Stretching from the western shores of North Africa across the Sahara to the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula and into the heart of Central Asia, the Middle East is a vast and diverse region not only from the standpoint of its cultures and geography, but in terms of the opportunities it offers certified English teachers as well.
In the wealthy Arab nations of the Persian Gulf region, English teachers can command some of the highest salaries and finest benefit packages in the world and must compete in a competitive job market. Often schools in this region of the Middle East will require English teaches to have a Master’s Degree (sometimes in education) and previous teaching experience, on top of their TEFL certification. That's not to say it's impossible for first-time teachers to get a job in this region (especially in Saudi Arabia), but you will need to be persistent, patient and flexible in your job search. Those who qualify for such positions will enjoy some of the highest salaries in the field as pay can range from $2,500 - $6,000 a month, plus free housing and flights to and from the teacher’s home country.
Meanwhile, countries like Egypt and Morocco offer a good number of opportunities to first-time teachers as well as old hands, not to mention fantastic combinations of history, culture and natural wonders. Positions in the region vary widely in nature and are available in public schools, vocational schools, language institutes and private international schools. Jobs are somewhat easier to come by for those with just a four-year degree (or even less) and a TEFL/TESOL Certification in Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and Turkey, where the pay is often considerably lower, but the cost of living is low and the opportunities for immersion in one the world’s great regions for culture and history are innumerable. It is also worth noting that the cost of living tends to be much lower in such countries than in the U.S. or Europe, so you can live comfortably on a lower salary.
Other things to consider when looking to teach in the Middle East:
• Teachers should expect to adhere to local cultural norms, which can vary dramatically from what you may be used to in the West. Within the region, restrictions on personal freedoms like style of dress and the right to consume alcohol can vary widely from country to country, or even from region to region within a particular country. Major cities like Dubai, Cairo and Beirut are cosmopolitan and offer nightlife and so forth.
• The presence of large expatriate communities, where teachers can socialize with other westerners, makes the transition for newcomers to the region much easier.
• Many countries have high qualification standards for their teachers, including a Master’s Degree in Teaching or a related field and/or having a state teaching certificate.
• Salaries in some Middle Eastern countries are of the highest in the field and can range from $2,500 - $6,000 a month, including benefits such as housing and round-trip airfare.
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About the Author: Michael Kunik
In 2009, Michael became TEFL Certified and moved to Madrid, Spain to teach English. Invariably, whenever asked how he feels about the time he spent living and teaching there, his answer is the same: “Next to marrying my wife, choosing to move abroad was the best decision I have ever made in my life.”