Want to teach in a glorious city on the Persian Gulf? Come to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, famous for luxurious living, white beaches, and numerous water sports. Look out your window, and behold the expansive dunes of the Arabian Desert, glistening modern buildings, and traditional Islamic mosques.
Teaching in Dubai is a true international experience that an English teacher will never forget. Because tourism, trade, and the economy in Dubai are constantly growing, there is always a high demand for English teachers.Photo credit: Francisco Anzola.
Private Language Academies/Schools:
There are opportunities for English teachers to work in private language academies. Students can range from younger students who are attending after-school classes to work on their English, university students who are studying for the IELTS and other English exams, and adults who are studying English to use in their businesses.
Dubai is a global destination, and many adult learners are in the tourism industry, or work in some form of international business.
Younger students may be taught during the day or afternoon, while adult learners may need classes in the evenings or on the weekends.
Private language schools offer high salaries and benefits including housing allowances and flight reimbursements, but it varies depending on the school. Private schools include chains such as Berlitz and the British Council, and other examples include Direct English and Speak English Institute.
There are many expats that come to Dubai and the rest of the UAE, so there are a large number of private international schools. These schools are accredited through a board of education in another country, such as the U.K. or the U.S., or through the IB (International Baccalaureate Program).
School hours are Thursday through Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to about 1:30 p.m., with after-school commitments such as overseeing club activities. Teachers create lesson plans, grade papers, meet with parents, and anything else a teacher would do in their home countries.
International schools are generally a little more flexible with teacher qualifications and contracts. Benefits include shared accommodations, health insurance, visa assistance, and flight assistance.
Universities and Vocational Schools:
These schools help local Emirati high school and college-level students learn valuable trades and gain more education, so they can become managers in their chosen industries.
These schools are regulated by the government, so they have set salaries and benefit for teachers. They offer 8 weeks of vacation through the school year, and contracts are often for 2-3 years. The school week is from Thursday to Sunday, from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
If you’re an English speaker who specializes in engineering, AutoCAD, aviation, and other technical trades, this might be an awesome opportunity for you.
When and Where to Look for Jobs:
It can take anywhere from 2 to 5 months for applications to go through for schools in Dubai and the rest of the UAE, so it’s a good idea to make sure you are organized and have your materials ready for submission as soon as possible.
Typical start dates are around August and September, but many schools, especially the private language academies hire year-round.
There are several resources on the Internet to help you find jobs in Dubai. ESL Base has a list of several schools in Dubai to look at. Another resource is Just Landed, which also provides guides for visas and permits, job resources, and housing advice. You can also search through sites such as Teach Away, Love TEFL, and Footprints Recruiting.
Dubai and the UAE definitely want highly-qualified teachers. At the minimum, teachers should have a Bachelor’s degree. In some instances, the schools may require a Master’s degree.
Most Dubai and UAE schools want their teachers to have at least 2 years of teaching experience, whether it’s in ESL or in another subject.
They also want their teachers to be licensed from their home country. However, some international schools are flexible with offering jobs to non-licensed teachers with work experience.
Salary & Cost of Living:
Teaching positions in Dubai are highly-sought after because the wages are usually very high, anywhere between US$2000 and US$4000 a month. Employers also provide generous benefits such as flight reimbursement, housing allowances, and visa assistance. As a result, teachers are able to save a great deal of their earned salary.
Having said that, the cost of living in Dubai is also high. It’s certainly no secret that many of the wealthy and the famous come to Dubai to enjoy the city’s luxurious hotels and resorts. There is a thriving nightlife scene and world-class shopping.
If you get your own accommodations, you can expect to pay anywhere between US$600 to US$1900 on rental, depending where you are located in the city. Excellent resources to consult are Expat Arrivals Dubai page and Go Overseas’ article “Salary Expectations for Teaching in the United Arab Emirates.”
When it comes to eating out, you could have a meal for as low as US $5, or dine in a finer restaurant for as much as US $24 per person.
If you are planning to come to Dubai with your family, please note that school-aged expat children are not allowed to attend Emirati public schools. Expat children attend the international schools or they are home-schooled.
If you have a family, keep in mind that not every school is going to provide visa assistance to dependents. Discuss this with your potential employer and negotiate in your contract.
Classroom & Work Culture:
Dubai is a very modern and international city. Out of all the seven emirates that make up the UAE, Dubai is probably the most liberal in its views. However, Dubai still holds fast to its Islamic culture and traditions, so it is very important to remember a few things relating to that religion.
It’s very important to dress modestly in public, especially if you are visiting a mosque or a religious center; women may be asked to put on a headscarf in those places. It’s also advisable to behave in a more conservative fashion out in public.
It’s possible that your school and your Muslim coworkers may stop work and business throughout the day to observe prayers. Also, Ramadan is the most important religious month, so expect many businesses to be closed during that time. When it comes to dress code and work conduct, follow the cues of your co-workers and ask as many questions as you wish.
When you are first greeting a member of the opposite sex of the Muslim faith, wait until they offer a hand to you first before shaking hands. It is also customary to accept food and drink with your right hand, as well as to eat with your right hand. Check out this guide to Dubai culture and etiquette produced by the Dubai government..
Your students will range from school-aged children to adults in the business world. They are all very eager to learn English; however, most Arabs do appreciate if you learn a few phrases and words in Arabic. It helps build rapport with your students, and it may enhance your own language learning and instruction.