Teaching in Saudi Arabia

For this post, we have another installment of teaching English in different contexts. Our writer today spent time teaching in Saudi Arabia. Her post shares her experience as well as tips for those who want to teach in the Middle East.

Today English is the leading international language taught around the world. Whether for educational scholarship, career advancement or simply learning to connect with an international friend, learning English has become a hot commodity. Not only has English language provided global citizens with a means to connect, but it has also assisted in establishing new career paths for educators.

Destinations such as Dubai, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain offer the right amount of culture, adventure and job security to begin your journey as an international teacher. Among those popular ESL destinations is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—a country of visible secrecy and often misunderstanding. For 15 months, I called the Kingdom home, an opportunity that most of the world will never experience. Saudi Arabia currently only permits tourist visas on an intermittent basis. It is extremely rare to visit the country except for individuals undertaking the annual Hajj pilgrimage or for those conducting official business. Because of Saudi’s low profile, securing a position can be difficult. However, if your desire is to work in Saudi Arabia as an educator, I’ve got you covered.

Culture

As an international teacher, understanding the idiosyncrasies of the host country are paramount to your success. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is governed by the laws of Islam. With respect to its culture, this is a major bullet point that must be understood. As a non-native, you will be required to adhere to Saudi Arabian rules. Your everyday life will evolve around five prayer calls. During this time, stores close, getting a taxi or a bite to eat can be quite difficult, and classes often pause. These breaks last from fifteen minutes to upwards of thirty minutes. Not only will you learn to schedule your day around prayer, but as a woman, you will also adjust to a more modest style of dress. Every woman in Saudi Arabia is required to wear an abaya. An abaya is a traditionally black, long cloak or robe worn over your ensemble. In public spaces that include both genders, the abaya must be worn. However, men and women do not typically work in the same schools. In the workplace, you are allowed to remove the abaya and go about your day as you normal. The hijab or head scarf is a little different. In most large cities such as Dammam or Jedda, not wearing the scarf as a non-Muslim is accepted. But to err on the side of caution, my coworkers often carried a scarf with them. I personally never covered my hair and received no backlash.

Requirements

Landing a job in Saudi often comes down to your experience and what you have to offer. At minimum, positions in the Kingdom require a bachelor’s degree. Also, certified licensed teachers are highly sought after for public and international schools. If you are not an English, literature, or journalism major, and you desire to be and English foreign language teacher, the best route is to get certified in TESOL. A TESOL, CELTA, or DELTA certificate will add value and validity. I’ve found that the CELTA and teaching licensure are the most requested and respected certifications. This does not discredit the TESOL certificate. A TESOL in conjunction with experience and great references can be just as viable. Most public universities in the US offer courses and certifications specific to teaching English as a second language. Depending on your chosen institution and certification, the cost of these courses ranges between $1500 and $5000. Most job recruiters will specify that, though convenient, online certifications are not acceptable. (The trick is to obtain a certificate at a school that is both online and has a land location.)

Positions & Pay

Though Saudi Arabia does not often permit tourist visas, there are several men and women living and working in the Kingdom as teachers. Though my experience has only consisted of working with local universities, there are several other opportunities. KSA’s foreign teacher population is comprised of homeroom teachers, math and science teachers, university professors, private tutors, international school instructors, and of course ESL instructors. At the higher end of the pay scale at $4000-$7000 monthly, you will find university and private company positions. ESL instructors can be found working for private companies, universities, international and public schools. Because ESL instructor positions vary, their pay scale has a much larger gap. Salaries usually start around $3500 monthly. Private companies that contract instructors tend to pay from $4000-$5000 monthly. Subject teachers at public and international schools can look forward to $3500-$6000 monthly. In most cases housing and transportation can be negotiated for a higher salary. Keep in mind that most salaries are negotiable and are dependent on qualifications.

Job Search

There are several websites that I have found to be very beneficial to securing teaching assignments around the globe. Below I’ve listed my top six search platforms with credible leads to teaching jobs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

As you begin your search into teaching abroad, be sure to add Saudi Arabia to the list. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has given me some amazing experiences. Culturally, I’ve grown to appreciate its rules and traditional expectations. It is a place of mystery, deeply rooted in its traditions and culture.

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