The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is a monarchy made up of a federation of seven emirates (or principalities). Each one has its own ruler, which is a hereditary position. Out of the seven emirates, you’ve probably only heard of Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), and Dubai, but Sharjah is also a location to consider if you want to teach English in the UAE. Arabic is the official language, but as the area was occupied by the British until 1971, English is used as a lingua franca and is often a requirement for local jobs, making it a good prospect for TEFL teachers.

If you like cosmopolitan places, the UAE is a great location for you. With a mix of local ethnic groups as well as a growing expat population, you’ll find a mix of faces both in your classroom and in your private life. One thing that TEFL jobs in the UAE are famous for are the wages – the cost of living is high, but so is your pay packet, and with added bonuses such as free accommodation and return flights, it’s easy to put away some savings while teaching in the UAE.

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Key Facts

  • Popular locations for TEFL jobs: Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
  • Average salary for EFL teachers: The basic monthly salary for full-time positions is likely to be in the region of 8,000 – 15,000 dirhams (£1,575 – £3,000 / $2,200 – $4,000) per month. The best paid jobs will boast salaries closer to 22,000 dirhams (£4,300 / $6,000) per month.
  • TEFL qualification requirements: A 120-hour TEFL qualification will be required for most positions, if not a CELTA
  • Prerequisite university degree: You’ll need a degree and many positions also require an MA in a related field
  • Term times: September until July
  • Currency: UAE dirham (AED)
  • Language: Arabic
  • Teaching programmes: Public School, Private Schools, Language Schools, International Schools, Bilingual Kindergartens, Freelance, IELTS, IB, Business English
  • Age restrictions: None
  • Previous teaching experience: Three to five years of previous experience is a usual requirement

Female teachers might be wary of applying to teach in the UAE because of the strict dress code, but many expats say that it’s actually more liberal than you think. At Dubai’s malls, women are encouraged to cover their shoulders and knees, and a similar dress code will likely be expected of you in the workplace, but this isn’t any more conservative than would be expected of teachers anywhere else in the world. However, the conservative laws shouldn’t be taken lightly. Kissing in public is illegal and can result in deportation, and there are similar rules relating to using swearwords, even when on Facebook or when using WhatsApp. Homosexuality is illegal and is a capital offence in the UAE, and blasphemy is also illegal. These are all important considerations when deciding if the UAE is somewhere you could live and work without feeling imprisoned by the strict laws. Out of the seven emirates, Duabi is probably the most liberal, but you’re still likely to experience culture shock if you’re coming from the west.

Students in the UAE are eager to learn English, but have quite a relaxed approach to their lessons. Expect students to be late for class and reluctant to do their homework, or even not take part in classroom activities that don’t take their fancy. Adult learners are notorious for answering their mobile phones during class (business is king) and not taking the lessons too seriously. While respecting professional boundaries in this strict culture, you’ll also find your students friendly and approachable. Classrooms will often be filled with top-of-the range equipment, and you’ll have plenty of resources at your fingertips whether you’re teaching children or adults.

Requirements for teaching English in the UAE

Country Avg. monthly salary Degree required Start of term Teaching experience Housing & flights included Suitable for non-native English speakers Age restrictions
Algeria £550 - £900
($700 - $1,100)
Yes March No No No None
Bahrain £1,200 - £2,500
($1,500 - $3,000)
Yes January Yes Yes No Under 60
Egypt £400 - £700
($500 - $900)
Yes September Preferred No No None
Jordan £500 - £950
($600 - $1,100)
Preferred August No No Yes None
Kuwait £1,200 - £2,000
($1,500 - $2,500)
Yes September Yes Yes Yes Under 60
Lebanon £650 - £1,200
($800 - $1,500)
Preferred August No No Yes None
Morocco £400 - £800
($500 - $1,000)
Yes September No No Yes None
Qatar £1,200 - £2,800
($1,500 - $3,500)
Yes September Yes Yes No None
Saudi Arabia £1,600 - £3,200
($2,000 - $4,000)
Yes August Yes Yes No Under 60
UAE £1,600 - £4,000
($2,000 - $5,000)
Yes August Yes Yes No Under 65

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Living Costs

More expensive than 70% of countries in the Middle East, you might be surprised to hear that, globally, the UAE only ranks as more expensive than 66% of other countries. This just goes to show that it doesn’t always follow that places with super high wages will have an equally high cost of living, as is the case in the UAE. Aside from the high wages you receive as a TEFL teacher in the UAE, your remuneration will be all the more attractive if it also includes free housing, often in luxurious apartment complexes which will include amenities such as a swimming pool, steam room, gym and other sports facilities. Having free accommodation would be a big bonus as housing can be pricey in the UAE, particularly if you live somewhere swanky, and there’s a big gap between cheaper homes and more luxuriant living. Many positions boast other perks such as return flights, and the longer contracts at most schools mean you won’t face costly relocations every few years.

  • Accommodation: £946 – £1,548 / $1,311 – $2,145
  • Utilities: £132 / $183
  • Health insurance: Cost of typical visit to a GP: £45 / $62
  • Monthly transport pass: £22 / $30
  • Basic dinner out for two: £31 / $43
  • Cappuccino in expat area: £4.12 / $5.71
  • A beer in a pub: £9 / $12
  • 1 litre of milk: £1.35 / $1.88
  • 2 litres of Coca-Cola: £1.50 / $2.08

(living costs sourced from Expatistan)

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