Teaching English in Dubai: The Ultimate Guide

ESL Jobs in Dubai

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Sitting in the middle of the desert and bursting at the seams with impressive-looking skyscrapers, shopping malls, and beaches, Dubai is at the top of every english teachers wishlist. You’ll find a collision of cultures, cuisines and people from all over the world, and a huge expat community to help you settle in while you enjoy those infamous Dubai brunches! When you’re not teaching, expect to be sunbathing on a beach, exploring the desert by sand buggy or participating in some world-class shopping. To top it all off, the sun never stops shining! What’s not to like?

If this has got you dreaming about your next ESL adventure, the good news is that there is a high demand for English teachers interested in teaching in Dubai. Teaching positions are needed in a variety of schools, including private language tutors, international schools, and public schools, with students coming from a range of backgrounds to add to a fascinating and diverse mix in the classroom. 

The lucrative tax-free salaries and attractive benefits packages make Dubai a very sought after location for teaching English abroad. You’ll find that reports of high salaries reflect the qualifications and experience of teachers, with many schools asking for a degree, teaching certificate and teaching experience. While this isn’t always the case, the more qualifications and experience you have will open up your job options, potentially leading to a very lucrative career!

Requirements to Teach English In Dubai

The requirements to teach English in Dubai are relative to the type of school you want to work at. In general, Dubai schools show a preference for highly-qualified teachers, so expect better teaching jobs to ask for the following requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree 
  • Teaching certification – TEFL/CELTA – from an accredited institution and/or a teaching license
  • Several years of teaching experience 

Bachelor’s Degree

Most schools require their teachers to hold a Bachelor’s degree and you may find that some schools even ask that their teachers have completed a Master’s degree. Some schools will hire teachers without a full degree and if this is your situation you may wish to consider getting your TEFL or CELTA qualification before applying for teaching jobs in Dubai, as most jobs are limited to certified teachers. 

Teaching Certification and/or Teaching License

Most schools want their teachers to hold a teaching certification, either a TEFL or CELTA qualification and/or a teaching license (depending on the type of school). If you’re yet to get certified, it would be wise to obtain a TEFL or CELTA qualification before applying to teaching positions – a few months working in Dubai will certainly pay it off!

Teaching Experience 

Schools in Dubai will usually prefer teachers that have some previous teaching experience. The amount will vary between schools, with some asking for three years, some for two years and others for less. Teaching experience isn’t always an essential requirement to teach English in Dubai but it will increase the job pool and up your salary. 

There may be potential teaching opportunities for those of you without these qualifications and experience, particularly if you’re a native English speaker, so firing off your CV could still be worth a shot! But it’s worth remembering that your job search will be much tougher, and come with a lower salary. There are plenty of other countries which don’t ask for such highly-qualified teachers, so check them out too!

Teaching In Dubai Salaries 

Teaching English in Dubai is extremely popular because of the high tax-free salaries.  Generally, as a teacher in Dubai, you can expect to earn anywhere between $2,400 and $5,500 USD a month, depending on your qualifications and experience.

It’s common to be offered attractive benefits packages, which can include a housing allowance (in some cases paid for accommodation), flight reimbursements and health insurance. 

Many schools are pretty accommodating if you want to bring your spouse/family with you to Dubai, and tend to include them in the benefits as well, including visa assistance for your dependents. Make sure to keep an eye out for these things in your job searches! 

Living Costs

While all this does sound incredibly appealing, it’s important to consider that Dubai is an expensive city and the cost of living is high. 

Things like rent are particularly pricey, and although you may get a housing allowance to help towards this, you will find that it’s still one of the more expensive outgoings. Rent can be anywhere from $600 USD to $1,900 USD a month, depending on size and location within the city. If a job offers fully paid for accommodation, that’s a definite plus! Things like groceries, nightlife, eating out, and recreational activities are also not cheap. 

However, saying all this, your tax-free wages will allow you to live a pretty decent lifestyle and save a great deal of your salary too! Unless you plan on leading a very extravagant and luxurious life in Dubai…

Different Types of Jobs

Private Language Schools

Being a capital city, there are a large number of language schools in Dubai, from chains 

like Berlitz and the British Council to local institutions. English is taught to a mix of ages, including younger children and university students, with the most popular clientele being adults studying business English. Hours may vary but the general format is evenings and weekends for adult learners, and afternoons for the younger students.

Salaries will differ from school to school and are based on your experience and qualifications. They are usually somewhere in the range of AED 12,300 – AED 20,400 a month (around $3,300 to $5,500 USD) tax-free, but you will also come across some schools that pay less than this. Benefits can include housing allowances, flight reimbursements, and health insurance.

Typical requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • TEFL certificate
  • Teaching experience

This listing is a recent example of a job posting from the British Council. As you can see, the requirements are pretty standard for a language school; a degree, a TEFL qualification, and two years of teaching experience. 

International Schools

As a popular expat destination, Dubai has a large number of private international schools. These schools tend to follow either the American or British Curriculum or the IB (International Baccalaureate) Program. School hours are Sunday through Thursday, 35/40 hours a week. 

Salaries vary between schools, typically ranging from AED 9,000 – AED 15,000 a month (approx $2,400 to $4,000 USD) tax-free, with some schools paying up to AED 21,000 a month ($5,700 USD). These salaries are dependent on qualifications and experience. Attractive incentives like accommodation (often fully paid for), flight assistance and health insurance are incredibly common.

Typical requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Teaching license 
  • Two years of teaching experience

Below is a recent job posting on TES for an International School who are looking for a Primary School teacher to teach children aged 4 – 11. As you can see, they want candidates to have a Bachelor’s degree, QTS (qualified teacher status) and 2 years of teaching experience in the desired areas.

Public Schools

One option to teach in Dubai is at public schools, where you will teach local Emirati students from Kindergarten up to Grade 12. Hours are similar to the International Private Schools, from Sunday through Thursday, and contracts tend to be for two years. 

Salaries at public schools for ESL teachers are usually similar to those at private language schools, from AED 12,300 – AED 20,400 (around $3,300 – $5,500 USD) a month, tax-free. Similar to the other teaching positions, salaries are based on a teacher’s qualifications and experience and jobs come with additional benefits like accommodation, flight reimbursement, and health insurance. Public schools also offer end of contract bonuses, equivalent to a month’s salary, which is always a nice treat!

Typical requirements:

  • A Bachelor’s degree
  • TEFL certification
  • Teaching license
  • Several years of classroom experience 

The Visa Process for Teachers in Dubai

Visa Overview

The visa process for Dubai is lengthy and some steps should be completed before your departure with some needing to be completed upon arrival in Dubai. The great news is that your school will sponsor your visa and handle most of the processing on your behalf. They not only do the heavy lifting but they are also required by law to pay the fees associated with the visa, which is great news for you!

To teach English in Dubai you will need a residence visa, which allows you to obtain a work permit. To be granted both the visa and work permit, you will first need to secure a job. This allows your school to take responsibility for the process.

Before leaving for Dubai, your employer will begin the work permit application on your behalf and help you get an entry visa to allow you to enter Dubai. Once you’ve arrived in Dubai, your employer will then assist you will the residence visa and work permit process. Once this is all complete, you’re legally allowed to live and work in the UAE!

Visa Process

Step One – Work Permit Approval and Entry Visa

The first step of the visa process is securing a teaching job. Once you’ve accepted the position, your employer will be responsible for submitting the initial paperwork to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) to begin the work permit process. 

Once your work permit application has been approved, you will be issued with an Employment Entry Visa (also known as the pink visa or e-visa) from the MoHRE. This allows you entry to Dubai and is valid for two months, allowing you to remain in Dubai for 30 days, extendable twice, while the formal work permit is being approved. So you have 60 days to complete all the necessary formalities to be granted a work permit and residence visa. 

Step Two – Residence Visa

Once you’ve entered Dubai, the next step is securing your residence visa. This visa not only allows you to obtain a work permit and live in Dubai, but it’s also needed for other useful things like opening a bank account in the UAE or getting a driving license. It’s typically valid for two years. Your employer or school will handle the full application process for this.

The following documents are usually required for a residence visa, which you will need to submit to your employer. They are subject to change, but your school will let you know:

  • Completed application
  • Valid passport – this must have a minimum validity of 6 months
  • Multiple passport photos
  • Copies of employment contract
  • Copies of your qualifications – any degree certificates, TEFL certificate, teaching license (you may be asked for transcripts too)
  • Employer’s trade license
  • Entry Visa

On top of the required documentation, all foreign applicants must go to a local hospital for a medical examination and obtain a health certificate. This check includes blood tests and a chest X-ray. 

Step Three – Work Permit (Labor Card)

Once the residence visa has been secured, the next step is the work permit, also known as the labor card. This is the official document that allows you to legally teach English in Dubai. Like all the previous steps, your employer will guide you through this last part of the process.

In general, expect to supply the following documents to obtain your work permit:

  • Residence Visa
  • Valid passport – this must have a minimum validity of 6 months
  • Multiple passport photos
  • Valid health certificate
  • Three copies of your employment contract – one for you, one for the employer and one for the Ministry of Labor
  • Copies of your education and professional qualifications – any degree certificates, TEFL certificate, teaching license (you may be asked for transcripts too)
  • Employer’s trade license

Background Check

The background check can seem a little confusing…The Government of the UAE introduced a new rule last year that meant all foreign workers had to produce ‘good conduct’ certificates from their home countries, for the past five years. However, it seems as though this new rule has since been suspended.

Although this rule may no longer be valid, Dubai’s education regulator is pushing to step up background checks on teachers. As a result, you may find that schools will ask that their teachers to provide this five-year background check as part of the recruiting process.

Where you can obtain a ‘good conduct’ certificate from depends on your country of residence:

What’s it Like for Teachers in Dubai?

“…getting the chance to teach the diverse students is fascinating on a daily basis. They all bring such different viewpoints to the classroom that it often feels like I’m the one who’s learning the most.”

– Ruth Sudlow

Ruth Sudlow admits the job is demanding and the hot weather can be hard to handle at times, but overall teaching in Dubai has been the “experience of a lifetime.” And her free time activities don’t sound too bad either.

“If you wish to become a teacher in Dubai and you’re a woman, it is important to be wary of the Emirati culture regarding gender roles.”

-Ema Gadzhova

Ema Gadzhova breaks down the pros and cons of teaching English in Dubai, from the highlights of the great tax-free salary and the excellent shopping to the struggles with the climate and what it’s like to be a woman in Dubai. Her teaching in Dubai reviews are well worth a read. 

FAQs about Teaching in Dubai

Can you teach English in Dubai without a degree?

Yes, it is possible to teach English in Dubai without a degree, but most schools will prefer/require you to have one, so be prepared for a tougher job search. It’s recommended that if you don’t have a degree, it’s well worth getting your TEFL or CELTA qualification, as this will open up more jobs. 

Can you teach English in Dubai with no experience?

You will be able to find some teaching jobs in Dubai that will accept applicants with no experience. The more well-paid jobs will want you to have experience, so you may have to be less picky with what opportunities are available. If you have a degree and/or a TEFL certification, this will increase your chances. 

Can you teach English without a TEFL?

Yes, it is possible to teach English in Dubai without a TEFL, especially if you’re a native speaker. Just bear in mind that most schools do want their teachers to hold a teaching certification, so you may find it harder to secure work without one. It will also impact on your salary, as these are dependent on your qualifications. 

Can you teach with a criminal record?

Dubai has recently upped its game in terms of background checks for educators and you may find that your school requests that you obtain a ‘good conduct’ certificate from your home country, covering the past five years. While this may apply to many schools, it doesn’t appear as though all schools will ask for one. 

So the answer to this question is maybe. It will depend on several factors like the schools position, what your criminal record says and whether it’s more than five years ago the crime was committed. 

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