How to Transition From an Accountant to a Job in International Education

by | May 19, 2023 | Career Advice

Transitioning from a career in accounting to a job in international education may seem like a daunting task, but it’s not impossible. This article will guide you through the key steps you need to take to make this career change successfully. We will help you understand the differences between these fields, identify your transferable skills, challenges and opportunities, and build your network in the international education sector. Additionally, we will show you how to enhance your skills and qualifications to prepare yourself for the transition.

Understanding the Shift from Accounting to International Education

Accounting and international education are two vastly different fields. Accounting involves managing financial records and ensuring accuracy and compliance, while international education involves training and supporting students from different countries and cultures. Therefore, it’s important to understand why you want to make the switch and what motivates you.

Perhaps you enjoy working with people from diverse backgrounds, teaching and mentoring, or helping students achieve their academic and personal goals. Or maybe you’re simply looking for a new challenge. Whatever your reason, it’s essential to assess your long-term career objectives and identify the skills, knowledge, and values that you can bring to the international education sector.

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One of the most exciting aspects of international education is the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of students from all over the world. By providing them with a supportive and inclusive learning environment, you can help them succeed academically and personally, while also fostering cross-cultural understanding and empathy.

Key Differences Between the Two Fields

One of the biggest differences between accounting and international education lies in their core competencies. Financial literacy, technical expertise, and attention to detail are crucial in accounting, while intercultural communication, teamwork, and empathy are more important in international education. Additionally, the pace of work, the nature of interactions with colleagues and clients, and the types of challenges you face will differ.

Another key difference is the level of creativity and innovation required in international education. While accounting is often focused on following established rules and procedures, international education requires a more flexible and adaptable approach. You may need to come up with new teaching methods, find creative solutions to challenges, and constantly adapt to the needs of your students.

Identifying Transferable Skills and Knowledge

Although accounting and international education may seem very different, you’d be surprised at how many transferable skills and knowledge you have. For example, you may have excellent communication skills, experience with data analysis and management, or expertise in budgeting and financial planning. Your ability to adapt to change, learn new skills quickly, and handle stress may also be valuable. Therefore, it’s important to identify and articulate these transferable skills and knowledge to potential employers in the international education sector.

Another important skill in international education is cultural competence. This involves understanding and respecting different cultural norms, beliefs, and values, and being able to adapt your teaching style and approach accordingly. This can be particularly challenging if you are working with students from cultures that are very different from your own, but it can also be incredibly rewarding.

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Challenges and Opportunities in International Education

Transitioning to a career in international education may come with its own set of challenges and opportunities. One challenge you may face is the lack of experience or credentials in the field, as well as the potential language and cultural barriers. However, there are several opportunities to gain experience, credentials, and connections in international education, such as internships, volunteering opportunities, or pursuing further education. Additionally, you may encounter opportunities to work abroad, develop cross-cultural competencies, and make a positive impact on students’ lives.

One of the most exciting opportunities in international education is the chance to work with students from all over the world. This can be a truly enriching experience, as you learn about different cultures, languages, and perspectives. You may also have the opportunity to travel to different countries and experience new cultures firsthand.

Overall, transitioning from accounting to international education can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By identifying your transferable skills, understanding the key differences between the two fields, and embracing the challenges and opportunities that come with international education, you can make a successful transition and build a fulfilling career in this exciting and dynamic field.

Assessing Your Motivation and Goals

Before embarking on a career transition, it’s important to assess your motivation and goals. This will help you make informed decisions, stay focused and motivated, and align your personal values with your career change.

Transitioning to a new career can be a daunting task, but with the right mindset and preparation, it can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. Assessing your motivation and goals is the first step in this process.

Why International Education Appeals to You

International education is a field that offers a wide range of opportunities for personal and professional growth. Take some time to reflect on why international education appeals to you. Is it the opportunity to work with people from diverse backgrounds, the potential for personal and professional growth, or the chance to make a positive impact on students’ lives?

International education provides a unique opportunity to work with students from all over the world and help them achieve their academic and personal goals. Additionally, it allows you to develop cultural competence and gain a deeper understanding of different cultures and perspectives.

Long-term Career Objectives in the New Field

Having long-term career objectives in the new field is crucial to achieving success and job satisfaction. Identify what type of role you want to pursue, what qualifications you need, and what skills and knowledge you want to develop.

International education offers a variety of career paths, including teaching, program management, student services, and administration. Consider your interests and strengths when deciding which path to pursue.

Additionally, think about your work-life balance, salary expectations, and career progression opportunities. International education offers a range of benefits, such as flexible schedules, competitive salaries, and opportunities for advancement.

Aligning Your Personal Values with Your Career Change

Aligning your personal values with your career change is essential to achieving job satisfaction and fulfillment. Consider what values are important to you, such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how they align with the values of the international education sector.

The international education sector values diversity and inclusion, and strives to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students. By aligning your personal values with those of the sector, you can find organizations and opportunities that share your values and provide a fulfilling and rewarding work experience.

In conclusion, assessing your motivation and goals, understanding why international education appeals to you, setting long-term career objectives, and aligning your personal values with your career change are all important steps in transitioning to a new career in international education.

Building Your Network in the International Education Sector

Building a strong network in the international education sector is essential to finding job opportunities, gaining insights into the field, and developing relationships with others in the industry. However, it can be challenging to know where to start. Here are some additional tips to help you expand your network:

Joining Professional Associations and Groups

Joining professional associations and groups is an excellent way to network with others in the international education sector. Consider joining organizations such as NAFSA: Association of International Educators or the Forum on Education Abroad. These organizations offer a wealth of resources, including publications, webinars, and job postings. Additionally, they provide opportunities to attend conferences and events where you can meet other professionals in the field and learn about the latest trends and issues.

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When attending events hosted by professional associations and groups, make sure to bring business cards and be prepared to introduce yourself and your interests. You never know who you might meet and what opportunities may arise from these connections.

Attending Conferences and Workshops

Attending conferences and workshops is an excellent way to gain insights into the international education sector and connect with others in the field. Look for events such as the Asia-Pacific Association for International Education (APAIE) Conference or the European Association for International Education (EAIE) Annual Conference. These events bring together professionals from around the world and offer a variety of sessions and workshops on topics such as study abroad programs, international student recruitment, and intercultural communication.

When attending conferences and workshops, make sure to attend sessions that align with your interests and career goals. Additionally, take advantage of networking opportunities such as coffee breaks, receptions, and social events.

Connecting with Industry Professionals on Social Media

Connecting with industry professionals on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter is an excellent way to build your network and gain career insights. Follow professionals and organizations in the international education sector, engage with their content, and share your own insights and expertise. Consider joining groups on LinkedIn, participating in Twitter chats, and attending virtual meetups and events.

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When connecting with professionals on social media, make sure to personalize your messages and introduce yourself. Additionally, make sure to maintain a professional online presence by sharing relevant content and avoiding controversial topics.

By following these tips, you can expand your network in the international education sector and open up new career opportunities.

Enhancing Your Skills and Qualifications

Enhancing your skills and qualifications is not only essential to making a successful career transition into international education, but it is also crucial to staying competitive in the field. As the world becomes more interconnected, the demand for professionals with cross-cultural competencies and experience continues to grow.

Here are some additional ways to enhance your skills and qualifications:

Pursuing Relevant Certifications and Degrees

Pursuing relevant certifications and degrees is an excellent way to gain knowledge and credibility in the international education sector. For example, the Certificate in International Education Management program offered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education is designed to provide participants with the skills and knowledge needed to lead and manage international education programs. Similarly, the Master of Science in International Education Management program at the University of Bath offers a comprehensive curriculum that covers topics such as international development, education policy, and cross-cultural communication.

By earning these certifications and degrees, you can demonstrate to employers that you have a deep understanding of the issues and challenges facing the international education sector.

Volunteering and Internship Opportunities

Volunteering and internship opportunities are an excellent way to gain hands-on experience and build your network in the international education sector. Look for opportunities to work with students from diverse backgrounds, such as tutoring or mentoring programs, or volunteering at an international education organization.

For example, you could volunteer as a conversation partner for international students at a local university, or you could intern at a study abroad program provider to gain experience in program management and administration.

These experiences not only help you build your skills and knowledge, but they also provide valuable networking opportunities that can lead to future job opportunities.

Developing Language and Cross-Cultural Competencies

Developing language and cross-cultural competencies is essential to working in international education. While it may seem daunting at first, there are many ways to develop these skills.

Consider taking language classes to improve your proficiency in a language spoken in a region that interests you. For example, if you are interested in working in Latin America, consider taking Spanish classes.

Studying abroad is another excellent way to develop language and cross-cultural competencies. By immersing yourself in a different culture, you can gain a deeper understanding of the values, beliefs, and customs of that culture.

Finally, try to expose yourself to different cultures and perspectives by attending cultural events, reading international news, and talking to people from different backgrounds. By broadening your horizons in this way, you can become a more effective and empathetic international education professional.


Transitioning from a career in accounting to a job in international education requires careful planning, introspection, and effort. However, with the right mindset, skills, and qualifications, you can make this career change successfully. Remember to assess your motivation and goals, identify your transferable skills and knowledge, build your network in the international education sector, and enhance your skills and qualifications. By doing so, you’ll be well on your way to a fulfilling and rewarding career in international education.