With the world becoming increasingly globalized, the demand for native English-speaking teachers worldwide is on the rise, and the Middle East is no exception to this trend. In fact, some of the highest paying jobs for teaching English abroad are located in the Middle East. The Middle East not only offers many potential, high-salary teaching jobs, but additional contract incentives, such as round trip airfare, sometimes lavish accommodations, and a tax free salary, attract thousands of teachers to teach English in the Middle East each year.
The countries that offer the most attractive teaching jobs in the Middle East include Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and Jordan, with Saudi Arabia and The United Arab Emirates at the top of the list.
Saudi Arabia. On average, Saudi Arabia offers the most attractive contract incentives along with the highest-paying teaching jobs in the Middle East. This is the ideal location for teachers qualified with ESL certification who have at least two-years experience and are looking to make a handsome tax-free salary. It is not uncommon for companies in Saudi Arabia to allow dependents of international teachers to be included under working visas, and dependents are also equally considered when determining housing, which makes it a more preferable destination for couples and families. Since Saudi culture is conservative and alcohol is strictly forbidden, teachers who prefer Western forms of entertainment, such as night clubs or going to the cinema, are encouraged to think critically before accepting a teaching job in Saudi Arabia.
Oman. Sometimes considered the best kept secret of the Middle East, Oman is a modern oasis perfect for those enthralled with ocean and mountain activities. Typically teaching contracts are offered to teachers who have two years experience minimum. Those who teach in Muscat, the nation’s capital city, will have the convenience of shopping malls, clean streets, international restaurants, and even night clubs.
Qatar. Due to competitive tax-free salaries and its location, Qatar is one of the top destinations in the Middle East to teach English abroad. Contracts usually require two years of experience, and many companies and institutions are looking for teachers to work out of the capital of Doha. While the cost of living in Qatar is relatively high, the location is perfect for anyone looking to travel around the region, with easy access to Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.
United Arab Emirates. From the Burj Khalifah to its extensive collection of malls, the UAE is an ideal location for teachers who enjoy the city life in an internationally complex environment. Since many cities in the UAE, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are attractive tourist destinations, prospective teachers should expect a high cost of living amidst a booming economy. Dubai is a relatively liberal city allowing for alcohol, nightclubs, and Western style clothing on the streets, while more traditional conservative areas exist within the city as well. Additionally, the UAE boasts an extremely low crime rate, and the police are known to go out of their way to ensure the safety of all citizens and tourists. Not uncommonly, international schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi hire teachers with little to no experience, but more competitive salaries for teaching jobs in the UAE are proportional to experience and qualifications.
Jordan. Those who choose to teach abroad in Jordan will find a variety of contract offers. Some schools accept candidates with absolutely no teaching experience while more prestigious institutions require a minimum of two years experience. The majority of contracts offered will be based out of either the capital city of Amman or its southern coastal city of Aqaba. Depending on each teacher’s desired lifestyle, the cost of living in Amman can be moderately high while surrounding cities are not as pricey.
Teaching Jobs in the Middle East
The number and range of teaching jobs in the Middle East is extensive, spanning a variety of institutions, locations, contracts, and subjects.
Subjects. Teaching job opportunities in the Middle East for native English speakers are not limited to the field of teaching English as a second language. In fact, teaching jobs in primary, secondary, and higher education institutions are available in a wide variety of subjects, including mathematics, social studies, business, science, and even music and art.
Corporate. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait, for example, serve as the headquarters of many significant petro-oil, chemical, and gas companies who frequently hire qualified English training instructors. Such companies across the Middle East, such as Aramco, Chevron, Sabic, and Shlumberger, offer phenomenal teaching contracts for qualified native English speakers to teach English abroad, working with employees on both writing and business English. Specific cities, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi in The United Arab Emirates, claim substantial investment from international companies who actively seek English instructors to train their employees.
Institutions. International schools are not the only place to teach English abroad in the Middle East, or teach other subjects. Both public and private institutions accept international teachers; however, teaching jobs in the Middle East are more abundant in private institutions. In general, regardless of institution, those who teach abroad in the Middle East will enjoy a respected and valued reputation in their communities.
Requirements. For the most part, teachers are not required to know the local language to teach abroad in the Middle East, as English is widely spoken across the region, especially in larger cities. Applicants who are native English speakers are actually at the greatest advantage, as international schools and companies across the Middle East prefer those who can teach English with British and American accents.
Work Schedule. While the schedule of each teacher varies depending on the agreed upon contract, the work week begins on Sunday and concludes on Thursday throughout the Middle East, with Friday as the day in which Muslims gather at the mosque for communal prayer. Academic calendars in the Middle East usually begin in early September and conclude sometime in June.
Holidays. While public holidays vary from country to country, all teachers in the Middle East enjoy a break during major Islamic holidays, such as the celebration concluding the month of Ramadan (holy month of fasting) known as Eid al-Fitr, and in many cases, work days may even be adjusted or shortened during the month of Ramadan. Teachers may also expect a public holiday at the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Eid al-Adha. It is important to keep in mind that the Islamic calendar is not like the Gregorian calendar, like that in the West. Instead, it follows a lunar calendar which means the dates for these holidays change each year.
Gender Norms. International teachers can expect gender segregation in classroom settings, especially in more conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia or Oman, where female teachers may only teach female students and vice versa for male teachers. In the case of a mixed gender classroom, it is most common for men to occupy the front half of the room and the women the back half as to minimize the amount of distraction and maintain conservative cultural norms.
Salary & Costs
Teaching job offers are typically for one to two years, depending on the country. It is not uncommon for teaching job contracts to include roundtrip airfare, accommodation, transportation to and from work, and in some cases a severance package for relocation. Most international teachers who decide to teach abroad in the Middle East can expect a tax-free salary, some form of local medical coverage, and even annual bonuses, including paid vacation time upon completion of each contract.
Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait (which typically offers the most sought after contracts), maintain strict educational and training standards for international teachers. Those hoping to land a contract in these countries should possess at least two years of teaching experience, a bachelor’s degree, and a 120-hour TEFL, TESOL, ESL, or CELTA certification. Teachers who meet these qualifications are typically offered a one to two year contract with a salary ranging from $30,000 to 45,000. While the majority of schools require at least a year of teaching experience, it is not uncommon to find teaching job opportunities in the Middle East where the employer provides training in place of experience.
Full-time teaching jobs in the Middle East, requiring less than two years experience (depending on the country), range from $25,000 to $40,000 annually. Most private institutions and companies who seek out individuals to teach English in the Middle East require instructors to have at least a bachelor’s degree, along with a teaching certificate. Teaching jobs in the Middle East that require two or more years of teaching experience and/or a master’s degree can expect to receive contract offers upwards of $50,000.
The United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kuwait are considered expensive places to teach English abroad, due to the average price of housing, transportation, and food costs, which are relatively higher than the rest of the Middle East. On the other hand, more affordable countries to teach in the Middle East include Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt, and Kurdistan (depending on lifestyle choices).
Accommodations & Visas
The majority of companies that offer employment contracts to teach abroad in the Middle East go out of their way to make the process of relocating comfortable and straightforward. Teachers hoping to teach abroad in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and The United Arab Emirates must meet strict standards in order to obtain a visa from the Ministry of Education. Saudi Arabia, for example, is most likely to offer packages with lavish accommodations, whether it is on a compound with fellow expats or in a well-to-do neighborhood.
The process of obtaining a visa or residency permit more often than not falls solely on the employer. The majority of countries in the Middle East offer residency to expats dedicated to teaching abroad for six-months or longer, which makes entering and exiting the country for travel more cost-effective and simple.
Benefits & Challenges
High Teacher Demand. The Middle East is currently experiencing a high demand for international teachers; thus, the process of obtaining a teaching job in the Middle East is not so difficult. The job market in the region favors international applicants and native English speakers seeking teaching job opportunities in the Middle East typically do not find it to be competitive. Those interested in a future career in foreign service, government work, or NGOs will benefit professionally from their experience teaching abroad in the Middle East, as these sectors look favorably toward candidates with experience in the region.
- While opportunities to teach abroad in the Middle East are plentiful and appeal to many, it is important to take into consideration one’s lifestyle expectations in regards to the specific culture of each country. The Middle East is a dynamic region of cultures, beliefs and lifestyles that is experiencing globalization like the rest of the world, though some places more than others. From skyscrapers to Bedouin towns, from ancient ruins to nightclubs, it is important to pick the country which best suits your preference and lifestyle when considering teaching abroad in the Middle East.