The United Arab Emirates is one of the world capitals of trade and commerce, boasting a large community of expatriates who enjoy the beautiful landscape and array of activities and tasty cuisine. It’s also a huge destination for English teachers, which makes it an extremely competitive place to teach.
The UAE joins its neighbours of Oman, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia as countries many English teachers are eager to check out. The three oil-rich nations are all wonderful places to teach. But why the UAE? It’s extremely competitive, salaries are high and tax-free, and it’s a great place to save money. It’s also a travel hub, which means travel is extremely easy from the UAE. This means you might want to check out other countries before considering this one. That doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible to new teachers starting out, but it pays to have experience.
If you’re a native English speaker and want to teach in an upscale Middle Eastern country, keep reading for all you need to know about the United Arab Emirates and all the extras that go along with it.
Teaching English in the United Arab Emirates
The UAE is one of the most competitive countries to teach ESL in the world. Given that it is a globally-minded city, many of its residents are fluent in English. Children of expats and locals, therefore, are often placed into English speaking schools. English teachers are therefore in high demand, so this is a great country to consider teaching ESL.
Salaries in the UAE are amongst the highest in the world. With that comes a higher cost of living. Striking a balance between saving and exploring will be extremely important. The UAE is perfectly located for easy travel to other areas, and flights are rather inexpensive. If travel is something you are interested in while you teach, the UAE is perfect for you.
Despite the high cost of living, your accommodation is usually covered, as is your flight to and from the country, and your health coverage. If you want to experience luxurious Middle Eastern culture, the UAE is a great place for you to teach ESL.
Requirements for Teaching ESL in the UAE
Taking into consideration the United Arab Emirates is an extremely competitive country to teach in, the requirements are more stringent to get a job. Highly reputable schools will look for the “cream of the crop”, and those chosen will be compensated accordingly.
The UAE has a rather large community of expats from all over the world given it is one of the world centres of trade and commerce. You could find yourself teaching the children of a V.I.P. Heck, you may even end up doing private tutoring lessons with a member of royalty. Keep this in mind when deciding if teaching in the UAE is for you.
Having a BA or BS will potentially get you a job interview. Given the competitive nature of teaching ESL in the UAE, having a Masters will get you further, and get you paid more. Salaries in the UAE are comparable to other high-paying countries like Japan. If you want to end up at the higher end of the salary scale, you’ll need to meet all the basic requirements, plus a Masters and a good amount of prior experience.
A mix of Masters or BA/BS with experience will likely have you getting paid at the lower to mid-range. If you’re a new ESL teacher, it may be a good idea to make the conscious decision to teach in countries that require less experience, and use that experience to eventually teach in a country like the United Arab Emirates.
The following are minimum requirements:
- TEFL Certficate;
- Four year BA or BS;
- Native English speaker;
- Work Visa.
Want a better chance of employment, and higher pay? The following are suggested should you wish to have the best chance at a job in the UAE, and a higher paid position:
- Masters degree;
- A wealth of teaching experience.
Salary and Benefits for Teaching ESL in the United Arab Emirates
As stated above, the UAE has fairly stringent requirements for teaching ESL. Even if the UAE doesn’t end up being your first destination, you have a lot to look forward to if you put the work in and end up teaching ESL there. The salary and benefits are excellent, and the location is wonderful. You could be in one of the main centres of global trade and commerce, and all the pomp that goes along with that. You could be living a rather nice lifestyle while still managing to save some money along the way.
Salary at Various Schools in the United Arab Emirates
The salaries of ESL teachers in the United Arab Emirates depend on which type of school you teach in.
- Private international schools: $2500-$4000USD per month;
- Public schools: $3500-$5500USD per month;
- Vocational colleges: $3000-$4000USD per month;
- Foreign language schools: $3500-$5500USD per month;
- Private tutoring: $15-$40USD per hour.
Now, let’s talk about benefits. You can see above that your earning potential in the UAE is higher in relation to other countries. In fact, it’s one of the highest paying countries. Along with that is a higher cost of living – so the benefits definitely match this and give you the opportunity to save money during your contract.
- Housing or housing allowance provided by school;
- Tax-free salary;
- Flights to and from the UAE (including your family if they are with you);
- Health insurance;
- Paid holidays (depending on school);
- End of contract bonus.
As for any country you decide to teach in, your lifestyle dictates the amount of money you’re able to save. Cost of living is higher in the UAE, but most of your higher expenses are covered by the school (example, housing). If you plan on doing lots of extracurricular activities (travel, eating out, attractions, nights on the town), don’t expect to save a lot. However, if you do these activities in moderation, you can likely leave the UAE after your contract with a good amount of savings. It’s your choice for the lifestyle you want to live while you’re teaching abroad.
Opportunities for teaching ESL in the UAE
If you’d like to teach in the United Arab Emirates, there are several opportunities for where you can teach.
Private International Schools
These schools are great options for experienced and licensed teachers. They often follow curriculums of foreign school systems, such as the British system. Private international schools do include English in their curriculum, but the schools are not restricted to just English – they teach a variety of other subjects as well. Furthermore, a substantial number of students at these schools are children of expats, so English is not the primary language of all of them. This is something to keep in mind as you apply for positions. Make sure to verify the language of the school before you apply.
Given that the UAE is a centre of global commerce and trade, English is used extensively in regular affairs. English language classes are in high demand, and thus your teaching services are in high demand as well. Public schools are a great place to teach and have gone through curriculum updates in recent years. Your flexibility and expertise will be well desired for public schools, resulting in higher salaries and better benefits.
Vocational Colleges in the United Arab Emirates
Vocational schools don’t only teach ESL, but also other subjects that are relevant to the Emirati economy. If you have a license to teach ESL, but also have training in other practical subjects (business, engineering, sciences, etc) you may want to consider the opportunity of teaching at a vocational college. There’s a good chance your skills are desirable and it may open up a wide range of opportunities for you in the UAE.
Foreign Language Schools
Language schools are designed for young people and adults with the intent to prepare them for post-secondary studies. They’re a stream of schools best suited for ESL teachers with a lot of experience. Like vocational colleges, it’s important to know that foreign language schools are not just schools to teach and learn English. The diverse expat community in the UAE requires various languages to be taught, thus, be aware when you are applying.
Private tutoring is popular among wealthier expats and locals. That includes members of royal families in the UAE. If you’re comfortable working with students individually, and the idea of teaching V.I.P., consider private tutoring as a way to make extra cash.
Things to consider for teaching ESL in the United Arab Emirates
Teaching jobs in the UAE are extremely competitive. As noted above, you will need a considerable amount of experience before you teach ESL here. You are free to apply regardless of experience. It’s important, however, to be aware that your chances with little teaching experience may not be great.
While salaries in the UAE are around $3500-$5500USD, cost of living is around $1500-$3500USD. You need to take this into account when you are planning your finances. There is a lot to do in the UAE, and it is a great hub-country for travel. If you want to save money while teaching ESL here, you will want to consider what extracurricular activities you get up to, and how you want to eat.
The cultural norms in the UAE are different from those in Western countries. Although some emirates (cities) in the UAE are quite liberal, others aren’t. Do extensive research of local laws and norms before your travel to make sure you don’t get into trouble. For example, alcohol consumption requires a permit, but in places like Dubai, nightlife is very popular. Public displays of affection are not acceptable in the UAE, and if you are LGBT, you need to know that same-sex sexual acts are illegal in this country. Again, make sure you research extensively the local norms of where you are going.
If you’re looking to teach somewhere a bit more open, consider teaching ESL in Prague.
Healthcare is covered by your employer. You are in good hands if anything happens to you as the healthcare system in the UAE is extremely good.
Finally, as in any Middle Eastern country, public holidays are based around the Islamic calendar and are unpredictable. The holidays are decided by the school/government, so you will need to have flexibility with your time in that way.
FAQs for teaching ESL in the UAE
There are some common questions people have about teaching ESL in the United Arab Emirates. Here are some answers to the most popular questions.
How much do English teachers make in the UAE?
English teachers typically make between $3500-$5500USD in the United Arab Emirates. Salaries depend on where you teach, your qualifications, and how much experience you have. More qualifications will earn you a higher paying salary.
What qualifications do I need to have to teach ESL in the United Arab Emirates?
Typically, you need to have a TEFL certificate, a BA/BS and experience teaching. The UAE is a competitive country for teaching English, so you will want to meet the minimum requirements while standing out from the crowd. A lot of teaching experience will be beneficial for your chances to score a job. A Masters degree in teaching will help out immensely as well.
Is it hard to teach English in the UAE?
There are high expectations of teachers in the United Arab Emirates. Students are often children of business people or wealthy local families, so there is a certain expectation level of teachers. The education system is advanced and recently went through a review and subsequent changes, so your flexibility is important. Students are generally well-behaved in the classroom.
Can I save money while teaching ESL in the United Arab Emirates?
It’s definitely possible to save money while teaching English in the UAE. While salaries are amongst the highest for teaching ESL abroad, there is also a higher cost of living. If you are mindful of your spending habits and limit how much you plan to take part in extracurricular activities, you should be able to save between $800-$1000USD a month.
Have your Say about Teaching English in the United Arab Emirates
What are your thoughts about teaching English in this amazing country? Is it the right option for you, or are you considering teaching in another country like Oman? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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