What Qualifications are Needed to Teach Abroad?


Jump to.... Typical Qualifications for International Schools | Principals and Head Teachers | International Baccalaureate Training | Primary/Elementary qualifications | Degree Matching | Minimum Experience Requirments |  Do I need a TEFL certificate? | Can I do my probationary year abroad? | But I have a friend who is doing it...  | Can I do teacher training abroad?Important Fine Print

Lots of people want to teach abroad but don't know what training and experience they actually need to land the job they want. 

The short answer is... it depends! The kind of qualification you need for teaching abroad depends on what and where you are going to teach. Each and every country around the world has a government office that licenses and regulates international schools. Sometimes schools have different licences so you will find variability between countries and schools and to make matters more complicated, it may also depend on the unique relationship the school has with the local government or Ministry of Education. Some countries have very strict policies, whereas some are flexible. In some countries it depends on who is asking. This is why a specialist agency like Edvectus with worldwide offices and working relationships with schools around the world is a valuable asset in your job hunt. We list educational and experience requirements on our jobs to take out the guesswork.

Below are some general guidelines to help get you started. 

Typical Qualifications that are usually acceptable to International Schools

If your plan is to teach in an international school, meaning a school that offers compulsory education all or partly in English as a substitute for state schools abroad (eg teaching all core subjects in English rather than strictly English as a Foreign Language), then most schools require at least the same qualifications that you need to teach in a state school in your home country.  So start there. 

Each country’s Ministry of Education sets educational standards that are required to teach in international schools in that country, so it is possible you may be able to teach in one country (including your own)  but not in another.  

Typical Qualifications typically required to teach abroad in registered international schools:

  • Bachelors of Education OR
  • Bachelor’s degree related to your teaching subject PLUS
  • Teacher training obtained at a University for the appropriate age ranges. This can be:
    • PGCE (England, Wales, Aus, NZ, Canada etc)
    • PGDE (Scotland)
    • Higher Diploma of Education (Ireland, South Africa)
    • Masters of Education
    • Full (non-temporary, non-emergency) state certification (US and Canada)
    • Teacher registration (NZ, Ireland)
    • Bachelors of Teaching (NZ)
    • Qualified Teacher Status (UK)

Note: a TEFL certficate is not considered equivalent to the teacher training options listed above as it is only for teaching English as a Foreign language not compulsory education, however you may be able to find a job teaching English as a Foreign Language in a state school abroad, but this will vary by country.

It is important to remember that just because you are qualified to teach an age range or subject in your home country, it might not be acceptable in a foreign country, and that these foreign government policies can and do change over time. 

Some qualifications are more problematic than others. They include teaching diplomas that are 3 years or shorter in duration or are not obtained at a University and are without an additional Bachelor’s degree. Examples include Diplomas of Education (South Africa and NZ) and Certificates of Education and NVQs in the UK.  Many countries' Ministries of Education that evaluate foreign qualifcations expect to see a 'degree' rather than a 'diploma' on the certificate from your University.  

We try to list the general educational requirements for each job on our teaching job vacancy page which is updated daily

Principals, Superintendents, Directors and Head Teachers

Some countries are now requiring that Principals/Head teachers have a Masters of Education or higher. Countries that might be affected include but are not limited to the UAE and Indonesia.  Many schools want to see evidence of higher educational attainment even if the Ministries of Education are fine with a Bachelors alone. 

International Baccalaureate

International Baccalaureate training should not be confused with a state-granted teaching qualification. Whilst IB training is highly sought on the international market because of the proliferation of schools using the IB curricula, most Ministries of Education do not consider it equivalent to a Bachelors of Education, PGCE or the like.  An IB teacher is expected to have both IB training and the relevant university-granted teaching qualifications. 

Early Years, Elementary or Primary teaching qualifications

Early Years (Kindergarten) is a grey area. If you seek a job in a stand alone nursery or Kindergarten that is not connected to an international school, you might find that the requirements are more flexible because they are not seen as compulsory education..  However, once an Early Years setting is part of a school, then the requirements may be more rigorous. This depends on the country and the school's license. 

For Primary (Elementary) teachers, most MOEs require a bachelors degree and teacher training such as a PGCE, PGCE or Masters of Education. Some Ministries prefer a Bachelors of Education. Other countries that accept a non-Education related bachelors degree and additional qualification (such as PGCE, M'Ed etc)  require that your initial degree is something that is taught at the appropriate age level. This means that teachers who have an English, Maths or Science degree + PGCE might be approved whereas teachers with a Bachelors of Commerce, Criminal Justice, Business, Law, Dance or foreign languages might not.

Countries that are affected:  Indonesia, Kuwait,Oman, Qatar and some of the United Arab Emirates (in the UAE it varies a bit by Emirate with some being stricter than others)

Degree Matching requirements at Middle School, High School or Secondary School

For Secondary level (eg Middle/High School) many Ministries of Education require that your bachelor's degree match almost exactly to your teaching subject. This is particularly true in across the MIddle East, Vietnam and Indonesia. So if you are a Maths teacher, the expectation is that you have a bachelors degree in Maths. If you do not, transcripts may be required that show you have enough course work that is specific to your teaching subject to be approved. Additionally, in many countries, particularly in the Middle East, Special Educational Needs teachers must normally have a degree specialism or University level teacher training specifically for Special Needs. In service training alone is not usually enough, which discounts many otherwise suitably experienced British teachers.  It is more common at Secondary (High School) level to have degree matching requirements.

Some types of international school licenses also require that teachers, particularly English teachers, have English as their home (first) language.  China is an example of this - they require English teachers to hold a passport from a selection of countries that have English as their national language and this list of countries is very narrow, excluding some countries like Trinidad and Jamaica that have English as the home language. .

Online degrees and teacher training is another potential minefield. Some countries, particularly those in the Middle East do not recognise online universities such as Open University, and other countries do not recognise online teacher training such as a PGCEi.  Teachers with these qualifications will need to be more flexible with respect to location preferences. 

But I have a friend who is teaching with the same qualifications I have…

We often get this comment when teachers are told that they cannot teach in a specific country with their qualifications – “But I have a friend who is doing it”.  There are often one of three reasons for this.

Firstly, government policies can and do change over time so your friend might have gotten approval before the rules changed and is being allowed to stay. Unfortunately this won’t help your case - new visas must meet new requirements. Secondly, your friend could be teaching a school that has a less restrictive license...in which case you might want to apply at their school! Thirdly, it might be that your friend has been hired without proper approvals, the school might have found a loophole, or the teacher might not have a valid visa for the actual job they are doing. We don’t recommend this third path as it often invalidates your medical insurance and might put you at legal risk of deportation. 

Edvectus has a duty of care to our candidates, and we will only present you with schools that we beleive can sponsor visas and legally hire teachers with your exact qualifications. 

Do I need a TEFL certificate to teach in an international school?

Teaching English as a foreign language in a language school is different to teaching in an international school that offers international compulsory education. If you are teaching English as a foreign language in a language school to non-English speakers across the age ranges from children to adults, then you may be able to find a job with a non-Educational Bachelor’s degree alone, though some countries (notably China) now require a  TEFL certficate + a Bachelors degree. 

If you plan to teach your teaching subject – Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, English Language and Literature for example – in an international school then you are not normally required to have a TEFL certificate, though again this depends on the country.   However, because international schools appeal to a wide variety of expatriates and host nationals, it is like you will be teaching some children for whom English is not their mother tongue so having a TEFL certificate or at least the skills to differentiate for children who are acquiring English can be very helpful.  Thus, a TEFL certificate may help your application but is not required,  and is not a substitute for a Bachelors of Education or other required teacher education routes.

Can I do teacher training internationally? 

Because there is a general shortage of western trained teachers, a number of new options are emerging to allow graduates to train abroad. We recommend you investigate thoroughly the quality and transferability of each type of qualification because they may not be accepted in all countries. 

PGCEi - A Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) is a typical teaching qualification in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. This qualification involves some classroom teaching as well as observed student teaching. A PGCEi is an online version of the PGCE and as such it is not accepted by some Ministries of Education who do not yet  support online-only education as equivalent. We recommend you research the requirements in your target countries abroad to determine if the PGCEi will be accepted as a valid teaching qualification before investing. These programmes vary widely in quality and content so some schools and MOEs are understandably wary.  

Minimum Experience requirements

Many Ministries are now requiring that teachers hired to teach in international schools have significant teaching experience before being granted a visa, and the number of countries with these types of requirements is rising. Many countries require 2 years of experience but some have shown some flexibility in considering pre-qualification experience. Again, it may be dependent on the school’s license type and your job title, and it is important not to confuse a schools preference for more experience, which can be more flexible depending on supply and demand,  with government policy which normally is more inflexible. Again, Edvectus is up to date on the specific preferences of each school with which we work so we can save you wasted effort in applying to a school that just will not consider your application. 

Countries that may require at least 2 years of experience: Abu Dhabi, Oman, Egypt  and China 

Countries that may require 5 years of experience: Indonesia 

Remember that just because a country has no minimum experience requirement, any school will be happy to hire you without experience. Schools spend a lot of time and effort to get your visa in order and help you settle in so they really want teachers with proven skills in the classroom who are less likely to need professional support. 

Can I do my probationary year in an international school?

Many teachers look to teach abroad immediately after graduating and ask if they can do their probationary year or NQT/ECT (newly qualified teacher/early career teacher)  year abroad. The answer actually lies with your home country’s government policy on teacher education and training.

UK teachers can do their ECT years abroad if they work for a select number of British schools that have been specially inspected and allowed to sponsor  ECT teachers.  Not all British schools are able to do this and not all want to - it's quite a lot of work for them and, unlike state schools in the UK, they don't get government financial support to do so. 

Irish teachers can do their probationary year in the UK or sometimes in a British school as above.

American teachers may be able to get certified when working abroad but this is quite rare because it requires a school to be able to hire you as an uncertified teacher first and many foreign Ministries of Education will not grant a visa for this.  

Other nationalities are advised to speak with their national / state Department of Education to find out what is their policy.

Remember that government policies can and do change over time so it’s best to check with your home country’s Department of Education before committing fully.

Disclaimer: Government policies are always changing so please use this page for guidance only. Check with your Edvectus consultant for up to date information. Our recruitment consultants are aware of current policies in all countries in which we place teachers but the international schools make all decisions about hiring.