English teaching jobs in Saudi Arabia are not hard to find. However, knowing how to find the right job for you is important. Teaching in Saudi Arabia may be different from other countries but still rewarding and enlightening. Furthermore, the large volume of opportunities has made Saudi Arabia a famous ESL teaching location. Many people are flocking to Saudi Arabia because of the high salaries, reasonable work hours, and great vacation, not to mention the unique cultural experience. These are the basic things you need to know if you want to teach English in Saudi Arabia.
Condensed version of this post
Before going to work in Saudi Arabia it’s important to understand the difference between the government requirements and individual institutional requirements for teachers.
University jobs in Saudi Arabia offer a good work/life balance. Military contractors and international schools pay the highest salaries. Working in a langauge center offers flexible work hours and a casual work environment.
There is a wide disparity between salaries, benefits and work conditions in Saudi Arabia. However, there are some basic rights that all teachers are entitled to. These include medical insurance, paid vacation, housing allowances etc.
Saudi Arabia continues to pass new laws that protect employees. However, employees are either unaware of these laws or struggle to get access to government and legal services in order to benefit from these laws. Finally, changing jobs in Saudi Arabia can be either a piece of cake or a nightmare, depending on your luck.
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The first thing you need to understand about Saudi Arabia is that there are government requirements and individual schools’ requirements for teachers. In order to get a valid work permit in Saudi Arabia, you first need to meet the government’s requirements.
GOVERNMENT REQUIREMENTS FOR TEACHERS IN SAUDI ARABIA
You need to have a bachelor’s degree in Education or a related subject. If your degree is unrelated, you also need to have a teaching certificate, like CELTA or TESOL. Online ESL courses and certificates are not accepted. If you meet these requirements you are on the right track to get a teaching job in Saudi Arabia.
DO I HAVE TO BE A NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKER TO GET ESL TEACHING JOBS IN SAUDI ARABIA?
NO. You do not have to be a Native English speaker or hold a passport from the U.S. or the U.K. Non-native or bilingual teachers have been teaching English in Saudi Arabia for decades, and they can still be found in many schools and universities in Saudi Arabia today. My point here is that being ‘Native’ is more of an institutional requirement or preference. It is not a government regulation.
SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES’ REQUIREMENTS
Generally, to teach at a university you need to have a related Master’s degree and a teaching certificate like CELTA. For schools, the preferred degree is PGCE or having a teaching license in your home country. Having some experience is also a common requirement, around 2 years, for example. However, some schools and universities may take on teachers with the bare minimum, the visa requirements listed above, especially if you are a Native English speaker.
Many schools have started to advertise that they only accept Native English speakers. Some institutions demand additional requirements like high IELTS grades for Non-native English teachers. Also, unfortunately, some schools offer lower salaries to Non-native English teachers.
A BLENDED APPROACH
Some schools use a blended approach by using both Native and Bilingual ‘Arabic speaking’ English teachers. They use their bilingual teachers to teach grammar courses while the Native teachers focus on speaking and reading skills. Therefore, the students have the added benefit of learning English grammar rules in the mediums of Arabic and English.
BEST ENGLISH TEACHING JOBS IN SAUDI ARABIA
1. UNIVERSITY JOBS
These jobs generally have the lowest hours and the most vacation. As an English instructor, you will have to do a maximum of 20 contact hours a week. Office hours may differ and some universities don’t have them at all. Also, you will receive loads of paid vacation. The students are also a pleasure to teach.
TOP UNIVERSITIES IN SAUDI ARABIA
- King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran
- King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal (near Jeddah)
2. INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL JOBS IN SAUDI ARABIA
These schools are generally well-organized and follow an American or British curriculum. The teaching hours are more than universities but the environment is still good. It is important to note that not all international schools are the same, and there are 100s in Saudi Arabia. You want to find the best of the best to work at for a great package and work-life.
TOP INTERNATIONLA SCHOOLS IN SAUDI ARABIA
- Saudi Aramco Expatriate Schools in Dhahran
- British International School Riyadh in Riyadh
3. LANGUAGE CENTER JOBS IN SAUDI ARABIA
It is recommended to stick to international franchises like Berlitz and Wall Street English since they are the most reputable. They both have branches all over the country. Working at a language center can be rewarding because you get to interact with students of different ages and skill levels. The work hours are also flexible. It can also be a very relaxed and sociable environment that is not as controlled as working in a school or university. This means that there aren’t so many rules.
4. MILITARY ENGLISH TEACHING JOBS IN SAUDI ARABIA
These jobs are rare and it is not easy to get hired. Basically, the Saudi Military has signed huge contracts with the American government to provide training, which includes English language training, to various branches of Saudi Arabia’s armed forces. These include The Air Force, The Navy and The National Guard. These training programs are managed by U.S. military contractors and mostly hire only male U.S. citizens.
The work hours are long and the conditions are not ideal, due to the military environment, but the salaries and benefits are really good. Some of the contractors that currently operate in Saudi Arabia are Blueforce, Kratos, Vinell, and BAE Systems (which is a British company). If you are keen on getting one of these jobs then search these company websites for new openings.
HOW AND WHEN TO APPLY
The best way to apply is directly to the institution that you are targeting. If you can get someone to recommend you, that is even better. Search job sites and ESL job sites but try to avoid agencies and recruiters. If you have the right qualifications and experiences, you will get noticed. For more helpful tips about getting hired, perhaps you can steal a few guidelines from our article about how to find teaching jobs in Turkey.
The best time to apply is 3 months before the new academic year, which begins in August-September. Continue to keep a look-out for job ads right up to the start of the new year as sometimes recruitment is delayed until the very end.
SALARIES AND BENEFITS IN SAUDI ARABIA
Unfortunately, salaries are getting lower, because teachers are accepting lower salaries. Salaries for teachers from ‘English-speaking’ countries range from 2500-5000 USD. There are some special jobs that pay more, and you will be very lucky to get them. For teachers from Non-Native English countries, salaries tend to be a bit lower. However, There are still opportunities to get a good ESL teaching job or, perhaps, a job teaching another language or subject. For more about employment benefits, check out our more detailed post about life in Saudi Arabia.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM YOUR EMPLOYER
You should be given your work contract in English and Arabic. Contracts are usually renewed yearly because Work-permits or (IQAMA) are renewed annually. However, there are some schools that offer 2-year contracts.
- If you are hired as a teacher in Saudi Arabia, you can expect to work regular hours and have a regular teaching load. Teachers in Saudi Arabia are not known to be over-worked.
- You should be paid on time and receive medical insurance and a housing allowance.
- All visa and work-related fees will be paid by your employer.
- If you decide to leave work, you are entitled to an experience letter, by law.
- You are entitled to a month’s paid vacation annually. Teachers often get more, due to religious holidays.
CHANGING JOBS IN SAUDI ARABIA
This can be an extremely easy or a rather difficult procedure in Saudi Arabia, depending on who you work for. The good thing about changing jobs in Saudi Arabia is that once you are already employed in the country, the procedure to transfer your sponsorship to a new company can now be done electronically, within a day.
The tough part about changing your job is that you have to be on good terms with your current employer, or else this process can be deliberately delayed or stalled altogether. The idea is to discuss all these things before accepting a job in Saudi Arabia. It is your right to change your job so you should make sure that your employer agrees not to stall you, beforehand.
EDUCATION AND CULTURE IN SAUDI ARABIA
In Saudi Arabia, government schools and universities are free for all citizens. In addition, some students get a reasonable stipend from the government if they attend university. The government is spending a great deal on education and encouraging all its people to get educated.
Schools and university classes are separate for girls and boys. Therefore, if you are a male, you will almost certainly be teaching boys and vice-versa if you are a female. Therefore, you may find that the number of students in a classroom is less than in other countries, depending on the school. Private schools generally have small classes of around 20 students per class.
Teachers need to be very careful with regard to religious, cultural and political discourse in their classrooms. It’s best to avoid these topics in class so that students and management are not offended.
READ MORE | YOUR GUIDE TO LIVING IN SAUDI ARABIA
There you have it. Saudi Arabia has many high-paying jobs up for grabs for English, ESL and other subject teachers. To be eligible for a work permit as a teacher in Saudi Arabia you should have a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate, preferably a CELTA. There are several opportunities to choose from like schools, universities and language centers. Each has its pros and cons so take the time to weigh up each option and decide which is the best job for you.