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Licensing Requirements for Teaching Abroad

Before I get into this topic, I have to say I was thrilled when Magoosh asked me to write about it. I started my teaching career as an overseas teacher, and I love teaching in other countries. Immersing yourself in a foreign culture can be an inspiring, life-changing experience. And teaching jobs provide one of the easiest tickets to life abroad.

The prerequisites for teaching overseas are as varied as the nations, provinces, cities, and different types of schools that exist all around the world. Some overseas jobs don’t even require a teaching license. But you may need a license for the two most common types of overseas teaching jobs: ESL and international school positions.


Licensing requirements to teach ESL

Many ESL teaching positions don’t’ actually require a license. This is especially true in private ESL academies—after-school programs where parents pay a little extra money to give their kids a boost in English. This is also sometimes true in overseas public school systems. East Asian public school systems are particularly willing to hire unlicensed teachers as ESL instructors.

However, even when there is no requirement for a full teacher certification, it’s not uncommon for ESL employers to ask for a TESOL certificate. A TESOL certificate is a relatively short round of coursework that introduces teachers to TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

One of the most widely accepted ESL teaching certificates is the CELTA—this is a rigorous teaching certificate with a major focus on linguistics. Most other common ESL certification courses are more focused on the art of teaching and less geared toward the science of language acquisition. Other big-name TESOL certificate providers include Oxford Seminars and ONTESOL. Numerous universities provide TESOL certificates as well—Anaheim University and Hamline University host two of the more famous university-based certificate programs in the US.

Even when ESL teachers don’t ask for a TESOL certificate, getting one is a good way to start an ESL career—it’s a quick, affordable way to get a feel for the profession, and it can give you competitive edge over other applicants.


Licensing requirements to teach at international schools

International schools are proper day schools that are administered in much the same way as regular public and parochial schools in the US and Canada. This class of schools is designed for the children of expatriates living abroad—it’s a way that children can get an education taught in the language and to the standards of their parents’ home countries.

International schools are located overseas, but accredited by home countries such as the U.K., the United States, and so on. Because international schools have come to be seen as a source of English language immersion education, even non-English-speaking countries such as Korea and Japan sponsor overseas schools where the medium of instruction is English.

To teach at an international school, you’ll usually need a teaching license from your home country, the same kind of licensure you’d need to teach at a public school in your home state or province. In most cases, you’ll need a license in the subject area you’ll teach—an elementary school license for teaching at an international elementary school, a science license for teaching science in an international school, and so on.

However, international schools can be a little more flexible when it comes to accepting licenses. They’re more willing to accept a license earned through alternative certification or equivalency. And they don’t care what state your teaching license is from—because international schools aren’t located in US states, the rules for transfer if your license from one state to another simply don’t apply.

International schools even sometimes hire unlicensed teachers to instruct for them. However, international K-12 schools need to do this sparingly—they are accredited in their home countries and must meet certain standards in terms of the quality and qualifications of their teachers. If you see an international school that seems a little too willing to hire unlicensed instructors, approach them with caution—this could be a sign of larger administrative problems.


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