The Middle East could be described with one word: hot, hot, hot! Not only is the weather agreeable year-round (we’re talkin’ deserts and beaches for those who love balmy temperatures), but also a significant number of people are hoping to learn English from overseas teachers.
As government initiatives strive to establish English as part of national curriculum, many schools and universities aim to prepare local students for careers in the globally-connected Middle East, while holding onto its cultural values. Not known to be a major influencer in the world system, the Middle East is growing economically stronger with each year, and the region is planning for future successes.
If you love year-long summer weather and living amidst the old and new, then it is possible that the Middle East is your perfect teaching destination.
Rich with history and culture, Turkey is considered the crossroads between Europe and the Middle East. This is apparent in its art and architecture, most notably in the former church and mosque of Hagia Sophia. Indeed, Turkey is a melting pot where there is great diversity of people and terrains. ESL teachers can easily find jobs in Turkey, as well as opportunities to explore daily life.
Teachers looking in Turkey must be TEFL-certified and have a university diploma. The average monthly salary ranges from $2000-2500 Turkish lira per month (1 USD = about 1.9 TL). While you won’t save a great amount, it is possible to save a little bit of your salary if you aren’t a big spender.
Saudi Arabia is quickly becoming the Middle East’s #1 destination for foreign teachers. On top of very competitive salaries, many schools offer great benefits and perks for its staff members. While it is not an easy move for many foreigners, as the country follows Islamic law, teaching in Saudi Arabia is both a challenging and rewarding experience.
While teachers do not need a TEFL, it is mandatory that you are a native English speaker. Candidates with prior experience and a bachelor’s degree will be highly considered. Salaries in Saudi Arabia are very competitive, and tax-free! Teachers earn around 5,000-15,500 SAR per month (1 USD = 3.75 SAR). Cost of living averages to about 8,000 SAR per month, but this varies greatly depending on the teacher.
United Arab Emirates:
Quickly becoming a country world-renowned for its wealth and taste for luxury, the UAE is actively recruiting teachers in all types of schools and universities. Known to be one of the more progressive Arab nations, the UAE is a great choice for a teacher who wishes to live in a country during a period of rapid modernization.
Day-to-day costs in the UAE are relatively low. It is possible to save a large chunk of your monthly, tax-free salary, which can range from $1500-3000 USD. The three main requirements to teach English in the UAE are as follows: TEFL/TESOL certification, hold a bachelor’s degree, and be a native speaker.
The more “low-key” UAE, Qatar is an expanding nation that boasts economic growth, while also preserving many of its historical landmarks. Teachers of all subjects, not only English, are needed. In fact, Qatar is a culturally diverse, with transplants coming from nearby Europe and South Asia, and beyond.
Monthly, tax-free salary in Qatar ranges from 9,000 to 14,000 QR per month (about $2,400 to $3,700 USD). Although rent is the highest cost for teachers, most schools now provide accommodations. In order to teach in Qatar, you will need 2-3 years of prior experience and a teaching license or certification (TEFL/TESOL).
An extremely popular destination for educators, Israel boasts a plethora of historical landmarks, along with lively cities and no shortage of fun activities for young teachers. There are many routes to go while teaching in Israel, as education is taken very seriously across the nation.
Teachers can expect to break even in Israel. Base salaries are very low (around $500-700 USD per month), but you can receive bonuses if you have applicable experience or qualifications. Thus, while a TEFL is not required, it will be useful to have one if you hope to earn a competitive salary. Try to live away from the city center or with a roommate, as rent in Israel will be the highest expense.
Many municipal and national governments are aiming to establish bilingual curriculum in public schools, by setting up elementary ESL classes for young students. In some schools, math and science classes are taught in English. Thus, schools hire English-speaking teachers for all subjects, not only English language. Public school positions are a great option for teachers with little to no experience, as these programs are looking not for professional educators, but those who wish to support students in boosting their English literacy.
Following either an American, British, or International Baccalaureate (I.B.) curriculum, international schools in the Middle East teach classes in English, to students from all over the world. Teachers might be asked to instruct a range of subjects, from science and mathematics to art or physical education. These jobs are highly coveted as they often offer competitive, long-term salary packages. International schools typically hire experienced teachers, who are planning to stay in the location for 2 years or more.
Although harder to find, there are job opening in universities or colleges for ESL/EFL courses. Since the reform for bilingual education is a recent one, many college-aged students have never had formal training in English. Thus, universities offer language courses, geared at students who plan to go to graduate school or work abroad. These positions are open to those with years of prior teaching experience and a master’s degree.
These types of schools are becoming very popular in the Middle East, as they offer a variety of courses for every level. Language schools cater to all ages: young learners, business professionals, and adults. This is another great option for teachers looking for short-stay employment and flexible hours.
Cost of Living in the Middle East:
Salaries in the Middle East are some of the highest for ESL teachers. They are also tax-free in many countries in the region! It is very feasible to save a large portion of your salary, as housing is often included in teaching contracts. However, other expenses may be a bit pricey, such as utilities and food. Make sure to turn off the air-conditioning when you leave your apartment and try to eat at local spots, instead of dining in touristy areas.
The minimum requirements vary based on the country you are teaching in. However, schools require you to have at least two of the following: TEFL certification, native English speaking, or bachelor’s degree. Some employers will require a master’s degree or at least two years of prior teaching experience. Since many jobs are geared toward teaching older students, schools and universities are looking for qualified candidates, with hands-on experience under their belt.
Most employers sponsor their teachers to teach overseas. Once you have secured a teaching job, it shouldn’t be a problem to obtain a work visa or residence permit. Although, keep in mind that the whole visa process may take between 1-3 months.
Classroom and Work Culture:
Most countries in the Middle East are predominantly Muslim and there is a strict Islamic dress code (the strictest being Saudi Arabia). In certain locations, you must dress modestly; women should not wear sleeveless tops or shorts. Though, no matter the country, be sure to dress professionally and conservatively while teaching.
Questions to Ask:
- What are my weekly hours?
- What kinds of teaching materials are provided? What is the dress code at my school/university?
- In my contract, are housing, utilities, and a round-trip flight (pre- and post-contract) included? Is my salary tax-free?
- Will the employer sponsor my application for a work visa or permanent residency?