If you have an official teaching license, along with other strong qualifications and experience, you may be able to work in a private international school. The school curriculum in these types of institutions is similar to that of the UK or the USA and students are generally from all over the world. In most cases, the main language used in private international schools will be English. However, there are some schools that will use another primary language – so if you speak any other languages, it may be worth putting it on your CV or cover letter.
Work visa arrange in advance
Cost of Living
Business Professionals, Children
What Kind of Teaching Jobs Are There In The United Arab Emirates?
The most popular teaching option for foreign licensed teachers in the UAE is working at a private international school. However, to get this kind of work, you will need an official teaching license. Most EFL teachers, with a TEFL certificate, CELTA or Delta, usually work at public schools and private language centres.
Teaching at public schools in the United Arab Emirates
The UAE public school system has changed substantially in recent years, with the government making it a top priority to improve. In the past, only boys received a school education, but now girls receive a public education too and women can also teach in schools. All UAE nationals get free education at public schools and some public schools have been accepting expat students too.
Finding a job
The recruitment process for teachers in the UAE is taken quite seriously as most teachers are offered a two-year contract – so employers want to be sure they’ve picked the right candidate! Most jobs are advertised online but interviews often happen in-person in the candidates’ home country. These interviews are usually held by a third-party recruiter hired by the UAE employer – they may also be able to help you with the paperwork you need for the job.
The recruitment process for public schools in the UAE sometimes results in being placed in a school not of your choosing. So, you definitely need to be flexible and openminded to apply for work in the UAE in a public school!
When to apply
The best time to search for teaching work in the UAE is during spring, before the new school year starts in August.
Teaching hours & Class sizes
Unlike the Western world, the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday in the UAE and the school week runs from Sunday to Thursday. Most schools are open from 7:30 to 14:30, though teachers are occasionally expected to stay after hours to help run activities. The size of classes can vary in the UAE depending on how large the school is. An average class will have 15-30 students.
Salary & Bonuses
Teachers in the UAE receive between $2,250-4,500 per month depending on their qualifications and experience. The salary is tax-free and lots of teaching contracts include free accommodation, an allowance for relocation and health insurance. Public schools offer lots of benefits with families in mind – accommodation can be large enough to house a family and sometimes the entire family will be offered annual flights home.
You can generally expect to receive 2-4 weeks of paid holiday as well as 10-14 national holidays and 10-14 Islamic holidays off work. However, it’s important to check your contract carefully rather than assume you have lots of time off. Usually, Western holidays won’t be recognised, so you may find yourself working on Christmas day!
- Generous tax-free salary
- Lots of benefits for the teacher and their family
- 5-day working week with no evening work
- Opportunity to teach other languages or subjects – not only English
- Extremely competitive job market
- Early starts – not ideal for night owls!
- Little control over where you are placed to work
Teaching at private language centres in the United Arab Emirates
Another popular choice of work in the UAE is working at a private language centre. These centres are open to both children and adults, though they are slightly more popular with adults and students preparing to apply for university at the moment. Like the public schools in the UAE, there are many language centres that offer lessons in languages other than English. So, if you speak a second (or third!) language, working at a private language centre could be perfect for you.
Finding a job
The best way to search for work at a private language centre is by searching for jobs online. You’ll usually be asked to apply online and then invited to interview in-person in your home country. Private language centres in the UAE are keen to get the best quality EFL teachers possible, so they will often hire recruiters to interview candidates, or they may even fly to your home country to interview a number of candidates themselves. Although finding work at a private language centre is still extremely competitive, you may find that employers are more flexible with your experience and qualifications than public school employers.
When to apply
Like public schools in the UAE, the school term starts in August or September. Therefore, the best time to search for work is in spring or summer, but work can be found year-round. The most important factor to take into consideration is how long it will take to receive your work visa. It can often take 8 weeks to receive a work visa, so you should aim to start applying for work 2-3 months before you intend to start.
Teaching hours & Class sizes
As a private language centre teacher, you’ll usually be offered 20-25 hours of teaching per week. As most students are adults, the teaching hours at centres tend to be in the evening or at the weekend. However, if you have younger students, you may also have some classes during the day. Class sizes are considerably smaller than at public schools, with roughly 10-20 students per class.
Salary & Bonuses
Just like public schools, teachers at private language centres can earn $2,250-4,500 per month tax-free depending on their qualifications and experience. Some contracts include benefits like accommodation or airfare reimbursement, but this is not quite as common as it is at public schools.
In general, EFL teachers at private language centres get 2-4 weeks of holiday plus national holidays and Islamic holidays off work. Lots of centres will offer paid vacation time, but you should always check the details of your vacation time in your contract. It’s also worth noting that you probably won’t get Western holidays off work (such as Christmas and New Year’s Day) unless you work at a particularly westernised private language centre.
- Generous tax-free salary
- Lots of great benefits, such as free accommodation
- Later working hours – perfect for those who don’t like early starts
- More control of where you work than when applying for public school work
- Evening work and some ‘unsociable’ working hours
- Potentially less benefits than working at a public school
Other types of teaching work in the UAE
Am I eligible to teach in the UAE?
Technically there are no minimum requirements to teach English in the UAE. However, jobs in the country often offer great benefits and finding work here is extremely competitive. So, a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree (potentially in Education or the subject you’ll be teaching), a TEFL certificate and at least two years’ experience are usually requested by employers. Some institutions may even request a Master’s degree or a teaching license. However, if you have a particularly strong CV and lots of experience, you may be able to find work without these qualifications. That being said, the UAE is definitely not the place to start as a new teacher.
How can I get a visa for the UAE?
The work visa for the UAE is not too difficult to acquire once you have a job offer from an employer. It usually involves providing proof of your passport and qualifications, the latter of which will need to be certified by your local UAE consulate or embassy. You may also need to undergo a health check and in some cases a criminal record check.
You’ll need to start planning for your visa application well before your job start date as it can take 4-12 weeks to receive it. In some instances, you may not receive your work visa until you enter the UAE. Most TEFL employers will sponsor your work visa and walk you through the process though, so you should know exactly how and when you will receive your visa ahead of time.
Where can I teach in the UAE?
Most EFL teachers who go to the UAE tend to teach in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah or Sharjah.
Abu Dhabi is the place to be for culture, both traditional and modern. It boasts incredible, grand mosques and other stunning Islamic architecture as well as popular entertainment hubs like Yas Island – home to Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – and the Louvre Abu Dhabi – housing the largest art museum in the Arabian Peninsula.
Dubai is undoubtedly the most popular teaching destination in the country, if not its most popular destination in general. It is unlike anywhere else in the UAE, with a westernised culture, futuristic architecture, glamorous entertainment options and a booming party culture. It is much more multicultural and diverse than other destinations in this region, but if you’re looking for a traditional Middle Eastern lifestyle, you may not find what you’re looking for here.
Ras Al Khaimah is ideal for outdoor lovers, boasting 40 miles of sandy coastline. Most visitors soak up the sun on a beach or at a resort but there are increasingly more things to do in Ras Al Khaimah than just sunbathe. You can take a ride on the world’s longest zipline, visit the national museum (which is in a fort!), visit the ruins of Jazirat al-Hamra – an abandoned fishing village, or climb the UAE’s tallest mountain, Jebel Jais.
Sharjah is a more conservative option that the others – it is a ‘dry’ state, meaning there is no alcohol allowed, and Islam is practiced by most locals here. The state was named the Cultural Capital of the Arab World in 1998 and the Capital of Islamic Culture in 2014. Famous landmarks include Al Noor Mosque – a Turkish ottoman style building, the Museum of Islamic Civilization and Al Majaz Park – an impressive garden around a mosque.
What are the challenges of teaching English in the UAE?
One of the biggest challenges of working in the UAE is initially finding work. As there’s a lot of competition for work, you may need to apply and interview multiple times. Depending on your qualifications and experience, you might have to be quite flexible about finding work.
The local customs in the UAE are quite different to the rest of the world. There are many things that are illegal here that might not be illegal in your home country. For example, swearing or making rude gestures can result in jail time. You can also be arrested for public displays of affection and sex outside of wedlock is illegal. You may need to dress more modestly than you would at home, making sure the tops of your arms and legs are covered, and there are some places that you will not be able to drink alcohol. Keep in mind, there are additional laws in place during the holy month of Ramadan – so make sure to do your research on this before you go to the UAE.
Something to bear in mind is that LGBT rights are suppressed in the UAE, and homosexual relationships and sexual acts are illegal. The punishments for being caught can be extremely harsh – so do think carefully about teaching in the UAE if you are an LGBT person.
Cost of living in the UAE
The cost of living varies from emirate to emirate in the UAE. A single person will spend about $2,300 per month living in Abu Dhabi, including accommodation, whereas living in Sharjah will cost closer to $1,500 per month. Dubai is the most expensive option in the UAE, costing closer to $2,700 per month to live – and that’s not factoring in a selection of luxurious and pricey entertainment! Here, a coffee costs about $5, a beer is $11, and a monthly gym membership is $80+.
It can cost much more than the prices we’ve given to live in the UAE if you choose to splash out on a nice apartment and lots of luxurious entertainment. However, it’s worth noting that most EFL teacher positions in the UAE offer a number of great benefits that significantly cut down the cost of living. So, it’s definitely worth seeking out positions with great benefits!
About the UAE
The United Arab Emirates is made up of seven nations known as ‘emirates’; Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. Together, they make up one of the youngest nations in the world, having only formed in 1971.
Much of the area is made of dessert with small pockets of 21st century metropolises, green islands and sandy beaches between. The UAE is often referred to as ‘a millionaire’s playground’ with plenty of luxurious, expensive entertainment on offer, but there are also strict customs and traditions in place, including Sharia (Islamic) Law.
The UAE culture
The UAE was historically made up of small tribal communities but over time gained residents from all over Arabia and was part of the British Empire until the early 70s. As a result, the nation has a diverse population and varied cultures. Though many locals will actually proudly refer to themselves as part of their ancestral tribe rather than as Emirati.
Traditional local architecture and folk arts have been influenced by Persian culture, using basic building materials and simple, block-like structures. Whereas local mosques boast some of the most elaborate and ornate architecture in the country, with impressive domes, arches and minarets. And the modern architecture here is unconventional and innovative, especially in Dubai which is home to sail-shaped Burj Al Arab.
Arabic is the official language in the UAE but Bengali, Chinese, Hindi and Persian are all widely spoken across the UAE. Most locals are Muslim and the UAE is ruled by Sharia Law. Family and respect for elders is important in the Emirati culture, and dining is an important part of both social and business affairs. It’s important to dress modestly while you’re in the UAE and avoid any public displays of affection with the opposite sex. Locals tend to give long, firm handshakes and consider it to be polite to turn up 15 minutes late to events!
The UAE cuisine
As a general rule, Emirati cuisine is warm, hearty and full of lots of flavour and has strong influences from the Middle East and Asia. There are lots of one-pot dishes and common ingredients include rice, fish, meat and dairy. The spices used in many dishes are cardamom, coriander, ginger, nutmeg and pepper. In fact, the UAE has a famous spice mix called bzar which includes these ingredients and more.
A few favourite dishes in the UAE are khuzi – the UAE’s national dish which includes rice, vegetable, nuts and roasted lamb or mutton, balaleat – a breakfast dish made with vermicelli, eggs and a sprinkle of pistachios, and al harees – a porridge-like dish with chunks of tender meat, usually lamb, chicken or mutton. There are also a few popular dishes you will likely already have heard of, such as shawarma, falafel and tabbouleh. And there are some that you’ve probably never even dreamed of, like stuffed camel – yes, really! – though generally you will only see this at very special occasions.
Accommodation in the UAE
A one-bedroom apartment in the UAE can cost anywhere from $400-$2,200 per month. An apartment in the centre of Sharjah generally costs about $750 per month whereas an apartment in the centre of Dubai costs about $1,700 per month. Fortunately, in most cases you can expect your accommodation to be covered by your employer. The standard of accommodation in the UAE is usually high, with lots of places offering a shared pool or a rooftop terrace.
Weather in the UAE
The UAE has a desert climate with extremely hot, sunny summers, reaching up to 42°C in August in Dubai. The winters are cooler but still warm, dropping only to 15°C in Dubai in January. There is very little rain, though there may be a very rare downpour. Some parts of the country, like Abu Dhabi, only have two seasons, the ‘hot season’ and the ‘cooler season’. Most places have air conditioning though, so you can generally expect to be quite comfortable wherever you live, teach and visit.
Please note: The information in this guide is accurate as of the time of writing. However, the laws and requirements to teach abroad can often change. Make sure to check the latest advice from the local authority of the country you plan to work in.