Preparing Your Teacher Certificate for Teaching Overseas

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Many people interested in teaching outside the United States wonder about how to prepare their teaching certificate. Read on for more information on teaching requirements overseas, including additional certifications and other factors to consider.

Teaching Overseas

When considering teaching abroad, there are several factors to consider, including how to prepare your teaching certificate for the transition. However, there is no one answer on how to prepare, so read on for the factors you will need to consider as you plan your next steps.

Where to Teach

When considering teaching abroad, almost all questions can be answered with, ''It depends on the country.'' The same can be said of teaching certificate requirements. Requirements vary by country, as each country's education department creates its own requirements.

Location Options

Asian countries are often the most popular choice for teaching abroad. Teaching in Europe can be restricted to teachers who already hold EU passports, or European countries interested in English instruction may prefer those who can teach British English. While Latin America has a high demand for teachers, they generally do not pay as well as countries in Asia and the Middle East.

Because Asia and the Middle East are popular choices, the demand for the jobs can be high. Therefore, these jobs often require that teachers be licensed or certified to be considered. Great news! Being certified in your home state is usually enough to qualify as a certified teacher, without any extra requirements. However, each country may have different requirements regarding certification reciprocity, so it is important to know where you want to teach when considering this question.


Types of Schools

Different types of schools have different requirements. One popular option for teachers are international schools, where English is usually the language of instruction. This option usually doesn't require any extra certification beyond your state's teaching certificate.

In addition to international schools, teachers are also recruited for volunteer posts with organizations such as the Peace Corps. Teaching at military bases overseas is another option. The State Department has a good list of teaching opportunities.

What to Teach

The subject you plan to teach can also affect the requirements that you will need to teach abroad. While for some schools a teaching certificate from your state may be enough, other schools may require that you hold a bachelor's degree in that specific field. For example, to teach history, a bachelor's degree in history is required, or you may have to send your transcripts to prove significant coursework in that field.


Teaching English as a second language can require additional certification, and is very different than teaching your usual subject of expertise to English-speaking students at an international school. Teaching English may require TESL or TEFL certification. TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) or TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) are types of certification that may be required by some language programs.

Even if you are not planning to teach English to non-native speakers, the additional TESL/TEFL certification may be helpful in both getting a job and for your future students. Even though students at an international school likely speak English, it may not be their first language. Per an article at TeachAway, taking the classes required for this type of certification can introduce you to new techniques and cultural fluency, but keep in mind that this is a professional certification, not a teaching license. If you decide to get this certification, you can view some of the job specializations at CertificationMap.


Teaching Posts

There are now many websites where overseas teaching posts are listed and, luckily, many of them specifically list their requirements. Two popular sites that list teaching posts are GoAbroad and TeachAway.

On TeachAway, for example, you can search for posts that are specifically looking for certified teachers. Or, even if you find a post that does not require certification, your certification may give you an edge over other candidates when you are applying.

These posts are very beneficial because they not only list certification requirements, but they also list years of experience and if an education level/subject are required. For example, one TeachAway post for a PE Teacher in a Chinese international school not only required a teaching license, but also a TESL/TEFL certification, bachelor's degree in Education, PE or Sports Science, and two years of experience.


Other Factors

There are many other factors to consider when thinking about teaching overseas. In addition to teaching certification, some countries also require a certain number of years of experience. For example, some parts of China may require five years of experience, while Abu Dhabi may require two years.

Each country also has its own visa requirements. Check into this early, as many will require you to have a work visa (in addition to a passport) and you will need to be aware of deadlines and embassy visitation requirements. Some visas require medical exams as well.

Keep safety in mind. Check the State Department's website for travel alerts and warnings to make sure the area you are considering is safe. Separately, certain vaccinations may be required. By going to the country information page of the State Department, you can type in the country and view information regarding passports, vaccinations, and visas.


Compare compensation packages for the jobs you are considering. Many of the teaching posts include information such as pay, accommodations, travel reimbursement, health insurance, and more. Keep in mind that while two jobs may pay the same, a lower cost of living in one area will allow you to save more money, or one of the jobs may not reimburse for flight costs. Background checks may also be required for some jobs.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of misconceptions that anyone who speaks English can get a job teaching overseas, but that simply is not the case. Teaching certification in your home state will often be a requirement or, at the very least, a huge benefit when you are applying to jobs. Additional certification in teaching English may be a good idea as well, both for your future students and to increase job opportunities.

By Michelle Garrigan-Durant
February 2017
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