It’s hard to generalise

This information should be used as a guide only, for the qualifications international schools accept.

qualifications required international schools Search Associates ANZ image of a man wearing a mortarboard One of the most common frustrations among candidates looking for overseas positions is that no two international schools necessarily seek the same sets of qualifications.

The qualifications required by any one international school may depend on country-wide licensing regulations, curriculum requirements, school preferences, and, often inflexibly, national government rules for granting a work visa to a foreign teacher. A candidate who might be ideal in one setting may be unqualified in another.  The short answer is that it depends on the school, but there are some general steps to take that can make you a potentially acceptable candidate almost anywhere.

The basic requirements

  • Your qualifications

A minimum of a Bachelor’s degree is needed, preferably in a subject taught in international schools. For Elementary/Primary class teachers, a Bachelor of Education is required which includes full teacher training and certification. Other Bachelor’s degrees will need additional post-grad teacher training. Accreditation requirements differ in various countries and can include PGCE, Teacher Registration, State Certification, or a qualification requiring practical teaching experience. Some countries may not recognize certain qualifications, so it’s best to research a school’s requirements before applying. In the Middle East and Near East/Turkey, Ministries of Education may require that your bachelor’s degree match your teaching subject.

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For example

If you’re a Maths teacher, schools expect you to have a Bachelor’s degree in Maths. If you don’t, transcripts may be required by the schools to show you have enough coursework that is specific to your teaching subject to be approved. This happened to us when Paula wanted to move from classroom teaching to PE specialist teaching. She had a Bachelor of Education with a PE major, but her transcript was located in storage (in a different country), which made it difficult to access before the internet came along!


  • And your experience

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A growing number of ministries around the world are only granting visas if candidates have at least two years of teaching experience. On top of nationwide regulations, schools commonly impose their own experience requirements. This is especially prevalent in popular teaching countries, where schools can afford to discriminate by experience due to the vast number of applicants. You can save time on wasted applications when you know these rules.

Fresh out of university?

International schools can be very demanding environments, and it is generally not recommended for new teachers to try and gain their first experience abroad. Teaching abroad is not the place to learn how to teach and to get your first experience running a classroom. International schools are looking for proven performers who can hit the ground running and are capable of managing their own classroom independently, as well as being team players on a similar level to their colleagues.


But I don’t speak the language

Some teachers discount teaching in an international school as they have never worked, taught, or traveled abroad. They believe that not speaking a foreign language limits their opportunities, but this is not the case. Knowing at least a little of the local language can help you navigate your life in a new country, but your work will almost certainly be entirely in English.
The only language requirement that international schools have is fluency in English.
As diverse as the staff and student populations can be, you will be teaching in English. Unless, of course, you are a language teacher!

qualifications in international schools Search Associates ANZ Top 5 qualification questions

Top 5 questions asked and answered



  • Is my online teaching qualification recognised in an international school?

Online degrees and teacher training is another potential minefield. Some countries, particularly those in the Middle East don’t recognise online universities and other countries don’t recognise online teacher training. Teachers with these qualifications may need to be more flexible with respect to location preferences.

  • What about IB Training?

IB training is not the same as state-issued teaching qualifications. This training is in demand because many schools use IB curricula, but most Ministries of Education don’t see it as equal to a Bachelor of Education. Teachers need both IB training and relevant university teaching qualifications. The IB offers workshops and training to help teachers transition and understand the system better.

  • Or early years qualifications?

Early Years is a grey area. If you seek a job in a stand-alone nursery or Kindergarten, not connected to an international school, you might find that the requirements are more flexible. However, once an Early Years setting is part of a full-age-range school, then the requirements may be more rigorous. This depends on the country and the school’s license.

  • Does my TEFL qualification count?

A TEFL certificate is not considered equivalent to the teacher training options listed above unless it involved a full year of study + practice, and then only if you are applying for the teaching of English as a Foreign language. You may be able to find a job teaching English as a Foreign Language in a state school abroad, or in a Language School. This will vary by country.

  • Can I get a job without a teaching degree?
Not having a teaching certification makes it tougher but by no means impossible. We have placed some teachers in this situation every year.

Exclusive offer!

Search Associates has partnered with the TEACH-NOW Graduate School of Education at Moreland University, a U.S. nationally accredited institution of higher education. Moreland University offers a 9-month teacher preparation certificate program that can
be completed from anywhere in the world. The program, which is open to candidates of all nationalities, culminates with teacher certification from Washington, DC, USA, and is widely accepted internationally. They offer a $1,000 discount from the regular certification fee of $6,000, exclusive to Search Associates registered candidates.

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In conclusion

After your first international experience, you become a more desirable candidate for future opportunities. You have already shown that you can adapt to a foreign environment and succeed in an international school. This will make it easier to get future placements as references can speak to your competence in an international setting.

To be a serious candidate in international schools, you should be qualified in your subject area and grade level, fluent in English, have prior experience, and most importantly, have a passion for teaching and adventure.

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