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  • Writer's pictureJ. Mallais

8 Must-Haves of an Ideal International Teaching Candidate

Recently in my inaugural episode as the new co-host on the International Teacher Podcast, Greg the Single Guy, Kent the Cat Guy and I talked about what requirements and characteristics an ideal teaching candidate should have in order to be successful in their overseas job search.

We came up with this list of EIGHT must-haves for an ideal international teaching candidate:

  1. A University Degree and Teaching Certification: Firstly it's a rare international school that can hire non-certified teaching candidates - sometimes due to their country's work visa requirements. Secondly, many times your university degree needs to be in the same subject that you'll be teaching (especially for the secondary level). For example, to teach HS math, in some cases you'll need some kind of Math university degree to secure your work visa abroad. Fortunately there are other routes to teaching certification than a 4-year undergrad or 2-year post-grad degree, such as acquiring a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) from a university in the UK, or getting American teaching certification through online programs, such as Teach-Now, Teacher Ready, or ABCTE. All these different ways allow for some flexibility in becoming a teacher overseas.

  2. Experience: Many international schools prefer a candidate with a minimum of two years of teaching experience in the particular subject for which they're applying. There are of course exceptions to this hard-and-fast rule, where some schools will hire newly-qualified teachers, perhaps even hiring them as Teacher Interns. But overall, the international circuit is quite competitive and seeking qualified and experienced teachers first and foremost.

  3. Proficient in English: With few exceptions, teachers will need to be fluent in English to teach internationally. There are of course international schools where the main daily language is not English (for example French, German or Italian schools abroad) but I'd say 99% of international schools will require English at a high-level of fluency. In some cases for non-native English speakers, teaching candidates may need to provide a TOEFL score to prove their ability to teach in English.

  4. Passion for Teaching: This quality can be quite intangible and therefore hard to describe. Personally in my experience, I equate it to that star quality where a teacher is at their best when they are working with students. You can see the spark in their eyes and they emit an energy that is both captivating and contagious. Passionate teachers are very often lifelong learners themselves who are able to impart this passion for learning to their students.

  5. A Contributor to the School Community: School administrators are quite simply looking for teachers who will go that extra mile for their school community. Those who happily offer extra-curricular activities, sign up to coach a sports team, volunteer for school committees, and help organize school events end up adding a lot of value to their school, not to mention building up their own teaching portfolio. Being a part of an international school community often means not clocking in 8am-4pm, but helping out before and / or after school. The benefits of getting to know your students better outside the classroom and your school-wide colleagues more personally are just the tip of the iceberg for why being a contributing member is so vital to a school community.

  6. A Positive & Collaborative School Team Member: Speaking of contributing, another must-have characteristic is being approachable and generous with your time and resources. Perhaps you have a new teacher on your team who needs some extra support. Schools are looking for teachers who will be a beacon of light, helping inspire and guide their colleagues, both new and veteran. Or perhaps your school has gone through some tough & challenging times and needs someone to shine positivity and hope for the teaching team. Being that go-to person on your team when someone needs a pick-me-up or a helping hand will make you indispensable on a teaching staff.

  7. Being Open-Minded and Flexible: Schools seek teachers who are non-judgmental and tolerant of differences & challenges that arise when living overseas. It can be quite taxing when confronted with a very different culture, traditions, bureaucracy or lifestyle than what you're used to on a daily basis. Additionally, when it comes to teaching assignments and scheduling, schools need someone who can go with the flow and remain upbeat when inevitable changes happen. Being adaptable to change cannot be emphasized enough when deciding to teach outside of your home country.

  8. Strong references: Finally, it's important to ensure you have solidly reliable references. You'll want to contact each of them before listing them on your CV, not only letting them know that they may be contacted in the near future on your behalf, but also informing them that you're searching for a new position. This last reason being that they may have contacts within their network that can help you. Check out Tip #5 where I talk about how to choose your references and this blog article on creating a Brag Sheet to help your references recall all that you accomplished at your school.

If you are presently teaching in your home country, reading this list and thinking to yourself, "I have all those qualities!" then I'd suggest considering heading overseas to teach. The personal, professional, and financial rewards are just a few of the many benefits to accepting an international teaching assignment. Did we miss some critical qualities of an ideal international teaching candidate? Comment below with your additions!


Right now, international schools around the world are listing their open teaching positions for August 2024. Do you feel like you could use some guidance and support in your job search? That's exactly what I'm here for - I'll help you create a new CV & cover letter to meet international standards, as well as help you prepare for interviews, sending you personal job leads from vetted schools, and being your personal sounding board for when you need advice or extra support. Have a look at the services I have on offer and reserve your video call with me today:

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