Living in Dubai comes with a lot of perks.
For one, while Arabic is Dubai’s official language, it’s largely neglected; English speakers will have no problem getting around and interacting with locals in their native tongue.
With the city’s breadth of activities, events and attractions, you’ll find yourself completely immersed in new things to do, taste and see. You’ll never be bored in Dubai.
For a lot of qualified expats, teaching English is an attractive option for opening the door to the UAE, representing a well-respected and decently-salaried position in the city. However, due to the saturation of English comprehension in Dubai, teaching positions in the emirate are often significantly more demanding than they would be in other regions like Asia, Africa, or South America.
With the right background, skills and knowledge, however, you do have a good chance of finding a position.
This guide will walk you through some of the most important skills, certifications, and teaching opportunities in Dubai as well as what you’re likely to be paid.
If you’re thinking of teaching English in a foreign country, you’ve probably heard the rumors that you don’t need to have be particularly qualified. In countries like Vietnam or Thailand, for instance, just being a native English speaker with a bachelor’s degree is often enough to get you a position.
Fortunately or unfortunately, that’s not the case for teachers in Dubai.
The exact qualifications you’ll need vary pretty significantly depending on what level you’d like to teach at, however there are some basic requirements for teaching in Dubai that you should keep in mind:
A bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited university
A valid teaching license or certification in your home state, region, or country
A minimum of one year of teaching experience at the same or similar grade level you’d like to teach in Dubai
Sometimes required: TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certification
If you’re planning to work at a private school or at the high school or university levels, it’s likely that you’ll need to have at least a master’s degree and a minimum of two years experience teaching English or ESL. Sometimes schools will accept experience as a long-term substitute or supply teacher in place of teaching experience, however not having formal teaching experience is likely to significantly hurt your chances.
If your goal is to work at an international school, work experience and licensure are less stringent. You may be able to find work with just a bachelor’s degree in English, teaching, or a related subject without being licensed to work in your home state or country. Regardless of your experience type, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to produce a record of employment from the school board or school where you worked.
Primary consideration is usually given to the most qualified teachers, so it’s a good idea to get your TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certification regardless of whether or not it’s required. There are a variety of online TEFL programs and courses, including two reputable ones offered by the International TEFL Academy and the University of Toronto. If you’d like to get your CELTA, you’ll need to apply directly through the University of Cambridge.
It’s also a good idea to determine which school “cycle” is relevant to your experience before applying to jobs. The cycle system in Dubai works as follows:
Cycle 1: Teachers who are qualified to teach at an elementary school level
Cycle 2: Teachers who are qualified to teach math, science, or English at a middle school level
Cycle 3: Teachers who are certified to teach high school English and have at least a BA in English
It’s important to remember that most positions will be for English teachers. Essentially, English as a foreign or second language.
If you’re struggling to find employment in a school, you may benefit from looking into private English tutoring in Dubai. With the great importance of English comprehension comes a breadth of clients looking to get in some one-on-one English lessons for themselves and their children.
It’s extremely common for overseas English teachers to join a placement program to help them find positions, navigate the application and hiring process, and negotiate salaries. Many placement programs also help candidates find places to live and acclimate to the new city.
There are also larger job sites and networks that you can browse to apply to schools directly. Ultimately, whether a program or a direct job search is best will depend on how comfortable you are with going it on your own.
With so many programs available, however, it can be hard to know which to pick. The following are some of the most popular options in Dubai:
One of the oldest and most popular programs for teaching abroad in any country, TeachAway places hundreds of teachers around the Emirates all the time, and are lauded as one of the easiest companies to work with as you’re trying to secure a position.
The SABIS Network connects schools all around the world, and lists positions for foreign teachers school by school. Working through SABIS is less like working with an agency, and more like finding positions in a centralized location. Another larger job site, SeekTeachers works with candidates to find English teaching positions all around the world, including a wide range of open candidacies in Dubai.
Overall, the prices in the Dubai are similar to the U.S. or UK for regular groceries, restaurants, etc. With the average estimated rent for a one bedroom flat in city center at just over $2000/£1600 per month, the overall price of living might feel like a break for those who live in New York, London, or San Francisco.
It’s worth noting that there’s one major area where you’ll see prices shoot up: alcohol.
While it’s not illegal to drink in Dubai, it’s heavily taxed and only available at specific bars and restaurants. A beer will cost you anywhere from $10-15 or £8-13.
If you do feel like you’re in need of a beer, you should make sure that you’re also not being overcharged to send your money to Dubai. You can use a currency converter to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. And if you want to send some money to Dubai to help you get set up, TransferWise will give you a fair fee, and the real exchange rate. You’ll definitely have enough to get that beer.
The good news is, teachers are well-respected and well-paid.
English as a second language teachers make between 12,300-20,400 AED per month, or $3300-5500 / £2660-4400. Another major bonus? Income is untaxed.
If you’re planning to work in Dubai in any capacity, it’s imperative that you get a work visa regardless of whether you’re a U.S. or UK citizen. On the plus side, handling your visa is usually up to your employer. Because of this, it’s usually a good idea to head to Dubai after you’ve found a position; that way your new school can get the paperwork in order before you overstay your tourist visa by accident.
Be prepared to provide your new employer with some personal documents, like your passport number. Other than that, they should take care of your sponsorship and visa process for you.
Overall, can working in Dubai be both lucrative and an incredible experience? Absolutely. Most teachers who have worked in Dubai report high job satisfaction and quality of life.
If you’re interested in learning a little more about living in the country before you make the move, check out Living in Dubai for some excellent tips and resources about living, working, getting around, etc.
What else are you waiting for? Good luck in your job search!