How to Make the Transition from Sales Representative to a Job in International Education

by | May 14, 2023 | Career Advice

As a sales representative, you may be looking to make a career change and explore new opportunities. If you have an interest in global education, transitioning to a job in international education could be a great move. In this article, we will explore the key differences between sales and international education jobs, identify transferable skills, discuss job opportunities and professional organizations, and provide tips for enhancing your qualifications and tailoring your job application.

Understanding the Shift from Sales to International Education

The transition from sales to international education may seem daunting, but it’s important to understand key differences between the two fields to determine if it’s right for you. While sales positions often focus on meeting quotas and generating revenue, international education jobs are more focused on supporting students, faculty, and staff in learning and cultural exchange. This may require a different skill set and work style.

International education is a field that has been growing in recent years, as more and more students seek to study abroad and gain a global perspective. This has created a demand for professionals who can support these students and help them navigate the challenges of studying in a foreign country.

Key Differences between Sales and International Education Jobs

One key difference is the motivation behind the work. In sales, the primary goal is often financial gain while in international education, the goal is to support learning and cultural exchange. This means that international education roles may require more focus on building relationships, collaborating with stakeholders, and working in a team environment.

Another difference between sales and international education jobs is the pace of work. In sales, there may be a focus on closing deals quickly, while in international education, the focus may be on promoting long-term partnerships and sustained engagement.

International education professionals may also need to have a deep understanding of different cultures and languages, as they work with students from all over the world. This requires a level of sensitivity and empathy that may not be as important in a sales role.

Identifying Transferable Skills and Experiences

While the differences between sales and international education jobs may seem stark, there are many transferable skills and experiences that can be leveraged in your transition. For example, if you have experience in sales, you likely have strong communication skills, the ability to build relationships with clients, and experience working in fast-paced environments. These are all valuable skills in international education.

You may also have experience in customer service, problem-solving, or data analysis that can be applied to roles in international education. Assessing your transferable skills and experiences will be critical in marketing yourself for positions in the field.

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It’s also important to note that international education is a field that offers a wide range of opportunities. You could work in study abroad programs, international student services, or even in international admissions. There are also opportunities to work in non-profits, government agencies, and private companies that focus on global education.

The field of international education is constantly evolving, with new programs, initiatives, and partnerships being developed all the time. This means that there is always something new to learn and explore, making it an exciting and dynamic field to work in.

Exploring Job Opportunities in International Education

Once you’ve decided to pursue a career in international education, the next step is to explore available job opportunities in the field. International education is a diverse and growing field that offers a wide range of career opportunities. It involves working with students, faculty, and staff from around the world to promote cross-cultural understanding, global citizenship, and international cooperation.

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Here are some types of international education jobs to consider:

Types of International Education Jobs

  • Study Abroad Advisor: Study abroad advisors help students plan and prepare for study abroad programs. They provide information on program options, application processes, academic requirements, and cultural considerations. They also assist with logistics such as travel arrangements, housing, and visas.
  • International Student Advisor: International student advisors work with international students to help them adjust to life in a new country. They provide information on immigration regulations, cultural norms, academic expectations, and campus resources. They also help students navigate the challenges of living and studying in a foreign environment.
  • International Program Coordinator: International program coordinators manage study abroad programs, exchange programs, and other international initiatives. They work with faculty, staff, and students to develop program goals, design curricula, and coordinate logistics. They also manage budgets, oversee program evaluations, and ensure compliance with institutional policies and regulations.
  • International Admissions Counselor: International admissions counselors recruit and admit international students to colleges and universities. They review applications, evaluate credentials, and make admissions decisions. They also provide information on academic programs, campus life, and financial aid.
  • ESL Teacher: ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers work with non-native English speakers to improve their English language skills. They develop and deliver instructional materials, assess student progress, and provide feedback and support. They may work in schools, colleges, or language institutes.
  • Cultural Exchange Specialist: Cultural exchange specialists design and manage cultural exchange programs for students, scholars, and professionals. They work with partner organizations to develop program goals, design activities, and coordinate logistics. They also provide support and guidance to participants throughout the program.
  • International Education Consultant: International education consultants provide advice and guidance to individuals and organizations on international education opportunities. They may work with students, parents, schools, or businesses. They provide information on study abroad programs, international schools, and other educational opportunities.

Top Organizations and Institutions to Consider

  • The Fulbright Program: The Fulbright Program is a prestigious international exchange program that provides funding for students, scholars, and professionals to study, teach, and conduct research abroad.
  • The Institute of International Education: The Institute of International Education (IIE) is a leading organization in the field of international education. It provides a wide range of programs and services to promote international education and exchange.
  • Study Abroad Programs at Universities: Many universities offer study abroad programs for their students. These programs provide opportunities for students to study and live in another country while earning academic credit.
  • Education Non-profit Organizations: There are many non-profit organizations that focus on international education. These organizations provide a variety of services, including study abroad programs, scholarships, and cultural exchange programs.

Networking and Professional Associations in International Education

  • National Association of International Educators (NAFSA): NAFSA is a professional association for international educators. It provides resources, training, and networking opportunities for its members.
  • Association for International Education Administrators (AIEA): AIEA is a professional association for international education administrators. It provides leadership and professional development opportunities for its members.
  • Forum on Education Abroad: The Forum on Education Abroad is a membership association for organizations and individuals involved in study abroad programs. It provides resources, training, and advocacy on issues related to study abroad.
  • Global Leadership League: The Global Leadership League is a professional organization for women in international education. It provides networking, mentoring, and professional development opportunities for its members.

Enhancing Your Qualifications for International Education Roles

While having transferable skills and experience from a sales background is advantageous, there are additional qualifications that can enhance your competitiveness for international education roles. Here are some ways to expand your knowledge and skills:

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Pursuing Relevant Certifications and Degrees

There are numerous certifications and degrees available for those interested in international education. One such certification is the Certificate in International Education from NAFSA, which offers a comprehensive overview of the field and can be completed online. This certification covers topics such as intercultural communication, education abroad, international student and scholar services, and international enrollment management.

Another option is pursuing a degree in international education or a related field. Many universities offer master’s degree programs in international education or global studies. These programs provide a deep understanding of the complexities of international education and may also offer opportunities for internships or study abroad experiences. Additionally, some universities offer specialized programs such as a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) or a Master of International Education Policy.

Gaining Experience through Volunteering and Internships

Volunteering or interning in an international education setting is a great way to gain practical experience in the field. Look for opportunities to work with study abroad programs, international student offices, or education non-profit organizations. Many universities also have opportunities for students or recent graduates to work or intern in their international education offices or study abroad programs.

Volunteering or interning abroad can also provide valuable experience. Some popular programs include the Peace Corps, Fulbright Scholar Program, and Teach for All. These programs provide opportunities to work with local communities and gain a deeper understanding of different cultures.

Developing Language Skills and Cultural Competence

Language skills and cultural competence are critical in international education. If you don’t already speak a second language, consider taking classes or language immersion programs. Learning a new language can also help you understand the culture and customs of the people who speak it.

Additionally, travel and cultural exchange experiences can go a long way in developing cross-cultural communication skills and an understanding of different perspectives. Consider participating in a study abroad program or traveling to a foreign country to gain a firsthand understanding of different cultures and educational systems.

Overall, there are many ways to enhance your qualifications for international education roles. Pursuing relevant certifications and degrees, gaining experience through volunteering and internships, and developing language skills and cultural competence are just a few ways to expand your knowledge and skills in this field.

Tailoring Your Job Application for International Education Positions

Once you’ve gained the relevant qualifications and experience, it’s important to tailor your job application for international education positions. This can help you stand out from other candidates and increase your chances of getting hired.

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When applying for international education positions, it’s important to do your research and understand the unique requirements of the role. This may involve researching the organization or institution, understanding the mission and values of the organization, and identifying potential challenges or opportunities in the role.

Crafting a Compelling Resume and Cover Letter

Your resume and cover letter should highlight your transferable skills and experience, as well as any relevant certifications or degrees. Use specific examples of how your skills have been applied in previous roles to demonstrate your fit for the position.

It’s important to tailor your resume and cover letter to the specific job you’re applying for. This may involve using keywords and phrases from the job description, highlighting relevant experience, and demonstrating your knowledge of the organization and its mission.

Highlighting Your Sales Achievements and Transferable Skills

As discussed earlier, many transferable skills from sales can be valuable in international education roles. Be sure to highlight any sales achievements or skills such as communication, relationship building, and problem-solving that are relevant to the role.

When highlighting your transferable skills, it’s important to provide specific examples of how you have used these skills in previous roles. This can help demonstrate your ability to apply these skills in an international education setting.

Preparing for Interviews in the International Education Sector

Preparing for interviews in international education may involve research on the organization or institution, understanding the mission and values of the organization, and identifying potential challenges or opportunities in the role.

Additionally, be prepared to discuss your transferable skills and experience, as well as your passion for promoting learning and cultural exchange. It’s important to demonstrate your knowledge of the organization and its mission, and to show how your skills and experience align with the organization’s goals.

During the interview, be sure to ask questions that demonstrate your interest in the role and your understanding of the organization. This can help you stand out from other candidates and show your enthusiasm for the position.


Transitioning from sales to a job in international education may seem daunting, but with careful planning and assessment of transferable skills and experiences, it can be a rewarding move. By exploring job opportunities, enhancing your qualifications, and tailoring your job application, you can build a successful career in international education.