How to Navigate the World of International Education Organizations Like a Pro

career in international education

AIEA, IIE, CIEE, FORUM, NAFSA and more! The professional organization realm can be difficult to navigate even for the most experienced international educator. But don’t get concerned, we will be breaking down the top orgs and what they offer to professionals in the field.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators

One of the big kahunas of organizations, NAFSA offers services for international student scholar advisors, admissions personnel, English-language specialists, study abroad advisors, and community volunteers interested in international education.

With over 10,000 members, it is by far the largest international education community and is great for networking as an aspiring, new, or experienced professional. Being a member opens up access to research, best-practices, professional development, and leadership opportunities at both the national and regional level.

There are a multitude of other resources available to members including expos, workshops, conferences, webinars, communities, colloquials, career centers, and online classes. These cater to both aspiring professionals and educators looking to advance their career within international education. With all these options the website can be a little overwhelming the first few times you go to it, but it is worth the goodies you will find.

You can find information on their annual conference here, which  took place in Boston this year. But it's not too early to start planning for 2016! Next year's conference will take place from May 29 - June 3rd. Also, for the super-planner, you can find a list of the next years dates and locations.

The national conference may be a bit overwhelming for the first timer, so to get comfortable in the arena, I would recommend getting involved at the regional level. NAFSA is organized into 11 different regions, each hosting its own annual conference in the fall. Find out the region closest to you here and then learn more about their regional conference on their individual  websites.

FORUM on Education Abroad

While FORUM has individual memberships, it is typically joined by institutions with over 200 organizations nationally. If you join as an individual you must be a full-time graduate student, retired, or in-between jobs. Their focus is on education abroad more than the international student scholar area of international education. FORUM is best known for disseminating standards of best practices for education abroad as well as a forum to discuss assessment, quality, and research in education abroad.

They offer professional development and research to those within their institutional memberships including: their annual conference, regional workshops (both nationally and internationally!), a professional certificate in education abroad, fireside dialogues, webinars, and standard of good practice institutes.

They host a national conference for the institution members, which will be in Atlanta, GA April 6-8, 2016. You can learn about their future conferences here. For those overseas, they also host a European Conference, which discusses issues dedicated to education abroad for European institutions.

You can learn more about the events and opportunities offered through FORUM here.


The Council on International Education Exchange has a focus on the education of the student, working to maintain excellence in study abroad, teaching abroad, and TEFL. As an institutional member, you will join an education consortium that focuses on maintaining quality programs for both U.S. and international students looking for opportunities both in the U.S. and abroad.

With a membership of over 300 academic institutions nationally, their focus is to develop innovative study abroad experiences, and offer a variety of member only benefits such as financial aid opportunities and professional development.

Their annual conference takes place in a new location each year, with 2015’s occurring in Berlin in November.

In addition to their annual conference, they also host an array of events for advisors and faculty within international education including workshops, site visits, and faculty summits to maintain high quality international education opportunities.


Another organization that has membership at the institutional level is IIE, Institute of International Educators. The IIENetwork, with over 1,300 member institutions around the world, offers over 7,000 professionals opportunities for networking, professional development and cutting-edge research in the field.

As a member, IIENetwork institutions have access to research on best practices, their annual Open Doors report, and other important research within international education.  IIE is also responsible for managing the Generation Study Abroad effort. which aims to increase the number of students studying abroad throughout the United States.

They offer a Conference on Best Practices every year for their member institutions, with 2015’s conference held in New York City in March. Information on the 2016 conference has not yet been made available, but can be found here when it is announced.  In October 2015, IIE will be sponsoring the first annual Summit on Generation Study Abroad in Washington, D.C. to discuss ideas and programs that benefit their goals of doubling the number of students participating in study abroad programs by the 2020.


The Association of International Education Administrators is an organization dedicated to the senior leaders in international education. Their main goal is to bring the Senior International Officers (SIO) together to discuss the organization and management of international higher education.

For the SIO members, they offer surveys, articles, as well as perspectives of prolific SIOs from around the globe. Additionally, they have an annual conference, which will be held in February 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

For new SIO professionals, they offer SIO Academy, which offers training for SIO professionals that are within their first five years of their current appointment as an SIO.

Don’t have the money/professional development funds to travel? During international education week in November, the Global Education conference online conference happens. Link in  and join international educators from around the world as they learn and celebrate international education. With sessions that happen around the clock, you can join no matter what your timezone. The conference sessions are also recorded, so you can watch them at your leisure on their youtube channel.

There are also international education organizations found abroad for those educators who may not be in the U.S.

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