The Ultimate Guide to Teaching English in Saudi Arabia
As one of the most popular places to teach English in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia offers a unique experience that's equally thrilling and challenging. Saudi Arabia is a conservative nation that practices Islamic law, with cultural customs that include segregated classrooms, modesty laws, and an alcohol ban. These customs can be daunting for western teachers, but don't let that deter you!
Saudi Arabia is an up-and-coming tourist destination home to a hot desert climate and top destinations like Mecca, the holiest city in Islam. Not to mention, demand for English is high while competition is low, and the country sees low crime rates making it a pleasant experience for expats. Those with a sense of adventure and an open mind can find living and teaching in Saudi Arabia to be a fulfilling experience.
Snapshot of Teaching English in Saudi Arabia
Avg. Salary: $2,000-$4,000+/month
Teaching Hours: 20-25+ hours
Duration of contract: 12 months
Peak hiring season: August, year-round
School term: August to June
Visa requirements: Work visa and Muqeem residence permit
Why Teach English in Saudi Arabia
Teaching English in Saudi Arabia offers the unique experience of living in the Middle East and gaining an intimate glimpse of the nation's Islamic culture. Those studying Arabic can better their abilities through daily life, one of the best ways of learning a language.
But best of all, Saudi Arabia is one of the best countries to teach abroad and save in the world. The nation not only offers English teachers relatively high salaries but additional benefits like free housing and end-of-contract bonuses.
Read More: Is Teaching Abroad Alone Safe for Women?
Typical Requirements to Teach English in Saudi Arabia
The requirements to teach English in Saudi Arabia are stricter than in other teach abroad destinations. English teachers must:
- Have a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s is sometimes preferred
- A reputable TEFL certificate
- Citizenship from a native English-speaking country like the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa
- Previous teaching experience preferred
- A teaching license for jobs in universities and international schools
Some hiring schools may also require teachers to show proof of clean medical background and criminal record to obtain a work visa successfully. Teachers should also be under the age of 55.
Types of Teaching Jobs in Saudi Arabia
Private Language Schools
Private language schools in Saudi Arabia are best for TEFL teachers without a teaching license or master's degree. These positions are often clustered in Saudi Arabia's big cities and cater to younger students or high schoolers preparing for university. Some popular private language school chains include Wall Street English, EF, and the British Council.
As a hub for international business, the business English industry in Saudi Arabia is booming. These positions are more like tutoring gigs than traditional teaching jobs. Native English speakers typically work with professional adults to better their English and may be employed by language centers or even directly by local companies. These types of jobs are often listed on job boards or with recruiters.
Those with a degree in education and a teaching license can find employment at international schools or local universities. These positions are quite prestigious and, while they require more teaching hours, also pay exceptionally well. Teachers with experience teaching other subjects can also find work at international schools and universities in Saudi Arabia.
Where to Find Teaching Jobs in Saudi Arabia
Thankfully finding an ESL job in Saudi Arabia isn't too tricky if you know where to look.
Many schools in the Middle East also rely on online job boards to post vacancies. The best job boards for openings in Saudi Arabia include Edarabia, Dave's ESL Cafe, and NaukriGulf. When responding to job ads online, be sure to vet the schools. Never give out proprietary personal information to listings that may be a scam.
Recruiting agencies are slightly different from online job boards in that they actively assist in the application process and act as liaisons between teachers and hiring schools. As a result, these third parties often earn a commission for successfully placing teachers with schools.
Apply Directly to Hiring Schools
Although a less popular route, it's also possible to apply directly to schools for teaching positions. This option requires a bit of research to find reputable schools but cuts out the middleman during the application process. Oxford Seminars has a helpful Saudi Arabia school directory where you can find contact information for reputable schools throughout the country.
Frequently Asked Questions
You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers.
English teachers often work in Saudi Arabia's biggest cities like Riyadh, Jeddah, and Damman.
Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia and is home to sprawling desert sands contrasted by towering skyscrapers. As the largest city in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh offers many teaching opportunities for TEFL teachers.
Jeddah is a coastal destination that acts as the country's most popular tourist destination because of its location near the Red Sea. Here, Saudi Arabia's conservative norms are more relaxed, easing culture shock for Western teachers. Jeddah also hosts a high demand for English teachers.
Dammam is a smaller city nestled along the Arabian Sea known for its quieter way of life and a healthy expat community. It boasts beaches and a lower cost of living but fewer teaching opportunities than Riyadh and Jeddah.
Learn more about life and the teach abroad experience in Saudi Arabia with these helpful resources:
- Teaching English in Saudi Arabia by Travel.gov
- Saudi Arabian Culture by Cultural Atlas
- Teaching English and Living in Saudi Arabia as a Woman By Transitions Abroad
- 10 questions about expat life in Saudi Arabia answered by Expatica
English teachers considering teaching in Saudi Arabia must have proof of a reputable and high-quality TEFL certificate to be considered for employment. The best TEFL certificates for Saudi Arabia have 120 hours or more of accredited course material. Additionally, a TEFL certification with a TEFL practicum or in-class component can give your application a competitive edge. It also provides teachers with classroom experience, which is a common job requirement for TEFL teachers in Saudi Arabia.
CIEE TEFL’S 150-Hour TEFL Certification
CIEE TEFL is one of the best TEFL providers in the industry. As an internationally recognized and trusted brand, CIEE has a proven track record of helping graduates secure teaching jobs abroad and confidently lead their ESL classes.
CIEE TEFL's 150-hour certification makes it easy to complete your TEFL training online in just three months. This comprehensive course includes:
- 130 hours of ACCET accredited coursework
- 20-hour TEFL practicum
- Instruction by highly qualified TEFL tutors
- Job search assistance
English teachers in Saudi Arabia can earn on average $2,000-$4,000+ per month. This figure is largely dependent on your teaching qualifications and the type of job you find. Those with a teaching license, master's degree, and previous experience can earn even more than $4,000 per month.
Additionally, Saudi Arabia makes it possible for first-time English teachers to earn relatively high salaries, too! On top of an excellent monthly income, teachers also often receive reimbursed airfare, free furnished housing, end-of-contract bonuses, and more. Plus, it's all tax-free!
Cost of Living in Saudi Arabia
The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is relatively lower than in the United States and in comparison to neighboring Middle Eastern countries. And because English teachers often receive free housing in expat compounds, there’s no need to budget for the cost of rent. Saudi Arabia is also unique, because of its ban on certain entertainment activities like alcohol and movies.
Without nightlife or pricey leisurely pursuits to tempt you, a TEFL teacher’s cost of living in Saudi Arabia can be quite low. ESL teachers typically find their monthly cost of living to range between $350-$500+ per month.