One of the questions I get asked the most is, “How were you able to teach abroad?” Most people think I teach English, but I can’t reiterate this enough; I don’t. I’m certified to teach special education and Spanish in New Jersey for grades 5-12. The schools I’ve worked at internationally deal with an expat population and the kids are TCK’s or third culture kids. Not sure what a TCK is? Check this out.


Did that pique your interest? Well, if you’re interested in working in this type of environment or with kids with more passport stamps than most flight attendants, you’ll need a teaching certificate. I wanted to provide everyone with information on how to become certified to teach, as that is the first step. This post is primarily for those with a bachelors or masters degree, but without teaching experience or teacher education.

If you have already graduated from college, the best, but not the quickest route is an alternative certification program. I say it is not quick because it will take you months if not a couple of years. That’s just the reality of it. Anyone with kids can tell you that they want their kids to have qualified teachers, and so do all good schools.

These programs will allow you to get your certificate while gaining crucial experience as a teacher. The programs also pay you to teach, which is perfect for those who cannot afford to stop working. In some cases they also help pay for a master’s degree in education.

Teach for America

The benefit of doing Teach for America is that you could end up in one of many different cities in the US, perhaps even close to home. It’s good for those looking to make a move or who need a change. TFA prides themselves on diversity and list their latest pool of teachers as 51% people of color. If accepted you will be a full-salaried employee of the school district you’re hired in with full benefits. TFA has their own benefits that you could be eligible for on top of that, such as annual education awards (monetary rewards), payment of your student loan interest during the time you’re teaching, or postponement of your student loans. For more information on TFA, click here.

New York City Teaching Fellows

This is the route I took towards certification and becoming a special education teacher. I worked full-time for 2 years in Brooklyn and earned another masters degree while working. My degree was subsidized by the program, with just a small amount coming from my salary. As the saying goes, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. It’s not an easy job, but the kids are amazing and you truly feel as though you’re making a difference. The salary also helped me to begin managing my debt and it is very feasible to save, while also taking in such a magnificent city. For more information on NYCTF, click here.

How to get certified to teach abroad

While these programs help walk you through the certification process, it is possible to do it on your own. Teaching requirements vary from state to state. If you need a certificate to teach abroad it can be from any state, so do some research and find out which state certification works best for you or is the easiest. Just about every state has an alternative certification option. This site has everything broken down state by state, including salary information, as does this site.

Lastly, let me say that it’s impossible to prescribe a one-size fits all approach to advice on certification. It depends heavily on the individual course work you’ve taken. It also comes down to the state you’re looking in, so if at first you don’t succeed, try another state. In fact, Utah actually just announced that you don’t need a teaching certificate to teach there. Click here to read more on this. The Department of Education in most states will evaluate your application and tell you what steps you need to take to be certified and list the steps (usually) in an easy to understand format. If you are motivated, you can absolutely find a way to make it happen. And the end result is so worth it.

Are you certified to teach? Drop a comment below and tell us about the route you took.