When presented with the option of teaching in Saudi Arabia, one might think, “what?!” However, this dynamic country is in need of more teachers, sparked by an initiative of the government to introduce the English language to university students. In Hollywood and Western media, Saudi Arabia often gets lumped into the generalized image of the Middle East.
Though, this ally of the United States is an oil-rich country that has experienced rapid economic growth, alleviating much of its peoples out of poverty. With this, many Saudi students, young and old, are hoping to capture a slice of Saudi Arabia’s recent success; they can do so by learning and practicing English. Help break down stereotypes of this country by teaching English to eager students and sharing your experiences in Saudi Arabia!
Saudi Arabian universities, such as Imam Muhammad bin Saud University, are frequently looking for experienced EFL/ESL instructors.
Starting in their first year, college students aim to prepare for language exams, like TOEFL or IELTS. Full-time English teachers are in high demand, as more and more Saudi college graduates search for jobs in the international market.
Private International Schools:
Primary and secondary international schools typically follow a British, American, or International Baccalaureate (I.B.) curriculum. Many high school students study English in preparation for the TOEFL ibT test, so they can continue their collegiate studies in English-speaking countries.
Teachers at private schools are offered benefits, including healthcare and transportation. In addition, it is a great opportunity to learn more about the perspectives and beliefs of Saudi Arabia’s youth.
Language Schools/ESL Courses:
Only recently has Saudi Arabia opened its doors to foreign business in an effort to integrate itself in the global economy. Thus, many adult professionals are looking to learn English to get a leg up in the business world.
Language schools and ESL courses offer group courses or private lessons for business or conversational English. Teachers are often expected to work around 20-25 hours per week. Some schools offer after-school programs for children as well.
When and Where to Look for Jobs:
Riyadh (the capital) and Jeddah are the largest cities. Both are known to be very safe and relatively crime-free. Riyadh is home to one of the largest female-only universities in the world. Jeddah is located by the Red Sea, and has become a resort city. If you are the outdoorsy type, you can chill at the beach or engage in many water sports, like jet-skiing, in Jeddah. It is also the gateway city to Mecca, the pilgrimage site for Muslims worldwide.
The Saudi Arabian school year starts in late August and culminates in late June. So, many programs and recruiters post listings for jobs in the preceding spring or summer. However, schools still hire year-round.
Saudi Arabian schools do not require TEFL certification from their teachers (though, it’s definitely a plus if you one). However, most are looking for native English speakers, from the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada. Also, it is preferred that candidates hold a bachelor’s degree, and have at least 6 months of teaching experience. If you teach adults, in a professional language school for example, a CELTA is often required.
If you’re male, there are plenty of teaching opportunities for you in Saudi Arabia! Males are often preferred, especially for university and adult-level classes. Female teachers are only allowed to teach female students. Thus, demand is high for women, as Saudi Arabian universities and colleges are in need of female instructors.
The requirements for a work visa application are a confirmation of a university degree, a letter from your employer, and copy of employment contract.
Salary & Cost of Living:
Saudi schools offer some of the most competitive salaries for ESL teachers worldwide; pay is also tax-free! Most teaching jobs cover accommodation, flight expenses, health insurance, and offer salary bonuses. You can pocket the money that would’ve been spent on those important expenditures!
With no bars, clubs, or typical nighttime entertainment you would find at home, you can save a bit of that hard-earned cash from your teaching job. Considering there aren’t many activities or products to spend money on (like, say movie tickets), the cost of living is comparably less expensive than in the United States or Europe.
Lastly, as a foreigner, you would be required to live in a compound for ex-pats, along with other ESL teachers. Rent is the one expense that is pretty costly, but the complexes are conveniently equipped with recreational facilities, such as pools and gyms. Overall, you would likely save a good amount of your salary from staying in at night and relaxing at home.
Classroom & Work Culture:
As a teacher, you must recognize and respect the religious beliefs and customs in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabian culture is extremely male-oriented. Women are not allowed to drive, ride a bike, or even talk to men in public. In addition, women are required to wear an abaya while in public: the loose-fitting black cloak that covers the face and rest of the body.
Women will most likely live in a female-only compound with other ESL teachers and ex-pats. If you choose to live outside one of these complexes, you will find it hard to rent an apartment on your own. Landlords do not rent to single women.