What’s in a package?
Make sure you know what’s included
Timeless advice, especially for first-time international teachers, from leading recruiter, Andrew Wigford, about how to compare different salary and benefit packages.
If you take a position as an international school teacher, ensuring the right salary and benefits package for you is essential. International school salaries and benefits vary both from country to country and from school to school. It is important to do your research to find out what a potential benefits package will include as this can impact how much you are able to save, travel and overall impact your life as an international teacher.
Here is our guide to international school contracts for teachers working overseas.
There are many factors which can affect your salary when teaching overseas. International school salaries can be similar to those offered to teachers in the UK, USA or Australia, but some are very different. Even within the same city, schools can offer wildly different salaries. Dubai is a classic example of this where salaries in international schools can differ by as much as £10 – £15,000 a year for teachers effectively doing the same job!
There are many factors which influence how much a school pays on teacher salaries. It is fairly common for not-for-profit schools to pay very well as they are able to constantly re-invest in their workforce. That is not to say that for-profit schools always pay badly. Many pay very well. It may depend on how old the school is, how much it charges parents and other factors such as local government regulations on pay.
It’s often hard to get good information on salary comparisons but because we work with so many international schools, we are in a very good position to give advice. It is important to understand that most schools have a set salary scale and will not have the flexibility to negotiate. After all, paying teachers in the same school different amounts can cause a lot of bad feeling, but this is not to say it doesn’t happen.
With any salary it’s important to weigh up multiple factors. Is it tax free? What is the local cost of living like? What other benefits do you get? Is there a gratuity or bonus payment? Does the salary include a housing allowance – and if so, is it enough? It’s also important to consider the whole package, not just the salary as this can be deceiving. You may be much better off with a lower salary if the cost of living is significantly lower and you don’t pay tax or have any bills.
The salary in context
Sometimes the more expensive a city or country is to live in, the higher the salary paid to international teachers. A destination’s popularity can also be a determining factor in how much you are paid. Schools in popular destinations are able to pay less because of high demand, while schools in the less popular destinations often offer more enticing salaries. This will often mean there is strong competition for these teaching posts.
Many international schools, especially those outside of Europe, include some level of housing benefit, but again what is on offer varies. Some will provide their teachers with accommodation on arrival, which is fully furnished, close to school and has good amenities like a gym or a pool. Others, however, might just offer a housing allowance. In the Middle East and Far East, teachers are often provided with private, furnished apartments.
Some schools only offer shared accommodation, with private rooms but with a communal kitchen, living room and bathroom. This is often because the cost of renting apartments for schools can be very high. If no housing benefits are provided, your salary may be higher to cover the cost of renting and in this situation the school will often help you find a suitable place to live and may even offer to cover the cost of a deposit. It’s important to have an idea of the costs of local housing and what’s affordable.
Many international school packages include flights at the beginning and end of contract. Some also offer annual flights to your home destination, while others will give cash equivalents if you do not want to go home in the middle of your contract. The number of flights offered to teachers can vary. If you have dependants traveling with you it is important to find out if they are covered in the flights allowance.
Medical insurance is often provided with overseas teaching contracts. The cover will vary. Some schools have policies which offer good cover within the host country, but you may not be insured when you leave it. Some school policies do not cover pre-existing conditions or the cost of unusual treatments or drugs. It’s important to check these carefully. We have known of teachers who were unable to take up a new post because the school medical insurance did not cover the cost of expensive drugs taken regularly by the teacher. Also, you should check if your dependants are also covered by the school’s policy.
In some instances, your accommodation package will include utility bills and access to the internet. Other packages may include a contribution towards bills.
Each country has different laws which dictate how workers are taxed. Teachers in many countries in the Middle East for example can usually expect a tax-free salary. When tax is charged be sure of the rate. This can make a significant difference on your earnings, so getting an idea of your monthly ‘net’ salary is really important.
Bonuses, gratuities and pesnions
At the end of a contract, teachers may on occasions be offered a bonus or gratuity. In certain countries, this is a legal requirement. On the other hand, some schools make pension fund contributions and in some cases, the pot may be transferrable.
Dependants and education
Benefits may extend to family members making the move with you. For example, medical insurance may be offered to children and spouses. Some contracts also provide an education allowance for children or even free education for children at the school. This is a huge benefit to families. In fact, if schools do not offer free or discounted school fees then it may make taking a position as a teacher unaffordable.
Other benefits and the ability to save
- Many schools offer relocation allowances which can be quite substantial ranging in amounts from around £500 to £5000.
- Schools often offer a laptop for teachers use. We have even heard of schools paying for mobile phones.
- Many will give other incentives such as free gym membership, discounts for meals or free school meals. We know of one school in the Swiss Alps that offers its teachers a free ski season pass!
Adding up all the benefits is just as important as knowing the salary and how far it will go in the country you will live in. It can make a big difference to how much money you can save.
Former headteacher Andrew Wigford is the Founder and Director of TiC Recruitment
Feature Image: by mohamed_hassan at Pixabay