The United Arab Emirates is a wealthy oil-producing country on the Arabian Peninsula. The country regularly employs highly qualified ESL teachers and offers a high rate of pay and a number of benefits. It is composed of seven different Emirates.
Overview of the United Arab Emirates
Major Emirates: Dubai, Abu Dhabi
Capital City: Abu Dhabi
Primary Language(s): Arabic
Official Currency: UAE Dirham (AED)
Primary Religion: Islam
Working in the United Arab Emirates
Private International Schools
Private schools in the United Arab Emirates cater mainly to the countries elite class as well as the children of expats and are more highly concentrated in the main Emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Because the primary language in many of these schools is English both ESL teachers, as well as native English speakers who can teach other subjects, are in high demand for these positions. Teachers at these schools may make less than their counterparts in the public school system, however, these are great places for teachers to get started teaching in the Persian Gulf region.
- Private International Schools in the United Arab Emirates are going to be looking for potential teachers to have a teaching certificate as well as at least 1 – 2 years prior experience teaching in the area they are applying for. Teachers will need a TEFL certification (120-hour hybrid or on-site only).
- Teachers at these schools can expect to work Thursday through Sunday from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm. Aside from the regular school day teachers may be asked to participate in extracurricular activities including overseeing academic clubs and sports teams and other activities. It is also expected that teachers have time outside of the regular school day to meet with parents, provide extra help to students, and attend staff meetings.
- As mentioned before, salaries at private international schools in the UAE can be a bit less than at other teaching positions. A teacher at one of these schools can expect to make a salary between 10,000 and 14,000 AED. Aside from this teachers often receive added benefits such as accommodations, paid flights, one-month salary bonus each year, health insurance, and visa assistance. Visa assistance for dependents may or may not be provided depending on the school.
Language schools in the UAE are not as popular as they are in many other Asian nations such as China or in Japan. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of opportunities for teachers to work at these schools. Language schools in the United Arab Emirates serve the same function as those in other countries in that they provide extra instruction to students and adults outside of any formal English classes they may be taking. What is different about the language schools in the UAE is that the most popular ones tend to cater to adult expats who need to utilize English in their daily business dealings.
- The number of students you will be teaching in a language school will be largely dependent on the type of school it is and the type of class. some classes may be smaller with only three students and some can be larger with 15 usually being the upper limit for class sizes.
- The requirements to work at language schools may be less than at other schools in the United Arab Emirates. Most language schools will be looking for teachers with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certification of at least 120-hours (either blended learning or onsite). Teachers at most schools will also be expected to have prior teaching experience. However, most language schools will not require teachers to have a teaching certificate.
- The hours at a language schools are going to vary depending on the types of students the school caters to. Schools that work with adult students will usually have classes in the evenings after work hours or on weekends whereas younger students may have classes in the afternoons.
- Salaries at language schools will vary depending on the school but will generally fall in the range of 9,000 to 15,000 AED. Some schools will also provide additional benefits such as housing allowances, flight reimbursement, and bonuses.
Public schools in the United Arab Emirates offer a lucrative opportunity for ESL teachers. Because of this high rate of pay, the level of competition for these positions is significant and the schools will only hire the most qualified of candidates. The UAE public school system recently went through a major overhaul with the aims of raising the standard of education. This project was completed in 2016 and involved bringing in a significant number of foreign teachers to help with the project. Teachers who are hired to work in the UAE will not find out their position and placement until after they are in the country so you should have a level of flexibility and open-mindedness when applying. Public school systems in the UAE are open to all students, however, non-Emirati students are required to pay annual fees.
- The typical class size for a public school in the United Arab Emirates will range from 20 to 30 students. Smaller schools can have as little as 15 students with larger schools having up to 35 students.
- Requirements to work in the public school system in the United Arab Emirates are quite stringent when compared to many other countries. Teachers will be required to be licensed and have experience. Only relevant experience in a licensed area will count. So, for example, tutoring students in math does not count as licensed teaching experience. If you want to teach middle school English you will need to have experience teaching middle school English prior. Teachers will be required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree as well as a having a TEFL certification of at least 120-hours (blended learning or onsite).
- Teaching hours at public schools in the United Arab Emirates are similar to those at private international schools. Normal hours are Sunday through Thursday between the hours of &:30 am and 2:30 pm. Aside from normal hours teachers may be required to participate in parent meetings, staff meetings, tutoring sessions, and professional development activities.
- Salaries at public schools in the United Arab Emirates start at 12,300 AED and go to around 20,400 AED. Pay will be dependent on how many years of experience you have and your level of qualifications. Someone with a masters in education and ten years of experience will get a higher salary than someone with a bachelor and three years of experience. Extra benefits that come with working for the UAE public school system include accommodation suited to each teachers family size, flights for up to four family members including summer vacations, bonuses at the end of your contract which total to one month per year worked.
Increasing Your Chances of Securing a Job
One of the most beneficial steps you can take to help you secure a well-paid job teaching English in the United Arab Emirates is to obtain a proper 120-hour TEFL certification that is either blended learning or onsite. Fully online certifications will not cut it in the United Arab Emirates as jobs are often highly competitive and schools will be looking for only the most highly qualified individuals. This means that in order for you to work in most schools you will be required to have a teaching certificate as well as a certain number of years of relevant experience at the level you are being hired to teach. It is important to take into consideration that since you will be competing against other highly qualified candidates, setting yourself apart during your interview can potentially help you greatly in standing out from the crowd. Also, having a résumé that has been written by a well qualified professional can help you stand out in your initial application and perhaps better your odds of securing an interview at the exact job you want.
All teachers working in the United Arab Emirates will be required to have a legal and valid work permit in order to work in the country. In order to receive a work permit, a teacher will need to be sponsored by a company or school so it is wise to secure a job before entering the country so that all of this is taken care of before you even get into the country. All of the paperwork will be taken care of by the school you are being hired to work in. You will be required to have copies of all of the required documents notarized in your own country and submit these to the company. After your paperwork is processed you will be given an employment visa which you will enter in on. From here you will have to apply for your work permit within 30 days of arrival which your company will take care of. After you have received the work permit you will need to apply for a residence visa within 60 days which will allow you to stay in the Emirates for the duration of your contract with the option for an extension. You will also receive a residence ID card with your visa which you will use to enter and exit the country.
Standard of Living
The standard of living across the United Arab Emirates is very high and on par with western countries. The nation has benefited greatly from its oil-producing economy and, in recent years, has invested a lot of money into the infrastructure of the country in order to expand tourism and other industries so as to diversify the economy and shift away from reliance on oil production. Teachers will be able to find most comforts they are used to in their home country. The cost of living in the United Arab Emirates is quite high when compared to other countries popular with ESL teachers, however, this is offset by the salaries most teachers can expect to make which are significantly greater than in many other countries.
ESL Teacher Salaries
|Abu Dhabi and Dubai||9,000 - 20,400+||$2,500 - $5,500+|
Typical Cost of Living
|Abu Dhabi and Dubai||5,500 - 9,000+||$1,500 - $2,500+|
*Most schools will provide accommodation as well as generous travel per diem and insurance coverage so expenses may be much less than this depending on your lifestyle.
Living in the United Arab Emirates
Things to Do
Expat ESL teachers in the United Arab Emirates are in a great location due to both the high salaries as well as the location of the country between Europe and East Asia. The generous amount of time off combined with the high salaries means teachers can easily explore the country or, if desired, take a quick flight to another country in order to vacation for the weekend. Aside from this, the Emirates is one of the worlds premier shopping locations so if you are into the latest and greatest of just about anything it can easily be found in one of the countries massive malls. While laws in the country are rigid and conservative when compared to many ESL teachers homelands, there are still a great many places for teachers to have fun as long as adherence to the laws is observed.
A single building usually wouldn’t make the top destinations list. However, this is the tallest building in the world (at the moment) and tops out at 828m. This architectural marvel is the first thing that new visitors will see as they arrive in Dubai. The building has a total of 154 usable floors (9 extra floors for maintenance) and is a multi-purpose building with a hotel, residences, offices, restaurants, and more. The Burj Khalifa is an excellent place for photos as the Sky observation deck is located on the 148th floor and boasts the title of the worlds highest observation deck.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque, in Abu Dhabi, is one of the few mosques in the United Arab Emirates that is open to non-muslim visitors. The mosque was named after the first president of the United Arab Emirates and is one of the largest mosques in the world with capacity for over 40,000 people. Construction on the mosque began in 1996 and wasn’t completed until 2007, three years after Zayed’s death. The mosque is also known for having the worlds largest carpet weighing over 35-tonnes and measuring over 60,000 square feet.
Dubai Miracle Garden
The Dubai Miracle Garden is the worlds largest natural flower garden. The garden is planted on over 775,000 square feet of land in the cities Dubailand area and consists of over 45 million individual flowers set up to create different designs and structures. Visitors to the garden should be sure to check when it is open as the gardens are open seasonally.
Mangrove National Park
The Mangrove National Park in Abu Dhabi is unique to the United Arab Emirates in that it is a patch of green in what otherwise is large chunks of brown sand. The national park consists of over 100 square kilometers of preserved mangroves and wetland which provide a home to over 60 species of birds as well as many types of fish, turtles, sea snakes, and more. Outdoor enthusiasts can take a break from the city in order to do some kayaking through one of the numerous channels that run in between the park.