Having pursued a job search in the field of international education not too long ago, I am familiar with the variety of ways one can approach seeking a position in this field. Because it is a relatively large and varied field, it can be difficult to discern where to start your search. International educators can work in a variety of different settings but the majority work in colleges/universities, for the state or federal government, with study abroad program providers, ESL programs, or other kinds of international programs within the community. Obviously your particular area of interest within the field will dictate how you approach your job search. The information below should be helpful for those new to the field who may not know exactly what aspect of the profession they want to pursue.
Here are a few tips for where to start your job search in the field of international education:
NAFSA (Associate of International Educators)
Networking through NAFSA is a great way to break into the field. If you aren’t familiar with NAFSA, be sure to visit their website and check out the materials and information that are available. This is a great way to gain information about the field if you haven’t had the opportunity to gain any work experience yet. Attending a regional or national conference (they offer student and volunteer discounts) can provide you with contacts in the field and allow you to gain knowledge about international student recruitment, retention, study abroad, and other international education topics. The national conference always hosts a Career Center where you can have your resume reviewed and meet with employers that are looking to hire. Also search through their job registry (http://jobregistry.nafsa.org/) for job openings throughout the country and abroad.
College and University website
Although it can be time consuming, if you have an area of the country in mind that you are focused on, you can search local university websites to see if they are hiring for positions of an international nature. Many of these jobs will also be on NAFSA and other international education list-serves but it’s always worth it to check. Also be on the lookout for colleges and universities that have tuition reimbursement programs that would allow you to further your education while working (that’s how I got my Masters degree!).
This list-serve, administered by the University of Buffalo, consistently posts job openings in the field of international education. It also provides a lot of other information that could be of benefit to someone looking to break into the field (you can use list-serves like this one to stay current on important topics).
There are many international non-profits located in Washington, DC, New York, and other major metropolitan areas. Some of those that we work with regularly in higher education are World Learning, ISEP, Meridien, Education USA, and the Institute of International Education. Again, a lot of these job postings will be on the SECUSS-L list-serves and NAFSA database, but you can always check their specific websites as well. You can also consider asking these organizations for informational interviews, which allow you to learn more about what they may be looking for in their staff and give you experience “interviewing” in a professional setting where you want to work.
If you are interested in living in D.C., check out the websites of the embassies and consular offices. Some hire Americans, especially those with second language skills and experience living abroad.
Connect with Your University Career Center and Alumni Office
Many students don’t utilize their university career centers as much as they should. Some universities allow you to use their services even after you graduate, so be sure to check. Many have significant job databases and can work to connect you with alumni in your field. Personal connections can make a huge difference in a job search so be sure to leverage any connections that you have! Alumni offices are often very helpful in this regard, and many offer mentorship programs that connect you with alumni that work in similar fields.
Keep in mind you may not be able to get your “dream” position right away, but lower level positions allow you to break into the field and obtain the base knowledge that you’ll need to succeed at a higher level. Professionals in international education come from a wide variety of different backgrounds and disciplines so there is no prescribed route for getting a job in the field. My advice to students is to find someone that has the job you want and interview them to see how they got there. Keep your options open and network as much as you can; most people are happy to tell you more about what they do and what a great field international education is to work in.
Best of luck!
Sarah Young is the Academic Advising Coordinator for the Global Education Office at Virginia Commonwealth University. She advises international students as well as study abroad returnees. Sarah holds a BA in International Studies from Allegheny College and a MEd in Counselor Education from Virginia Commonwealth University.