International schools salaries and benefits

There is much more to analysing an international schools 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 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.

1. Will my salary be more than in my home country?

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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 in countries with a high cost of living such as Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Japan amongst others are likely to pay higher salaries. 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.

You can compare school’s salaries in different countries if you sign up to Teacherhorizons – it’s free. Click here to sign-up and get access in moments.

2. Should I set myself a minimum salary aim?

Whilst many teachers do this, it may be unwise to rule out some excellent opportunities. For example, a teacher earning €60,000 (£54,000 or $90,000) in Switzerland is going to have far fewer savings than a teacher earning €20,000 (£18,000 or $30,000) in Egypt.

Use the following table to help you make the calculations. This acts as a guide only, 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.

If you’re interested in maximising your saving potential whilst teaching internationally, why not utilise your existing skills to earn extra income?

3. Do international schools provide free places for teachers’ children?Salary and Benefits

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.

Look on the ‘Salary & Benefits’ section on a school’s profile page to find out if an employee’s child’s education is included in the package.

4. Will I have to pay tax when I teach 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 are in the Middle East.

5. Will my international school provide free health insurance in my benefits package?

Broadly speaking, this is true in countries where the local state health care is inadequate. However, international schools in countries with good healthcare systems are unlikely to provide you with completely free healthcare insurance. Remember to check the ‘Salary & Benefits’ section of a school’s profile page for information on an opportunities package. You will have to be a member of Teacherhorizons to access these pages (but it’s free to join)

6. Will my international school help me relocate?

Many international schools will offer some kind of flight allowance. This could be at the begin and end of your contract, yearly or a monetary amount to be used on flights when you wish. A relocation allowance can also be included in an international teaching package. This is an amount of money that is given to help with the initial costs of moving to another country, which soon add up if you have to kit out a kitchen or house.

7. Should my international school offer free accommodation?

Lots of international schools offer their teachers free or cheap accommodation. Often all the teachers will live in the same building in individual flats or apartments and sometimes these will be on or close to the school campus. Some international schools do not include accommodation in the teacher’s package but are open to helping you find accommodation and advising on good locations, estate agents and the expected cost of rent.

8. Should I be concerned about working in a country with a weak currency?

Many schools located 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.

9. Are there any other benefits that I should look out for?

carInternational school packages vary greatly but it’s important to be aware of some of the other benefits that could be included:

  • Laptop
  • Language lessons
  • Bonuses on completion of contract
  • Spousal allowance
  • Transport discounts
  • Pension schemes

International school salaries ultimately vary according to the individual school and your level of experience. We encourage all of our schools to provide this information on their profile page.

To view our current opportunities and the benefits and salaries for each, just sign up in 3 simple steps – Sign up, add your CV and become an endorsed teacher!

Written by Alexis Toye, Director of Operation and Finance at Teacherhorizons. Former IB school teacher and IB Coordinator at Oporto British School and Westminster Academy.