Are you considering teaching English in the Middle East? Maybe you daydream about what it would be like to take the skills you’ve gained as a teacher in your home country abroad and on the road. Maybe you’re eager to explore a corner of the world you’ve heard a lot about, but not yet experienced. Being a teacher in the Middle East means embracing a different way of life, and each country in the region has something unique to offer.
Teaching English in the Middle East will provide you the chance to stretch yourself as an instructor, while immersing yourself in a culture steeped in tradition and history.
Whether you’re teaching at a small private school in bustling Dubai, United Arab Emirates or at a university in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia you can rest assured that your life will forever be changed after teaching in the Middle East. To sweeten the deal, it’s also important to note that many countries in the Middle East don’t collect income tax, so your salary will likely be entirely yours to keep (check with an accountant in your home country to make sure you’re reporting your income by the books, of course!).
From the cost of living, to language requirements, to what it’s really like living in this part of the world, we’ve done the most important research so you don’t have to! Here are the top seven places to make bank teaching English in the Middle East:
With a population of just over 4 million people occupying a relatively small land mass (just 6,880 square miles), teaching in Kuwait offers you the chance to really get to know the country and people you’re living among. You can even get paid to teach while you receive your TESOL/TEFL certification. Although knowing Arabic is a plus, Kuwaitis are eager to learn English to support the global economy. Teachers make bank teaching English in Kuwait because, like many of the countries in the Middle East, they won’t pay income tax on salary earned and many teaching jobs include free housing.
Tip to Know: Life in a Gulf country like Kuwait can be incredibly conservative, relative to Western cultures, but also quite luxurious. Fashion and brand names are highly regarded, so don’t be surprised when you see expensive handbags and luxury goods juxtaposed with conservative Islamic culture. You can save even more of your money if you resist the temptation to jump on the luxury goods bandwagon while teaching in Kuwait!
Does teaching and living on an island while immersing yourself in Middle Eastern culture sound like something you would like to do? Then you should teach in Bahrain. This tiny country is rich in oil and boasts a thriving tourism sector, one that needs English speakers to cater to foreign tourists and businesses to help continue to drive their economy. While neighboring countries, like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, have high costs of living and a plethora of activities where you can spend your hard earned money, Bahrain has a more moderate cost of living and fewer activities that will send your cash down the drain, making it a great place to save money while teaching English in the Middle East.
Tip to Know: With an increase in expats comes an increase in cost of living, but Bahrain is still relatively affordable for teachers who like to live simply (like most travelers do). Bahrain is also home to the Tree of Life, which is in the middle of a desert and not near a known water source. Not necessarily a budgeting or teaching tip, but something to keep in mind when you plan your travels in-country!
Mountains. Camels. The Arabian Sea. Teaching in Oman will offer you the chance to experience the quintessential Middle Eastern life. Less developed than the nearby United Arab Emirates, Oman is an exciting place to stretch your wings as an ESL teacher with a population eager to learn English. With an infrastructure stable enough to support adventuring, but not quite as developed as its neighbors, you can explore the rugged outdoors with the comfort of your new home not too far away.
Tip to Know: The cost of living will be highest in Muscat, but teaching job options outside the capital city may be limited. Also, you should check out these five must see places when you visit Oman; you won’t want to miss them!
4. Saudi Arabia
With your flight, housing, and health insurance covered by many schools, and the usual tax-free salaries, teaching English in Saudi Arabia presents a great way to make, and save, money by teaching in the Middle East. Teaching in Saudi Arabia will be unforgettable, as you’ll gain first-hand understanding of Wahhabism, which drives much of Saudi Arabia’s foreign charity through the building of mosques and Quranic schools.
Tip to Know: With the right teaching contract and relocation package, life in Saudi Arabia can be downright lucrative. However, you should be prepared for a much more conservative lifestyle while living in Saudi Arabia, as the government has strict laws surrounding religion and freedom of expression.
Doha, Qatar’s capital city, is home to Education City, a collection of international universities that is making Qatar the go-to country for quality higher education in the Middle East. This abundance of American and international universities, all using English as their lingua franca, means the need for ESL teachers is at an all time high in Doha. It’s an exciting time to teach in Qatar, with an active government that is keen on increasing the amount of English speakers and numerous students eager to perfect their language skills without leaving their home country.
Tip to Know: The cost of living in Qatar is lower than the UAE, but comparable to most other Gulf countries. Qatar is also slated to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, so get ready to be dazzled by their innovative soccer stadium architecture and prepare to understand the dissent surrounding its construction. There are many more things to know before teaching in Qatar, so never stop researching!
6. United Arab Emirates
As one of the flashiest countries on this list, the UAE boasts the tallest building in the world (and the largest LED screen!), and it is ready to make your head spin with plenty of luxury cars and lifestyles swirling about you. Teaching in the United Arab Emirates is a thrilling way to work abroad while making a decent, non-taxed salary, especially when you consider that many teaching jobs will provide you with housing, benefits, and round-trip flights home. Whether you’re teaching in Dubai or Sharjah, you’ll have ample opportunities to absorb the international lifestyle and do what you love at the same time.
Tip to Know: All those glamorous buildings and luxury stores mean the cost of living in the UAE is higher than in nearby countries. But, for avid travelers, the Dubai airport will connect you to hundreds of destinations around the world, so traveling in the region will, therefore, be cheap(er) and easier than from other destinations.
Teaching English in Jordan will offer you a more down to Earth teach abroad experience in the Middle East, compared to more extravagant countries like the UAE and Qatar. You’ll be able to earn a modest salary amidst a very low cost of living, which means you’ll be able to save money while teaching in what some laud as the most easy-going country in the Middle East.
Tip to Know: For expats, Jordan generally has a low cost of living, making it perfect for teachers on a budget! Like many of the other countries in the Middle East, Jordan is more conservative with regards to women, so it can be a challenging place to live as a single woman.
Deciding to pick up your life and move halfway around the world to teach is something you will not regret doing 10, 15, or 30 years down the road. Instead of focusing on what’s holding you back from embracing the experience, think about all that you will gain as an ESL teacher in the Middle East. You will come away from the experience not only making monetary bank, but emotional bank, too.
With a more nuanced understanding of the region and ties to the country where you taught, you will be equipped with the technical and global skills teachers, and people in all professions, need everywhere in the world!