A historic and beautiful part of the world is waiting for you in the Middle East if you teach ESL abroad. The region spans multiple countries and a vast desert with some coastline ready for you to explore. The citizens of the Middle East are increasingly more keen to learn English as a way to connect with the global economy, thus your expertise is in demand.
The oil-rich region has embarked over a decades-long process to improve the education system, country by country. Each nation is along this path in its own time, allowing for higher demand for ESL teachers who wish to immerse themselves in an unfamiliar culture. Salaries are generally high, while the cost of living mainly relies on your personal decisions.
If you’re a native English speaker and interested in experiencing a vastly different cultural experience, continue reading for information on teaching ESL in the Middle East.
Teaching English in the Middle East
Demand for English teachers in the Middle East is growing year by year. The oil-rich region has emerged as a global player in trade and commerce in recent decades, and having a citizenry at least partly fluent in English is important. Every country in the Middle East is different and has a different set of needs, so it’s important to do your research before applying to teach.
The salaries to expect differ in each country in the region. If you plan on teaching ESL in the UAE, especially Dubai, or Saudi Arabia, you can expect some of the highest salaries for ESL teachers abroad. Other countries, like Oman and Israel offer less salary. At the end of the day, the lifestyle you plan to enjoy teaching abroad will determine your cost of living and your ability to save.
It is important to remember that Middle Eastern culture is very conservative. Your nights out partying will be slim and you must follow local laws. Whether this means wearing more covered clothing or abstaining from public displays of affection, you need to be aware of the local and regional laws before you travel.
If teaching ESL in the Middle East intrigues you, continue reading.
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Requirements for teaching ESL in the Middle East
Requirements differ by country. You will want to do further research into each individual school as each has its own set of requirements that can sometimes differ from the country-requirements.
At the bare minimum, when you apply for teaching in the Middle East, you should meet the following requirements:
- TEFL certification
- Native English speaker
- Prior teaching experience
Depending on the country and school, some will prefer you to have obtained a BA/BS and/or a Masters degree. Don’t forget, your experience and education will determine the salary you earn.
Aside from formal requirements, you will need to begin your teaching job with an open mind. The Middle East is a wonderful, welcoming area of the world. However, it’s also, extremely conservative. It is necessary to research the local laws of where you are teaching and follow them. An open mind to a traditional culture will help you conform to local norms. If you are flexible to a new cultural experience, consider the Middle East for teaching ESL.
Are you looking for a place that’s a bit more open? Why not consider teaching English in Thailand?
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Salary and Benefits for teaching English in the Middle East
Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE boast some of the highest salaries of ESL teachers in the world. As the region continues to develop, attracting great talent has become an important aspect of hiring.
Countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia offer high salaries to attract good teachers, utilizing their oil wealth to their advantage. Other countries, like Oman and Turkey, offer lower salaries but boast a lower cost of living. Israel is one exception, where it is very difficult to save money. This is because the cost of living in city centres is high, and salaries are low.
You can expect a salary in the following ranges in each country:
- Egypt: $2000-$3000USD per month
- Israel: $600-$1000USD per month (base salary before other considerations)
- Oman: $1500-$3500USD per month
- Saudi Arabia: $2000-$4500USD per month
- United Arab Emirates: $2500-$4500USD per month
- Kuwait: $2400-4000 USD per month
The opportunities to teach in the Middle East are boundless. Your decision on where to teach may be based on several goals (experience, salary, benefits and saving potential) and preferences (lifestyle, cultural immersion). If you prefer to live a less conservative lifestyle and opt to save more money, you may end up in the United Arab Emirates. If you want a fully immersive cultural experience, you may consider Saudi Arabia or Oman.
Benefits are a great aspect of teaching in the Middle East as well. The formal benefits are as follows and depend on the school of employment:
- Salary is usually tax-free
- Return flights paid for by school
- Health insurance
- Visa assistance (depending on school)
- Accommodation or housing allowance usually covered (potential to be housed with other teachers)
- Paid vacations
- End-of-contract bonus
Make sure to check with each individual school for what benefits they offer. If you have an education above the minimum and a wealth of teaching experience, this means you can try to “shop around” with schools that offer higher salaries and better benefits.
There are informal benefits of teaching in the Middle East as well. The region is extremely warm, so this is a great option for you if you prefer warmer climates. Arab folks are extremely welcoming and want you to feel at home. You’ll likely be treated to amazing Middle Eastern delicacies. Finally, students in the region are often sent to school with gifts for teachers to thank them for their service, so don’t be surprised at the end of the semester if you end up with a large number of presents.
Things to consider for teaching ESL in the Middle East
Similar to other regions, the Middle East has some intricacies and differences in culture to be aware of before you travel.
- Middle East culture is very conservative. Research local laws before you travel
- Women are not permitted to drive in most Middle East countries, and may not wear sleeveless shirts or shorts
- If you are a member of the LGBTQ community, you must be careful as to not violate local laws regarding sexual acts and sexuality
- Research local dress codes and norms before travel
- The region is politically stable for the most part, but there are some areas in the Middle East that are not – always refer to your country’s travel guidelines before travel
- Your words will not necessarily stay in the classroom: do not incorporate any Western topics or norms into your teaching
As you can see, while the salary and benefits of teaching in the Middle East can be tempting, it is important to remember that the region is extremely traditional and the culture is conservative. If you are comfortable with change and different cultures, you will enjoy the region. However, if you are LGBTQ or hesitant to conform to local laws, you may want to consider the cost-benefit analysis of teaching here.
FAQs for teaching English in the Middle East
How much do English teachers earn in the Middle East?
At a minimum, you could be earning less than $1000USD in Israel. At maximum, you could be making up to $5500 in countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. With the right qualifications, you can expect to make somewhere in the middle – around $2000-$3500USD per month. Every school’s expectations of qualifications are different. Make sure to clarify with the school during the application process.
What qualifications do I need to teach in the Middle East?
Generally speaking, you will need a TEFL certification, a BA/BS, be a native English speaker and prior teaching experience. A Masters and/or a teaching license from your home country is a requirement in some countries, and a bonus in others. Some more obscure requirements include having a full physical completed by the time you arrive in the country.
Is it difficult to teach in the Middle East?
Teaching itself will not be especially difficult. Students are generally well-behaved and follow instructions well. Difficulties will be encountered when facing the reality of a very different culture from your own. Most Middle Eastern countries feature gender-segregated classrooms and conservative culture. Ensure you research local laws and follow them.
Can I save money while teaching in the Middle East?
It’s absolutely possible to save money while teaching here. In certain countries, you will be able to save a large amount of money, such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Other countries, such as Israel and Oman, offer lower salaries. Israel, particularly, offers a low base salary and a high cost of living. At the end of the day, your lifestyle will determine the amount you’re able to save.
Should I Teach English in the Middle East?
Deciding whether to teach English in the Middle East is a personal choice that depends on various factors. Here are some points to consider:
- Demand for English Teachers: There is a high demand for English teachers in many Middle Eastern countries, particularly in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman. English is often taught as a second language in schools and is highly valued for business, education, and international communication.
- Qualifications and Experience: Evaluate your qualifications and experience as an English teacher. Some Middle Eastern countries may have specific requirements, such as a bachelor’s degree, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification, and relevant teaching experience. Ensure that your qualifications meet the requirements of potential employers.
- Cultural Experience: Teaching in the Middle East provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in a rich cultural experience. You can learn about the local customs, traditions, and way of life, as well as gain insights into the region’s history and diverse societies.
- Competitive Salaries and Benefits: Teaching English in the Middle East often comes with competitive salaries and benefits packages. Employers may provide benefits such as accommodation, health insurance, transportation, and annual leave. Research the specific terms offered by potential employers to ensure they align with your expectations.
- Cultural Sensitivity and Adaptability: The Middle East has a distinct cultural and social environment, and it’s important to be culturally sensitive and adaptable to local customs and practices. Educate yourself about the cultural norms and expectations, and be prepared to adapt your teaching style to suit the cultural context.
- Gender and Social Norms: Be aware that some Middle Eastern countries may have specific gender and social norms that may affect your experience as a teacher. Research and understand the local cultural context, as well as any restrictions or expectations related to gender interactions, dress codes, and behavior.
- Language Environment: English may not be the first language in many Middle Eastern countries. While English is commonly taught and used in educational and professional settings, it’s important to be open to working with students who may have varying levels of English proficiency.
- Safety and Security: Research the safety situation in the specific country or region where you plan to teach. Stay informed about travel advisories and safety precautions recommended for foreigners. Understand the local laws and regulations and adhere to them to ensure your safety and well-being.
- Work-Life Balance: Consider the work-life balance and lifestyle opportunities available in the Middle Eastern country where you plan to teach. Some countries may have different working hours and cultural practices that may affect your personal life and social activities.
- Professional Development Opportunities: Investigate the professional development opportunities available in the Middle East. Some institutions and employers may offer training programs, workshops, or opportunities for career advancement. Assess if these opportunities align with your professional goals.
- Research Visa and Work Permit Requirements: Understand the visa and work permit requirements for teaching English in the specific Middle Eastern country of your choice. Research the necessary documentation, application processes, and any associated costs or restrictions.
- Network with Other Teachers: Connect with other English teachers who have experience teaching in the Middle East. Seek insights and advice from professionals who have worked or are currently working in the region to gain a better understanding of the teaching landscape and potential challenges.
Have your Say about Teaching English in the Middle East
What are your thoughts about teaching English in this amazing region? Is it the right option for you, or are you considering teaching in another region, featuring countries like Japan? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2022-07-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API