An Introduction to Overseas Teaching

An overview of overseas teaching: From a history of our services to qualities most in need! 


Interest in international settings continues to grow among contemporary educators, and the opportunities to do so seem to be keeping pace. International teaching opportunities began in 1888 in Mexico City with the establishment of the first American school. This school provided education comparable to that in the United States for the children of U.S. citizens residing there. The opening of the first military dependents' schools occurred in 1946. In addition to these schools, many missionary schools were established around the world whose student populations included both children of missionaries and nationals of the host country.

Changing political and economic factors, the expansion of multi-national corporations, and the predominance of the U.S. university system have all played an important role in the growth of American international schools. The world truly seems to be getting smaller. Growing from a few children of U.S. citizens in Mexico City in 1888 to over a quarter of a million multi-national students just a century later, this student population has created a market for highly energetic, flexible, self-confident, adventuresome educators.


The curricula in these schools vary, reflecting the specific needs of individual school enrollments, but one usually finds a very typical U.S. public school curriculum. Instruction is primarily in English. Many offer an International Baccalaureate program for talented, university-bound students. The curriculum is usually vigorous and highly academic, and extracurricular activity is a vital part of most school programs. A wide variety of schools offer these programs and opportunities.

American-Sponsored Schools

American-Sponsored schools assisted by the U.S. Department of State are usually independent, non-governmental, nondenominational, nonprofit schools. Started as schools to serve American families working abroad, many now serve students from the host country and other countries as well. Varying governance structures can be found, but most are privately governed by boards made up of parents.

In addition, the Independent International Schools, made up of American, British, and other national, corporate, government, religious, and proprietary schools also hire U.S. certified educators.


Most educators are on two year renewable contracts. Some schools may hire less experienced teachers for one year. Hiring requirements, salaries, and benefits vary considerably with many offering free housing, vehicle, U.S. tax exemptions (Americans employed abroad are generally entitled to a $70,000 exclusion of taxable income under certain defined conditions), tuition savings for dependent children, R&R trips, and bonuses upon completion of contracts.

Recruiting Fairs

A successful international job search requires an early start, careful planning, proactive strategies, thorough research, and a willingness to persist. Recruiting fairs provide an opportunity to meet, network, and interview with many prospective employers in a short amount of time. UNI is the birthplace of international recruitment fairs, offering services since 1976. During the pandemic, the UNI Overseas Teaching Services was fully virtual for the 2021 and 2022 fair years. This year, 2022-2023, we are excited to announce that we will be back to an in-person fair coupled with our online database! 

Qualities Most In Demand

Candidates who are either single with no dependents or part of a married teaching team are most successful at our event. Typically, over 90% of the successful candidates at UNI are in one of these categories.

Many schools prefer to hire teachers with at least two years of relevant teaching experience. Over 80% of the educators hired at the UNI Fair typically have two or more years of experience. However, many international schools will hire new college graduates with the right qualifications. New teachers who are very FLEXIBLE about geographic location, have a strong academic background, and are committed to strong principles of teaching and learning are encouraged to register with our service. Over 60% of the new teachers participating in last year's UNI Fair secured employment.

Flexibility is key in the international education market. We encourage all of our registrants to have at least two geographic areas they will consider.

In a recent survey, recruiters were asked what characteristics they looked for in an educator seeking to teach overseas. The key characteristics that were noted included: Flexibility, resilience, adaptability, sense of humor, creativity, team player, love of teaching and young people, complete command of subject area and teaching methodologies, risk taker, strong organizational skills, commitment to professional development, and communication skills.

American international schools have made significant contributions in educating the people of the world, and opportunities to be a part of these contributions continue to increase. Educators who are interested in this market should research this diverse group of schools, keeping their visions broad, their expectations realistic, and their enthusiasm high.