There is much more to deconstructing an international school teacher’s salary and benefits package than working out the exchange rate and converting it into your home country’s currency. Whilst most teachers aren’t in the profession for the salary, it is a significant consideration when choosing a new job and this article will hopefully help you make an informed decision regarding your salary and benefits. It is fair to say that most teachers in international schools enjoy a significantly better relative salary and benefits package than they would in their home country.
This article will focus on the many misconceptions that teachers have about teaching abroad and their packages.
Misconception 1: International school teachers are paid more than I will be in my home country.
This varies hugely by country but if you come from the US, UK or Australasia this is not likely to be the case. International schools based in countries with a high cost of living such as Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Japan amongst others are likely to pay higher salaries. However, in most countries the cost of living is lower as is local earning power meaning that salaries are likely to be on a par or less than you are paid at home.
However, saving opportunities are increased greatly by teaching in international schools. In many countries the cost of living is substantially lower and your comprehensive benefits package will mean that your opportunities to save are substantial. The Middle East and China offer excellent opportunities to save, providing tax free salaries and substantial benefits packages in many cases.
Misconception 2: International school teachers in the developing world may be well off in that country but once they exchange their savings, they will have very little to bring home.
Many schools in countries with weak currencies pay part of the salary in the local currency (which acts as spending money) and part of the salary in an internationally recognised currency such as the US Dollar, Euro or British Pound. This will mean that you should return home with more savings than you would have done if working at home.
Misconception 3: International school teachers should set minimum salary aims for themselves.
Whilst many teachers do this, it may be unwise and rule out some excellent opportunities. For example a teacher earning €60,000 (£54,000 or $90,000) in Switzerland is going to have far less savings than a teacher earning €20,000 (£18,000 or $30,000) in Egypt.
Use the following table to help you make the calculations, it acts as only a guide but should help you understand the value of your salary:
|Geneva, Switzerland||Sao Paulo, Brazil||Cairo, Egypt|
|Guide yearly salary before tax||$90,000 (£56,250)||$60,000 (£37,500)||$30,000 (£18,750)|
|Monthly salary before tax||$7,500 (£4,688)||$5,000 (£3,125)||$2,500 (£1,563)|
|Approx. tax per month||30% so:$2,250||20% so:$1,000||0% so:$0|
|Rent per month||$2,000||Paid by school – $0||Paid by school – $0|
|Remaining monthly income||$3,250||$4,000||$2,500|
|Numbeo index excluding rent (compared to New York at 100 – the lower the value the further your money goes)||151.14||110.27||59.92|
|Adjusted salary value after tax||$2,147 (£1,342)||$3,627 (£2,267)||$4,172 (£2,608)|
So, whilst you won’t have $4,172 in your pocket at the end of the month in Egypt, this is the equivalent spending power you have, despite the much lower salary. This certainly doesn’t mean that you should rule out an excellent opportunity in Switzerland (there are some fabulous IB schools) but it does mean that you shouldn’t turn down opportunities purely on the basis of their low salary in numerical terms.
Most international school teachers will enjoy a high standard of living plus have spare funds to travel, engage in a very active social life or save but probably not all of them.
It is worth using the cost of living comparison site www.numbeo.com to compare what your salary may be actually worth in that city.
Misconception 4: all international schools will provide free education for my children.
A number of international schools do provide free education for your children. However, the majority do not. Most provide a substantial discount between 50% and 90% of the fees. Some offer no discount at all although this is uncommon.
Misconception 5: I will pay no tax teaching abroad.
This varies country by country but you will most likely pay local taxes in most countries. There are, however, a number of countries that do offer tax free salaries for foreign residents, many of them but not exclusively in the Middle East.
Misconception 6: International schools always provide free private healthcare
Broadly speaking, this is true in countries where the local state healthcare is inadequate. However, international schools in countries with good healthcare systems are unlikely to provide you with completely free healthcare insurance.