Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Arab peninsula, sharing borders with Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast, and Yemen to the south. It has the largest economy in the Middle East and is categorized as a high-income nation by the World Bank. Saudi Arabia is a popular destination for ESL teachers with higher qualifications and experience due to the plethora of teaching job opportunities that both are well-paid and come with generous benefits.
Overview of Saudi Arabia
|Saudi Arabia Quick Facts|
Major Cities: Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Khobar
Capital City: Riyadh
Primary Language(s): Arabic
Official Currency: Saudi Riyal (SR)
Primary Religion: Sunni Muslim (Wahhabi dominate)
English Teacher – EF International Language Campuses -Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Full Time
EFL Faculty Positions (Men and Women) – Al Yamamah University – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Full Time
ESL Instructors – Skyline Global Solutions – Saudi Arabia Full Time
Early Years Teacher – UK Teachers Only – Teachanywhere – Dhahran , Saudi Arabia Full Time
Working in Saudi Arabia
Language schools in Saudi Arabia are very similar to their counterparts in the rest of the world in that they provide extra learning opportunities for students wishing to study English. These schools have received a large boost in part due to government-sponsored initiatives encouraging the populace to learn English. Schools are both public as well as private and teachers can be in large cities such as Riyadh or smaller rural areas. Teachers at language schools will be expected to help in curriculum development as well as helping with the course structure. Unlike many other language schools in the world, knowledge of Arabic is strongly encouraged but not required and can help you to more easily land a job if you do have speaking abilities.
- Teachers at language schools in Saudi Arabia will need to have a 120-hour TEFL certificate at a minimum or a CELTA. The TEFL certificate should be either blended or on-site as strictly online certifications will not be accepted. All teachers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and many language schools will only hire teachers who have a teaching certification with prior experience.
- The typical work week at a language school in Saudi Arabia will consist of 25-30 hours of in-class time as well as extra time for working on lesson plans and course curriculum.
- Salaries at language schools in Saudi Arabia are typically higher than in other parts of the world with pay ranging from $3,200-$4,000 per month. Salaries will be dependent on teaching experience and will typically include a number of extra benefits. Some of the benefits of teaching in Saudi Arabia include tax-free salary, provided accommodations, health insurance, airfare reimbursement, and more depending on experience as well as the school. It is advised that teachers ensure any promised benefits are clearly written in the contract. Contracts in Saudi Arabia are written in Arabic so an independent translator will be needed for teachers who cannot read Arabic.
University teaching positions in Saudi Arabia, like in many places in the world, are the highest paying and thus also the most competitive. Students at Saudi universities are required to take an English language proficiency exam and, for this reason, there is a strong demand for experienced teachers at the university level. On top of this, many students will be looking to study abroad in an English-speaking country so most will take extra English classes to help gain proficiency. Teachers at Saudi universities will be required to create course material.
- All teachers will be required to have multiple years of experience teaching ESL at a higher level and almost all universities will require candidates to have a teaching certificate. Most universities will require teachers to have a masters in English at a minimum and all teachers will be required to hold a 120-hour TEFL certificate or a CELTA certificate.
- Working hours will vary greatly depending on the university you are teaching at. University teachers can expect to teach between 20 and 30 hours each week including the extra time for material preparation.
- Salaries at Saudi universities are some of the highest in the world for ESL teachers and start out at around 4,000 US Dollars and increase depending on the level of experience that a teacher has. This is in addition to the many benefits including airfare reimbursement, provided accommodations, health insurance, and as mentioned before completely tax-free salaries.
Increasing Your Chances of Securing a Job
Many schools in Saudi Arabia are going to be looking for teachers that have past experience at the level they are applying to teach. While this isn’t true everywhere, especially when it comes to private language schools, it is going to hold true for the public school system as well as universities. Aside from past experience having a teaching certificate is going to go a long way in helping you to secure a more desirable position. One of the best things you can do to ensure you have an edge over the competition is to become TEFL certified. But, you will need to make sure you get the right certification. For most jobs in Saudi Arabia, an online TEFL certification isn’t going to cut it. Most schools, and especially the higher paying schools, will be looking for you to have at the very least a 120-hour blended learning or on-site TEFL certification from a reputable institution. Some schools will require a certification but the ones that don’t will certainly look more favorably on you if you do have one. Lastly, you want to make sure that you have everything in order in terms of reference letters, crafting a solid resume, and proper presentation. Remember that appearance is extremely important in Saudi Arabia so appearing at your interview wearing a t-shirt and jeans, whether it is in person or through video conference, will almost certainly guarantee you will not have a successful outcome. Also, be aware that reference letters go a long way in Saudi Arabia so make sure if you have any past experience teaching that is applicable to what you want to do that you request reference letters from those schools. If you make sure all of these things are in order then you will most certainly have a leg up over the competition assuming they have not made the same preparations.
In almost all cases, the company or school that you are hired to work with will handle securing the work visa for you. This is because in order to receive a work visa for Saudi Arabia you must first have an invitation from an employer. It is impossible to travel to the country and find a job after landing. In order to secure the permit, teachers must be able to prove that they are healthy, have no prior criminal record, and have the proper qualifications in the way of a bachelor’s degree or higher and a teaching permit. The work visa will permit a teacher to enter the country for a period of 14 to 90 days. During this time you will be required to apply for a residence permit, called an Iqama, which will allow you to stay long-term in Saudi Arabia. Be warned that the country has very strict laws surrounding work visas and as such you will need to make sure you can provide all of the documentation required in order to receive employment and secure a visa.
Typical ESL Teacher Salaries vs Cost of Living
Although Saudi Arabia has the largest economy in the region, it is also significantly reliant on foreign workers. Additionally, it is a conservative country with strict laws, which in some ways makes it harder to attract expats to make the move. Consequently, reputable employers offer excellent salaries and benefits packages to ESL teachers, which usually includes housing in a housing compound where teachers will live among other expats. This means that ESL teachers employed in Saudi Arabia can enjoy a high standard of living with the potential to save a good portion of their salaries, depending on their lifestyles.
|Monthly Salary (USD)|| Monthly Expenses (USD)|
$3,200 - $4,000
$700 - $1000
Living in Saudi Arabia
Things to Do
Saudi Arabia is an extremely conservative country and because of this has very strict laws governing what is and isn’t allowed. Alcohol is strictly forbidden throughout the entire country as well as public celebrations such as concerts. Movie theaters are also forbidden though movies which have been deemed appropriate can be seen on cable television and there are some DVD stores. There is a very strict gender divide whereby men and women are heavily segregated. Laws in Saudi Arabia are strictly enforced and it is wise for anyone traveling to or living in the Kingdom to be aware of these laws before entering the country so not to run afoul of them. Leniency is not given just because one is a foreigner.
The country is attempting to open up, particularly by developing its tourism sector, to draw more tourists and diversify its economy away from oil. As a result, the Kingdom is gradually becoming more accessible non-Muslim travelers and there are several ambitious initiatives such as The Red Sea project under way that make Saudi Arabia worthy of attention for travelers.
The first world heritage site in Saudi Arabia, Mada’in Saleh is an ancient example of Nabatean rock-cut architectures similar to Petra in Jordan. The site itself dates back to the 1st century AD and is widely considered to be a cursed place due to its history in Islāmic culture, something the Saudi government has been trying to change in order to attract tourism to the site. The site achieved UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008 and includes four necropoleis’ as well as an example of a residential area with some of the residential structures still standing. The site is located in western Saudi Arabia near the city of Al-‘Ula.
The Farasan Islands are a series of islands off the southwest coast of Saudi Arabia in the Red Sea. At the moment, the islands are largely unsettled outside of the town of Farasan on the largest island. There are plans to turn the islands into a tourist destination as the Saudi government begins to issue tourist visas for the first time later in 2018. The islands are great for diving and robust with reefs and aquatic life. Ferries between the mainland city of Jizan and Farasan city operate daily and are free of charge. Smaller local boats can be hired for a faster trip between the mainland and the island