When you’re looking for your next big ESL teaching adventure perhaps Saudi Arabia isn’t the first place that pops into your mind, however, there are a few different reasons as to why you might want to start searching for an ESL job there. Generous salaries and a number of attractive benefits make Saudi Arabia more than just appealing if you’re looking to make and save money while teaching English abroad. Although Saudi Arabia is desperate for English language teachers to go and work there, their target group is highly qualified and experienced TEFL teachers, so if you’re a new ESL teacher starting out, there are probably fewer opportunities there for you.
Being one of the wealthier countries in The Middle East, the standard and cost of living is substantially higher than that of other perhaps more popular destinations for ESL teachers. But in saying all of this, the higher salaries, bonuses and additional benefits are proportionate. The great thing about ESL in Saudi Arabia is that there are a number of teaching opportunities from working in private language centres in Riyadh to working for some of the world’s largest oil companies.
ESL jobs in Saudi Arabia aren’t usually posted by the private institute and most teachers are hired through teaching recruitment agencies in The Middle East, which lowers the teaching salary to cover the recruitment cost fees. If, however, you’re lucky enough to find a teaching position directly with a reputable language centre in Saudi Arabia, you’re almost guaranteed to make bank. It’s all well and good saying you can make loads of money while living and working in Saudi, but how much can you really expect to earn while teaching English as a second language there?
Firstly, you’ve got to take a look at the basic living costs in Saudi Arabia and then compare it to the salary you earn. Some of these costs include:
One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre: 1,000-1,500 SAR (£170-250)
Monthly internet broadband: 200 SAR (£33)
Cheap meal for one: 15 SAR (£2.50)
Coffee: 10 SAR (£1.60)
- Please bear in mind that it’s illegal for unmarried couples to live together in Saudi Arabia and so is the consumption of alcohol.
Salaries for teaching ESL in Saudi Arabia vary depending on what kind of school you prefer to work at. Your first option is to work at a normal language school. When working at a language school in Saudi Arabia, you can expect to earn anywhere between 12-15,000 SAR (£2,000-2,500) per month tax-free. Most of your students are likely to be young people preparing themselves for entrance into university. These kinds of teaching jobs in Saudi can be found in all areas from the busy and somewhat chaotic cities like Riyadh and Jeddah to the more rural remote areas as well. However, it’s a good idea to do a bit of background research on the area where the positions are first because the more rural you get in Saudi Arabia, the more likely it is the people will be more conservative. Again, hours vary from school to school, but generally English teachers at language centres teach around 25-30 hours per week in the classroom. Additionally, ESL teachers are expected to help with curriculum development and course planning. It’s not necessary to know Arabic to win a teaching position in a language centre, but it’s certainly helpful as Arabs instantly respect you more if you’ve got a working knowledge of their language.
Due to the oil industry and foreign investment, there are also a great number of private international schools in Saudi Arabia. Here you’ll teach children from many different nationalities, so instead of just having Arabic speakers in the classroom, you’ll have a multi-lingual ESL class. The salary is very similar to that of a private language school; however, most schools offer food and accommodation too which helps you put away even more money each month. To teach in a reputable international school in Saudi you need to be well-qualified. You’ll need to have enough in-class experience, preferably in another international school for about 2-6 years. Most employers are looking to keep their teachers on long-term, which is why most schools require English teachers to sign a contract for a minimum of two years. Teaching hours are longer in an international school and due to Saudi law, schools run from Saturday to Wednesday; however, you’re rewarded with long paid summer holidays when all schools shut down for a number of months due to the intense heat.
The place where all the money can be made is at a private university or college. Here, you can easily make 16,000 SAR (£2,660) or more each month. Saudi Arabia is known for its rich tertiary education and private universities. All university students will be required to sit an English exam at the end of their first year of study such as the IELTS or TOEFL exams. Many rich Arabs from Saudi choose to continue their further education abroad, which is why this proves to be quite lucrative and long-term teaching position. Such teaching jobs in Saudi Arabia are much rarer to find due to them being more appealing and competition is high.
For many expats, living in Saudi Arabia as a foreigner can be tough, especially for women; however, the benefits of teaching English there often outweigh the negatives. This is the place to go if you need to make and save money teaching and due to the tax-free salaries, you’ll be able to take home most of which you earn. Other perks that make Saudi Arabia an attractive destination for teachers is paid accommodation in safe and luxurious compounds, airfare reimbursement on a successful completion of the contract, health insurance, and more often than not a contract completion bonus.
Saudi Arabia is, however, not for the faint hearted. Financially, it’s a great country to work in, but being a strict traditionalist Muslim country, you need to have a clear understanding of what to expect before you choose to commit to a long-haul employment stint.
Like it was previously mentioned, alcohol is strictly forbidden in Saudi Arabia, so if you’re looking for a ‘fun time’ and a ‘party’, this is definitely not the place for you. It’s also forbidden for males and females to socialise when they’re not related, which is why this is also not the place to go to if you’re in an unmarried relationship and want to live and work somewhere abroad with your partner.
Life in Saudi Arabia for women is difficult, especially for foreign women as it’s still a very male dominated society. There are strict laws that prohibit women doing some things that women may usually be used to doing in their own countries such as driving a car or interacting with males in a public place. Even if you’re not a Muslim woman, you’d still be expected to adhere to some of the strict clothing customs such as covering arms and sometimes the head. However, don’t let such things put you off teaching in one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Like anywhere, there are some things you’ll need to get used to, but you can certainly make enough money to fund a luxurious lifestyle for you and travel to more exotic neighbouring countries such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi.