Guide to teaching English in Saudi Arabia
As a country with an increasingly larger focus on education, English teachers will find a well-funded system that attracts foreign educators with excellent salaries ranging between $2,500 and $5,000 per month and numerous benefits like flights, housing, and tax-free income. Saudi Arabia is a country that requires open-mindedness and flexibility from its teachers due to its conservative culture. However, if you are interested in immersing yourself in a different way of life, Saudi Arabia might just be the place for you. The amount of available TEFL jobs makes it a great destination for both career security and competitive salaries.
Interested in teaching English in Saudi Arabia? We’ve got you covered! Keep reading to learn more about the types of teaching jobs, average salaries and benefits, and how to get a teaching job in Saudi Arabia!
Types of teaching jobs in Saudi Arabia
Teaching in Saudi Arabia usually means teaching English as a foreign language, but there are some opportunities for teaching other subjects, too. The Saudi government has put money into encouraging its citizens to learn English, so qualified English teachers are sought after. These are the different kinds of places where you can find English teaching jobs in Saudi Arabia.
Private international schools
If you're qualified to teach a subject other than English or English as a foreign language, then seeking an ESL job in a private international school in Saudi Arabia is the way to go. At these schools, you will primarily be teaching foreign students. A relevant teaching qualification and classroom experience are required.
Private language schools
Private language schools in Saudi Arabia are usually geared towards high school students preparing for university entrance. They appear in major cities, as well as in more rural areas and small towns.
Well-qualified ESL teachers can find work in colleges and universities in Saudi Arabia, where they will most likely be preparing first-year students for English proficiency exams. The salaries and benefits attached to jobs in colleges and universities are sometimes greater, with return airfares included for a spouse and dependents as well, for example. There are many colleges and universities throughout the country, so there are many options for well-qualified teachers, although competition is also the fiercest for these jobs.
Saudi Arabia is the world's largest producer of oil, and large petrochemical companies sometimes seek English teachers. These are normally advertised on general recruitment websites as well as teaching-specific ones. Teachers with experience teaching English for business would be best suited to this kind of job.
Average salary and benefits for teaching English in Saudi Arabia
The average salary for a teaching job in Saudi Arabia is relatively high, and most jobs come with a host of attractive benefits, such as healthcare, housing, return airfares, and a completion bonus. Teachers can expect to earn between $2,500 and $5,000 per month, with experienced, well-qualified university ESL teachers receiving the upper end of this range.
Common benefits for teachers
ESL teachers in Saudi Arabia enjoy a wide range of benefits including free housing, health and dental insurance, flight and visa cost reimbursement, and end-of-contract bonuses.
Maybe best of all, jobs in Saudi Arabia are always tax-free, so teachers can save a large proportion of their salary. And, because of the lack of entertainment and social activities (such as movies, nightclubs, and places to drink alcohol), it's easy to save a lot of money in Saudi Arabia.
Read more: How Much Money Can You Save Teaching Abroad?
Cost of living in Saudi Arabia
Expenses are kept to a minimum in Saudi Arabia due to the fact that paid housing is included for all teachers. Most of life is lived in the compound for foreign teachers which limits leisure activities. Those allow for even more monthly savings.
- Food: $150-$200 USD per month
- Transportation: $15-$60 USD per month
- Entertainment: $50-$150 USD per month
Where to teach English in Saudi Arabia
As with starting a job in any new country, it's important to do your research before coming to Saudi Arabia. Start by exploring these major ESL teaching cities in Saudi Arabia:
English teaching jobs in Jeddah
The port city of Jeddah is considered the tourism capital of Saudi Arabia. Located next to the beautiful Red Sea, there are numerous resorts and other vacation spots that attract international tourists. Teachers in Jeddah will live in a Western compound that caters to international visitors and is more relaxed in terms of modesty laws.
English teaching jobs in Riyadh
The capital and financial hub of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is a large and bustling city in the desert. You’ll marvel at the towering skyscrapers and other architectural feats that reflect the wealth of the country. Jobs abound in Riyadh and foreign teachers will be housed in elaborate Western compounds.
How to get a job teaching English in Saudi Arabia
Prospective English teachers usually work with recruiters to find suitable positions in Saudi Arabia. If you’re a qualified and experienced teacher, read on to learn how to begin your teaching journey in Saudi Arabia.
Where to find jobs
While some employers still hire directly -- meaning that applicants apply to the particular institution and deal directly with them -- it is more common to use a third-party recruitment company, like those listed below. Different companies cater to different kinds of teachers and teaching jobs, so finding a company that reflects your needs is a good way to ensure you have a successful stay in Saudi Arabia.
When to apply
The Saudi school year begins in August and ends in late June, with July and August being the longest holidays of the year. Many schools recruit in the months before August, although it's not impossible to find opportunities throughout the year.
The turnover of foreign teachers in Saudi Arabia is high, as most people see a stint in the Kingdom as a short-term arrangement rather than a life-long career. So, there is always a need for new teachers in the country.
Saudi Arabia has high expectations for its teachers, and foreign teachers are expected to be well-qualified. For teaching within a workplace or school, at least a bachelor's degree is required, and for teaching at a college or university, a master's degree is often required.
On top of these, a TEFL (or equivalent) certificate is required to teach English. Plus, English teachers usually must be native speakers of the language.
Your employer or recruiter will help you secure your initial visa. This document allows you to enter the country to work and is valid for 90 days. After this probationary period, your employer is tasked with converting it to a permanent residency card called an Iqama.
What’s it like to live & teach English in Saudi Arabia
As an ESL teacher abroad, it’s essential that you take the time to research the country’s etiquette and classroom culture, as it can be vastly different from what you’re used to at home! ESL teachers should be respectful and understanding while adapting to a new classroom environment.
Classroom & work culture
In local schools, classes are separated by sex. However, private schools will have both boys and girls in the same class. The segregation of men and women in Saudi Arabia, although different from what you may be used to, has a silver lining for female teachers. As men aren't allowed to teach girls and women, there will be more opportunities for women who are permitted to teach both boys and girls.
If working in a preschool or kindergarten, you’ll have a local Saudi teacher to assist you. The dress code for both men and women has a focus on modesty: make sure your shoulders and legs are covered.
Culture & etiquette tips
Saudi Arabia is a conservative Islamic country that stresses gender norms and modesty. Some cultural nuances to keep in mind include:
- Be mindful not to touch a person of the opposite sex when greeting them. This means no handshakes!
- The left hand is associated with using the bathroom and is considered unclean. Make sure to use your right hand for everything from eating to receiving an item from someone else.
- Showing the bottom of your bare feet or the sole of your shoes is considered offensive. Always take off your shoes when entering someone’s home.
- Do not walk in front of someone who is doing their daily prayers as it is considered disrespectful.
- Public displays of affection are illegal and punishable by fines.
As of 2019, women are no longer required by law to wear the abaya or hijab.
While the culture is strict and conservative, for teachers who are adaptable and open-minded, there's an incredibly beautiful country with friendly and hospitable people to be explored.
Ready to find your dream teaching program in Saudi Arabia?
Start researching and comparing teaching programs here at Go Overseas, in the Teaching Programs in Saudi Arabia section below.
Want to read more? Get started with these articles:
Teaching Programs in Saudi Arabia
TEFL Courses in the Middle East
A TEFL Certification will help you acquire the skills and qualifications to teach abroad in Saudi Arabia
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