Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Teaching in the Middle East

Teachers usually go to the Middle East due to the salary and benefits. They often leave because they can't handle living there or because they've saved a lot of money. While many teachers have lasted decades in the Middle East (such as johnslat and VS on Dave's ESL Cafe), many teachers also leave quickly because of the living and working conditions. Know what you're getting into before you go by reading some guides about living and working in the Middle East. You might also want to take a look at Teaching at International Schools and Teaching Exchanges and Fellowships.

Salaries and Benefits
Salaries can range from $30 to $96K USD and up per year plus great benefits. Generally speaking men can make more than women since they can work for the military. Here are some typical perks and benefits you can get by teaching in the Middle East. Due to the fact that Saudi offers such great benefits, teachers are usually able to save a large portion of their salary without much sacrifice. If you budget, you can save more. Some have saved upwards of 75%.
  • Furnished housing (or a housing and furniture allowance)
  • Computer
  • Access to a shopping centre, gym, library, meeting rooms, etc.
  • Utilities allowance
  • Car and petrol allowance
  • Flights home for you and your family once a year
  • Medical / health insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Free or heavily discounted international schooling for up to 2 (sometimes 3) children
  • Shipping / baggage allowance
  • Storage allowance
  • Yearly bonus
  • Contract completion bonus
  • Contract re-signing bonus
  • Club membership
  • A tax free salary, usually starting at 3000 to 5000 usd a month
  • Some teachers even have free meals, though this is rare. It's more common in Africa.
Getting a Job in the Middle East
To get these cushy jobs, you'll need a couple years teaching experience as well as a masters. University teaching experience and experience teaching Middle East students is preferred. ESL Cafe has been a long time favourite to search for job adverts. Gulf Talent is specifically for the Middle East and the GCC countries. You can find more websites at the Job Sites article.

Where to Go
The UAE, specifically Abu Dhabi and Dubai are popular among foreigners.  Oman is popular due to the freedom that foreigners have. If you go there, make sure you get your stop-over at a hotel. You can find more info at Dave's ESL Cafe. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are at the top as far as money's concerned, but freedom can be severely restricted.


Who You'll Teach
You'll often end up teaching at the university level, so an MA and university teaching experience is often required. If you're a qualified teacher, you could also work at international schools.


What to Expect
Life in the Middle East may not be as foreign friendly as other countries. Some limitations that you might encounter are: needing special permission to leave the country, alcohol limitations, and little interaction with the locals. However, you can save a lot and travel later on. In Saudi, you if you're a man, you will only teach male students. If you're a woman, you will only teach female students. In addition, in Saudi, women can't drive and have to wear burkas in public (but on the compound can often wear normal street clothes.)

Some countries, such as the UAE and Oman are more open to foreigners and teachers often choose to start there before moving on to other Middle Eastern countries.

The Middle East is largely Muslim, so you will have to obey Islamic codes of conducts even if you're not Muslim. Ramadan comes with even more rules to follow. Alcohol rules vary according to country, but often foreigners are able to get special alcohol permits.

There are SO many interesting things to learn about the Middle East. Try checking out a culture book or a book on how to do business in the Middle East before coming over.


Ready to Go?
Job listings can be found at Job Sites. Lots of paperwork is needed, so be sure to apply ahead of time. Recruiting often begins at least a semestre ahead of time, some people have even reported visas taking up to a year, but that's not common. You can find more information about teaching in the Middle East in this article here. Dave's ESL Cafe also has lots of information on the forum.

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