Where in the Middle East do you want to teach?
United Arab Emirates
The Teaching Environment and Job Market in the Middle East
A majority of teachers who head to the Middle East are hoping to save money or to pay off college loans or meet other financial duties. The work is abundant, and the work will remunerate you well. Let’s have a deeper look at the nuts and bolts and see if one of the markets is right for you and your wants, needs, and skill sets.
The UAE has an enormous market and continues to be the leading country in the world for English-medium K-12 international schools. Regarding the number of international schools, the UAE is currently in competition with China, but if you look at pure student enrollment, the UAE is the solid world leader. In fact, demand in the Gulf severely outweighs supply. The UAE currently employs over 39,000 full-time teachers but still needs up to 15,000 teachers over the next five or so years.
Sound good? You may need up to $900 to get started, but after that you can earn between $1,500 and $4,000 USD per month with the potential to sock away one or two grand per month. You should also expect to get accommodation and flight reimbursement. Your living expenses should run between $600 and $1,100 per month based on the assumption that housing will be covered.
Generally, citizens from the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa are sought after. You will also most likely need a proper TEFL certificate, a BA/BS, and you can expect to work 20-25 hours per week in a vocational college, international school, private language school or as a private tutor.
However, despite all the reports of high salaries, a recent survey called the UAE Teacher Survey 2016 reports that up to 73% of teachers are dissatisfied with their job and looking for a new position. The main reason given was salary and inability to save cash. These teachers may be spoiled, or they may have fair beefs. Whatever the case may be, be sure to research your job properly and ask to speak to current teachers before you make any commitments.
Next we have neighboring Saudi Arabia. Saudi has long been considered a so-called honey pot for many years, a place where teachers can get in and get out with Scrooge McDuck bags of money. Let’s have a look at the truth.
The first thing to keep in mind is that this is a market only looking for qualified and experiences teachers. If the ink is still wet on your college diploma or TEFL certificate, then you may want to work elsewhere before plotting your venture in Saudi Arabia. It’s also important to remember that your cost of living will be much higher than other popular teaching markets such as Thailand, China, or many places in Eastern Europe.
With that in mind, a qualified teacher can earn upwards of $2,500 to $4,000 for work at private schools. If you are lucky enough to land a university gig, you can take in over $4,000 or more per month plus potential pay raises. Salaries are tax-free and you should probably not accept any contracts which do not offer housing, airfare reimbursement, bonuses for completing your contract, and cash for airfare reimbursement. Many teachers note the importance of getting all contract perks written in binding legal contract.
Most teachers also report enjoying opportunities in Riyadh or Jeddah. If you agree to work in more rural areas, please expect to live in very conservative communities. In general, it is also very important to note that you may have to make several lifestyle compromises. Do not expect to party, and remember that alcohol is strictly prohibited. You may have to live a so-called compound lifestyle which many Westerners can find rather boring or stifling. Also, it is important to note that Saudi Arabia is still a very male-dominant society, and women are expected to follow local clothing restrictions, are not allowed to drive, and cannot interact with men in public. These are simply the facts, and things to keep in mind before making a life-altering decision.
Oman is another popular teaching destination in the Middle East. It’s important to note that most jobs have 2-year contracts, and that your options include private language schools, secondary schools, and kindergartens. Many teachers also report nice salaries ranging from $2,000 to $3,5000 per month (tax-free) and that cheap furnished housing, return airfare, paid vacation, and transportation allowances are to be expected.
Oman also offers desert and mountain getaways, historical ruins, camping, beach holidays and traditional bazaars. Cities such as the capital of Muscat are popular destinations, and many there enjoy the recent architectural and infrastructure innovations. In short, most teachers state that you can save some money, gain experience, and enjoy some wonderful excursions.
Lastly, we move on to Turkey. Turkey is in NATO and straddles the EU to the West, and Syria and the Middle East to the East. Hence, many teachers report colorful but differing experiences in Turkey.
Teachers with qualifications can earn $1,100 to $2,600 per month. If this is combined with a comprehensive benefits package, teachers can enjoy a decent standard of living. It should be noted, however, that the trendiest areas of cities like Istanbul have experienced a spike in the cost of living. Teaching at top international schools in Istanbul may render a higher salary but a very long commute.
Besides long commutes, there are also a few other potential problems to bear in mind. Some teachers report that a school make you cover your visa costs. Also, many teachers report being surprised that Turkey is not a tropical paradise. Cities like Istanbul can have months of cold, rainy weather, and even periods of snow. Finally, teaching in a classroom in a city like Istanbul can be confusing to navigate for some teachers. Half the class may hold more so-called modern or Western views while the others are more traditional. Hence, be careful whilst discussing politics and culture. A student in an ACDC t-shirt may not have parallel thoughts on popular culture.
One last place to consider teaching in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Baku has an enormous oil industry and several interesting teaching jobs. The mix of Middle Eastern, post-Soviet and capitalist influences make for a very colorful life with the potential to earn bank.
The Middle East is a captivating place to live and teach. The main thing to do is seriously weigh what you want in this life. Are you more interested in culture, cash, or experiences? Get the facts before you take the plunge, and enjoy your next contract.