered, we’ll say thank you and move on the the next in line of highly qualified applicants: we get hundreds.

    So, as educators, would you rather work at a place where you’ve successfully negotiated your terms or a place that’s a highly functioning academic institution? I can’t imagine being able to negotiate with some start-up or for-profit school for salary/benefits that are anywhere close to what a school like ISB or JIS or any other top-notch school offers.


    1. i can appreciate that not every school will move on salary.

      But, as you stated, ISB and JIS, as examples, get probably hundreds of great resumes for most positions. Not everyone can work there.

      Besides that, there is a great advantage to working at a startup. I got to design the curriculum completely. I shaped what my department looks like. I got to have responsibilities that normally would not have come my way so soon in international education.

      It is also tiring and a seemingly endless task. But, i prefer the ability to create something new than to fit in.

      The idea of a ‘top-notch’ school is kind of up to the individual as well. Before i left the U.S. I taught at a highly regarded school with test scores that any international school would envy. I also taught in inner city schools in Chicago. While it sometimes gave me fits, overall, i preferred working in the ghetto. I like working with the underdogs and overcoming odds. Sitting at the top isn’t always as great as it seems, imho.

      It seems strange to me that a school would not be willing to pay a premium for some ‘special’ person. Would it not be worthwhile to pay a published author who loved teaching a little extra to give your students the experience of working with someone who actually writes for a living? Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to pay a senior nasa engineer a few steps higher on the salary scale to teach physics? Or is it always the case that someone from an average school, who has no real world experience, but more years teaching, should get more compensation? It seems short sighted to me.

      Everyone in the thread seems happy with their lot in the teaching world. That is a good thing. Its all about finding the best fit for you.


    2. It’s so true what you’ve written. I’ve been “over here” for a while and have made the rounds of all sorts of schools. I really do like the little “start up” type where I can, as you said, put my years of experience and expertise to work and help to build a meaningful curriculum and programme. And I admit that at a couple places like that, I did feel a little resentment that I was earning little more than what the guy in the next classroom did whose hand I had to hold and whose lessons plans I had to create and with whom I had to meet every single day just to assure that something meaningful was going on. That “guy” (or gal) has, luckily for me, usually been a good person, but with minimal experience. I did, however, work in a very frustrating situation where I was one of the “old timers” with lots of experience and solid knowledge of how the division, middle school, should work. Many of my colleagues were young, and my teaching partner was more interested in making the rounds of the local pubs and meeting the local women. Given the school’s placement policy, I was at the maximum entry level of five years’ experience, whereas my partner came in on step two given his two years in US public schools. So I was earning about 1500 bux more than him despite the huge gap in experience and the school’s expectation that I would, as somebody with a couple decades of experience, be a mentor to the younger crowd, not to mention play an active role in the time-consuming job of writing curriculum and doing everything from creating a field-trip policy and accompanying school wide generic permission form to leading workshops on the latest methods in parent-conferences. As I write all of that, though, I can’t help but think of the greater rewards, as in the realization that you’re doing something so meaningful. And unless the school’s benefits package puts you in dire straits financially (and why did you accept in the first place?), a good administrative team and a high moral can basically offset any animosity in the remuneration department.

      I guess I chalked that experience up to being in a country that attracted lots of those types and working at a for-profit school that was attracted by those types–somebody on paper who looked good enough (certified in N. America style curriculum).

      I’m ambivalent to the whole negotiation thing. I’ve always done my homework regarding the schools complete benefits package and the cost of living in the host country.

      As a final note, I am unmarried and have no children. So agreeing to sign a contract and then sticking it out has no repercussions beyond my personal needs…quite different than those with dependents in tow.


    3. Once again someone mentions the fact that their at a top school. What does that mean? Which criterion is used to determine the top schools? Test scores, number of teachers with advanced degrees, university acceptance rates, type and quality of post secondary schooling graduates are heading to? Or is it simply salary and benefits package? Few schools publish this information so, it would be nice for someone to let me know how the international teaching community comes to these conclusions…

      I agree with Wilbert – schools should pay according to what someone can offer. That’s the way the world works. Why should education be any different? Some posts here have suggested that asking for more money implies that the person asking isn’t really an educator, and that another line of work should be considered. Based on this logic, any professional in any field that negotiates (someone who expects to make a certain amount based on experience and qualifications) isn’t really into what they do. An engineer or a banker can feel just as passionate about their work as a teacher can. Just because we work with children and young adults shouldn’t mean that we are placed on an entirely different category within the work force.


    4. “Once again someone mentions the fact that their at a top school. What does that mean?”

      I’ll resist pointing out your pronoun issues because that’s just too easy, and I’ve made my fare share of usage errors on this blog. However, I will answer your cheeky rhetorical question about what it might mean to be with a top notch international school. Sort of like if you’re in the market for a Lamborghini. You don’t ask about gas mileage. If you’re not cut out for it, you will never get it.


  9. Simon -What you said is true,especially about reputable schools ( and maybe the answer is only to apply for posts there!) but what you are not taking into account is
    1.that some schools do not pay a reasonable salary
    2. teachers have been left in situations where they can hardly afford to live.
    3. Some schools are a business and have no concern for the member of staff just how much profit they can make.
    4. That the salary you can accept depends on your personal life- ie are you still paying for kids at university, are you still paying off your mortgage. I am lucky and can take posts now purely on choice as all responsibilites are complete- but there was a time when a high salary was ESSENTIAL.
    5. Even within a city there are schools that pay double what other schools pay, for exactly the same job

    It is important to work for the love of teaching- BUT some people have circumstances that make it essential to earn a reasonable salary. I am the same person now with the same philosophy and love of teaching- but six years ago only applied for schools that paid the highest in the world. I have now moved to a lower paying job- but at a school where I can enjoy my teaching more. I am hoping in a few years to do Voluntary/ Mission teaching which I now can afford to do. Do not expect teachers to work for “poverty wages” just to prove their love of the job. We may need to feed our kids. So I do not think any of us are in a position to judge.

    I do agree with a previous poster- that maybe even if you negotiate a better salary- if you are not at a reputable school- see some teachers do not even get paid!!

    Only work for the salary you need for your own circumstances.


  10. I’m an administrator of a large school in Asia. I would never dream of negotiating individually with teacher candidates. We have a salary scale that applies to everyone. Cutting separate deals is unethical and unfair to the teachers already employed. You should want to work for an employer who is consistent and professional and trustworthy rather than some shady spiv who operates like a second hand car dealer. Don’t be surprised if the schools that do this FOR you do other things TO you later on!


    1. I’m wondering what you find unethical about it? Are you saying that every single teacher with the same amount of teaching experience and level of education is worth the exact same amount of compensation?

      There is no differential by subject? Or by quality of degrees/education? Or experience from outside of education?

      That is not realistic. Most other fields have a differential based on other criteria. I don’t get how giving everything the exact same amount, regardless of other factors means that a school is being ethical and ‘fair’.

      I guess that if i had a degree from a so-so university, and taught in a subject with tons of other qualified candidates, and had little market value outside of the field of education, then i might think that it was more fair the way it is.


    2. For god’s sake. We are educators. Schools have a pay scheme based on years of experience. I work at the best school in SE Asia (maybe Archer’s!) I just can’t get passed the fuss about pay. Take it or leave it or get into another profession. If you can’t see that it’s unethical to pay teachers different amounts based on what they’ve “negotiated”, then you don’t understand what sort of educational institution would negotiate in the first place, and you might want to consider a different line of work.


    3. so, as an educator, with the right attitude, you believe that the only determinant of teacher value is longevity and educational attainment? That is somehow the only two factors that will produce an ethical system? Besides that this is how it is, can you explain why this is the best system?

      I really don’t understand all of the ‘you might want to consider a different line of work’ comments that get thrown out. You think that based on my comments about pay structure, that you can tell how effective a teacher i am? Or how much i care about and do for my students? You are a better person than I, because i can’t really judge that until i’ve seen someone teach and interact with their students.


  11. Having just accepted a position, where I held out for a higher salary despite the pay scale, I must say it IS possible to negotiate a bit. I didn’t get a LOT more money than the original offer–about $2000–but it was a higher amount.

    Having said that, the director had to go to the board for approval, so I don’t think it’s an easy thing to do. It was a position they’ve hard a hard time filling, which makes a difference.


    1. Thanks for a first hand account, Trav45. Care to share details? Was it 2K more per year? In cash, benefits??? What’s the position and what type of school is it?


  12. As a recruiter of teachers around the globe, I come across the issue of payscales and teacher value and perception of their worth all the time. Having initially trained and worked as a teacher overseas I accept that teachers work extremely hard and earn every penny they get. I also accept that teachers deserve a fair and reflective wage for their services. What I do not accept is that teachers should be paid more money just because they have more years of service under their belts. I believe that if you are a great teacher you will be looked after accordingly. I also believe that international schools with great reputations generally pay their teachers well and at the right level.

    So I generally do not want to work with teachers who put salary before education or quality of school or even enjoyment of teaching. These are the same teachers who will generallyb walk out of a contract at the drop of a hat and cause issues in the staff room.


    1. You said, “what i do not accept is that teachers should be paid more money just because they have more years of service”.

      Isn’t that what everyone is claiming that the ‘best’ schools use? What has your experience been? That there is ability to move someone on the scales depending upon other factors?

      You started out saying how much experience that you have with this issue and then gave us very little information. I’d really like to hear your thoughts.

      I’m assuming that you understand that a teacher can put education, quality of school, enjoyment of teaching, and salary into consideration at the same time, right?

      I find that employers (inside and outside of education) who downplay the importance of salary are usually employers who aren’t competitive in their salary. Worth is worth. If you can get it all, you should.


    2. Simon says: “What I do not accept is that teachers should be paid more money just because they have more years of service under their belts. I believe that if you are a great teacher you will be looked after accordingly.”

      So how are you going to measure the “greatness” of a teacher, and what is your proposal for a corresponding pay scheme? We’re talking about businesses here: schools have to figure out a transparent and justifiable way to pay each and every one of its employees, all idealism aside!


    3. I agree with Simon on his point though! Don’t we all know experienced teachers that aren’t great?
      My current school has a system called Q-Comp, where we have goal setting meetings for the beginning of the year (could be furthering education on working with kids with Autism, or integrating cross-curriculum studies, or whatever area you feel you need to improve on), professional performances and a few other areas (see for more information).


  13. Most reputable ( and not for profit) schools have a transparent salary scale. Take it or leave it- I do not think in that circumstance it is wise or polite to negotiate.

    I do know some where negotiations have taken place where scale is not in place – shortage subjects- or particular needs and most of all when YOU think the salary is not enough for you.

    At the end of the day- if you would not go there without the salary you require – tell them – BUT you must walk away contented if subsequently they will not offer you it- be prepared to loose the job. ( It has happen in recruting this year at my school).

    Unless vindictive owner ( there are some)- I doubt you would be penalised on arrival.

    Be aware that management have to be careful- they set a dangerous precident if they offer you more than other teachers currently in the school doing the same or higher jobs. It is not worth the risk to them- as they will be inundated with further requests.

    In negotiable situations, maybe go in and prove yourself- then after contact ends- that is the time to renegiotiate- if they vlaue you enough ( and if hands are not tied by board or owner) they may give you a rise.


  14. I work in a school that does not publish pay scales. This practice creates far too much secrecy and gossiping and innuendo. Much of these discussions centre around whether or not you are a favourite of the Director or not. Avoid schools that do not publish their pay scales. I certainly will in future.


  15. The international school that I am working at right now has a “different” secret pay schedule for certain certifications. This school is small and you better believe the Science teacher is making a whole lot more that Elementary teachers with the same years in and education.

    This is not true of all schools. It just depends on how the Director (Superintendent, headmaster . . .etc)and the board decides to handle things. If a school has a public pay scale, my guess it that there is no negotiating. However, I have worked at two schools that do not make their salary scales public. If you do not know what each other is making- then there are pay discrepancies. I have been to recruitment fairs- seeing a directors chase down a teacher in the hall way or at a social gathering and offer more money.
    Special Education and high school sciences like physics and chemistry are highly sought after positions and there are not enough teachers to fill spaces.

    I would have a hard time negotiating because I am one of those who believe that we did not get into this for the money. But then I see other teachers being able to afford traveling, purchase a car, etc. . . on their negotiated salary- so then I think “if you can why not” I think that if you have the talent to negotiate terms, then go for it! If I had to negotiate terms for every job- I would not do so well!
    I look forward to my new school that has a published salary scale, knowing that we are all making excellent money- fairly.


    1. Is teaching a profession or a charity mission. I didn’t get into this for the money either but because I love teaching but at the same time I might love doing some other profession so I’d be prepared to negotiate. Actually I think teachers need to be taught as part of their course the reality of a free market society and how to negotiate terms or contract and salary.
      As the world becomes more and more globalised then the number of international schools increases and they are in competition for staff.


  16. I have been working as a UK qualified teacher in England for 7 years and am now at the high end of the pay scale. I am due to go through the pay threshold to the next tier, which will give me a salary increase of approximately £5000 this september (and the pay increase would remain with me until such time as I leave teaching or retire – no matter which school in the UK I move to). I was considering taking a post abroad but the pay in some schools is ludicrous – one position offered me £11k a year – 3 times less than my current pay. And the cost of living was not much less than here, for some things being considerably more.
    This is why I will not work in the USA. After extensive review of the pay available for schools in LA – where my family live – I realised I would not be able to afford to survive there – at least, not without help. I don’t know why some countries have so little respect for teaching staff, but if a school isn’t prepared to pay me what I’m worth then there is no way I would consider working there. If teachers across the globe fought for what they know they’re worth, education as a whole would improve.


  17. The answer to the original question is yes and no. At the schools I have been offered jobs at, they have usually been unwilling to negotiate salary and stick to their pay scale. However in a couple of cases they have accepted the argument that the allowance for management positions is low and revued pay awards for all staff in similar position resulting in pay increases.

    Other responders raise some important issues that really go to the heart of some of the difficulties the teaching profession faces. The idea that teachers should accept whatever is offered to them is a rather odd idea. We live in a world were people are generally paid what they are worth based largely on supply and demand (agreed this is a simplification of a complex job market). Other professions get paid a great deal more that teachers for a similar level of qualification, skills and experience.

    Teachers should negotiate higher salaries if their skills, and the value they can contribute to the school are worth more. The old adherence to pay scales based on years of experience rather than ability, and the progress that we are able to bring to the pupils we teach is out of date and unfair. I am not aware of any research suggesting that there is a correlation between years of teacher service and students progress.
    Rewarding staff based on their ability to promote learning would be fairer way to remunerate people. This would in turn drive up the educational standards being achieved by pupils. Yes I am aware that there are difficulties in assessing who is having what impact on pupils but a good management team can run performance management systems.

    The low pay in teaching relative to other similarly skilled workers has led to a lack of competition for jobs and schools accepting any applicant, particularly in certain subjects. This lack of competition stifles the development of teaching as a profession and the skills of individual practitioners. There are of course many excellent teachers, who could get paid a lot more doing something else, but this is not universally the case.

    We as individuals are not charities and should not feel that we should accept any pay because otherwise resources will be removed from students. Teachers should be well paid and well resourced. Not because it is good for teachers but to create strong competition for jobs in all subjects so that education becomes an exciting and experience for all young people not just the few who are lucky enough to get into the truly excellent schools or classrooms. This will need significant pay increases and improvement in the working conditions of teachers.

    Whilst many schools will not like the short term implications the long term improvements in educational standards and student progress will be welcomed. The real question is how much society and parents value their children and their future. If really good quality education is worth having they will have to pay for it properly and pay their teachers like other professionals doing similarly complex work.


    1. Well said Mr. Chips! I completely agree.
      I am applying to a school in Costa Rica. A current co-worker, who is Costa Rican, and tells me that it is customary to negotiate. So, I’m going to try to do it!


  18. It is accepted as common practice in Asia in general that you (at least try to) negotiate most transactions because usually the school HR will ask what you were paid on your last contract and require evidence of this by way of salary slip or contract statement.

    Perception and experience of past salary packages will certainly colour what you feel is appropriate salary for your qualifications, experience and the nature/responsibilities of the Job Description being offered to you.

    My own perception is based on what I am paid in Australia which is double what I was paid as a teacher in the US doing eactly the same work and with similar cost and standards of living. Given that the currency rate of exchange between US and Aust dollars is almost the same then jobs quoted US dollars at their teacher salary values, are not that attractive.

    For instance my UK and New Zealand conterparts expressed the same thoughts about international salary packages. Staffroom discussions about this at the British (system) international school I worked at in Asia seemed to be universally the same, people from those education systems are paid more in their own countries, than in the US, and thus they asked for more, accpeted less or walked away from jobs that did not compare well to their salary scale in Australia, the UK or New Zealand.

    It seems a good idea to be searching the teacher salary scales of developed countries to make an informed choice about what you are prepared to accept, under contract conditions, at an international school in the Middle East, Asia or Europe.

    Perception and personal experience shift the view of this very much but the schools are full of multinationals comparing information.


    1. I was pleased to read what you said about Asian schools asking for salary slips etc because I have never run into that before (worked at 3 different international schools – on my third job search now). I wonder(ed) if I should send this to them or not? What about their school’s salary scale? I feel like I am being played, a bit, like when I paid twice as much as someone else on my trek to Machu Picchu and they got the same service as me!

      Any advice on what to do in this case would be EXTREMELY helpful. Due to my lack of experience (I am just finishing up my 5th year of teaching) I always accepted the offer given, before, but now I feel like I have the expertise and training (IGCSE, IB, English KS3/4) that I can negotiate a better contract.


    2. Something that I noted in my various locations is that for some subject areas it is easier to negotiate. If there is a shortage of teachers in certain subject areas then the school might be more inclined to negotiate.
      Those areas I’ve observed include math, sciences, Design Technology and music.
      Thus if you are an experienced teacher in one of these subject areas you probably have more leverage.


  19. Interesting exchanges here. Our experience (18+ years abroad) has been that salary schedules exist and school heads have some discretion as to where they place you. Most schools have some flexibility in their recruiting budget and are prepared to offer a higher salary for people they really want to hire. We have been fortunate to always be on the higher end of the compensation scales due to advanced degrees, IB experience, and teaching/directing high demand fields. We believe that the costs we incur for our own continuing education expenses, as well as college expenses for our children are just as valid as the compensation demanded and paid to expatriate executives and other patrons of international schools. For those teachers who feel they need to accept what is offered, well that’s certainly OK with me. However, please don’t feel that your position and/or views on the matter should be adopted by others. Negotiate if the compensation package is important to you. Otherwise, don’t negotiate. 🙂


  20. Never taught at an international school. However, I’ve taught EFL in S. Korea. Never have I heard of an American school system where salaries are negotiable. BTW- I’m certified, and have taught in Georgia, Florida, and Texas. Salaries are based on a scale, nothing more.


    1. in the American system, i don’t know of any schools where salary is negotiable. But i do know teachers who were put on a higher step than would normally be the case. For example, if a teacher had 15 years experience, then moved, many districts would put a cap on which step they may enter on. Generally, the teacher could lose salary because of a move to another state or community.

      I know teachers who were allowed to start closer to their ‘real’ step in order to get them to take the position. Not usual, but i’ve seen it happen.


    2. I work for a public school in Minneapolis, and I negotiated my salary.
      I was moving from out of state, but have high qualifications for the position and a great resume. They offered me less than what I was making in Wisconsin, and it would have been a higher cost of living.
      I think that in the majority of professions, you need to self-advocate for raises, even go into the office and ask. We have teacher unions to fight for our salaries, so it’s not something that we often have to deal with.
      However, there is no one advocating for you in a foreign country. I don’t think it is disrespectful at all to honestly look at a realistic budget for yourself and ask for more money.
      I don’t make a ton of money, but do spend a lot of money back into my classroom. I consider my asking for a raise really asking for a higher classroom budget!
      I advise to not be shy, but don’t be rude either!


  21. Wilbert, are you actually a teacher? Working in real schools? Your post just makes no sense. I can’t imagine what you mean by “the first offer is low ball” unless you’ve never actually taught in a real school; real meaning a non-profit international school, not some money making machine in Seoul teaching English. If you’re the ESL teacher type who’s made the rounds of 500-1000USD a month gigs, then you’re on the wrong site.


    1. Thanks for your concern. I’ve never worked in Korea, but if you think that ESL teachers in Korea only make 500-1000 USD/month, then you don’t know much about the market there.

      I don’t teach ESL, I’m certified to teach math, all of the social studies topics individually, and business ed. I’ve also served as department chair both in the U.S. and internationally. (public school in U.S. and both for profit and non-profit outside of U.S.)

      If you think that there is something noble about not asking for what you feel that you are worth, then go for it. It seems to make you feel good about yourself and better than others. That is fantastic.

      I choose to ask for what i’m worth. I’ve been getting it, so i’m not going to stop now. Somehow, in spite of this terrible character flaw, I’ve managed to get some pretty terrific recommendations. Go figure.



    2. So given your first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be an ESL “teacher”, might we assume you speak from experience?

      Anyhow, glad you feel good about yourself and fell well compensated. If your passion for compensation equals your passion for education…well, then, the argument ends there!


    3. I’m wondering why you would assume that i would know that it is like to be an ESL ‘teacher’. Is there something wrong with people who teach ESL?

      I have never taught ESL. I do have more than a few very good friends who have taught ESL in various locations around the world, including in Korea. They all made well above the 500-1000 that you mentioned. I thought maybe you’d like to be better informed before you give out numbers like you knew something about it.

      I can’t really understand your childish notion that i’m passionate about compensation. Do you really have such a feeling of insecurity about it? The purpose of forums like this is to learn from others experiences. Would it make you feel better if everyone and every school conformed to your idea of how things should be?

      Do you take the first offer that you receive because it wouldn’t be right to shop around and compare plans/locations? It would seem silly if someone said that they always took the first offer that they got because they should be happy with someone giving them a job.

      I do just fine in my job. My students make progress that I’m happy with. Teaching isn’t my first career. Generally, I enjoy the company of teachers. But the snarky attitude that you seem to be throwing at me just because of my opinion on compensation seems to be unique to teaching.

      My responsibility is first to my family, then to myself, then after that is taken care of to my students and my job. If you have a different priority order, then that is your business. But how could you even begin to imagine how good of a teacher that I am (or am not)?

      You must have had some kind of bad experience with ESL teachers. Or with Korea. But i’m kind of surprised that someone who knows everything has nothing better to do than to mingle with those of us who are trying to learn more.


    4. I would have to agree with Wilbert here. I have taught ESL for many years and we made well above $ 2500 / month ( tax free ). In fact, in my case, I was getting paid $ 3600 / month. As far as his original point goes, about not accepting the first offer ( ” low ball ” ), I definitely agree. If you are not considering the benefits, salaries in the scope of the larger context, then you are sadly romanticizing the idea of teaching in an international sphere, which could lead to a lot of complications at YOUR expense.


    5. I agree with Wilbert. Like any other, the teaching profession is one of highly trained individuals who have sacrificed a lot of money, effort and love for their vocation and deserve to be compensated according to our worth—not to have an oath of pauperdom and self mortification shoved down their throats. Get real!


  22. Thank god the reasonable voice of educators exists here on the blog. Seems to be somewhat missing on the forum. I couldn’t agree more with the last couple of posts, especially this: “asking for more money to just to see how much you can get says maybe education isn’t the right field for you”


  23. I agree wholeheartedly with the comments. One needs to look at the whole package not just the salary. Good international schools look after one of their best assets…’we teachers’ and in quality schools the norm is a step up salary scale with a minimum entry level that equates to your qualifications and years of experience.

    Having worked in ‘for-profit’ and ‘not for-profit’ schools all over the globe, the latter offer a far more enjoyable and comfortable place to work. ‘For-profit’ privately ownership schools have a different mentality towards fiscal conditions. Schools owned by big money-making corporations make executives rich at the lowly teacher’s expense; resources usually are minimal and students suffer indirectly. Finding a comfortable balance makes life bearable. Good companies respect, honour and value their staff and have high retention rates. It’s that easy. Schools should be no different.

    Avoid money-hungry ‘for-profit’ schools at all costs unless you want to be sucked of your blood like a vampire, without reward.


  24. In my experience, the more reputable schools have a salary scale based on experience and education, and standard benefits for all overseas hires. Those that have ‘creative’ pay scales tend to be creative in the way they run the school as well, and not always in a good way. There may be a little room for negotiation with benefits like housing or PD money, but asking for more money to just to see how much you can get says maybe education isn’t the right field for you. In the end, I weigh ALL the factors of an offer before accepting it.


  25. I would hope that if you are working at a true international school….then they should have a salary schedule just like they do at any US school. If not, I would seriously consider whether that school was worth working at in the first place. The pay scale should be standard for all teachers based on years of experience and education level. With extra pay for extra-curriculars.


    1. Most schools won’t give you credit for all of the years of experience that you have. Some have leeway in where they put you on the scale. This is especially true for hard to fill positions.

      I’ve found the same to be true in the U.S. Principals have leeway as to where they put you on the salary scale if you move. They also have the ability to commit to giving you additional roles, which may be compensated.

      Some schools are very upfront with their salary schedule and stick to it. Many others do not.


  26. Generally, every first offer is a low-ball offer that they hope that you will take. It would be, in my opinion, foolish to accept it without trying to get something more.

    Of course, the demand for your field and credentials will play a big role in how hard you can push. If you are in an easy to fill field and don’t have much experience, then you don’t have too much leverage. If you are in a high demand field, with lots of experience and excellent references, you can push a lot.

    I have to believe that the above conversation was made-up, but i’ll comment anyway. While I agree that there are schools that will try to nickel and dime you, they probably would have done it anyway. And the idea that demanding and negotiating your worth is time taken away from meeting the educational needs of your students is pure nonsense.

    Teachers put up with more nonsense than virtually any other profession, all in the name of ‘putting the students first’. This is usually used to get you to make up for other people who didn’t put the students first.

    I do find it ironic that some schools cater to children at the extremely high end of the economic spectrum of the host country, yet try to appeal to that missionary instinct in many teachers when determining compensation.


  27. You are only worth what someone is willing to pay. Conditions of service are also important, as is geographic location. It’s the whole package you need to consider, not just the cash – but that is for the individual to weigh up.


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