Is This Really a Career Anymore?

..Looking around on Search Associates and TIE Online, I’ve noticed something: salaries and benefits in this industry are going WAY down, everywhere…and fast! Is this because the pool of applicants is rising? Or, is it because the number of schools is increasing?

I read recently that the number of international schools worldwide will double in the next 12 years. I’m not an Economist, but I had thought that supply-and-demand would benefit a teacher’s financial perspective since the pool of teachers would shrink relative to the overall demand of schools.

But now I’m wondering:  Because there are more schools, could this mean just the opposite — the larger supply of schools means an increase in competition among them, and as a result, they have to lower tuition fees and provide a more comprehensive service. This inevitably affects teachers who have to work harder for less money, as a lower profit-margin will certainly come out of salaries.

Schools can pay lower salaries as long as they have ‘X’ amount of well-qualified, ‘marketable’ staff who will ‘carry’ the lower-paid, less-qualified staff. For example, you see many more schools employing P. E. teachers from the Philippines, and Math teachers from India. These teachers may work for half of what Western teachers would earn. Many of these lower-paid teachers are great teachers, of course, yet they do not appear on the website of the American or British schools they work in. Who IS shown as staff on the web sites? The Western-certified teachers their PR marketers can flaunt, especially to Asian/new money markets.

In addition, salaries have gone down in the last 15 years. On Search, for example, there’s a school in Bahrain advertising for a ‘certified Native English speaker to teach math.’ The pay? $12,000 USD a year, not even minimum wage in some US states.

Is International Teaching turning the way of other mass-produced services and goods?  Are we becoming just a cog in the wheel? Are we a service that’s in demand, or simply like another disposable component in an ever cheaper cell phone? What will International Teaching be in twenty years when the market is squeezed further and technology takes a bigger market share? You may wonder: Is International Teaching still a wise career choice?

Any thoughts? Anybody else notice this trend?
(ISR Note: This post was adopted from the ISR Open Forum)

31 Responses to Is This Really a Career Anymore?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately teachers opportunities are limited, international schools are some of that limited opportunities. Quantitative is necessary to offer more kids the opportunity to good education, its not about the teacher but the children. If its not good enough, keep looking. However, there is a growing demand for international education, hence the growth of schools, you cannot limit growth to serve a few teachers.


    • Ste says:

      Yes, the quantitative thing partly makes sense, however if it’s to benefit student needs, how come there’s ageist restrictions against quality teachers with good experience? I think your version of quantitative is likely about sinking pay at the expense of quality education. Be honest with yourself, look at the silly age requirements and decrepit salaries some positions offer.Now, is this really child-centred?



    • John says:

      Anonymous, do your research on IS costs. A majority of costs in International schools go to facilities and marketing, not salaries. Teachers provide a service and are a bigger resource to students, but schools are misleading parents about a schools quality through big money on facilities, especially in Asia. Profits are higher than ever. This is why it’s a growing market.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael says:

    Yes I agree with much of what has been said. Currently working in Thailand at a school that has different pay rates for different nationalities India’s on the bottom, then Phillipines, then UK and American sort of tied maybe? and if you are Singaporean your at the top of the pay scale.
    If you are a woman you are at the bottom of the pay scale no matter what your experience. Thai schools are among the worst for pay and package. But then Thai Parents don’t care or just don’t have the smarts to realize the harm being done to their kids.
    Thai Universities also have a role in all this mess also.


  3. Connie says:

    You say there are more schools, fewer jobs and no increase in pay over time.
    I’ve been seeing lots of jobs go unfilled. What gives?


  4. Stevie says:

    . I’ve just gone into my 11th year teaching abroad and am originally from UK. I got sick of the greed that being put before hiring decent teachers and Thailand has been at the centre of this over the past 5 years. It was easy to see from within the system as a teacher, with the school I worked at withdrawing many perks, including free/subsidised accommodation, outside school activities, free and subsidized education for teacher’s kids, cancelled pay increases and whatever else the system could rob back. I’ve a moved around a bit since then, but it was my knowledge of the sleaziness of the education system generally, that angered me and contributed to me moving on. I moved from Bangkok, to Hanoi and then to Saudi and I managed to avoid being caught up with ongoing slashes to pay packages to the big extent of that past reality I had experienced. In Thailand, I was an elementary teacher, private bilingual school, Hanoi, an elementary teacher, International school and Saudi, top of the range language learning course in a military setting, which is not the norm of language teaching. You need a proper university teaching/education qualification and 5 years teaching experience to get a foot through the door. All said, you have to be flexible and ready to battle the system to win or you will be sought out quickly. The capitalists are definitely getting greedier and unless you are a winner yourself with a certain goal in mind, there’s no point being used by the Asians. When they have finally reduced themselves back to zero, let them wallow there, with there non- quality, 3rd world rankings, because it’s what they deserve and it’s there own fault when they are rock bottom. As far as the (NOT) teachers, assisting them, they can be satisfied for working towards a common goal with greedy capitalists of sending Asia down. ANNOYING!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anonymous says:

    In short the answer is “doubtful”. I’ve been teaching overseas since 2000 and I have not seen salaries grow at all. I can go onto the website of the first school I worked at and still see the same starting salaries offered. Every year tens of thousands of heavily indebted new teachers flood the market and suppress wages. On the other side there are hundreds of new “international” schools popping up everywhere increasing cost cutting pressures on the system. IMO to make this a career you need to be part of a teaching couple and you need to work your way up to a top tier school or find a niche like a mining/oil school. Even then you’ll need to dedicate a good 10 to 15 years at the school, that will have very high professional expectations of you, to make the most of this career opportunity. Someday we’ll all retire and you can’t retire (well) on ten 2-year international school contracts that paid $25,000/year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • RrrKay says:

      Agreed, I’ve been teaching in Asia since 1993 and seen no relative increase in salaries. Tier 1 schools still pay well, not risen much, but only for those who enjoy 14 hour days. That said, you are not paid well considering the expectations, time, and stress.


  6. Michael Rossouw says:

    Getting a decent paying job in International schools has become a “Lottery”. One has to get a ticket to have a place in the draw. However many schools prefer younger applicants so that experienced teachers lose out. Most school owners are now paying as little as possible to get overseas “Native” English speakers onto their teaching staff. Asian applicants, many of who have good English skills, are paid less, but work harder (if not better) than some teachers from “western” countries. Native English speakers from South Africa and Zimbabwe are not regarded as being such in Thailand, and are forced to take a TOIEC test in order to obtain their work permits and teaching licences in Thailand. Preference is given to candidates from US, UK Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. Visa problems are quite horrendous, unreasonable and at times quite time-consuming with little if any help from some school owners.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Barbie says:

    I could not agree more with this assessment. Profit making schools are sprouting like mushrooms in Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand and none of them are any good. Owners are clueless and greedy and they don’t hire experienced or qualified teachers or indeed honest directors.. They just want a few white faces to dupe unwary parents and students. There are no CRBCs and recently, one teacher at Horizon School in Yangon actually murdered another and fled the country before being caught.It is not unusual to find “teachers” operating with fake credentials – especially dodgy doctorates obtained at a diplomas mills or printed themselves.Some have even been barred from teaching in their own countries for improprieties with students. I know many professionals who are increasingly disillusioned by this industry.

    Here in Thailand, where I do have a decent paying job I am constantly shocked by the huge number of jobs advertised for $1,000 a month without any perks for NES. The people who take these jobs are totally unqualified in many cases and do a huge disservice to the students they are supposed to be “teaching.”Not to mention they give international teaching a bad name.

    As a dedicated professional, unless you are in a tier 1 school and getting suitably renumerated, you begin to wonder what is the point!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Anthony says:

    Once high-paying schools have cut salaries and the schools that continue to offer attractive packages seem to be decreasing, especially in Europe and Latin America. Given that international school teachers tend to move frequently, it is also difficult to build up a decent pension fund in any single country. Allied to the short-term contracts favoured by all international schools, which automatically creates insecurity, anyone who enters the market now should realise they are taking a considerable financial gamble.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Exbelfer says:

    “Is This Really a Career Anymore?”
    First of all, what is an international teacher’s career? Meeting different children, their parents, teachers from different countries – all in all – learning something new. At least for me.
    Financial conditions are important and they vary greatly, from country to country, from school to school – but for some teachers the experience of teaching “out there” may be more important.
    For me, the most recent issue is not money, but SAFETY. There are fewer and fewer countries in which a family can feel safe.
    PS omgarsenal summarised the finances: salaries, perks etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Many years teaching says:

    Yes. There is a huge difference over the past 20 years in international teaching. It used to be a good job. Now only good for a lucky few. Too many teachers seeking jobs so there is a glut of teachers which means schools can skate offering low salary and few benefits. Very sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. mbkirova says:

    I’ve already had bad experiences with TIE – they put you thru fiery hoops to get on and then pitch lousy jobs. Don’t recommend. Yes, more and more int. schools, most of which suck, and lower and lower pay. It’s a con. Be careful.


    • Mike Hodge says:

      TIE does not put you through “fiery hoops” to get on. You just pay $39 and you get full access for a year. You can choose to post your resume and schools can email you, but it is up to those schools who choose to contact you. I get 2 or 3 emails a month that say “we are interested in your candidacy” and ask me to send application materials. I ignore most of them since I have no interest, but sometimes there is a school I reply to.


      • David says:

        I agree with you Mike. TIE doesn’t control which schools advertise with them and you have to be discriminating. Live and learn. A couple of schools I have randomly responded to interviewed, demanded certs etc. offered the jobs and only then did I discover the salaries were a joke – one was in Casablanca and one in Cambodia. Before wasting your time interviewing, find out the package upfront or don’t bother!

        Liked by 1 person

      • mbkirova says:

        I haven’t had any decent jobs through any paid sites. One may as well use Dave’s, which is free and you can look up the school on their forums. Sure, most of the jobs there are bad, but in every 200 or so something reasonable can surface. You are just defending your territory, Mike.


        • Kate says:

          Try Edvectus or Teacher Horizons or go onto school websites directly. Much depends on what subject area you teach.
          Good luck!


        • ShakaHislop says:

          I agree with yo kirova but I think the schools that work with TIE look for Anglo-Saxon teachers. Your surname Kirova does not cut it. As for me despite my surname I don’t look Anglo-Saxon at all, so after two years with TIE I gave up and from what I read you don’t need to pay $39 to get crummy jobs anyways so why bother?


  12. omgarsenal says:

    We need to discuss not just salaries BUT compensation packages, which can add a significant amount to the value of working overseas. Here are a few issues to look at:

    1) Are salaries tax-free?
    2) Different countries have different compensation-based on their cost of living,
    3) Is the school owner-managed or for-profit, or is it a board managed non-profit, etc.?
    4) Are full housing , return airfare, annual vacation airfare, PD incentives, other emoluments, bonuses and so on,included?

    Most of us know that owner-managed schools are cash cows for people who may know little about education BUT can calculate profit margins. My salary overseas varied significantly from country to country, in the Middle East it was good and completely tax-free, in Mexico it was poor and taxed, in Germany it was the best I ever earned but heavily taxed so there are always alternatives if compensation is your fundamental raison d’etre for being overseas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy says:

      I would avoid schools – especially in China and Myanmar that provide on-campus housing or offer a low rental allowance and leave you to sort out all the problems that go with a low standard of living. Everything is a trade off but housing is an important component of being comfortable and settling down in a new country. Locally owned schools often get kickbacks from apartment owners and don’t care about living conditions for the teachers.


      • party_animal says:

        My school in Yangon pays us $1200 accom. allowance. Several of us share apartments by finding one that costs around $500-700 with three bedrooms. That means we can happily pocket around $900 a month extra. Salaries aren’t great and no bonus etc. but big wad of cash for air fare. Hope the dumb admin don’t stop this perk.


        • Stevie says:

          Hey – with a persona of Party Animal and the text you wrote, I do wonder why you are actually in Burma at all. Might be a good idea to rethink your strategy before it’s to late and maybe read the Stevie comment from yesterday. At the moment Asia is using people like you at the expense of proper educators. It seems you are one of the many the Asians are using. If the salary ain’t great, let em find some other mug to do the job. If you adopt this attitude instead, then maybe they’ll end up having to think in terms of quality again. When the quantity (TEACHERS) put education first and walk away shitty, profiteering businesses might get the kick they deserve.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Anonymous says:

            Stevie, ‘Party Animal’ is one of thousands of teachers doing the same, young inexperienced and wanting a good time. At some of these schools, this crowd come in hungover and high with red eyes and unshaven most mornings.They take every sick day they can get paid for, wouldn’t know a lesson plan if it smacked them on the nose and do as little as possible. Lousy owners and crappy directors let this go. It isn’t going to change any time soon.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Stevie says:

              Hey – Yip, its all easy to see, I’m just glad I managed to avoid the majority of these people and businesses and although it’s been a battle through the systems to get this far, I am thankful for not joining the ranks of the Party Animals. Now, I have an exemplary record, am recognised and respected with officials, parents and students of various ages and nationalities and have seen many Party Animals fall to their knees and worse and although they are welcome to there experience, they might give thought to there future, because, when they eventually find reality, they’ll likely be in worse situations than they are already, but hey, never mind their students, eh!


  13. brian meegan says:

    Supply and demand… if schools are able to pay lower salaries, then the supply of teachers willing to accept salaries at this level must be adequate.


    • Stevie says:

      There’s an over supply of teachers, if you can actually call them teachers!
      There’s also an over supply of schools, if you can call them schools and they are likely to find there level, if it is a level, but this will be all quantity and no quality, so Brian is correct seems to be in agreement with the previous content. Regards the future of International schools, they would benefit by treating decent teachers decently and keeping them, instead of submitting to the quantitative aspects of education.

      Liked by 1 person

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