The average International School teaching contract is two years. Most schools offer generous benefit packages to tempt teachers into making the move overseas. A typical package will include: flights to and from your home country, housing, tuition for children and health insurance. In addition, others may include: utilities, travel options, relocation allowance, spousal allowance, language lessons, laptop, pension schemes and an end of contract bonus.
Here you will find a description of the elements which make up most benefit packages for International Teaching jobs. They have been grouped into the following categories:
2. Cost of Living;
4. Flights and Housing;
An International Teacher's salary can range anywhere from $19,000 t0 $100,000 (USD) a year. Salaries can vary widely depending on a number of factors such as experience, qualifications, the type of school, as well as the country in which the school is situated. When considering a position in an International School, it is important for teachers to weigh up the whole package on offer, not just the salary. For example, receiving a high salary but no accommodation is not necessarily better than receiving a lower salary with accommodation provided. Your salary should just be one point of consideration when choosing the right job.
Bonuses can take many forms but often they are a reward for fully completing a two year contract. Bonuses are incentives to encourage a teacher to stay the full duration of his or her contract. It is important to check if your bonus is tax free or not as in some countries a tax may be applied. A bonus tends to be a month's salary for every year worked at the school.
*Some countries in the Middle East are in fact required by law to pay staff bonuses.
Basic Living Expenses
The amount of disposable income you will have at the end of each month is dependent on where you are living. The cost of living changes dramatically from country to country, with the cost of utilities and basic groceries varying widely. For example, $8 might buy two people an evening meal in a mid-range restaurant in China, whereas it might only fetch a single entrée in a Chinese restaurant in London.
It is important to bear in mind that your net salary each month will go a lot further in less developed countries compared to more economically developed ones. Consequently, an understanding of a country's living costs can not only help you with your savings plan whilst overseas, but can also help when attempting to accurately evaluate benefit packages.
The simple comparison table below should help to explain some of the main differences between gross and net pay in different locations. (The information given is for comparison purposes only.)
UK UAE China
Salary per Year $40,000 $38,400 $35,000
Monthly Pay $3330 $3200 $2917
Bonus (per month) $0 $266 $243
Income Tax $666 (20%) $0 $495 (17%)
Rent $850 Provided Provided
Disposable Income per month $1814 $3466 $2665
*When considering your disposable income, it is important to compare the cost of living in each country. For example, from the above table we can see that the cost of living in the UK is 50% more expensive than China and 30% more expensive than the UAE.
One of the main attractions of International Teaching is the lucrative tax-free salaries on offer. However, it must be noted that not all countries pay a tax-free salary. In fact, the countries which offer such a benefit are almost exclusively confined to the Middle Eastern region. Income tax rates in Western Europe are some of the highest that teachers will be expected to pay, whereas many Asian, African and South American nations demand a moderate to low income tax rate when compared with Europe.
In order to fully understand your package, we advise that you calculate the taxation in your home country versus the country in which you wish to teach. Looking at gross salary, subtracting taxes, accommodation payments, bills etc. in your home country compared to your net salary in your proposed teaching country is the best way to ensure you appreciate the true value of a benefits package.
When thinking about taking an International Teaching job, you must consider the rules about taxation in your own country, i.e. will you have to pay tax on your money earned abroad. For instance, New Zealand’s government has rigorous tax laws which impose taxation not only on the salary earned by citizens abroad, but on every element of a benefits package! Be informed about your home country’s taxation laws.
Housing is one of the most important factors when deciding whether to accept a position or not. The reason for this is that a large portion of a person's salary in his or her home country goes towards rent or mortgage payments each month. Most International Schools offer either a housing allowance (payable with your salary) or provide you with accommodation.
Allowance vs Provided Accommodation
When deciding between the housing provided or an allowance there are many factors to consider. For example, in China your housing allowance may be 3,000rmb but the cost of a 3 bed apartment may only be 1,200rmb, giving you added savings of 1800rmb per month. In contrast, a housing allowance in Myanmar could be $600 a month but the cost of renting an apartment may be $1000, leaving you with a deficit of $400 a month. Based on these examples, it may be a better option financially to take the allowance and find your own housing in China, whereas in Myanmar it would be better to take provided accommodation.
Regardless, housing should be included in your benefits package. If it is not, you should enquire and negotiate with the employer. Researching the average price of accommodation in your prospective location before signing a contract is recommended. Also, asking for pictures of prospective housing is advisable.
Like housing, many schools will provide an airfare allowance to teachers. Some schools will reimburse your flight allowance in full on arrival. Others will give it to you at the end of one year, provided you submit receipts. You must bear in mind the following:
- In some cases you will need to supply full and clear receipts of your flight purchase.
- Although you are granted an allowance, in some countries (particularly China) schools will only pay for tickets to and from your home country. If you decide to fly somewhere other than your home country, you may meet with obstacles when it comes to being reimbursed!
- You may only receive your flight allowance at the end of your contract, or at end of an academic year.
- Depending on where you are flying to, the allowance may not even cover the full cost of your flight.
Many benefit packages offer other great perks, such as health insurance, pension schemes, free language classes, laptop, relocation allowance, etc.
If relocating with a family, you should inquire regarding the benefits available, i.e. child tuition and flights/health insurance cover for the whole family. It must be noted that most honest administrations will consider a teacher's dependents, but it is not uncommon for some schools to completely ignore the needs of teachers’ families. Be vigilant when signing with any school that is not transparent in giving details about such important benefits.