Wait! Don’t say ‘yes’ too quickly!

This year you may be deciding whether to accept a job offer or even harder – deciding between two international school jobs.

It’s important to keep in mind some important things before making any decisions. Firstly, you should make sure to read and fully understand your Agreement with Search Associates and the code of practice for making and accepting offers. You can find these documents under the “agreements” section of your online profile.

Remember, once you have accepted a job offer, either verbally or in writing, it is a binding commitment. So, it’s not OK to accept an offer and then later back out because you missed an important detail in the contract. This can cause some serious issues and reflect badly on you as a professional.

If you do end up reneging on an offer in these circumstances, it could have negative consequences for any future work with Search Associates.

international school jobs Search Associates ANZ image of an Arabic clock

Take your time to make an informed decision

If you’re lucky enough to get a job offer from an international school, they’ll usually give you a deadline to respond. Typically, you’ll have a couple of days to make your decision. If that’s not long enough for you to think it through, it’s okay to ask for more time. If the school won’t budge on the time frame, you should really think about whether or not you want to accept the offer. Remember, you’re going to be spending the next couple of years of your life at this school, and possibly even moving your family there. You want to make sure you feel comfortable with the decision you’re making.


Comparing international school jobs

When it comes to finding the right school for you to work in, there are a lot of options out there. Search Associates represents all kinds of schools – big ones, small ones, with different curriculums, structures, and leadership styles. Schools that are non-profit making, government-sponsored, and proprietorial schools. Schools with participatory decision-making leadership styles or more formal top-down approaches. So, it’s important to think carefully about what you’re looking for in a school, and what you’re willing to work with.

If you’re only focused on getting a job at one of the top schools in the world, in the best locations, you’ll face a lot of competition. Especially in subjects where there are already a lot of teachers, like PE, Elementary, English, and Social Studies, or for jobs that are less common, like PE, drama, music, French, or Spanish. So, it’s important to keep an open mind and consider all your options.

Rapport with the recruiter

Research by Dale Cox in A Global Study of International Teacher Recruitment, showed that the most important factor in deciding to work with a school is the relationship you establish with the recruiter. When you interview with a school, you want to feel like you could work with the Head of the school, because this is a crucial factor. However, keep in mind that Heads of schools can move on frequently in the international school world, so it’s not guaranteed that you will work with the same Head who interviewed you for many years.

Additionally, you might not even get a chance to interview with the Head or Director of the school, but instead with someone else of a similar level. So, while it’s important to establish a good relationship with the recruiter, it’s not the only factor to consider when deciding which school to work with.

international school jobs Search Associates ANZ man in a suit standing in between two white doorsOther factors influencing decisions between job offers

  • perceived job satisfaction,
  • quality of the package,
  • opportunities for professional growth,
  • location,
  • social life,
  • travel,
  • security.

When considering job offers, you’ll want to think about what’s most important to you based on your family status and/or your age. For instance, if professional growth is a priority, you should find out about the school’s professional development policy, internal promotion opportunities, and potential for additional responsibilities.

To learn more about a school, it’s a good idea to talk to teachers who are similar to you in terms of personal profile. You can ask the Head for a few teachers’ email addresses and contact them to get their feedback on the school.

Remember to assess how well the school and its location meet your needs and priorities to make the best decision for you!

Before you make your decision, make sure you know:

What’s the job?

Check with the Head/recruiter what your teaching load, responsibilities, etc will be. Could you be asked to teach anything else or take on other responsibilities? For example, international schools have very different approaches to the number of preparations expected of Middle and High School teachers. Norms vary from a couple of ‘preps,’ to 6 or more. There is no right or wrong approach. They are just different Often, in smaller schools, you will be required to have more preparations simply because there are not the numbers to warrant only one or two preparations.

You need to know what you are agreeing to. Be sure to know what you’re letting yourself in for if you’ve never worked in a school where you’re required to teach more than 3 or 4 different classes. Later complaining about the school because “that’s not the way it’s done at home” is of no use.

international school jobs Search Associates ANZ handshake shared by two recruiters at a Search Associates fairWhat benefits are listed in the contract?

Check the nuts and bolts of the contract regarding, for instance, medical cover. Will you be provided with emergency-only cover in the country where the school is located? Will you get outpatient and emergency coverage only in the country where the school is located, or will you get full cover worldwide?  The latter would be extremely rare and don’t forget your dependants! Check all the practical details of the contract: salary (most schools have published salary scales and you will be placed on that scale according to your experience. There is usually no real room for negotiation on this). So, check how many years of relevant experience the school is using to place you on the scale.

You can also ask to see the salary scale, as well as the details about housing, education for your children, annual airfares, responsibility allowances, and settling-in allowances.

In trying to compare the financial package offered by various schools remember not to get ‘distracted’ by the gross figure you are offered. The ‘gross figure’ can be very misleading. A NET picture of your take-home pay/savings capacity is probably a better way of comparing the impact of different packages.

The right time to check all these is after you have been offered the job and before you accept. Don’t muddy the waters at interview time with questions that have nothing to do with your skills as a teacher and team player.

How is the school structured?

Find out what you can about the school’s management culture. Suppose you are thinking of moving to a certain part of the world and taking a job in a more entrepreneurial model of school. In that case, you may not get the distributed / participatory leadership model of organization you are used to. You may not be invited to express your opinions in the way you have previously. Indeed, you might find yourself in a very top-down model of leadership. If this is not something you can live with…DO NOT ACCEPT the job. Complaining about the structure when you get there will not change it overnight.

What type of lifestyle is offered?

international school jobs Search Associates ANZ top down photo of two people eating Korean food What’s important to you and your family when it comes to your daily life? For example, do you prefer living in a bustling city or a more rural area? Do you need easy access to cultural events or outdoor activities? Do you have children, and if so, what are your priorities when it comes to their education and social life? Research the location of the school and the surrounding area to get a sense of what the lifestyle might be like. Look into things like the cost of living, local amenities, and transportation options. Consider reaching out to current teachers at the school to get their perspectives. And of course, don’t forget to think about the climate and how it might affect your daily life. All of these factors can have a big impact on your happiness and well-being, so give them careful consideration.

Every experienced international educator will tell you they have taken a position in a school and location that wasn’t on their radar.

Professional growth and future possibilities?

Think about the potential for professional development and opportunities for growth within the school itself. Are there opportunities for leadership roles or to take on additional responsibilities? Will you be supported in pursuing further education or training? Many international schools offer superb professional development opportunities and will have a budget set aside for this to take place.

Weigh up how much these professional growth opportunities are worth to you in terms of possible short-term salary losses. While it may be tempting to prioritize salary above all else, investing in your professional growth and development could pay off in the long run.

Use a spreadsheet to try and take into account differences in the following

  • Taxation and social security payments. (Seek out an accountant who has experience dealing with expatriates and their incomes while they are away from their home country. This is money well spent and gives you peace of mind you are making the right decision).
  • Cost of living (there are some excellent programs on the web where you can tell what a given income would be worth in a particular country).
  • Housing
  • Educational allowances
  • Travel opportunities
  • Medical cover and facilities, especially in relation to Covid-19
  • General lifestyle
  • Transport
  • Visa issues


Reading and checking your understanding of the contract you are being offered is important. Your verbal or written acceptance of a job offer binds you legally.

The school should provide you with a complete copy of the contract rather than an abbreviated version of the conditions of service. When in doubt talk to the Head about your concerns or to check your understanding. Be happy to accept the conditions outlined in the contract you are offered. Check back with your Search Associate, who has read many contracts and knows what is standard and what to look out for.

Reviewing a contract’s details to ensure nothing unacceptable is written into it is necessary. However, what really matters is the worldwide reputation of the school and the word amongst current staff. Some schools invariably make fair decisions and are generally considerate and compassionate towards all their teachers.  There are definitely some schools where financial decisions dominate their actions. It’s important to ask your associate before making any decision.

As soon as you do make a decision let both schools know, asap. The school that you have turned down will be disappointed but will appreciate knowing that they need to keep looking. Make sure to also deactivate your profile so that your new school knows you are committed to them and so that other schools stop checking your profile. That decision made, it’s time to focus your energies on preparing to arrive at your new school!

Can’t decide on a big life change? People who change are ‘overwhelmingly’ more content than those who don’t, study says. Read more here.

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