Teaching English in Saudi Arabia is growing in popularity due to its high salaries and impressive benefits to teachers (tax-free salary and free housing, anyone?) This fascinating Middle Eastern destination has increased its demand for ESL instructors – offering a unique opportunity to teach in classrooms along the Red Sea coast or in the heart of the Arabian Desert!
In this guide, we’re going to delve into the requirements, earnings, diverse teaching opportunities, as well as detail more on how the laws and culture in this country, while often a deterrent to many, can be navigated to create an awesome and lucrative time in this Middle Eastern gem.
Quick Overview of Teaching English in Saudi Arabia
- Average Salary: $2,500 – $4,500+ (tax-free!)
- Teaching Hours: 20-30 hours (varies depending on type of institution)
- When to Apply: Spring to Summer (for Fall term)
- School Term: August to June
- Education Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree & TEFL
Why Teach in Saudi Arabia?
It’s hard to overstate the advantages of teaching in many Middle Eastern countries in comparison to more mature ESL markets such as Japan, South Korea, and even China. Due to the high demand for ESL teachers in Saudi Arabia (and also many other Middle Eastern countries), as well as relatively low competition, teachers that meet the requirements can expect to earn up to $4,500 per month (tax-free) and often enjoy additional benefits including free, furnished, expat housing, reimbursed airfare, international health insurance, and completion bonuses.
Beyond the obvious monetary benefits of a growing ESL industry, those who embark in teaching here can enjoy the adventure of living in a completely new desert climate with the benefit of an extremely low crime rate. A quick trip along the coast can offer a surprisingly stunning array of white sand beaches and clear, turquoise waters that have become popular tropical tourist destinations. It’s an ideal destination if you are looking to learn or improve your Arabic – as there will be ample opportunity for practice.
New Jeddah Corniche Beach
What are the Requirements to Teach in Saudi Arabia?
The requirements to teach here can vary by institution. For example, international schools will require a teaching certification, whereas private language centers may only require a bachelor’s degree and TEFL certificate. Here are the basic requirements for teaching in Saudi Arabia (and we will explore each type of position requirement later in the Types of English Teaching Jobs section of this guide:
- 4-year bachelor’s degree
- 120 hour TEFL certificate
- Passport from Native English-speaking nation (US, UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa)
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Are Teachers in High Demand in Saudi Arabia?
A resounding YES!
In Saudi Arabia, ESL teachers are highly sought after thanks to a perfect storm of factors: Increasing government focus on education, a booming economy, and progressive reforms are all driving the demand for English proficiency. This increasing demand positions Saudi Arabia as an ESL teacher’s dream, offering abundant opportunities amid a landscape of growth, modernization, and economic vibrancy.
Salary & Cost of Living
It’s important to consider how much you’ll make as well as how far your money goes before accepting any new job offer – let alone in an entirely different country!
How much do teachers make in Saudi Arabia?
Teachers can make an average of $2,500 to $4,500 each month (while some salaries may be more or less depending on your education and teaching experience). The higher the salary, the more established the institution – and likely the more requirements a teacher must meet including a masters in education and a teaching license.
What’s the cost to live in Saudi Arabia?
Living in Saudi Arabia is often cheaper than in many cities in English-speaking countries, especially when compared to major cities in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia.
The cost of living in larger Saudi Arabian cities such as Riyadh and Jeddah are also cheaper than that of other large Middle Eastern cities such as Dubai or Doha – especially for many aspects of daily life including groceries and transportation.
To understand what this looks like on the ground, let’s breakdown some typical expenses in Saudi Arabia’s most populous city, Riyadh, provided by Numbeo (in USD):
- Meal, inexpensive restaurant: $8
- Cappuccino: $4.30
- Milk (1 liter): $1.77
- Eggs (dozen): $2.54
- Local Transport (1-way): $1.07
- Fitness Club: $97
Not included here is rent, which is usually covered by schools. If you are not given an apartment in your contract, you can expect to pay up to $1,100 for a one-bedroom in the city center or $750 for the equivalent outside of the city center.
A furnished apartment in Riyadh for teachers at Aldenham Prep (Source)
Can I save while teaching ESL in Saudi Arabia?
Because most major expenses are often covered by schools including rent, insurance, and roundtrip airfare, your tax-free salary can go far. Without budgeting, average teachers save anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per month! For those with a goal of saving as much as possible, this number can likely be even higher.
Types of English Teaching Jobs in Saudi Arabia
Private Language Schools
An EF Classroom (Source)
Private language schools, also known as training centers, cater to young students up to high schoolers and adults. They are often scattered in larger cities and some well-known training centers in Saudi Arabia include EF, Wall Street English, Berlitz, and British Council.
Private language schools often have a friendly teaching environment, include lots of fun activities for students, and require little lesson planning. ESL teachers can expect to work hours that fall outside of the traditional school day, meaning weekday evenings and weekends.
- Salary Range: $2,000-$3,500
- University degree
- 120 Hour TEFL
- Native English speaker
Where to find private language school jobs:
Nearly all recognizable language schools will have an updated website with job openings listed and updated frequently. Additionally, you can see more job opportunities on sites such as ESL Base and Naukrigulf.
Related: How to Get a TEFL Certification
Preschools and Kindergartens
OWIS Kindergarten in Riyadh (Source)
For those who enjoy working with younger young learners – anywhere from 18 months to 6 years old, this can be a great opportunity – and is the most common opening for ESL teachers in Saudi Arabia. With similar requirements to private language centers, there is low barrier to entry as long as you have the passion and energy needed for the job.
- Salary Range: $2,500-$3,500
- University degree
- 120 Hour TEFL
- Native English speaker
Where to find preschool and kindergarten jobs:
American International School in Riyadh
For those with a background in education and a teaching license, you may be looking to expand your career at an international school in Saudi Arabia. With higher salaries, more competitive benefits, and improved facilities, you can’t go wrong committing to a contract at a competitive international school. Oftentimes, contracts are signed for 2-year periods and summer holidays and all other school holidays are paid.
- Salary Range: $3,000-$4,500+ per month (depending on qualifications)
- University degree (masters may be required)
- Teaching license
- Native English speaker
Effat University campus in Jeddah (Source)
Smaller or lesser-known universities often hire English teachers for English classes – and they may not require a teaching license. For more prestigious universities, you will likely need advanced degrees.
Universities generally require teachers to develop their own curriculum and create their own lesson material, so experience in education and an independent attitude is a must.
- Salary Range: $3,000-$4,000
- Bachelor’s Degree
- Masters or PhD in English, TESOL, Applied Linguistics, or related field (preferred, but sometimes required)
- Native English speaker
Where to Teach English in Saudi Arabia
The country’s largest city of nearly 8 million, Riyadh is nestled in the heart of Saudi Arabia. Its rich skyline is a testament to its swift progress, while historical marvels like Diriyah showcase the humble beginnings of the first Saudi state. Teaching in the bustling city of Riyadh is more than a profession – it’s an immersion into a new and thriving community.
Perched on the Red Sea’s edge, Jeddah weaves together rich heritage and modern charm and is the most popular tourist destination of the country. With a population just shy of 5 million, this is Saudi Arabia’s second largest city after Riyadh. The scenic Corniche (pictured above), vibrant cultural hub, and cosmopolitan vibe create an amazing lifestyle outside of the classroom.
A smaller city of 1 million, Dammam boasts a beautiful Arabian Sea waterfront in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia. The cost of living here is much cheaper than in Jeddah or Riyadh – just be sure you enjoy the hot and humid climate that the city experiences most of the year.
How to Find Jobs Teaching English in Saudi Arabia
When to start
The school term in Saudi Arabia is from August to June – and hiring tends to peak in March through May for positions starting in the Fall. During this time, schools will be actively trying to fill positions for the next academic year that will also allow time for teachers to make necessary preparations such as processing work visas.
If you are outside of this range – you can still look for positions that may be hiring year-round or consider applying for the Spring term. Oftentimes, schools may have spots to fill if teachers are unable to complete their contract.
Where to start
Because there is so much demand for ESL teachers, job boards and recruiting agencies abound to help find you the perfect job.
Recruiting agencies are a little different in that they will help assist you personally in finding the right job that matches your preferences and qualifications. This can be a great option for teachers who have specific requirements or are new to teaching abroad and would like more guidance from experts.
Hiring schools usually pay a fee to these recruiters for helping them fill positions – this should not be paid by you as the job applicant.
What visa you’ll need
You’ll need a work visa known as the “Saudi Arabia Employment Visa” or “Saudi Work Visa.” Here is the general timeline for obtaining a work visa:
- Job Offer & Contract [1-2 weeks]: You will need to secure a job offer and sign a contract outlining the terms of employment from an employer (school, private language center, etc.) in Saudi Arabia. Employers will assist with this application process.
- Employment Authorization [2-4 weeks]: Your employer will begin the visa application process and provide the necessary paperwork to the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Medical Examination [1-2 weeks]: You’ll be required to undergo a medical exam to ensure you meet the health requirements for living and working in Saudi Arabia
- Visa Approval and Processing [2-4 weeks]: Once your documents are processed and approved, you’ll be issued a work visa.
- Travel to Saudi Arabia: With the work visa in hand, you can travel to Saudi Arabia
- Residence Permit: Upon arriving in Saudi Arabia, you’ll need to complete additional procedures, including obtaining a residence permit (Iqama), which is essential for legal residence in the country
You can see that this whole process of obtaining a work visa can take several weeks to months, which is why it’s recommended to begin the at least 3 months ahead of time.
How to get hired
After obtaining a 120-hour TEFL and brushing up your CV, you are ready to start applying to positions in Saudi Arabia.
You should decide on what kind of job you are seeking in Saudi Arabia and determine if you meet the qualifications. Without a teaching license, for example, you may not qualify to teach at a recognized international school – but you may still qualify to teach at a private language school or university.
It is recommended to start submitting applications to several positions. As part of the interview process, you may be asked to submit lesson plans or teach a demo class online. Once you receive job offers, you can have a better understanding of the kind of salary you can expect given your unique experience and education background.
Teaching ESL in Saudi Arabia FAQ
Can you teach in Saudi Arabia without a degree?
In general, no, most schools will require a bachelor’s degree at minimum. There may be some exceptions to this rule, so if you do not have a degree, you could still send in an application to test the waters.
Is it safe to teach in Saudi Arabia?
Yes! Saudi Arabia is considered a very safe country for expatriates, including teachers. That said, you should still be aware and respect local laws and customs.
What’s the quality of life in Saudi Arabia for teachers?
Salary and living conditions are prime in Saudi Arabia, especially compared to other ESL destinations. With benefits that include international healthcare, free housing, and transportation – you can carve out an extremely great life in Saudi Arabia.
What’s the best TEFL certificate for teaching in Saudi Arabia?
The best TEFL certificate for teaching in Saudi Arabia is the 120-hour TEFL. You can enroll in a TEFL with more than 120 hours or practicum, but it is not an additional requirement for jobs in Saudi Arabia. Our 120-hour TEFL is accredited and recognized by employers in Saudi Arabia.
- Teaching English in Saudi Arabia offers high salaries, tax-free income, and various benefits, making it a financially rewarding opportunity.
- There is a growing demand for ESL instructors in Saudi Arabia due to government focus on education, economic growth, and progressive reforms.
- Requirements typically include a bachelor’s degree, a 120-hour TEFL certificate, and a native English-speaking passport.
- Salaries range from $2,500 to $4,500 per month, with a lower cost of living compared to English-speaking countries, allowing for significant savings.
- Job opportunities exist in various settings, including private language schools, preschools, kindergartens, international schools, and universities, with major teaching cities being Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam.