Working in International Schools – a Good Career Move?

I am considering leaving a well paid 9-5 office job (in which I can also travel and work abroad) to retrain as a teacher, all with the intention of working in international schools as a career.

I was excited at the prospect until I came across the ISR web site and found extremely bad reviews for almost every school featured, usually relating to bad management, bullying of staff, corruption, poor pay and unfair dismissals.

I can assume that most people on this site are international teachers and I would therefore love to hear your opinions on the career in general. Is it a worthwhile career? Have you regretted your decision? What would you do if you were me?

Also, is it easy to find a good school or is it pot luck? Would you want to do it long term or only for a few years?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

Many thanks!

102 thoughts on “Working in International Schools – a Good Career Move?

  1. I’ve worked at a few schools in Asia and settled at one for 4 years. The pay was above average, the staff and management were great, the students were well behaved. I decided to leave to go back to America and settle back into Western life…. huge mistake. No jobs, most people struggling, attitudes of entitlement; it was everywhere I went. So I decided to come back to Asia but unfortunately my position was filled, and that school still had all the same staff since I had started teaching there 6 years prior. So I took another promising job at a small privately owned school by a local and an American… American was genuine but the Local consistently lied and made false promises. I quit before I got in too deep (quitting is always easy to do in teaching as there are always other options). Now Ive been at my new job 6 months and I’ve been offered the Director’s role. The pay and incentives rival any western institution, all-the-while the cost of living remains slightly lower. While I will be required to work 50hrs a week (this is arguably good compared to locals who work full time) I will be compensated handsomely. We are opening 2 new schools by 2016, and my profit-sharing and stock options (private enterprise) adjust accordingly. So you ask.. should you try teaching in Asia? My advice is “definitely”. We are hiring 60+ foreign staff over the next year and offer salaries and benefits that rival western standards but with a lower cost of living. Don’t look back, you’re in Asia now.


    1. Can you please contact me about your openings! I have been teaching at a university in Korea for the past 4 years and I have a masters in TESL. I looking to transition in the international school scene because my wife and are will be looking to start a family soon. I’m trying to start make connections now and would love to start some dialogue. My email is

      Could you please contact me?


  2. times are changing- private/ non private school enjoy it for what it is make the best of it- work for your student- yourself- gain confidence with the culture- explore- learn something new try to be nice in a difficult environment- allot of schools are not easy-allot of countries don’t things the way you do back home- open your mind-have enough class to walk in with a smile- gain some experience – go home when you can- knock on wood if you have to- meet lots of new people- keep in touch with old friends-find a hobby- good luck- speaking from two difficult schools and three countries- I had a good time despite the ups and downs.


  3. I am thinking of going to Singapore to teach in an international school. I am finding it difficult to get hold of the right contacts to get organised. Does anybody know of an agency who I can contact? or does anybody have any advice on getting the move started?


  4. Mixed reviews: so far on the road for 6 years with a good break in between. finacially good but I miss home- the middle east was interest and VERY difficult-qatar the worlds richest third world country-Asia on the flip side has been GREAT- 1 world verses 3rd world not as lucrative prospects- coming home has been expensive- the job market is swamped my peers have been scanning the country for peice work- it looks hard to crack. our family is scattered to the wind for the next five years to pay off over priced loans from school- I have meet faboulous people and had a breath taking life like no other but I am always jealous of my home town with the white picket fence.
    sails up


  5. Just make sure you have the support of a strong network that can relate properly to what you may encounter, good or bad. If your family has any ISSUES, they will be aggrevated by the stresses of being overseas. It is especially hard on kids if they are not well adjusted to their home environment. Do your HOMEWORK on the school and your family.


  6. Yes there are plenty of opportunities but having a nonteaching spouse does complicate things. I have been burdened by a non-teaching wife for years now and what it always boils down to is having to accept a single teacher package. The school pays for my visa costs, my air ticket, my insurence and my housing allowance is based on a single teacher. I’m sure better deals exist but I’ve never gotten one.


  7. I really thank everyone here for all their comments in reply to my blog post. There really is a lot to think about. Overall, I feel that comments are positive, however, the lack of pension could be an issue among others.

    I have taught as a volunteer overseas for charity on several occasions for short periods (in Nicaragua, Indonesia and Kenya) and absolutely loved it but have never taught in a school in the UK. I like working with and learning from children and would enjoy the presentational/leadership side of the job. I do feel that I need more experience in order to make my decision. I’m a naturally adventurous and positive person and don’t feel fully myself in the pin-stripe suit environment of the office. However, the long hours teaching involves are an issue for me as I do like being able to leave the office behind at 6pm. I guess nothing’s going to be perfect…

    I have a place on a PGCE this September, but am also contemplating a property job in Dubai that I am interviewing for.

    I feel that the best thing may be to take another year to think about it. I am 28 years old and although I feel in a hurry to get my life on track, I am young enough to make the decision in a year or two’s time.

    An interesting point is the lack of ability in meeting a partner overseas and is something I’ve thought about. Obviously being single has its advantages for making free locational decisions but I don’t want to be a spinster all my life!

    Ok, sorry for the ramble and if you’ve got this far – thanks again for all your time taken to post here.



  8. ISR has catered since its beginning to those that have an axe to grind. Satisfied types rarely go to the trouble to defend a school or director unless they learn of something untrue being published on ISR. So you do find rebuttals but few and that gives the impression that schools are bad and poorly run. Not true!!


  9. Anonymous touches on a concern of mine – is international teaching a short-term job (‘ONE’ year he/she says) or a career? My wife and I are in our early 40s and have saved well, traveled extensively, and truly enjoyed our overseas teaching experiences. Like other posters have mentioned, I am also also concerned about age discrimination and having enough money for retirement. We are not looking to ‘bounce’ around the world every two or three years, but to find a great school where we can stay for our child’s education. Having children adds to the challenges of finding the right school for you and your family.

    We plan to recruit next year, and I will use this experience as the deciding factor on whether or not to stay overseas (we have been at our current school for 8 years). We will likely return to the U.S. if I feel our options are limited. We have saved enough money and traveled enough to settle down there. However, I would miss the lifestyle tremendously and I feel the advantages of my child going to school at an international school far outweigh going to a public school. I have deep concerns about the state of education in the U.S., although there are good and bad schools everywhere.

    This discussion thread is an important one and an issue I ponder a lot these days. There are a limited number of good schools out there and far too many ‘fake’ or so-called ‘international’ or ‘American’ schools these days. To the young ones out there, as others have said…save, save, save. Live within your means, enjoy your travels, but think of your future and career. I meet a lot of teachers my age or older with little or no savings and those deep in debt.


  10. No…no long term career can be made from teaching overseas in International Careers. At least not a fulfulling one. The advancement will be minimum, to perhaps Management, and since you will be placed in foreign countries the management there will usually be chaotic and difficult. You could hold a post for a couple of years, but those who last longer usually people with no further options in life.

    It is a short lived career at best. In fact, I would recommend it for ONE year. But don’t leave your career. Teaching overseas is NOT a career, it is just a ‘job’.


    1. Hmmm. My parents made a successful 20 year career out of overseas teaching, happily retired and still remain active in international education, and my husband and I are looking at our own 20 year career overseas. It is highly possible that one of our children will follow in those footsteps to take them back into their TCK world as well. If 40 years is ‘short-lived’ then I guess I don’t have a firm grasp on longevity. It’s always fascinating when someone anonymously posts such emphatic words without understanding that their reality is merely a drop in the bucket.


    2. This person does not know what he/she is talking about. PLENTY of people have great careers teaching internationally. My wife and I are in our 8th year overseas. We’ve advanced more in our careers in education more rapidly than we would have been able to advance, had we stayed in the USA. Additionally, if we decide to return to teaching in the States, we could get jobs quickly in the county where we used to teach. However, we will not be returning any time soon. Our jobs/careers overseas are far too rewarding. The key is to find established, reputable overseas schools. Look to the schools first when job searching. If you look at location first (or only), you’re more likely to end up in a less-than-desirable working situation. To say that international/overseas teaching is not a career shows a lack of perspective.


  11. I wouldn’t say that is necessarily a true statement (schools prefer teaching couples or early 30s). I was hired at a school where I am starting in the fall (one of the most reputable in the Middle East) and I, a single over early 30s, was the only “single hire” they made for the fall. Perhaps some schools would prefer a couple as it cuts down on housing costs and whatever but if you are a good teacher and have outstanding references and education you are just as competitive as a married teaching couple.


  12. Woah Anonymous 17 July @ 8.15 am, not sure where your experience lies but international teachers as lost people going from one place to other to anyone who hires them could not be further from the truth in mine!


  13. I have had some great experiences working overseas. I have worked in two schools both of which have been by and large excellent. Neither are reviewed on this website. I am currently in Doha, Qatar and again there are some excellent schools that are not reviewed here. I think that if a school is bad you are going to hear about it, if people are happy, maybe not. It’s human nature.

    I am from the UK and UK trained so maybe getting a teaching job in the American system is a little different. I have got both jobs through the TES and have found that the good schools that I have worked at have not used job fairs. My advice is to ask around, look at country blogs and check the school websites.

    I think you need to think about your own needs and also consider your outside of school life. It may be that moving every few years is just the right thing for you or it might not agree. You also need to think of your personal life, it can be harder to meet somebody abroad, if you want to, although that is not always the case!

    If you intend to retrain I would expect to teach in your own country for a few years. It is important to get the experience and take advantage of the professional development opportunities you will get in your own country. It is likely they wont be as forthcoming abroad. Secondly, international schools that will take you straight out of training are not worth going to in my opinion! Schools that will only take staff of 3 or 5 years experience are more likely to care about the actual level of teaching and pay to retain good staff. Or that has been my experience.

    Finally, only go into it if you actually want to teach and like kids! Some days can be pretty rubbish, but if you can get into the classroom and enjoy doing what it is you do, then that makes up for it all. Good luck with what ever you choose!


  14. Sounds like you got the BEST of BOTH WORLDS. Think twice before giving what you have up, because that is what you will be doing. There’s a big difference between being “overly ambitious” and reckless. You need to be realistic, and not discount what you don’t like to hear as being “negative.”. Its my experience that if something is a good idea today, it will be a good idea a month from now, a year from now, 5 years from now, 10 years from now. So get all your facts straight, and THEN make your move. This IS your life, so make sure you PLAN it. You seem to have a lot of things going for you. You have given yourself quite a strong foundation. Don’t be reckless with it. You have worked very hard in achieving and securing what you have. If you choose to go into international teaching, do it to build upon what you have. To increase everything you have.

    One person above wrote they love it so much that they feel like any well paid doctor or lawyer. That tells me this poster is NOT well paid. And I wonder if the well paid doctor’s or lawyer’s feel like meager international school teachers. I HIGHLYdoubt that.

    Many international teachers are unsettled people with no plan, but the ideal notion to go teach here for 3 years, there for 4 years, maybe here for 5, then here again for 2, then here for 3 etc etc. Going from job fair to job fair. And spending their life going from country to country for some great adventure.

    The reality is they go to “whoever hires them.”. So the country/school/conditions are not really your choice, but the best of who picked you. Then people tend to move on in 3 or 4 years. That means going to job fairs in February and letting your boss know you are looking. (Everyone knows once the boss knows you want out, you better get out.). Some don’t find anything, so they are back facing the boss for the next year.

    Then off again….. Now the pickins are a little slimmer, because you are a little older. So picking again out of the few who picked you. And doing a series of this pattern till you are forced into retirement because of age restrictions, and many International Teachers can’t afford this, so they are very desperate to teach in conditions, now they have no choice but to take the schools that no one works and working well into their 70s because they have to. This is a reality for most.

    It IS a lifestyle change. One of broken relationships,broken expectations, and always a lack of completion.

    Remeber the old adage….”Happiness is difficult to find within yourself, but impossible to find elsewhere.”


  15. We can help each other out here! How about a job ‘swap’? I’ll take your job in a bank in England and you can have mine – teaching in Vietnam. I’ll take your salary and accommodation, you take mine. After a year we’ll review the situation. I don’t want to seem too keen, so how does starting on Monday appeal to you?


  16. No perfect answer here. I have been overseas 7 years. It has been a great adventure, but I miss the challenge of teaching in the US. It is true that some schools overseas operate on there own set of rules and are not accountable for unfair treatment of employees. Overseas schools are more able to fire a person who really should not me teaching, but they can also let people go for very little reason. The schools I worked at in US were more focussed on innovation and improvement while my experience overseas is more like at of a contracted worker. People do not teach for the money in the US (for the most part). Think about what motivates you. Overseas schools seems more focussed on a good package and location.
    Another issue that you need to consider is retirement. You will do your own retirement if you go oversea. That is not a bad thing.
    Think about family and realize that after a few year overseas you may have a hard time knowing where home is.
    Good luck!


    1. Anonymous makes some excellent points here. I would love to find some schools in the U.S. that are innovative. I do agree that overseas schools can fire someone they don’t like more freely, or someone who disagrees with admin on some issue. I have seen it happen! I guess that is one positive thing about tenure.


  17. Some good advice here. I will be doing my PGCE in Business Studies from September, and hoping to get a job in an international school as my first job instead of teaching in England. I have a BSc and MSc, and although I thought this was ambitious to go abroad straight away, I have spoken to MANY international school teachers from around the world and they assure me that the standard “2 years minimum experience” requirement is rarely enforced, and that they know lots of teachers who have come straight from Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) status into an intl school job. So…. this is obviously different to the general consensus here. As a bit of further background, I have worked as a business analyst for a top bank for 3 years, and then for the past 4 years I’ve worked closely with children teaching sports as a winter camp abroad.

    So just wondered if people thought I was being overly ambitious…?


    1. There is a big difference between what different international schools will accept as a minimum standard. It is true that some schools will accept (Newly Qualified Teacher) NQT, but commonly these might be the schools that you want to stick away from.

      I only have 5 years experience, and I can tell you that you will need all the help you can get being a teacher. I have also worked for government and industry which means that I’ve had other real jobs and I can tell you that teaching will be more demanding than any job you will ever have or had.

      Working with children teaching sport is very different than teaching at a school. Students normally like sport, but you will have students who do not want to learn business studies. Almost all international schools provide little to no support to NQT.

      I would strongly reccommend working at your home country for at least 2 years. This is not because of what international schools want – but it’s what you will need so that you will be confident enough in yourself to teach.

      Sorry to sound so grumpy – but I’ve seen the mistakes made at my old school who employed some teachers with limited experience (1 or so years) and most of these schools are no-where near as tolerent in making mistakes as you will as a NQT or a teacher with limited experience.


  18. I don’t think you should do it. You should never underestimate the importance of a stable job that you do well to jump off into the unknown. Further, you should only enter the world of international teaching if you love teaching and love spending your time with children (incl. older children of the high school age). If it is a difficult teaching post, only experience as a teacher will help you succeed.


  19. First, the ISR site cannot be taken as an indication of the overall satisfaction of international teachers. Although its owners might disagree with me, its major function in the international teaching world is as complaint desk and repository of mostly bad anecdotes. Happy people with good experiences by and large don’t post here.

    As many others have said here, there are a great many excellent and good international schools, and a handful of bad actors who get most of the attention. International teachers who use a variety of resources, including ISR, to research the reputations of schools usually end up with very rewarding situations.

    Second, international teaching can be a risky career move if you ever plan to return to public school teaching in the United States. After you have taught in a good international school for a couple of years, experiencing the motivated students and parents, professional colleagues and administrators, healthy budgets, professional development opportunities, great pay and benefits, mind-expanding environments, enhanced respect and regard, and freedom from political and ideological interference, you will be unable to envision yourself teaching at home again. A two-year experiment so easily becomes a twenty-year commitment. It happens to a great many of us.


  20. Retirement packages: Depends what you mean. Most better schools help you set up investment funds and will contribute to these by matching a percentage that you put in. Many will also provide you housing or housing money and also pay your utilities bills and various flights plus private medical care. Your ‘salary’ is literally your take home so many of us save very well and put our money away for retirement. But like someone said you really need to enjoy children and teaching. You cannot enter this profession with the purpose of earning lots of money and travel. That can be a bonus but you must truly be interested in this line of work as otherwise you will find it frustrating, exhausting, you will not enjoy and you will wish you never gave up your nine to five!


  21. International Teaching can be hugely rewarding professionally,
    personally and financially depending on the school you work at so as some one said do your research. As some one also noted to obtain the better jobs one usually needs a fair amount of experience so be prepared to work your way up over a few years. Often they won’t employ you in the first place without two years experience in your own country though this has been known to happen. I do not agree with the person who said couples have more fun than singles at all. Singles join together for parties and weekend trips to paradise, free of children to worry about getting to bed on time! If youre single and love to travel this is the career for you with 14 weeks a year holidays to explore the world with great friends, adventure breaks or tropical relaxation can be at your finger tips. Finally yes take everything on ISR with a pinch of salt. Complaints are often personal grudges. Unfortunately we are sometimes quicker to complain than praise. I have been in international teaching for 14 yrs, never looked back, and have hundreds of friends around the world loving this choice of life.


  22. It’s not hard guys.

    If the school is not prepared to pay your worth and the staff turnover on average is every two years, then you are signing up for a factory, not a school.

    Any HT that justifies a 2 year turnaround is delusional – we all know that if a teacher is happy, they will bleed knowledge for a much longer period of time.

    if still in doubt – ask to read the school’s policies and procedures. If they hesitate, then don’t sell yourself to the unknown.


    1. I don’t agree. Sometimes a 2 year turnaround is due not to the school experience, but the challenges of living in that particular country. The bigger picture can often dim the best intentions.


  23. Its clear from all the talk of retirement most here are just dabblers in this lifestyle. And really, how much could a few years abroad hurt your precious 401K?

    For my part, I’ll go to my grave travelling from one country to another, two years at a time, and thank God for the privlage. As far as America, its a nice place to visit but I haven’t lived there for decades now. I certainly wouldn’t retire there.

    In all honesty, many here seem to have America on the brain!


  24. OK think about IT: I return from somewhere, anywhere it doesnt matter where, some good some bad schools some terrible, your life has been enriched because of people, culture, events, meetings, accidents, suprises, loves, losses, returns, and always the people I left have led predictable lives for twenty years now and have led predictable pension-driven lives and are totally dead on their feet. Live, love explore take a chance, grow, endure, and you’ll be a better person. Most schools are now part of the consumer culture so research like you’re buying a new TV. Dam the teaching. Everyone’s a teacher. Love the kids. Get a life. GO!
    And why do most who post this site think everyone comes from the US? (hint- International Education!)


    1. Pension driven lives!!!! Okay. The Aesop fable of The Ant and The Grasshopper comes to mind.

      You are correct though. Very few who go into this are from the states, percentage wise, because of the plethora of teaching opportunities in the states. Not only is location available anywhere in the states, but so are the different kids of schools and ethoses. Canada, Great Britain, Austraila, and many other countries do not enjoy this kind of abundance, and so many teachers from these countries hit the international scene not by choice, but by necessity.


  25. There is a wide range of schools out there, both in terms of pay and quality. An excellent school can pay a teacher as much as 70,000 dollars after taxes, and may include a pension, housing and transportation. These schools tend to have a low turnover rate and are difficult to target. Many teachers find they need to ‘pay their dues’ in a school with lower pay, but not necessarily poor quality. I have taught in 4 intl’ schools, each much different from the last.

    In terms of the ISR, when I look at schools I have worked at in the past and checked them against my experience, I often find a former teacher who has had a negative experience and is looking to vent or strike out in revenge. One school in particular has several negative posts that have nothing to do with the current situation; most of the relevant people are gone, but the post remains to taint prospective employees. ISR leaves old posts up, and lets people post obviously personal and unsubstantiated slander. When I first looked at ISR, I hoped that it would be a good job searching tool, however I have not found it to be much help. Here are the questions I ask myself when thinking about taking a job:

    1) Can I live and save on the package?

    2) Is the school for profit (if so run!)

    3) Is the school international (staff, students, curriculum)?

    4) Climate, interesting city, travel etc

    Try and get in touch with people from the school, many schools will have facebook groups etc. I love teaching abroad, and am reluctant to consider going back to teach in a public school.


  26. Teaching couple is when both spouses land contracts- preferably at the same school. It’s obviously cheaper to not have kids though it isn’t necessarily a game killer. Having a tag along spouse and kids, however, makes you a very uneconomical choice and ALL schools, for profit or not, will consider that.

    I’m about to embark upon my first international experience, and in doing so took a really heavy pay cut. This is offseta bit by my spouse getting a teaching job in the same school, and by the cost of living being considerably lower and also by my ability to draw my (quite reduced) pension from the public system I used to work for. As for kids, I would agree that the cultural and economic disparity between my (one) kid and his future class mates will make it somewhat difficult for him. I hope it won’t be a killer.

    Frankly, the reason I took this job was that I wanted to work in an environment that took liberal arts education- and fine arts particularly- seriously. My new school appears to do so. Also, I’ve always lived by the latin tag “navigare necesse est” which in this case I interpret navigare to mean new experiences- navigating through life rather than around the planet. In other words, always go to your end with a few good bar stories.


  27. If you have a good-sized nest-egg for financial needs in later life, with some hesitations, I would recommend international school teaching. It is wonderful to be able to live in other cultures and learn first-hand how different cultures live, think, and believe about the world. I have spend over 25 years doing just that and I love and cherish many of the people I met.

    That said, almost everything “negative” you have read has a very real basis in truth. In my years of teaching I have worked for some of the finest administrators one would hope to find. Unfortunately, I ave also worked for some of the worst. There are people in admin. positions who treat teachers very badly… and in all truth I must say they can do great damage to their school (making very unsound decisions related to education: not caring about the well-being of their staff; out-and-out disgraceful treatment to individuals as they see fit.)

    If you are able to stand firm against such practices, then go for it! The world is waiting for more good teachers.


  28. It’s great and I am on my 5th year BUT there are no retirement packages. Unless you’ve already paid into social security, saved with a 401k plan or other method. you can forget about having a nice retirement. For me. that is the only drawback.


    1. There are no pensions but many schools especially those in the middle east (tax free) who allow you to save large amounts of money and also give you an end of contract gratuity. After 6 years teaching at my last school I received a large sum of money at the end of my contract. This more than pays for my pension.



    1) Your primary motivation MUST be helping children, not travel.
    2) No previous teaching experience = no job offers.
    3) No Masters Ed. and state certification = no top tier schools.
    4) Don’t like 9-5 = you won’t like teachers’ workloads.
    5) Not a teaching couple (no kids) = low standard of living and no retirement savings.

    If you really want the experience of living (not visiting) overseas and are willing to survive on a low salary,


    1) While remaining in your current position, get ESL certification through a combination of classroom and online work. Do not get without the live classroom component!
    2) Get leave of absence for one year from your current job.
    3) If you choose a reputable institute for your ESL certification they will have a placement service.
    4) Be willing to be flexible in where you are placed and what age group you teach.

    If you have a well-paid (with benefits) 9-5 job which includes travel DO NOT CUT AND RUN!

    Posted by a single, female international educator for 22 years.


    1. Anonymous says:
      July 15, 2011 at 8:14 am
      Thanks for your insight. Just to clarify, can you define “teaching couple?”. Does a teaching couple mean no kids? If so how can having kids contribute to a low standard of living and no retirement savings? Or are you saying a “teaching couple” has kids, and not having them contributes to a low standard of living and no retirement savings? How do kids affect the teaching couple’s experience positively or negatively? Thank you.
      Sorry for the double post.


    2. Why MUST the primary motivation being helping children? I’m sure the best teachers think about whats best for themselves as well as “helping the children.”


    3. Because that’s the job….. And because it can be trying at times, you better REALLY love teaching. Because the rest, well it’s fluff. If you don’t love what you do, you will be unhappy, no matter where you are in the world. No question about that.


    4. Because otherwise it’s like eating a burger, and the burger part is all burnt. Sure the lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onions, and ketchup, and mustard, and fries are all wonderful…… But if the burger is the whole reason to go, and you dislike it, well then what was the point?

      If you go for the other reasons? To save money, you can do that by another means? To travel (and by the way you don’t get that much time to travel, and traveling is expensive—you can also do that another means) to raise your kids in an international experience…. You can do that remaining situated in London, NY, Chicago, LA, and any place in Europe for a lifetime. Your kids go to school for free in whatever school you teach teach? Many times teacher’s kids are seen as teacher’s kids and the wealthy students who populate the school are just “nice to” these kids, because their parent is their teacher. They also know that the parents are there to “serve” the community, and are not really a part of it. And then when it’s time to move, you are uprooting your kids, and this is a lot harder on kids, then people are willing to admit. And finally, a reason I’ve heard is an instant support system. REALLY? That support system are your fellow co workers. Do people really consider co workers a support system? A very transient support system at that.

      So yeah….. You better really love teaching well into your 70s. And I mean absolutely love it.


    5. Hold on – you can certainly love teaching more than you love the students. Give a fair days work and develop something of a personal relationship with the students, but don’t make it all about the students.

      The only MUST here is I MUST be happy with my job.


  30. I am going into my 10th year of teaching overseas and I don’t regret the decision I made one bit. My reasoning for going overseas was that I was able to get the choice of grade that I wanted – I am a kindergarten teacher with specialist courses and a strong background in kindergarten. In Canada, where I’m from, I couldn’t get in to a kindergarten position right out of the gate. I’ve taught in Asia and the Middle East and I’ve had a wonderful time thus far.

    It is true, there is no “perfect” school but if you have a positive attitude and realize your experience is going to be what you make of it, you should do fine. I’ve come to realize in my dealings with international teachers over the years that everyone comes for their own reasons. You encounter teachers that are overseas because they are running away from something in their lives in their home countries, people who are just in it for the travel experience, and other reasons. I find it is the people who are unhappy in their lives that tend to cause the most problems and complain the most. Or teachers who have been at their school for too long and are feeling unchallenged that stir the pot.

    Sometimes I have questioned the hiring process at some of the schools I’ve been at, especially in the admin positions. I’ve worked with some principals that should not be in the education profession. The same can be said for a lot of teachers I’ve encountered. However there are so many teachers who are passionate about their work and are excellent collaborators and have been wonderful to work with. Again, the experience will be what you make of it.

    There is also a few factors I would consider that have the difference in my choices when choosing schools. Is the school for profit? or non for profit? I find that the schools I’ve worked at that are for profit are money driven and that is where the class sizes tend to be bigger and there is less focus on the educational needs of the students but on how much money the school is bringing in. The non for profit schools, for me, have been far better experiences.

    The really good international schools that I’ve encountered don’t tend to advertise job openings other than on their school’s website or you find out about these schools through word of mouth. The turnover is very low which is always a good sign in an overseas school. It takes getting onto the international teaching circuit to find out about a lot of these schools. Most are looking for teachers with 5+ years of overseas experience and are very competitive to get into.

    If you are considering a school don’t base your decision solely on the comments you’ve read on this website. Do your research, ask a lot of questions, ask to talk to current employees on staff, research salaries and cost of living etc.

    Teacher overseas can be a wonderful career and it is unique way to see the world and get to immerse yourself in the local culture of where you are living. I have no intentions of returning to Canada to teach and have made international teaching my career path. It can be a life changing and rewarding experience.

    Good luck 🙂


  31. The sad reality is not many people are doing it when you put it in perspective. In total there are only 2% of the people or so that are living outside of the US as expats at any given time. Yes, when you only see international teachers school to school and country to country, it appears as though there are a lot of people doing it….. But there are many more who are not.

    The reason many stay teaching internationally is not by choice, in many cases. It is very hard to go home and reenter stateside teaching with all the years of experience, because districts will not pay for all your years. So many remain on the circuit for lack of options. Also, after age 50 it is very hard to be hired by schools internationally. So people get squeezed into a place and stay there.

    As far as SAVE SAVE SAVE I know teachers (sadly so) in the US making $100,000 (not uncommon for a classroom teacher, who has been in a district for at least 20 years) and their cost of living is as if they lived in Thailand the whole time. They buy everything off Craigslist. Have over a million $$ in the bank. I do not agree with this, but I suppose if you were to live like a pauper, I’d rather do it here, than overseas. Teachers overseas live very “modest” lifestyles, and that’s putting a kind spin on it, because they have modest salaries.

    As far as “wearing many hats” in international schools, this is not for the teacher to grow. Maybe they will, but that is a by-product. The main reason for this is because international teachers tend to have many jobs on top of their teaching duties. Many times these “hats” are unpaid. If stateside teachers want to volunteer and work for free in the school in which they work, running programs etc, in order to “expand their wings” I’d be hard pressed to find a principal to say no.

    Lastly, international schools very much mirror charter schools that have taken over urban areas in the US as far as management, pay, treatment of teachers, etc. The only difference, charter schools in the US tend not to charge tuition, but once the path is cleared, I predict they will.


    1. Anonymous, you are off your rocker! : )

      I don’t know what teachers you are talking about, but with over 20 years in the business, I don’t know ANY who make 100,000, unless they’re in NYC maybe, and then cost of living would eat most of that. Teachers with 20 years and a master’s are making around $60,000.

      Yes, retirement is an issue overseas. But I am 54 and still very employable, have schools head-hunting me. The options are more limited, though, I will grant you that.

      I don’t know ANY international teachers who fell “stuck” overseas. When I returned home, briefy, I had interviews and offers, and many schools valued my overseas time. No, I wasn’t paid for my full experience, but that won’t happen overseas, either. Most districts will not pay you full experience if you were in another state, only if you move around in state.


    2. Look at salary scales of EACH state, and tell me if I’m still off my rocker :). Look at the cities too. Putting in years in a good district and I’m talking a good district and you have remained in that district the whole career and you have advanced the educational lanes it is quite possible. Look at all the urban districts in this US and look at the affluent burbs in the US. And look at a person with longevity in those areas. 80 thousand is the norm after 15 years but 100,000 is quite possible once you start approaching the 25th year. Look too at high school, where teachers make the highest. Allso if you look at unit districts (where the elementary school, middle school, and high school are combined) as high school teachers tend to make more in general, but since it is a unit district the high school salaries become the set salary.

      I know people in my district, and districts like mine who are making this as classroom teachers. Granted they have been with a good district and they have grown with their educational opportunities. District jumping is not wise, everyone knows that. You will lose money. However, life situations are such that you can’t always stay in your district, and that is life. But most people if they had the choice would remain in their district for their career. (I thi k the difference between a job and a career is longevity.)

      My friends came into teaching with me when we were 23, remained in their district and some are now choosing to leave teaching and pursue other goals. But all of their bills paid at 45. With taking out 15 year mortgages at that age they started teaching their homes are paid in full and have been for the past 5 years. They now have 22 years in a retirement plan. They are in a pretty good place to leave teaching. Give them 10 more years that puts them at 55 years old. That’s 32 years in the system. Most districts offer good retirement plans after age 30. Most teachers choose to stay for the 35 years where they can walk. That puts them clean out at age 58. As my students say “that’s what I’m talking about.”

      Many districts offer travel leaves, (mine does) where you can leave and teach over seas while you are gone. Its for 2 years. They will pay you your health benefits and pension and subtract the amount of your substitute pay, and they will also subtract your earnings if you make less overseas. If your overseas salary beats your salary in your district then you won’t see any money from your district. I know several teachers that did this. Schools value overseas teaching experience they are willing to send you. Many I have seen do this are husband and wife teaching in 2 different districts and secured leaves of absences so they brought their kids, and then came back to their jobs. As far as the job is concerned they didn’t leave in the eyes of seniority, tenure, or the pension plan. Many teachers on the side contribute to a 403b–unmatched retirement savings plan. This is on top of their pensions. Etc.

      I’m not off my rocker. :). Just do some more research :). Peace


    3. To clarify. I am the same anonymous poster from above… Most schools offer good retirement plans after YEAR 30 in the same disrtrict. NOT AGE 30. And many people do choose to live their life in one area. I guess school districts value a stable teaching staff as much as possible. This constributes to building strong school communities, and schools are willing to compensate that well.


  32. The parents of students that I work with/for on the international school circuit enjoy working overseas, traveling, experiencing the culture, etc. They also live in much better accommodation than I do, travel more frequently, stay in better hotels, enjoy better pay/conditions and seem to have more time and energy at the end of the day. It seems strange that none of them are teachers!


  33. International teaching is both tough and rewarding. It’s worth a try but whatever you decide on this may be irreversible. Just be sure to be super flexible on all diverse living condition that you may encounter.



  34. I didn’t take time to read the other responses, but I can assure you that if it wasn’t so totally amazing and awesome- you wouldn’t have so many people doing it- and sticking with it!!!

    The bad thing about this site, like a lot of feedback sites, is that people are most likely to comment and make entries when they are UNHAPPY with something. Those of us who are content and totally happy with our situation- don’t take the time (unfortunately) to leave comments!

    I say take a chance! Good luck!


  35. The reality is that the vast majority of international schools cater to children of the rich and powerful. Most of these schools are for profit businesses. The parents and administrations work to ensure their interests and not those of real education for children. Many teachers have been destroyed in this system. I have worked in two international schools and both have been horrific experiences. I would NEVER work in any again. This website reflects the reality of the international school system, inspite of a spattering of a few good comments provided by a few ‘teachers,’ who have managed to navigate this system. I would strongly suggest not doing it until some higher international educational authority control is exerted over these institutions. I’m not sure if this will ever be possible, given the state of powerful monetary interests that have invaded the realm of education. My best advice is if you are a serious educator, find some other means to educate, but stay out of the international schools arena. Chances are you will be grown into dust and become very disillusioned. The toll taken physically and mentally can be devastating for those who get the worse treatment and the hands of some very ruthless people.


    1. I’m so sorry that this has been your experience. Like a few of the posters here, I’ve been overseas for 15 years and lived in four different countries. The first school was not a great one and since I left a good district in the States, it was a very frustrating experience. Since then, I’ve learned to be more flexible and love the fact that in so many schools collaboration is expected. I don’t know your experiences, Loretta, but this can be a great lifestyle if one can find the right match.


  36. It might be a good experience leaving US for working at an international school but if I were you, I would request a temporal leaving permission at your current job and do your own experience teaching abroad.


  37. If you are going to retrain with the goal of being an international teacher, please consider that it is unlikely that you will be hired by a good school for your first international position. You will have no teaching experience and while you say you have travelled with your current job, that is different to living overseas for two years. Most if not all good schoool have many applicants for any openings what are you bringing to the table that will allow you to get one of these coveted positions? Thesee schools and the recruiting agencies all ask for at least two years teaching experience before they will even look at your resume. I am just trying to be honest. If you want to be a teacher or an international teacher it is a great life, but be prepared to pay your dues.
    Your first possition or two will probaly be at a challenging school with issues that need addressing. If you are willing to be part of the solution and work with the people there to make the school a better place, then go for it.
    There are good and bad situations out there do lots of reseach but keep in mind that when you are starting a new career; you always start lower on the ladder.


  38. My only worry is that you say you want to leave your job ‘to work in international schools’, as if the overseas/travel bit is the attraction- and possibly eyeing up the long holidays. No mention of children in your letter at all. Wherever you are you will need to work with children or teenagers. That is the bit you need to find out if you want to do first; how interested are you in developing children’s lives? If the answer is not much then you will not be happy anywhere. Get yourself into working with young people on tasters or voluntary work before you throw it in to become a teacher.


  39. I have been teaching internationally for 14 years now in 4 different countries and I love it. I have had brilliant jobs at amazing schools, good jobs at average schools and hard jobs at both amazing and average schools.

    I am disheartened by some of the people I meet that complain about the small stuff, that don’t understand that they are in a different country with different social expectations, cultures and languages.

    Yes, I have had problems at some schools, (sloppy administration, constant moving of goal posts, contracts that are not exactly as you signed them) but the experience I have had is wonderful. I now have friends from all over the world, my daughter is truly international, open-minded and well balanced.

    I guess what I am really saying is: It is what YOU make of it


  40. *No one has mentioned that you usually need 2 years of stateside teaching experience before the better international schools will even look at you.
    *I love international teaching–but then I loved teaching in the US. You trade some problems for others internationally.
    *I do worry that many international teachers are going to have seriously under-funded pensions. International schools don’t tend to be the highest payers towards pensions, so it’s up to you to make sure you save. This is easy to do in some schools; impossible to do in others. I might hang on to the good job you have in this economy. Having said that….follow your passion.
    Good luck to you!


    1. I agree with you. The lack of teaching experience will be a big problem. I have nearly 2 years full time experience in a secondary school and lots of casual experience but cannot get a look in because I am not “experienced”. For many years I was a professional orchestral musician and teaching at tertiary level up to Masters but it seems not to matter one iota that I have vast practical experience in music. As I don’t have long periods of employment in a school with students achieving As I don’t have a chance of a job. Stay with your well paid job unless you really can’t stand it any longer!


  41. Some excellent points above, and some truth in both sides of some of those issues as well. I’ll underscore the idea that a teacher in an international school is first and foremost a teacher, and your desire to teach would be quite an important factor in the answer to your question.

    Something I would add that I don’t believe has been addressed would be marketability. What subject would you teach? And, I don’t have much of an idea of how marketable mid-career changers with no teaching experience are with international school decision-makers. That would be a question to research.


  42. As long as you do your homework and know what situation you are getting into, there shouldn’t be much cause for alarm. The people I’ve worked with who’ve had bad overseas experiences are those who were unrealistic and had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

    I do not regret leaving the public schools in the US. In fact, I think I’d quit teaching in the US before going back because teaching overseas has been such a great experience. I truly love teaching, but so much of the BS you face teaching stateside does not exist and you are free to simply do your job.

    It is a big step, but totally worth the jump!


  43. It was an exhilarating experience and provided a lifetime of memories. The downside is that when you finally go home it is hard to reconnect to those who are probably not interested in your experiences. Employers in your homeland may not think highly of your experiences and see you as someone with a “flighty” employment history. Also think of retirement, savings, and mandatory retirement ages (especially for women) overseas. You might be forced to “retire” sooner than you imagined.The single versus married experience might also color ones’ opinion. The married couples certainly seemed to be having more fun than the lonely singles.


  44. Beware of reading ISR. In recent years it has become a venting ground for teachers who for reasons only known to them took jobs at what I call “fake international schools”. These would be low paying, for profit schools, that have a smattering of expat students (1 or 2%), but in reality are national schools that were created in the last ten years. Please note how there are so few reviews of established schools like Singapore American School, International School of Bangkok, Saudi Aramco Schools, International School of Japan, Graded of Sao Paolo…etc relative to ones I’ve never heard of (I’ve been teaching over seas for 11 years). The top schools are very selective and tend to have low turnover. There are MANY horrible schools out there that I would never take a job at. And there seem to be more and more of these out there every year. There are also schools out there that are well run and have the resources of private colleges in the US. Going to an ISS or Search fair does not guarantee that the school you end up at will be one of the good ones. You must do your own research. ISR helps tell you which schools are horrible but does not do a good job telling you which are the good places to work in. That is why you may wonder why anyone would be an international educator. Your best bet is to talk to someone who has worked at international schools for several year. They can probably recite a list of 20 awsome schools to work at off the top of their heads. I’d avise you to crash an ISS or Search fair and just listen to other teachers talk, talk to directors and go to schools’ presentations to get a sense of what international teaching is about before you make the change. Remember that you will be going overseas to live and work and not to vacation. A beautiful beach 5 minutes from your pad may be cancelled out by a bad work environment for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.


    1. I agree with you that there many for profit schools have opened in the past ten years, many of which are reviewed on this web site. But I also find many reviews of established schools like Singapore American School, International School of Bangkok, Saudi Aramco Schools, International School of Japan, Graded of Sao Paolo…etc. These schools have a both good and bad reviews. I think it depends on the frame of mind of the poster. A good match is a good match and a poor match….well…..


  45. Funny that people 70 plus years of age, who scrounge around from country to country desperately looking for a teaching job, thatbthey need as their is NO retirement system feel differently than the up to 50 somethings. If you are going to do this SAVE SAVE SAVE because you will need every penny. Stateside, don’t have to worry about this, and can comfortably retire under 60 years of age, and be eligible for a full pension. Also, with a 403B you can live a very nice life. As far as saving all your money to put into a home (paid in full) in their home country, I know plenty of teachers stateside who took out a 15 year mortgage at the start of their teaching career stateside, and had the house paid off, and appreciating in value. There is more time stateside for traveling, then in overseas schools. I know teachers that take their whole families to Europe and Asia a couple of times a year. It’s all about priorities and balance. And International School teaching is not the only way to gain what are perceived benefits. In fact, it’s the least pursued way to gain these things.


    1. Hi, could you explain more about these none-benefits or lesser benefits when working in an international school please? I have read that some school do pay pensions, now is this if you stay working the rest of your professional life? If you could be more detailed in explaining. Thank you!


    2. If you have spent any time working in the US, call your state teacher’s retirement agency. I taught in the US for 9 years before going overseas and recently found out I will earn a pension that will be enough to live on when I turn 60. Of course, this does not mean you should not have additional investments or seek out schools internationally that do offer retirement plans- which you get when you leave the school. (Some people spend these right away. I would strongly caution against doing so) Sadly, I had a colleague who had to leave international teaching this year and return to her home state so she could be fully vested in their retirement program. I would definitely explore your options and speak to an investment advisor. i have heard horror stories about how difficult it can be to find work as an older teacher or about teachers who finally decide to retire, but learn they have little to live on.


  46. I left to work overseas 25 years ago and I feel more blessed than any high paid doctor or lawyer out there. It’s an amazing life and you should give it a try.


  47. Dear repliers…Stop encouraging people to become International Teachers, the market is already saturated!

    Seriously…I would say if you are not a teacher and are solely motivated by the prospect of international travel and working overseas, I would suggest foreign service or companies with overseas offices..the packages and benefits seem to be much better than International Schools, you work in better environments, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. My overseas teaching experiences have been rewarding. I taught in international schools in Kuwait, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. I was fortunate that my student contact hours were about half the school day with the balance of time devoted to lesson plans. Because of a medical problem with my knee, I had to return home for surgery. Currently, I am interviewing for overseas schools. Most international schools have filled their positions by the middle of March. However, a few openings occur because of enrollment increases, unexpected resignations, etc. Since many international schools are interviewing via Skype, I do not have to go to recruiting conferences this summer.

    American public schools are built around paper work, tests, and social engineering. Thus, I looked overseas. My primary goal was to find a school culture that fit my needs and desires. The country was a secondary goal. I did not want to travel thousands of miles and end up in a clone of U. S. public schools. Also, most quality international schools prefer experienced teachers with at least two years at the desired grade level or subject area. Finally, you should remember that there are roughly three tier schools. The bottom tier are schools for profit. The top tier schools have the quality students, very good pay, and a wide range of benefits.

    You want to leave a well paid 9-5 office job and become a teacher. Why? In the United States, there are massive numbers of teachers being dismissed because of budget problems. Competition for quality international schools was intense before the economic slowdown. Many of these teachers will go overseas.I worked full time when I went to college for my first degree. You may consider registering for education courses after work. Visit as many schools as you can. If possible, work with students as a volunteer. Talk with teachers. However, you must remember that current staff members may be reluctant to tell you any negative truths. Every school is going to have positives and negatives. You need to decide exactly the type of school that you want. When I was teaching in Texas, our Superintendent stated that there were 600,000 active Texas certified teachers not teaching. Texas did not have a shortage of teachers. Texas had a shortage of teachers willing to teach. Talk to people that have left teaching.

    Teaching is a very enjoyable experience with the right school. Otherwise, it can be a nightmare. Good Luck!


    1. Also consider that if you are changing careers and don’t have any experience then you will find it difficult to find a job at a quality school. Many schools say they want a teacher with a masters degree and at least 3 years of experience. I’ve been out for 6 years (at 2 different schools) and I LOVE it! I had a
      masters and 7 years of experience in a public school when I first went out.


  49. I quite by accident ended up teaching at an international school in Moscow, Russia and discovered I loved it. I have been at both very good schools, and also very bad schools. I am now in administration and love it!!! Many bad schools have a common complaint. Public school teaches from the USA and Canada do not seem to like private schools because of the profit incentive inherent in the private education sector. Private schools are the largest segment in the international school market. The second on the list are religious schools. Without them there would be a very small private school market.
    If you can accept the profit motive inherent in most international schools then by all means go into the international education market. I have almost 10 years in the business and I and my wife both love the travel and the new teachers we encounter at each new school. Also, keep in mind that many schools accept interns. If accepted on that basis you can get a real life feeling regarding this type of education.
    Good Luck as you decide what you want.


    1. While most international schools are private, they are not all for-profit. With a few exceptions, I would avoid for-profit schools, which tend to make money their bottom line, and work only for non-profits. There are plenty out there!


  50. I have taught in 5 overseas countries, and haven’t had too many teaching positions that I’d call wonderful experiences. However, I have had such great life experiences in those countries – not as a tourist or an immigrant, but something inbetween – that I would still do it all over. In international teaching, I’ve taken the good with the bad, and have never stayed over two years. I’ve always gone back home to continue teaching and have found a job reasonably easily, probably because I teach a subject (Mathematics) in demand. Good luck!


  51. As an International school teacher and IS Head Teacher for many years I would say the following:
    1) ISR, although a great resource – features reviews of mostly unhappy teachers – often with good reason – but also with anonymity. I think it would be fair to say that happy teachers generally don’t go to websites to say how happy they are.
    2) There are many good schools around the world – look for schools that retain staff for 5-8 years on average with sustained leadership – good or mediocre – continuity is better than no continuity.
    3) A great way to get a good impression of a school is sign up for a search fair even if you don’t look for a job – it is amazing how much you can learn from talking with other teachers looking for work. Many teachers know the schools everyone wants to work at and the ones to avoid.
    4) In this profession – teachers change jobs frequently – some every 2 years – far more than other careers and so they will make more comparisons and have broader experiences than in other careers.
    5) Teaching is a vocation – if you love it, you will thrive despite the challenges – if you don’t have the passion – every school will be disappointing.
    6) If you are flexible, open minded, do not compare but be receptive, it is a career like no other and as above, there are many teachers who never regret the decision.
    7) Jump in and enjoy!


    1. Nick said it well… “happy teachers generally don’t go to websites to say how happy they are.” Especially when it costs 30 dollars to say so. Do your homework and wherever you go, go there with your eyes wide open. I’ve been teaching overseas for 16 years and love it. It has its challenges and rewards.


    2. I don’t completely disagree with that sentiment, but again, referring to the two reviews I have written, my negative comments have been directed only at the administrative structure of the school – that is, the way things are carried out and how it affects the life of the people there – and never the host country or the culture. I believe there is a big difference in the quality and substance of the reviews, and it is pretty easy to determine who is merely on a tirade and who is actually trying to provide a thoughtful and substantive critique (not only as reflected in the comments themselves, but in the spelling and grammar). While as I said in my original post, there are more and more negative reviews (something I attribute primarily to the proliferation of poor for-profit schools), I believe the forum provided by ISR is quite invaluable – the anonymity will always be a bit troublesome, but I’m not sure how to overcome this – it’s one of the few ways we mice can bell the cat – and I wouldn’t want to not have access to the reviews to guide my decision.


    3. I agree. I’ve been overseas a long time, and I still get depressed reading the reviews on ISR, wondering if there are any good schools left to go to (though I know there are). I’ve written three reviews myself, and I think you have to look at the overall tenor of the piece. If it’s nothing but one big, long rant, ignore it. If it tries to balance the good and the bad, I tend to think it’s more reliable. Of course, I did work at one school that had absolutely no redeeming qualities and I wrote a horrible review for them, which would be ignored if I followed my above rules! (They were ultimately kicked out of all the job fairs–though I suspect that’s because they didn’t pay their fees and not because they were a horrible school.).

      I think you also have to look for trends. One bad review does not mean the school is a disaster. A series of bad reviews should raise warning flags, however, and deserves further research.


  52. Working internationally is an interesting concept. Even though I’m relatively new to the circuit (only 2 years and about to go to my second school), I’ve found some big similarities and differences in teaching overseas and at your home country (that’s Australia for me).

    One that I have noticed, including at IB conferences is that quite a few teachers become international teachers because they are jaded with the education system in their own home country. If this is you – then I don’t reccomend international teaching. There is a lot of things which are done differently, which can be extremely frustrating.

    Also, many people think that it will be exotic but people need to remember that it’s a job and a lifestyle. Yes you might be living in another country but you are still working long hours and not having an extended holiday like some people think.

    Was I happy at my last job? Well – yes and no. I did not like working for the school but I love teaching. I now have strong relationships with fellow teachers, students and parents in more than one country which is a good thing. If you love teaching and the kids are the most important thing to you – then do it!!

    Some of my my memorable moments came from teaching at my last school. I might of got upset or angry at the school but everything was fine when I started teaching. Many international schools may have difficult administrations but the teaching can be very enjoyable – in asia at least.

    General comments such as reading reviews and asking people is very important. Once your in the system, it’s quite a small world and someone you work with will know someone from a school you might be interested in working at in the future.

    Sites like Search Associates is helpful in getting jobs but expensive. I think it’s worth joining someone like this as they know what they are doing and tend to be more professional than other companies. Also, if it takes a long time for a school to get through to you then you get a sneak peak on what that school was really like.

    On one occasion, I was interested in a school and the person doing the hiring had not contacted me. I asked the original person if they were still interested and I ended up getting a job at a better school anyway. They were still looking for someone 2 months later so their loss and your gain.

    I would strongly suggest that anyone who wants to be an international teacher gets a few years experience before they consider teaching overseas. You need to know your stuff, be independant, ver resilient and flexible. If this does not describe you – then think twice. It can be the best years of your life or your worst.


  53. I have been an elementary/middle school teacher for 20 years and, until recently, enjoyed my chosen career. My most horrific experience was getting a job at an International School. The administration was virtually clueless, there was never any teacher support, outreageous work loads (evenings and weekends!), with rules for some but not for others, students could only be given an A or a B, and when they couldn’t meet A standards, were passed on anyway because it was, as many international schools are, a “mastery-learning” situation in for-profit schools, along with a host of other unprofessional, manupulaitve and downright hostile policies directed to abusing professional staff. I am back in the US working in a professional capacity (non-education) and healing from the abuse and trauma of my international teaching expereince.

    I guess the real question is how well you tolerate ambiguity, false promises, cope with a foreign language, culture and living conditions and care about your health and well-being. If you are looking for international adventure and travel opportunities, teach abroad, but don’t lose sight that it all comes with a price.


    1. Well, you can’t base an international career on one bad school. What if you had had a bad school in the US? Would you have said never teach in the States?

      I taught in the States (two schools) for 12 years before going overseas, taught overseas for 10 years, came back home, then headed back out again because I missed it. I taught in an awful school, but also taught in two pretty-good schools. There are no perfect schools, but if you do your homework, you can work in professional, upbeat places. To condemn an entire world of schools because of one experience is pretty irrational.

      While many international schools still have “initiatives,” you will not be bogged down with state and national standards, NCLB, etc. For the most part, you are left on your own to teach.

      I say your question is not to much whether to teach overseas ,as whether to leave your current profession for teaching. You will put in twice as much work for half the remuneration, but will be more fulfilled. You have to be very honest with yourself about your goals in life.


  54. I have been teaching abroad for 23 years and have taught in five International Schools, in HK, Singapore, Southern China, Turkey and Korea. In August I will start teaching at Canadian International School of Beijing. It has been a wonderful career. I would encourage anyone to pursue their dream. Not every school I’ve taught at has been a great one. They’ve all had their advantages and disadvantages. At the end of the day it is what one takes from each experience. I’m a permanent HK resident as I taught in HK for 10 years. Live your dream. My life as an international teacher has been a very happy one and wouldn’t change it for the world.


  55. Yes, it is difficult to find a level 1 school overseas, as they do not need to advertise and are well serviced by agencies and nepotism. There are far too many bad schools, especially in the Middle East. Therefore, teaching overseas is about the life-experience, travel opportunities and working in an environment that can allow you to be the teacher you want to be – without smothering you in paper work. If good enough, you will be left alone to do the work they pay you to do.

    International Teaching can be a rewarding career, but to find it, you must be experienced, have the contacts and be good at what you do. This takes time and an ability to adapt to the lunatic fringe you will certainly encounter on your journey.

    If you find it hard to adapt, do not understand the strategies needed to teach ESL effectively, take life far too seriously, or struggle to find the humour in the ludicrous, then International Teaching is not for you.


  56. I have taught in the states and am currently teaching in China. The decision you are trying to make is a very hard one. Although there are some terrible schools, there are also some extremely good schools. One of the biggest questions I would pose is this: am I leaving to become a teacher, or am I leaving to become a teacher so I can teach abroad?

    If you can answer in the affirmative for the first question, I say go for it, but please know teaching is not 9-5. I still work from 7-9 most days (I teach it all: IB, lower levels, IGCSE), and am constantly busy on the weekends. If you are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to become a teacher in terms of finances and time (and even sanity sometimes), the job is completely worth it. However, I for one, often wish I had a 9-5 job so that I could continue my Chinese lessons, enjoy my weekends to the full extent, and pursue other goals, but at the same time I love teaching–even with all its challenges (and there are many).

    If you answer in the affirmative for the second question, I suggest looking into overseas jobs with your current company. This will allow you to evaluate if you enjoy working abroad. Your job sounds really good (great pay, good time off). Teaching is definitely a worthwhile career for those who are willing to put in the hours, time, and extreme dedication (of course there are the duds; they are at every school, but they need to re-evaluate their jobs as their ineffectiveness and laziness is TERRIBLE for children!)

    Teaching is a great career if it is a vocation–don’t confuse the two. You need to want to become a teacher for the right reasons, otherwise, you might really come to regret your decisions to leave your current job. It is not a job for every person.

    You do need to exercise extreme caution when applying for teaching positions abroad. Schools vary so MUCH! See if you can connect with individuals teaching at the schools at the moment. Most schools ask you to sign 2 year contracts. This can be good or bad depending on the school and the direction your life takes. Whether this is a long-term or short-term job depends entirely on you. This is a short-term stint for me as I miss my family and would like to start my own.

    I hope this answers some of your questions.


  57. All the above posts say most of what I would say very well, so I would just add that one of the things I love about international teaching compared to Britain is that (in my jobs at least) I feel like a respected professional and I am not governed by endless initiatives that benefit no-one educationally and create ridiculous workloads for teachers. I find, in the international ‘system’, teaching is still fun and totally rewarding. I don’t travel in the holidays other than to return ‘home’ as I have grandchildren who I miss a great deal – if you are in a position to travel in holidays as well as living abroad, then that is a bonus. I wouldn’t want to earn my living any other way!


  58. DO IT. People generally come on here and leave reviews when they have a gripe or some personality-based conflict. My current school has a slew of predominantly negative comments and I am very happy there. Are some of the things they say true? Partially. Are most of them a result of the author’s personal problems? Probably.

    As someone once said to me, “Teaching overseas is the best kept secret in education”. Absolutely true. I taught in the states for two years and enjoyed it, but you can’t beat the every day adventure of teaching in a foreign place!

    Just do your homework, be careful and thorough, and talk to people who work at the school. If a school is unwilling to let you contact current teachers, consider that a red flag.


  59. Hey guys,

    I have been living in Vietnam working for Singapore International School for the past 6 years. I have been given loads of opportunity to grow and am even being sponsored to do my MED.

    I strongly advise taking the leap and taking up teaching in international schools for lots of reasons. Some of which being the wonderful standard of living we have with our housing allowance, airfares etc. How easy it is to save money in developing countries where we get paid so much! There is so much we can do to help here too, I still believe education is the future and that we can impact lives through what we do each day.

    There are lots more reasons of course, all the best everyone.



  60. I think powerful review (neative or positive) is part of the beast. Teaching is more than a job. Its about ones ability to adapt, have compassion when things are confusing and overwhelming.

    This is the same rule of thumb when teaching State side. When working in such tight quarters with a mixed population of students, adult peers, and parents-it is bound to be dynamic mix.

    Advice: know that many bad review could be realted to a conflict of interest via a teacher and administrator. If you want to survive any administrator-keep to yourself, dont talk about others, and never miss a deadline.

    Money: it depends where you live if you will save money. Safe bet-when someone mentions how much money you can save, assume you will save about half the said amount.

    Time off: if you are an international teacher who is certified, you may find yourself working many more hours than had anticipated. This can result in very little time to travel. Take note of why you want to work abroad. If it is to experience different methods of education-go for it. If it is to save money and travel- be very mindful when reading your contract….

    Life is short, you could always just take the chance and do it.


  61. It is certainly true that there are some terrible schools out there but you have to remember that the need to write a review usually comes from dissatisfaction and frustration, so if you are happy, then it is unlikely you will feel the need to write a review. Most of the problems do come from the kind of management problems you describe but also from some parents with unrealistic expectations. There is also the idea that there are meg-bucks to be made and that teaching is an easy job. Neither of these are true. Most schools don’t advertise their salary until they offer you a job.

    However, I love teaching and I love traveling so for me it was a great decision. I’m not saying I haven’t had problems, but, I have a great life here. If you hate your job and want a change then go for it. What is the worst that can happen?

    I strongly advise you though, to do one year in the UK teaching first as you are unlikely to get any help abroad and during your first year everyone needs that support.
    Good Luck!


  62. I think the first and most important thing is to make sure that you really like or want to teach.

    I think teaching internationally is a great goal, but if you really don’t like teaching (and it’s not for everyone) than there is no point, as you can already travel and work abroad in your current occupation. I know many people who trained to teach in the US, then discovered after a few years that they hated it. If you hate what you are doing, then it doesn’t matter where you work, as working (and especially teaching) overseas just compounds the problems.


    1. I think that depends on what “problems” you are referring to, my experience was that I was actuallly able to teach and stretch my wings once I went overseas. Gone are the days of crowd control and endless IEPs and nutty state regulations. Moreover, there is much more room to grow professionally as well, especially at the smaller international schools where each teacher can wear many hats.


  63. This site is a perfect example of the old adage…DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ!

    There are problems like you mentioned in many overseas schools. I use the word overseas as many claim to be International Schools but are,in fact local schools owned by local for profit groups or individuals and don’t merit the title of an IS. That said, there are far more schools that are true IS’s and worth working in.

    You have to be flexible and willing to go with the flow, ie: learn the language or at least try and master key phrases. Appreciate and get involved in the local culture. Make local friends and see the sights. Don’t expect others to think like you do. I’ve been overseas for 11 years and enjoyed every minute of it, made a nice retirement nest egg and would do it again tomorrow if i could (I’m retired).

    Before thinking of going overseas, DO YOUR HOMEWORK, as follows:

    1)Talk to people who have been there and done that.They know a lot!

    2)Check out your target countries/cities/schools thoroughly using ISR, the school’s website, the CIA database, anything on the net related to working in that country, etc.

    3)Use a recruiter like Search Associates or go to a recruitment Fair like IOWA but be warned, it can be frustrating,expensive and sometimes downright unproductive.

    4)Join ISR, and any overseas recruitment websites like Tie online to get direct referrals to interesting jobs.

    5)Don’t base your choice on how much you’ll make but how well you’ll live on what you’ll earn. Saving can be problematic unless you are frugal or it can be a breeze, depends on your lifestyle choices (car/public transit/eating out/cooking cheaply/traveling every weekend/ doing local jaunts, etc.

    6)Always speak to someone at the school that interests you..The way they treat you and answer your tough questions can tell you a great deal as duplicity can become evident if you’ve researched your target and what they say contradicts or hides the truth you’ve learnt.

    Good luck and feel free to write if you need more help..


  64. I taught a total of eight years at four international schools; two of the schools remain top-tier, and two lesser so. I have two reviews currently on ISR, and one of them is quite negative, but both are the most honest contributions I could make and I stand by every word. Even considering the two lesser schools, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. (My wife and I broke our contract and returned home after a year at the last school, but we made many friends with whom I am still in contact, traveled widely, and learned a lot about a fascinating culture in which we never expected to live.)

    Having been back two years now and overexperienced and overpriced as a teacher in the US, I have considered going back overseas by myself and sending money home. But, I have found the reviews to be increasingly disheartening, too. I would say apply for anything except the very worst of them, and then if you get an interview, insist on talking directly to a couple of current faculty members for their perspective. Good luck.


    1. I hated it in the U.S. and loved, loved it overseas. I was at the American international School of Kuwait. Best time teaching in 20 years. Stateside for me was by and large grim. The teachers and students at the American International school were wonderful. I had taught in small rural schools of Washington State. International teaching for me was heavenly.


  65. Leaving the States to teach overseas was the best thing I could have done for myself and my family. My two kids grew up internationally and had invaluable experiences that shaped who they are today. My wife and I saved loads of money during our 20 years overseas and paid cash for a house once back in the States. Plus, the experience was beyond description. Leave your 9-5 and make the leap, you’ll be glad you did. As for the reviews on ISR — Yes there are lots of bad reviews and there are lots of not so good schools just out for a profit at some poor unsuspecting teacher’s expense. Do your research. Use this and other sites and blogs for information. You’ll be fine.


    1. I love this! I am taking a two year leave to work abroad for the next two years. I don’t know if I will ever get back. One problem is the pension, but I think this can be done. Thank you for this encouraging news!


  66. I have never once regretted my choice to leave my teaching job at a public school in the states to move to an international teaching job. As with any job there will be things you don’t like and people in general like to bitch and moan when things don’t go their way and that is what happens on ISR often.

    I have been teaching internationally for 3 years and actually decided to teach at an international summer camp for the summer. I love the job, the people I have met, the things I have seen, and the opportunities to see the world and get paid to do it.

    If you are flexible, about where you go and do your research you can easily find a good place to work. As with any job, the place you work is often what you make of it. Of course there can be bad administrations and poor conditions but that is true anywhere so just do your research (ISR, these blogs-specifically the Best and Worst Benefit Packages, school websites, and just asking around).

    I wish you luck in your career move!!


  67. I think that there are some impartial reviews on ISR but also some very biased versions of reality. Keep reading online blogs and you won’t get discouraged by the negativity that surfaces on ISR.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.