Teaching abroad: How and where to find a job

Pay has improved for new graduates but better contracts may be on offer in England or further afield

A new series for Irish Times Abroad focuses on the opportunities for Irish teachers who are interested in moving overseas. Where can they find a job? How do salaries and working conditions compare?

Here, Peter McGuire takes a look at why Irish primary and secondary school teachers have been leaving Ireland in recent years, and their options in the most popular destinations worldwide.

Over the coming weeks we will focus on third-level and Tefl teaching. Throughout the month, Irish teachers from pre-school to post-graduate level working around the world will be sharing their experiences daily online.

See irishtimes.com/abroad for more.


While Irish primary and post-primary teachers have travelled abroad to experience living and working in a foreign country for decades, in recent years, better career opportunities - particluarly the potential for more hours, greater job security and better pay - have attracted many more young Irish teachers to schools overseas.

Reduced pay for newly-qualified teachers, introduced in 2011, has been a huge disincentive to stay in Ireland, says Moira Leydon of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI). It can also take new teachers - if they are lucky enough to find a job - two years to get a contract of indefinite duration, but not all these posts are full-time.

(Note: agreements reached with two of the three teaching unions in late 2016 have gone a long way towards restoring pay to pre-crash levels for new entrants - see section on The industry in Ireland below).

It’s not hard for Irish teachers to secure work abroad and, due to the strong regulation around entry and qualification requirements here, they are often more qualified than native teachers, says Leydon.

Since the two-year professional master's in education was introduced for second-level teachers in Ireland, those who want to complete their qualification must undergo 200 hours of teaching practice before they can qualifty and register with the Teaching Council, the professional standards body for the teaching profession in Ireland. But many young teachers say they find it hard to get these hours as they are in competition for work with fully-qualified teachers. As a result, many look overseas for their induction practice.

Newly-qualified teachers who stay in Ireland usually get work as a substitute teacher for a few years after graduating, but those who go the UK get experience teaching their own classes, according to Tony Boswell of UTeach, a recruitment, training, placement and support service for teachers looking for work in the UK.

“This is looked on very favourably by Irish heads. If they return to Ireland, we give them access to a bank of lesson plans that they can deliver right away, interview techniques and Irish curriculum updates. This enhances their chance of getting a job in Ireland.”

But new entrants are not the only ones leaving. Boswell says even experienced teachers are going abroad to make more money. "Currently, we have 10 per cent of staff on career breaks teaching in the Middle East or Australia. This decision is largely financial and due to pay cuts at home."

Where is hiring?

Because of the difficulty of obtaining teaching practice hours here, many young teachers are going to the UK where there is a crisis in teacher recruitment and where Irish graduates can complete a recognised induction and probation programme while working. “This could be considered the rational option for many young teachers,” says Leydon.

Most of the vacancies are in London and surrounding areas, but there are positions regularly advertised all over the UK.

For decades the Middle East – mainly the United Arab Emirates, and to a lesser extent Bahrain or Saudi Arabia – has been a top destination for teachers from Ireland and the UK.

Formerly, they would find work teaching the children of western workers from such countries as the US, the UK and Ireland. Now, however, growing numbers of local people – particularly those with money – want their children educated in international schools through the medium of English.

There is also strong demand now in China for qualified teachers to work in international schools, according to Greg Rogan of Expat Teaching Recruitment, with an emphasis on maths and science teachers.

Leydon has attended career fairs for teachers in all of the third-level colleges over the years, and seen stands from the UK, Gulf States, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

David Duffy, who works with the Teachers' Union of Ireland, says it has been contacted by a number of UK companies looking to recruit teachers from Ireland.

Salary, benefits and working hours: What can you expect in the most popular teaching destinations?

Subject teachers in China may earn as little as €1,200 per month, or as much as €3,000: it depends on education and experience, as well as the quality of the international school and where it is located, says Rogan. Flights are normally included, as is medical insurance, paid holidays and a housing allowance.

Tony Boswell of UTeach says in the Middle East you can expect to earn $2,500-5,500 (€2,360-€4,700) per month. Salaries tend to be tax-free and teachers can also get such benefits as insurance, housing, and about eight weeks of holidays per year.

In the UK, you can expect to earn about £23,500 (€27,900) per year as a newly qualified teacher, but without benefits such as housing. London-based teachers get more, due to the expense of living in the capital, but this will be swallowed up by the cost of living.

This compares to an annual full-time salary of approximately €31,800 for newly-qualified secondary school teachers in Ireland, following recent agreements on pay restoration in September 2016.

A recent survey conducted by the Guardian newspaper found that half of England's teachers want to leave the profession within the next five years. In 2015 a similar survey carried out by YouGov and the National Union of Teachers found that half of teachers were considering leaving the profession in the following two years due to low morale and high workload. It's worth bearing in mind conditions vary from one school to another in the UK, so be sure you know exactly what you are letting yourself in for before signing up.

In general, however, there are more opportunities to advance in your teaching career abroad at the moment.

“Promotional opportunities are much more possible abroad. Salaries can shoot up much quicker in the UK and Middle East [than in Ireland],” says Boswell.

“In the Irish context, promotional opportunities are currently limited or non-existent. A teacher could sit for 10 or 20 years at the same level. This has an impact on finances. But in the UK or Middle East, they could be head of a department within three to five years and a senior school leader in 10 years. These teachers can typically be on £45,000 per year.”

There are also more full-time contracts on offer, which will appeal to the estimated 50 per cent of Irish teachers under the age of 35 who are on contracts of less than full hours.

What do you need to know before you apply? How do you get your qualifications accredited?

If you are a teacher from Ireland, you are already qualified to teach in the UK. But if you are a newly-qualified teacher and you want your work overseas to count towards your teacher induction practice for teaching in Ireland, it’s important that you check with the Teaching Council that it will.

Tomás Ó Ruairc, director of the Teaching Council, explains that there are different systems in different countries. Within the UK alone, there are different types of schools and different routes to becoming a teacher, so there’s no absolute guarantee that your work outside Ireland will be recognised back home.

The situation is different again in the Middle East and Asia. Some schools work off the British system, which can help in securing your newly-qualified teacher status back in Ireland. More often, however, the curriculum is so different from home that the Teaching Council in Ireland won't give you that much-needed credit.

If this all seems complicated, there’s a simple solution. “As soon as you have a job offer, ring the Teaching Council, let us know where it will be and in what school, and we will advise you,” says Ó Ruairc.

Be aware that there is a big variety in the quality of schools looking for English-speaking subject teachers in China, says Rogan of Expat Teaching. Due diligence is advised; ask a lot of questions before committing to a job.

In the Middle East, a subject teacher can earn between €1,700 and €4,000; again, this depends on how much experience the teacher has and the quality of the international school. Flights, medical insurance, paid holidays and housing are all provided.

Visa and qualification requirements vary from country to country, but any good recruitment firm or school will advise on the step-by-step process, and they usually have contacts in consulates or visa agencies.

How to find a job abroad

A major teaching fair was held in DCU in 2016, where recruitment agencies sought Irish teachers to work in international schools, but individual third-level institutions organise graduate fairs all the time, so keep an eye out with the various university career offices for upcoming events.

Perhaps the best way to find that job is to check international teacher recruitment agency websites, where vacancies are often will be listed. Expat Teaching Recruitment (expatteaching.com) are currently advertising for primary and secondary school teachers in the UAE. Applicants are asked to fill out an application form or, if they simply want to be contacted about future opportunities, to submit their CV. Expat Teaching also run TeacherPort.com which helps teachers find suitable opportunities abroad - it currently has 17 vacancies advertised, from Indonesia to Kazakhstan. UTeach has an online application form, while EducationCareers.ie lists a small number of international jobs.

TES (tes.com/jobs) is a great UK-based website which currently has over 3,000 jobs advertised. Most are for positions in the UK, but there are a few hundred internationa job ads too. TicRecruitment.com also has a wide selection across 70 countries.

Lastly, you'll find plenty of jobs listed on TeachAndExplore.com.

Many of these companies run recruitment fairs throughout the year, so keep an eye on their websites for lists of upcoming events.

The industry in Ireland

Ireland can’t really afford to lose so many teachers. The number of primary school students is expected to grow to a peak of 573,000 in 2018, declining to 429,000 by 2032. The number of post-primary students is expected to rise to 405,000 by 2025, declining to 349,000 by 2032.

A number of agreements reached in the latter half of 2016 have improved salaries and terms for newly qualified teachers in Ireland, and significantly reduced the two-tier pay inequality caused by cuts made during the recession.

Members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) and Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) who were taken on after February 2012 will receive an increase of €2,000 a year in two phases in 2017 and 2018 (the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland is still in dispute).

A payment of €796 per year for substitution and supervision duties was also recently restored for every teacher covered by the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

These combined factors mean there will be a 15 per cent increase in the starting salary of teachers by January 1st 2018, to €35,602.

Teachers on low-hour contracts (and there are many of them - an estimated 50 per cent of second-level teachers in Ireland under the age of 35 are thought to be on less than full hours) are now eligible to apply for permanent roles if they have worked in a school for two years, reduced from four years.

The INTO (into.ie/pay) and ASTI (asti.ie/pay-and-conditions) have salary scales for primary and post-primary teachers, while the TUI also has them for third-level teachers (tui.ie/welcome-to-our-website/further-education-salary-scales-.2301.html).

At post-primary level, there is a shortage of teachers for some subjects including Irish, mathematics, science, languages and home economics. But English, history and business teachers can struggle to find work.