Teaching English Abroad: How to Make $300,000 in Five Years

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A blackboard with a hand writing with a chalk. "English for Beginners" is written on the board. In the context of this article, it is quite obviously an ESL teacher teaching english abroad.

You expect me to believe I can teach English abroad and make that much money in only five years… pfff, yeah, right!

Is that what you’re thinking? Or perhaps…

Impossible! Improbable! Incredible!

You’d be amazed at how few ESL teachers properly leverage the power of teaching English abroad to maximize their earnings. Yes, you CAN quite easily make $300,000 in five years teaching English. What really prompted me to write this post were the stories I was reading the other day on an English-ESL website. I read story upon story of ESL teachers living in the Northeastern province of Thailand, making a meager seven or eight hundred dollars per month. Here I was thinking–wow, these guys must really love Thailand to be getting by on so little! It was impressive. But then I read the slew of complaints that came along with the hardships they endured living there… the squat toilets, the chaotic educational system, the rising cost of goods, and the list went on and on. After about ten minutes, I sat back and looked around, wondering why the heck they even lived there in the first place! lol 😀

Now I know we’re all driven by different motives, but being in one of the countries with the highest paid ESL teachers, I thought I would share a little bit about my experiences here.

ESL, or English as a Second Language

is something taught in all parts of the globe–so the advantage is quite clear. You need have no customer base to start with; students and schools will find you if you make yourself visible and available.

Of course, many would-be teachers worry that teaching English abroad won’t allow them to lead a very comfortable life, but the paychecks available can be surprisingly rewarding . However, before I list the countries with some of the highest opportunities to build savings, I would like to provide a few universal tips and suggestions:

1. Cut your teeth at home – Try not to jump into teaching English abroad without first getting at least a semester under your belt in the United States or your home country. You need to have the proper experience and mastery of the techniques needed in order to make it easier teaching English abroad. At the very least, obtain a CELTA or a respectable TEFL certificate–but if you want to earn the $300,000 mark, you absolutely should get face-to-face instruction. Stick to classroom courses with the 40 hour teaching practicum, because many of the high-paying ESL jobs may not even consider online TEFLs.

No, John. I didn't mean literally.
No, John. I didn’t mean literally.

2. Network with others – Before you head out to teach English abroad, make sure to network with others who are doing the same thing or who are teaching ESL in your home country. These people are going to be key support providers at times you need some help or encouragement. Don’t have any contacts? Join Facebook and search for ESL groups and pages such as Teaching English in Saudi Arabia. You’ll find that some of these groups have upwards of 100,000 members. If money is your motivation to teach English abroad, stick to the Middle Eastern groups… we’ll get into that a little more below.

3. Get hired before you pack – For your first gig teaching English abroad, try to have a job lined up before you leave home. This is especially the case for the higher earning countries, but not so necessary for transient countries such as Thailand. Check out Dave’s ESL Cafe. Trying to land an ESL job before getting to your destination ensures that you have people in the community willing to help you find housing and even help you get to know the city a bit before you start the work.

4. Become familiar with your destination – Don’t take for granted that you will be able to get by as a foreigner when teaching English abroad. You need to understand the customs of the country where you will be teaching and you need to familiarize yourself with the languages of the people you will be teaching.

These are some of the basics that a lot of people overlook in their enthusiasm to teach abroad. It is also possible to neglect these things in your eagerness to begin earning a good income.

Teaching English Abroad: Top Moneymakers

With all of that in mind, let’s consider which countries currently have some of the best pay for ESL teachers. I’m going to list three countries, from lowest to highest, and there may very well be countries which pay more, but the following three countries will also allow you to save more:

1. China

China’s growing military has balls; so does its buildings.

Though this country is garnering a strong reputation as a place that is costly to live, those who teach ESL will usually enjoy free housing and airfare and the ability to save a good amount of their salary each month as well. Private instruction is in high demand and my younger brother, who attends college in China, finds that his private teaching schedule fills up without much effort.

2. South Korea

Seoul NIghtlife
“Oh, you looking for camera shop? You go seventh store to the right!”

Would you believe that ESL teachers can save a good chunk of their income–up to half of it–in South Korea? That could mean that living and working in this culturally rich and remarkably stable Asian country could net you savings of more than $15k annually. That’s certainly one good way to get a head start on retirement! There are other perks to doing this in addition to good pay – many get free housing and airfare and many receive bonuses for staying in their 12 month contract.

And the grand winner is…

3. Saudi Arabia!

Kingdom tower
Saudi Arabia: Money. Plain and simple.

Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, U.A.E. and Bahrain are all places where ESL is in high demand, but Saudi Arabia just oozes money. Salaries are tax free and incredibly high compared to many other locations. Most teachers enjoy free housing, transportation, airfare, complete health insurance coverage, and much more.

Jeddah Airport Saudi Arabia
These tents at the Jeddah airport are used by the annual pilgrims who come to Mecca.

I want you to take a look at this recent ad on Dave’s ESL Cafe. Don’t have the Master degree to quality for this position? No worries. You’ll find plenty of listings that don’t require a Master and pay similar or a tad less ($50,000-a-plenty). You can further supplement your income with private lessons and charge up to $100 per hour, depending on the level and type of English (ie private/corporate). $100 an hour in Saudi is equivalent to what a regular English teacher in Thailand makes in 2-3 days. Do the maths–$50,000+ and a healthy dose of private lessons means that making $300,000 tax-free is well within the realm of possibility in Saudi Arabia.

But what are the drawbacks?

Living in Saudi Arabia can be tough at first. The laws are restrictive, women are veiled up, booze is illegal (but both quite obtainable ::cough). You may feel homesick. But those who think of it as a stint into true cultural romanticism, into experiencing the authentic traditions of Arabia, will find it a fascinating experience. Many who go to teach in Saudi Arabia remain long-term expats. The money is too good to leave. Those who do leave, leave rather quickly.

Once there, you will most likely fall into an expat clique. There are plenty of ESL teachers in Saudi Arabia; they hang out, they party, they travel and backpack together. Saudi Arabia is also central to everything–you have Europe, Asia, and Africa a few hours away by plane. Want to check out India? Three hours away. Bangkok? 8 hours away. Paris? 5 hours away. Egypt? 1 hour away. And if you can deal with China, you can certainly deal with Saudi Arabia.

So what would I recommend?

Mix it up.

Either spend five years in Saudi, rack up your money, and move to whatever province in Thailand you want to and enjoy a life of true comfort; or go back and forth, balance your money and your pleasure between both countries. A year here, a year there. As I mentioned in last week’s post, you’ll truly be working to live and not living to work.

Saudi Mosque
One of the many mosques in the kingdom.

What more, after just one year of teaching English abroad in Saudi, you’ll have more money saved up than the average US person does at the age 50! This money will be available immediately, can be invested anywhere, and not be tied into 401ks–whose disadvantages I talk about here.

Below is a neat video I found, comparing teaching in Saudi Arabia vs. South Korea.

There are many other locations where you can earn substantial incomes from ESL work, but none like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. If you take the time to make the best plans and decisions, you can easily find yourself in a beautiful and safe location in a far off city, earning a hefty income, and receiving excellent benefits. You will be able to craft a lifestyle that suits your goals and wishes, all while meeting people of varied cultures and backgrounds.

Don’t let anyone tell you that earning bank abroad by teaching English abroad is not possible. Although I’m not an English teacher myself, I know many teachers making a great living in Saudi Arabia today.

I see them at the local Starbucks every day!

A few resources you may be interested in:

What do you think about teaching English abroad in a conservative country like Saudi Arabia? Would you do it to build yourself a nice little nest egg?

There are numerous openings for English teaching jobs abroad. If you are interested in applying, please visit the English Teaching Jobs in Saudi Arabia or English Teaching Jobs in China page, fill out the form, and a recruiter will contact you very soon!

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279 comments on “Teaching English Abroad: How to Make $300,000 in Five Years

  1. Hello,

    I had a quick question. I just obtained a CELTA from Thailand after having logged my first year of experience in Japan. Now, I don’t have any experience from my home country (USA), but will my experience in Japan be an able substitute? BTW, I’m a 32-year-old male.

    1. You must have loved the CELTA experience in Thailand! Got mine in Bangkok (IH). Your experience in Japan will definitely be a big plus. One year is usually enough to circumvent the 2 year requirement. I’d apply to at least 10-20 positions at once; you’ll definitely get offers.

  2. I am seriously considering teaching abroad in South Korea or China when I graduate, only problem is I went back to school as a career change after getting injured in my previous job and I am an older student. I will be 36 when I graduate, with teaching experience, and I have heard they tend to want to hire teachers only in their twenties and very early thirties. Will my age be a factor?

    1. Your age is fine. I’d be more worried if I was nearing my 50s. Bear in mind many teachers in South Korea had to leave because of their new, rigid criminal records check–so there is a void that needs to be filled. As for China, they’ll pretty much take anyone at this point, so long as they have solid credentials.

      1. Hello I couldn’t find where to post a new question so I apologize for posting here. Do you anything about how administrators (principals and counselors) can land jobs working overseas?

        1. I would just search for teaching jobs within the specific country you’re looking at, then inquiring directly about administrator jobs when you obtain the recruiter email from the posting. It’s what I did when I searched Vietnam teaching jobs. I told the recruiter I wasn’t interested in the teaching position, but in running a school. They got back to me within two weeks about an opening for a large school–they were needing a principal and offered me a healthy package, plus incentive bonuses! (I did not take the job, however).

  3. I will graduate with my PhD (in Ethics) in May of 2017, but I have been teaching at a major university in Chicago for over 4 years now. I do not have a CELTA or a TEFL or any other certification, specifically. Do you think I still need to get a CELTA for overseas work in GCC countries, Vietnam, China, etc, or will my advanced degrees and teaching experience (in disciplines other than English, obviously) suffice? Are there any recruiters you particularly recommend for someone with my level of experience and education? Most of the ESL Cafe entries I have seen are more for people who have little or no teaching experience (and correspondingly much lower pay), so I am not sure if it is still a helpful site for me.

    1. Hi Joseph, Vietnamteachingjobs.com has some pretty interesting listings. Since you possess advanced qualifications, I wouldn’t worry too much about the CELTA or any TEFL cert. What I would recommend you do, however, is gather a list of recruiters from Dave’s ESL Cafe or VietnamTeachingJobs, and email them directly. Plenty have access to more advanced listings. I contacted one such recruiter in Vietnam and forwarded by CV. I got an offer to manage a popular language school and earn a high salary plus commission. Email recruiters with your qualifications and a professional CV, as well as an updated photo.

    2. This idea of earning $ 300,000.00 teaching ESL in Saudi Arabia is a very nice pipe dream. Take care that I worked there for seven years and I was never in the race for $300 grand. I was lied to, restricted by some of the most intense and damning contract control thanks to every single contract the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia could put into writing!
      First thing, they will not allow you to freelance .
      Secondly, the cost of living here is high.
      Thirdly, one does not find something for nothing.
      Fourth, Saudi Arabian students are not going to do much homework. Their lives are different from Western standards of learning. Cheating on exams carries no penalty.
      If you want to go somewhere in the Kingdom, having a car is a requirement. Some of my most stressful situations were dealing with the dishonest taxi drivers.

      1. Hi Scott, I understand your frustration as the contract process can be cryptic, but I know plenty of western expats that are really happy there. Some have even been interviewed on my site. The thing is, Saudi Arabia is looking for qualified teachers at this point and are willing to negotiate. Simple postings online range from 3-5k per moth, tax free. Every once in a while recruiters have much better postings too–or postings only available from local recruiters in Saudi. One thing’s for sure: Saudi ESL teachers make a lot more than your average out there. As for the cost of living, it is what you make it. You can spend a lot, or you can budget real well. Everything available in the west is available in Saudi. I have also seen plenty of teachers do overtime at 1.5 x multiplier, as well as teach privately. I think this is pretty standard in any country, teachers making money on the side, legal or not, I’ve yet to hear of a teacher get busted for that anywhere in the world. I’m sure it’s happened as anything can happen anywhere, but I’ve yet to hear of it. Lastly, I do agree that Saudi students don’t commit to homework. I know it can be disappointing for a teacher, but that’s the way things are there. We roll with the punches or get battered by them.

  4. Hey Banker,

    Love the article. I’ve taught in South Korea for 2 years at a hagwon teaching ESL to kindergarten and middle school students. I also lived in Bangkok, Thailand for 6 months.

    I have a degree (BA) in special education. I’m currently working as an classroom aide at a special needs school in NJ. I’m also 47 years old.

    I am having difficulty finding work in NJ and the urge to travel and teach in SE Asia has been pulling on mefir some time. The thing is I’m 47 so I’m hesitant to make the leap. When I taught in South Korea I was 41. I know they do look at age and many schools like to hire young.

    My question is how realistic are my chances to teach abroad? I’m currently focused on Vietnam. I’d love to work there and make money. The other question is can I use my special education degree? I know teaching children with disabilities is much different in Asia.

    Thanks for the article.

    1. Ben, Vietnam has tons of windows of opportunity. Windows and doors. At your level, I’d look for management jobs instead of teaching jobs. You could manage a school and the best way to find out more is probably to go to vietnamteachingjobs.com and email some of the recruiters. I doubt they’ll enforce any age restrictions in Vietnam. Visa regulations have also changed for US citizens, so you can get a 1 year multi entry visa for $135 if you choose to live there and check it out.

      1. Rashad, thanks for the reply.

        The thing is I get family members and friends who say things like “you should stay in America. What are you going to do in 5 years.” Etc… Although their arguments are valid, I know my friends/family are in the mentality of fear and scarcity.

        Anyway, I’m going to check out that link. Thanks again.

        1. All I can tell you is that I am better off abroad than when I was in the US. The question is, where will you be in 5 years in the US? Where were you 5 years ago? You have nothing to lose by trying Vietnam out for a year and diligently saving. You could easy sock some good money away, which is becoming harder to do in the US. The marketing machine stateside is something to really consider–no downpayment, finance everything over 36 months, etc etc—your propensity for debt in the US is a multiple of that in Vietnam. Not to mention the opportunity cost: connections you’ll make abroad, schools you could open, promotions you could get, etc etc. It IS scary making the leap. You ALWAYS question any decision–even moving to another city in the US. But the last thing you’d want is to look back 30 years from now and think of what could have been vs. has been and how you learned from it.

          1. Wow bredda those words were powerful and inspirational. You indeed have a gift with words and thee ability to galvanize someone just from reading your “written” words! I can just imagine how those words, body language and orator skills translate in person. I was thoroughly impressed with this article-I SUBSCRIBE IMMEDIATELY!

            I have a question. My skill set is NOT that of a traditional teacher. Although, i am still teaching and what the skill i do offer. I am a certified nutritionist and sports performance trainer.” I train pro athletes of all sports!”

            My question is a recruiter from India contacted me through a job board. I knew they were looking for native speaking English teachers to teach in India. I was open to it. However, when he contacted me asked if i wish to teach health fitness and sports an India? I thought, I was gonna have to do just regular English teaching. To do my skillset is what i really wanted.

            Can you give me some advice as far as India’s pay structure, I believe its Lakhs. Would you consider teaching in India? What other countries would be interested in this skill set? I do want to be financially rewarded- but for me its also about learning and building relations with a new culture, seeing another travel destination and crossing off another thing on the bucket list. A lot of these things about what countries would be interesting in someone who has a penchant for changing peoples health, delivering incredible body transformations and improving pro athletes/all skill levels/all sports-these things don’t just regularly come up in a basic Google search.

            Big ups to ya for any advice you can offer-And keep writing awesome content!-Respeck!

  5. Thank you for taking the time to write this article and respond to many of the comments. Have you ever meet someone that started their own English school/learning center? Is it easy to find customers, especially in China, Vietnam, and Korea? Do you have any idea of how profitable English schools/language centers can be. I am thinking of starting my own school after I get a year or two of experience. I have a seven friends that are on board with the idea, so we wouldn’t have to hire any other teachers in the beginning. We are all from America, and speak with a General American accent, and only two guys are not white (one is black, another is latino) if that helps. We have heard how it can be difficult for minorities to get jobs teaching English in Asia. Thanks for any help and advice you can give me.

    1. You’re correct in that skin color does matter in Asia, unfortunately. It is how it is. Opening a school in each of these countries comes with very separate complexities and you’ll need some decent funds to bribe the authorities and set yourself up legally. It’d very hard to set anything up otherwise. I’d say you need between 20k-30k at the very least to set up something small and legitimate. This includes cost of equipment and rent too. Much more in South Korea, much much more.

    1. Hey lady! How are you?
      I believe you and I are connected on Linkedin because you and I met and/or taught at Pagoda or Direct English in Seoul, South Korea. Are you planning to teach in Saudi Arabia now?

      All the best,

      Felicia Shelton

  6. Hi there.
    I’m doing my TEFL coarse at the moment and should be heading out to wherever by January 2017. I’ve worked on super yachts in the US before for about a year but the amount of risk, drugs and overall “sailor’s” lifestyle is a bit too much. I’ve met a few people who have taught English overseas and the lifestyle seem to be more down to earth and professional (ie. no non-stop partying and physically dangerous environments).

    Although I’m really into travelling and always make the best of my trips and experiences overseas, I’m in this stint for the money (obviously not only the money). I definitely have a five year plan to buy a nice piece of land somewhere.

    Firstly, when was this article written? I didn’t see a date anywhere and I know like in any international job market things often change year by year.

    So my question is about UAE (Dubai) and the middle east. Is the money still good there? What would the monthly expectation be as of 2016-2017? Which cities should I target? Except the obvious Dubai? I actually have some mates there so it would be preferable.

    Is the middle east good for a first timer? Or should I stick with the easier Korea or China for maybe a year, then move that side?

    Any advice would be helpful.

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Philip, if you want to make money, the Middle East is the right stop–specifically the GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar etc.). Five years or so ago it was relatively easy to get a teaching job there since no teacher could fathom themselves teaching there. So the GCC countries were throwing money at them to come. Things have changed, however. The money is still being thrown, but now that the high salaries have got some good publicity, highly qualified teachers are applying. The criteria now is to have at least two years of teaching experience under your belt and preferably some kind of teaching degree or a CELTA and absolutely nothing obtained from online schools. If you don’t have experience I recommend China, South Korea, or Vietnam for a few years, maybe a year in each. You’ll make ample money considering the local cost of living. I especially love Vietnam.

      1. Thanks Richard.

        Really appreciate the reply. So I’ve dome some more research. As far as money goes China is leading SK a bit. But I’ve heard that the Chinese kinda pull you into their crazy chaotic lifestyle working 6 days a week. Although I really don’t mind working my ass of I don’t want to work too much as in burn myself out. I’ve also heard the Chinese aren’t the friendliest people. Any advice on the pros and cons of China vs South Korea?

        Thanks again?

        1. Hi Philip, yes they do pull you into a crazy schedule, if you let them. You can also earn tons tutoring on the side, which is probably the source of chaos, since the schools themselves won’t work you to death unless it’s a public school. Both my best friend and brother worked in China and I have to disagree with the unfriendly part. You can make great friends there and I guess their rough manners sometimes can be mistaken for unfriendliness. It’s just cultural. South Korea, on the other hand, can be quite xenophobic…

  7. My questions is are you required to have a degree in Elementary or Secondary Education to teach English in China, Vietnam or Singapore. I have a Bachelors in Special Education as well as a Masters in Special Education. I have been teaching 9 years. In order to teach in these countries would I be required to have a General Education degree and TEFL certification to teach? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

    1. You aren’t required to have a degree in these fields for Vietnam or China, I wouldn’t know about Singapore, though. If you’ve been teaching for that long, you wouldn’t have a problem. My major was Economics and my entire career was in banking, and I got offered a managerial job in a chain of language schools in Vietnam. Your experience can be applied very broadly in Southeast Asia. It’s just a matter of finding the right local recruiters. Vietnam and China are admittedly easier, as they’re not everyone’s #1 choice, especially China.

  8. Very interesting! So I have an interview with a school in China. Actually I applied to 2 different job postings and 2 different recruiters from the same company contacted me. One of jumped the gun and called me on skype as soon as I added her instead of our scheduled interview. Passed on to the 2nd round interview. Now I also replied to the other person thinking it was a different company but turns out it is the same. Now I explained to the second recruiter what happened. That person in turn offered me a somewhat better deal with different center and I believe its 26 (12500 RMB) hours vs of 40 (14500 RMB) hours. I do have to pay rent and utilities no free housing or internet. The 14500 RMB does not have 8000 RMB for plane ticket to China. If what they told me is true..I believe working less hours and having more private lessons would earn me more money correct? Any advice would help. Also, I do not have any certificates and my background is in Psychology I dont believe this would affect me. They said they would provide training for 1 week then start working at center that same weekend. As long as I gain experience I would still be able to get more money if I teach somewhere else after the year, correct? And lastly, lol do you think I can get a better deal out of them?

    1. There are contracts that help you keep these private lessons above water–which is what you want, nothing shady. You’re totally right, the more experience you have, the better the pay. I would also consider Vietnam as a viable starting option. Some find it a little easier to swallow (more Westernized). I still would highly recommend you get a CELTA, as it will only help you negotiate a better salary. I know it’s a painful month, but a month well worth it.

  9. Can someone advise me of what opportunities would be open to a primary teacher school teacher from the UK, namely in China or Asia? What would be the expected earning earnings, would an international school be the best route?



    1. Jon, international schools always pay the best, although I’d keep Vietnam in mind too. The pay there is incredibly high compared to the cost of living. China is a great place as well and takes some getting used to. Plenty of language school jobs and private tutoring opportunities.

      1. I have visited both countries and liked both China and Vietnam so either would be good! My girlfriend is a teacher at an English primary school so I am hoping she could find good employment and I can just sit around drinking cheap beer all day in the sun ;-).

        Thanks for the advice.

  10. Excuse me if the article covers this but what kind of opportunities would a Primary school teacher who is qualified in the UK be open too in somewhere like China or Vietnam? My girlfriend is a teacher and we are thinking about trying something like this. She has no specific TEFL qualifications, only her teaching degree.

    I have heard of great opportunities in China, especially in the West and would like to know more if anyone could tell me?


    1. Generally, you wouldn’t need a TEFL if you are a certified teacher with experience in your home country, provided it is a one of the native English-speaking countries.

      1. Can a person from not from native English-speaking country like INDIA expect to get the same remuneration as that of native speakers? If less, there must be a rough percentage reduction to it. I was at the verge of getting myself enrolled for a TEFL course when someone told me that non-native English speakers are not considered for jobs in KSA. Do i need to have extra hours put in like a 360 hour or a 220 hour certification against the standard 120 hourse to stand out in the crowd? BTW i am not a teacher by profession and considering this as a career alternative.


  11. Dear Rashad

    Great post, its nice to see an in-depth exploration of how to make a career out of ESL. It is also a testament to your character to reply to so many comments so I am hoping this finds you well and you can offer a bit of advice! I really appreciate the effort you have gone to in this post and it is the best article I have found trying to research teaching abroad.

    I am heading out to Beijing this June to teach adults for a company called English First. I am from London and have a CELTA pass B and a BA 2:1 in Mass Communications. I taught English in China when I was 19/20 before starting university, it was through an agency who took half of my money but at the time I just wanted to experience Asia and didn’t care about money. Anyway I taught for six months and after I felt like I had hardly experienced enough and wish I learnt more Chinese in that time. Since then I have been studying Mandarin and now speak Chinese quite fluently. As I have put so much effort into learning the language I have kind of restricted myself to China, which is why I am returning there. I hope to perfect my Mandarin skills because I need to work on reading, do HSK 5 and then perhaps HSK6 after a few years. Going through university in the UK I sort of had this romantic idea that speaking fluent Chinese would give me so many career opportunities. I now realise that thats not the case and the world is an extremely competitive place now, it will be hard for me to get a role in London using Chinese as I don’t have a marketing/business background. I have therefore began to really consider a career in ESL and your post is exceptionally relevant to me.

    This company I will be teaching with give teachers the opportunity for progression and can offer TESOL Diploma courses but I think you need to have two years of teaching experience and then stay with them for a certain amount of time afterwards. I am hoping that after one year of working really hard there I can be put onto the course and then have two years experience under my belt along with my CELTA and then TESOL Diploma. I do not want to stay with this company for more than two years though, perhaps this mindset could change, so if they would not put me onto a Diploma after a year I may look elsewhere to do it. I am definitely open to Korea or Japan if I could do it there after a year in China. I do already have a year of teaching experience, six months for a company in London teaching Japanese students, private tuition myself and six months teaching in China, although I have a written reference from this time it was not on a working visa. This will only matter for China though as no other country would know.

    Sorry for a really long post so far I will try and wrap it up quicker. Basically I wish to eventually get a MA in TESOL as the Middle East is where I need to be to make money. I am hoping with my CELTA, a TESOL MA and more than two years of teaching experience will be enough to land a job somewhere in the ME. Unfortunately attending university in England means I owe a big amount of money now, house prices near London are astronomical and I will never be able to afford one here. I am therefore thinking teach in the Middle East eventually and pay off my debts and save money to perhaps buy a house one day in China / Japan and get a good teaching role, perhaps in an international school or be a director of studies etc.

    I was wondering if you could offer advice on where to do my MA. Perhaps an organisation in Asia could fund me for it. If not I will have to return to the UK and take it but the only problem is having to take a year out full time, or two years part time for financial reasons. I turned 26 in April so I am now feeling the pressure to kick on in a career and want to get my Diploma TESOL and MA as quick as possible then go and make some money in the Middle East.

    Do you know somewhere in Asia where the MA could be cheaper to do than the UK and perhaps somewhere I could do it while working.

    Any advice on my situation would be very much appreciated. One again thanks for this post and sorry for such a long comment.

    1. Hi Daniel, thank you very much for taking the time to post. Unfortunately, I can’t really give you the best answer, since advanced teachers would be a much better resource. But I would definitely look at schools which offer the DELTA, such as ILA in Vietnam. Any school offering this type of certificate could easily advise you on the best route to take.

  12. I taught in gulf countries (not Saudi), and earned more than $50k (CAD) per year. My husband taught in Saudi and made less there than he did in Kuwait. I have friends in Qatar earning $80k (CAD) per year, so I disagree that Saudi is the #1 place to go. Now, with oil prices dropping, I’d consider other gulf countries.

    1. Fellow canadian here!

      Willing to become an expat to make money and have a nice adventure.

      Can you give give me some info on how you were able to get such a position?

      Thanks in advance for your time.

  13. Great post.

    One question: I have a CELTA and 5yrs experience and really wanna teach in the UAE. I’ve applied for lots of jobs (Middle East) and had one interview but no luck. It looks like I may need to retrain and become a licensed English teacher as those are the highest paying jobs…Would you recommend I do this as I am running out of options?


    1. Amy, the GCC’s criteria is getting stricter, but many schools are still hiring without. It really is a numbers game and you need to apply to tons of recruiters and schools. I’d go for at least 50 applications–nothing less.

  14. Dear Rashad,

    I am South African, Schooling was in English and then studied Arabic and Islamic Studies for six years in a college not registered by SAQA. I then completed a BA honors in Arabic from UWC (Accredited),

    If I should do a TEFL or CELTA, could it set me up for Saudia?

    I am 28 years old

    1. You should definitely get a CELTA since you don’t have a concentration in English. It doesn’t matter that your school was in English, what matters is that your major was English or, if not, that you have the credentials to teach it.

  15. I’m still a college student at a University and have been thinking about teaching abroad to start saving money for when I want to go back to the states and also travel without anything holding me back. This really helped me on figuring out whether I want to go ahead with it, and you’ve made me realize that it might be a good idea. Just trying to figure out if I would want to live in South Korea. I’ve also read Spain was good for taking ESL teachers is that true?

  16. Thanks for the post! It has been extremely helpful in answering a lot of questions I had. I was wondering how difficult it would be to land a job in the GCC with a B.A. in Psychology, a TESOL certification (including 20 hrs in a classroom), and 2 years teaching ESL in Vietnam and South Korea. Should I go back to the U.S. to get my MAT to better my chances or is it necessary that I do if I want to be considered for a position in the GCC?

    1. Your TESOL should really be a CELTA, or a highly-recognized equivalent. 2 years of experience is definitely enough and you should be a native speaker of English. The next step is to send your CV to as many recruiters as possible–you can find a full list of openings in the International job boards of Dave’s ESL Cafe.

  17. Thank you for this site really amazing and interesting. Wondering if I’m qualified as an English teacher in Korea. I have a degree in teaching and 5 years experience both in private and public.. Got also my certificate in TESOL. I have a lot of training/workshop as part of our requirements as a teacher.

    1. As long as you are a native speaker of English, do not have a criminal record (they run full background checks now), and have a reknown TEFL and a teaching certificate from your own country, you’ll be in a prime position to take advantage of the best positions there. I would apply through various recruiters.

  18. I taught 4 years in Korea (Two of them at Korean Uni’s) with four months of paid vacation! Now I’m at an International school in Shanghai which pays even higher, although teaching is more stressful than Korean Uni’s.

    I’ve been contemplating the Middle East now and also have an interview soon for a Uni in Thailand. It pays $2000 a month which for Thailand is HIGH, but I still think I’d prefer saving more in the M.E but not sure I want to go to Saudi as a single, young (attractive) woman. I feel males and couples might have an easier time there.

    But what are some recruiting companies you would recommend that place teachers in the middle east? Teachaway website hasn’t been that helpful…

    1. I know some beautiful ladies teaching there and they’ve had no problems, actually they are still there now. The Saudis are very respectful and not aggressive at all. I would go to Dave’s ESL Cafe and apply through the many Saudi job postings on the International Job Board. You can also try Footprints Recruiting, but I’d say it’s best to go to the job board and apply to as many openings as possible.

      1. Rashad,

        I would like to know if online degrees from reputable universities are accepted. I have an MS in Learning Technologies (online) from the University of North Texas, and an MA TESOL from Arkansas Tech. Both are regionally accredited and reputable. Will I still be able to get a job placement at a university? How will this impact the visa process? I would like to know if people with similar cases have been successful in finding employment. Thank you.


        1. Hi Izzy, online certificates are generally not accepted, but exceptions may be made based on job experience. The GCC usually have a no-online degree policy. You should also check the degree–does it state: “online” anywhere on it? If not, I would recommend keeping quiet about that aspect of it…

    2. Hi millany how are you,my name youness, really i know many resources and ways to enter to gulf countries legally and easily , so this is my email (lahouir90youness@gmail.com),or my skype id (youness3575) to contact me , then i guide you and i explain you all details about many companies that make this solutions. but i don’t want you be quickly in procesing …there is many companies looking to take advantages from persons, and looking only for money without any result in the end.
      and do fraud and scams …
      pay attention and step after step you can achieve your goal.
      i still to heard from you soon.
      Kind regards

  19. Hi Rashad,

    First of all, thank you for your time and for sharing your knowledge. I have a particular situation that I would appreciate your advice on. I taught was born and raised in Qatar, taught at an Indian School there for four years before I got married and moved to the US.

    I have been in the US for 11yrs now and, though I already spoke English, I speak it even better now. I am a US Citizen but my husband just got a very good job in Dubai and I’m wondering if I would be able to find a good job teaching there. I have a 4yr Bachelor’s in Business Admin. from a US university, I have a teaching license from the US, but I have no actual teaching experience in the US.

    What do you think my prospects are in Dubai (or even Abu Dhabi)? I was hoping that past experience teaching in a GCC country + Good English/US Citizen + US Teaching License + US Bachelor’s Degree would be enough to get a job paying about $40k all-in?

    Also, I feel that I may be able to get a job at an Indian School because I’ve already taught for four years at an Indian School in Qatar, but I hear the working conditions and pay is better at the International Schools. Do you think I have a chance at one of those schools without having an US teaching experience?

    Thank you very much in advance Rashad!

    1. Hi Rozmin, you’ll have no problem. I would apply with recruiters as well, people such as Footprints recruiting. I would also apply with local language centers just to get some local teaching experience. I HIGHLY recommend you show up in person when you apply–it makes a huge difference when they know you are on location and can start tomorrow, as opposed to having to hire someone from abroad. You have excellent credentials, I don’t know if that’s enough for an international school, however you should have no problem building up local teaching experience to get you that international school job.

      1. Thanks Rashad! I have a few more questions, I hope you don’t mind.

        1. As for applying locally, I was wondering if they may not be inclined to provide airfare, housing allowance, etc. since I am already here? I’ve heard that they view those who come mainly due to their husband’s job are viewed as “lower-cost” hires because they may not have to provide as many benefits.

        2. Also, do all schools provide an education allowance for children or is it something that is at least negotiable with all schools? And is this education allowance usually only for their own school or is it actually a cash payment towards any school (up to a certain annual limit per child, of course)?

        3. As for getting a job an international school, do you think my two main flaws are that I am not a native English speaker and that I don’t have teaching experience outside of Qatar?

        4. Are you suggesting that I start at a local language center then go straight to an international school or do local language center, then Indian school, then international school?

        5. I’m concerned that there are so many teachers at Indian schools that probably want to be in international schools that if I join an Indian school I’ll just be grouped in that bunch and not easily be able to get an offer versus trying for an international school directly.

        6. As for timing, I won’t be there in person until August, I’m assuming that’s too late right and that I better just start contacting recruiters and applying now while I’m still in the US?

        8. Finally, what if I decide to move there in December or January, I’m assuming it’s very difficult to get teaching jobs then…but perhaps some teachers have to move mid-year? Is the supply and demand just not in my favor at that point?

        Thank you very much for all your input Rashad!

  20. Thanks so much for this blog. It’s been incredibly helpful and I appreciate the time and dedication you’ve put into it.

    Here’s my situation and concern; I’m a native born U.S citizen. I’ve taught ESL overseas for about 3 years in China. Currently, I’m studying for a M.A in TESOL. My degree is onsite and would carry a New York State certification to teach ESL for students from K-12th grade. I have about a year left in my studies before I plan to head to Saudi Arabia.

    My question is, even with the M.A TESOL degree, is it still advised that I study for the CELTA? Also, if one cannot sit for the CELTA ( In my case, the time constraint of even a part time CELTA course isn’t doable for me) is the TEFL certification just as good?

    Also, what salary ranges should I expect? I am Muslim and I was recently told that Muslims can make slightly more and can also work in cities like Medina or Mecca. I’m not sure that’s really on my radar but I didn’t know if that was true.

    Lastly, is there something that I should do in this year to make myself a more competitive candidate?

    Thanks in advance, once again. I appreciate any advise you ( or anyone reading with an opinion) can share.

    1. Hi Zee, the more certifications you have, the better, but I doubt you’ll run into any issues with a MA in TESOL. You also exceed the minimum two years teaching experience. You’re very well set up for Saudi Arabia–and being a woman helps a lot, since many schools require ladies to teach their ladies section. I would recommend you get started by contacting a lot of recruiters today and get the process started. Let them know when you will be available and stay in touch with your recruiter. Don’t wait until you graduate, since Saudi Arabia has a lead time of at least 3-4 months from time of application to hire. It takes time to get your visa, etc. Good luck!

    2. Hi Zee hope you great and happy , really i know many resources and ways to enter to gulf countries legally and easily , so this is my email (lahouir90youness@gmail.com),or my skype id (youness3575) to contact me , then i guide you and i explain you all details about many companies that make this solutions. but i don’t want you be quickly in procesing …there is many companies looking to take advantages from persons, and looking only for money without any result in the end.
      and do fraud and scams …
      pay attention and step after step you can achieve your goal.
      i still to heard from you soon.
      Kind regards

  21. Good job. You got me to comment. I think that must be what you wanted, but I think your claim “extremely exaggerated”.

    I have taught in 2 of those places listed here: China and Korea.

    The average teacher in Korea makes 2.1 million Won a month which at the moment is 1,680 a month. You might be able to save a $1000 of that a month. I’d say in Korea you might be able to save $100,000 in 5 years, but that is with a full time job and working privates and part time on weekends. You would have no life, free time and be miserable.

    CELTA is overrated. There is a lot of hype in the TEFL course industry and online courses are good enough for many especially in places that don’t require them to begin with such as in most of Asia.

    Again good job you got me to comment.

    1. Hi Ian, I always appreciate counter-weighed comments as it diversifies the conversation. Firstly, I would recommend you apply in Saudi Arabia, or any of the GCC, without a CELTA or a state certified teaching license and see how far you get. I’ll tell you: likely nowhere. Being from that region, I’ve met tons of teachers exceeding that income–$5,000 in Saudi Arabia can easily be had by well-qualified candidates. Anyone with a 4-year college degree with a solid certification and experience can land very lucrative teaching positions in the kingdom and in the GCC. International schools in Dubai pay $80-120k in some instances. Remember also that salaries in the GCC are tax-free. Still have a hard time believing you can make $5,000 a month? Here’s a recent link from a recruiter for a regular position (only took me a few minutes to find): http://www.eslcafe.com/joblist/index.cgi?read=37788

      That’s correct, tax-free, which means you’ll be making more than $300,000 if you were to tack on a tax multiplier to mimic taxable countries.

      As far as China and South Korea, these will be more challenging–but look at it this way. I actually applied as a test to a nearby country, Vietnam. I got offered $4,000 a month–which is $240,000 in five years. Feel free to reach out to me personally and I’ll gladly share the email.

      It all comes down to qualifications, credentials, and how aggressive your approach is. When I apply, I make sure I hit up “teacher manager” or “center manager” positions and use high-end recruiters. If you have great experience, there is no reason to just apply for entry-level run of the mill jobs, and this is what I recommend anyone should do. Remember, someone needs to be there to manage teachers and centers–and that person needs to be a teacher with experience. Whether it be in China or South Korea, or anywhere else for that matter. International schools in both these countries pay a hefty salary. Going to a regular school, well, will pay regular pay. As with any regular job, in any regular country, with any regular person.

      So can someone make $300,000 in five years? Absolutely.

      Aim high. The money’s not going to come walking up to you! 🙂

  22. Hi Rashad.

    I have a few questions. I am 30 from South Africa and without a degree… Im interested in doing a celta course in Cape Town . What countries would accept me if the only qualification i have is a Celta? Also does a 61 year old stand a chance in getting a job without a degree ? (she is a family friend seeking adventure)… I’m keen on doing this but I don’t wanna leave my stable job and not be able to find something else as I do not have a degree… Thank you for this article and I hope you have a wonderful 2016. On a side note the 61 year old (mentioned above) is considering to do a cheap 150 hour online TEFL course as she isn’t able to afford Celta …

    1. Hello, you may be able (at the moment) to get a job in Thailand as an Esl trainer, but not a teacher. The problem you will have is with your visa. You won’t be able to get a non-B (working visa). You’ll be working on a tourist visa, which is risky.
      Other countries like Myanmar and Vietnam maybe a better choice. They pay just as well (if not more) than Thailand.
      Thailand has very tight visa restrictions too.
      Your friend may have problems finding work in Thailand, unless she works as a volunteer. Ageism. Another reason to consider looking beyond Thailand.
      I taught in Thailand for 3 years and I’m now working in Saudi.
      Good luck

  23. Hi Rashad!

    I’m currently working on finishing my ESL (k-12) program at my local university. I’ve received my TESOL and an English Lit. BA, but literally have no experience! (besides interns for school credit and bits of volunteer time). I’m actually moving to the Gulf (Qatar) over the summer (getting a job right away won’t be necessary as I’ll be with my husband, but eventually would like to be able to get a job there), and was wondering how my chances look in terms of getting a decent ESL/English job. I’m pretty familiar with the language/culture/religion as I practice it myself; so maybe that’ll help my chances a bit. But any tips would be great! Maybe, how can I prepare my last several months before leaving the U.S., what do you think I’ll qualify for (jobs-wise)? I understand that they probably want plenty of experience and I assume masters or of that sort. But any advice would be great! Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi!

      I can’t emphasize how important it is to get that k-12. That’ll make a world of a difference, as well as your field of study. Not only that, you’ll be on location, so you will have no problems sourcing a job. Give it 3-6 months at most and you’ll definitely land a job, even with no experience. GCCs love being able to interview someone right away, and despite having a lack of experience, your proximity is golden. I would get a year or two’s worth of experience at language centers like Wall Street English first.

  24. Hello Rashid!
    I am from India and I have done my graduation B.E in Information Technology.I want to go to Dubai and take Esl teacher as my profession. I am also planning to do a TEFL 120-140hour course face to face one.Really confused which one to choose from can you really suggest how should I proceed to be highly valuable in Dubai?

    1. Hi! You have to really consider their employment criteria first. Do look into Dubai recruiters, like Footprints, and see if they accept non-native English teachers. I’d hate to recommend any path, only for the door at the end to be closed. I would work in reverse first, change your name on the CV, and apply for jobs as an Indian native. See what the response is. I’ve seen some have far more success simply walking into schools and applying in person. Although, by law, all teachers should be native English speakers (to get a work visa). Maybe I’m assuming you don’t have a passport from a native English-speaking country, which you may very well have.

  25. Dear Rashad
    Thank you for all your great efforts in sharing this inspirational post and taking the time and effort to reply to every post.

    I am a native British MBA with various experience in business development, financial store management. For the past 4 years I’ve been teaching business and. ️English , with 2 years in Saudi Arabia in a top University , I’ve also done some Coordinating and mentoring for teachers whilst I ws there. I am also a native Arabic speaker . At the moment I’m working towards gaining my Prince2 qualification (Project Management) and I would really like to get back to the GULF, preferably the Eastern Province in KSA, Bahrain, the UAE or Qatar. I have recently had a job offer in the UAE to work for ADVETI as a teacher trainer/mentor, I signed an initial contract, but they decided to withdraw that application before proceeding with visa process.

    Do you have any advice where to apply, what to apply to and what kind of positions I should be aspiring for?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi, I recommend large recruiters, like Footprints recruiting. They are very well known. You can also try applying directly with Wall Street English. They have a heavy presence in the Middle East. That said, someone with an MBA shouldn’t be short-changing himself. Hit up all the recruiters and tell them you are looking to apply as a center manager or service manager/advisor of a school. Start high, then work your way down. Your best bet is to be on location and walk into the schools or centers, since the GCC prefers an immediate presence. Shoot high, very high. With an MBA and teaching experience, you need to be looking for school management positions. If you can’t get them yet, go to Vietnam, you’ll get plenty. Get a year or two as a manager under your belt then transfer. Just my two cents…

  26. Hi Rashad

    Really enjoying your site. Very informative and a well organised site!
    It would be good to have your take on my situation. I’m 44 and a qualified accountant. I would like to try teaching english abroad in about 3/4 years. The plan would be over the next few years to take a number of lucrative contracts to get my mortgage paid off and rent my place out while away and use that to pay into a pension.
    My questions are:
    At 48 would I be too old (particularly in Thailand)? Plan would be like you to do a CELTA at IH in BKK and then try to get a job.
    How difficult is it to get a teaching job at an International School or University in Thailand (would my professional accountancy qualification help in anyway)?
    How much is age a factor eslewhere? Do you know of any older expats who have made a LONG TERM career out of teaching english abroad.
    Are you aware of the opportunities to teach English in India?

    Sorry for so many questions…

    1. Hello!
      As far as age is concerned they take people under 60.Some school or universities take young people and some prefer taking aged people as their faculty.Really depend on the school and university.For teaching in schools you must have a teaching license(BEd course from your place),they also ask for a teaching experience of minimum 2 years,take a face to face TEFL course. Believe me in India you won’t be paid enough.Try in gulf countries(U.A.E or KSA you will be paid real high package salary from $2000-$4000.

    2. Ian, 48 is not too old. I remember a couple guys in that age range that got a job without a problem. Now the laws can change at any time, just a little disclaimer lol. The question I’d ask you is: why Thailand? I feel Vietnam would do you more good. In 3/4 years the Ho Chi Minh subway will be completed, so transportation will be much easier. I also did a test run and applied for 6 jobs, got all 6. Salaries were about $1800-2000, which is much higher than the Thailand average. Furthermore, I applied for managerial experience in schools and got a job offer at $3,000 plus commission. So I would start high, and work my way down, especially with your advanced work experience. I definitely recommend you get that CELTA at IH, it’s where I got mine and the experience and staff were incredible. It’s also recognized as the top certificate (after all, it is certified by Cambridge).

      I know a couple of expats who’ve made a long-term career of teaching english abroad. They are very happy and would have it no other way.

  27. What’s your opinion of my situation:

    I have a BS in Marketing and an MBA. I also have an IT background. I love to travel and would like to try teaching. I don’t have formal teaching experience but I’ve done plenty of presentations and training unofficially in my Masters program. I’m also a native English speaker.

    I’m very interested in travel but would like to leverage my experience in the best place. What would you suggest?

    1. Randi, my suggestion for someone with your credentials is to get a CELTA first and foremost. Then work in Vietnam as a Service and Sales Manager for major language centers. Your salary will be roughly $3,000, plus commission, which is much higher than a teacher’s. To find these kinds of positions, apply for the teaching jobs on vietnamteachingjobs.com, for example. Then, when the recruiter contacts you, inform them that you’re looking for an Academic manager type of position and discuss your credentials. Get some experience in that job role to get into some senior positions.

  28. Hi there,
    You really do deserve a medal for replying everyone 🙂

    I’m a Turkish citizen, 35 year old female English teacher with 8 years of teaching experience both at universitiy and at highschool. I also have a CELTA certificate. I have been working in Turkey for all these years but now I want to work abroad.

    What do you think are my chances of finding a job as an English teacher in Europe or any country? Unfortunatelly I’m a non-native English teacher and also hold a non-EU passport. Do you think I have a chance? :((

    1. Thanks, haha! There’s definitely a chance, but you’ll need to really be on location to maximize your chances, or you’ll need to work for a large center like Wall Street English, which allows you transfer to locations worldwide. The easiest would be to work for Wall Street or a similarly large institute. Contracts usually last a year and then you are allowed to transfer out to Europe, or elsewhere. Another popular institute is Berlitz.

  29. I am currently finishing my Bachelors Degree in Human Services with a Minor in Literature. I am going to continue on to get my Masters Degree in Education. I currently do not have any teaching experience but I know that my degree will require me to intern. I’m 45 years old and my dream is to teach overseas in able to experience and immerse myself in the culture. I do have a couple of friends in Dubai. Am I too old and too inexperienced to be teaching in Dubai? I have an extensive experience in the healthcare and administrative field. Any advice or suggestions?

    1. You’re never too old, but it’s important to be on location when you want to teach in the GCC. There’s a negative stigma to applying from overseas. It just complicates matters and preference is vastly given to local candidates. You will also need at least two years teaching experience, at the very minimum. As for Masters Degrees, do not mention you have one unless it is a requirement of the job posting. We’ve seen plenty of highly qualified candidates get turned down simply because the school wanted Bachelors candidates only. I’m assuming they thought Masters candidates would be too expensive a hire.

  30. Hi, congrats on your website and thanks so much for the info!

    I currently live in Spain, I have dual nationality (British/Spanish). Even though I have a law degree I have been making a living in teaching English, Spanish and French for the last 10 years (only have a CELTA degree – no degrees for the other two languages). I have been thinking of moving to the Middle East for the last couple of years, but have two concerns… Firstly, I am a woman; Secondly, I am 44 years old. I’ve been doing some research and it looks like most countries set the age limit between 55 and 65, but, is this really the case or do schools favour younger people? And, realistically, how tough is the Middle East for western women (I would be travelling on my own, no hubby or partner)?

    Thank you in advance for your reply!

    1. Hello Val, thanks for reaching out. Depending on where in the Middle East you choose to teach, life may be stricter. If you choose Saudi Arabia, naturally, you’ll be in a very conservative environment, but anywhere else is quite an easy life. That’s not to say Saudi is not an easy life–you will have your own driver, on-call, at a very affordable cost, and a lot of freedom–but you’ll have to wear the veil and follow local customs. I would not worry about the age. Unlike Asia, the Middle East favors the older and more experienced. Given a choice between a 25 and a 45 year old, the choice for most schools is quite simple: experience first. Once you are on location, the age limit is but a nuisance. Many places will still hire you regardless, but you need to be there and available. My advice is to try it out, if anything you’ll love the cultural experience. If you choose Saudi Arabia specifically, be prepared for a very warm people, but quite disorganized in office matters. But don’t let that dissuade you. I know so many people who’ve gone with a plan to teach for one year… and stayed.

  31. Great blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Many thanks!

  32. I appreciate this blog! What about being a single American woman living in Saudi. Is it safe? Is it going to be too tough? Did you meet any American women living there?


  33. Love your site! I am writing to ask for wisdom on NET job searching in Hong Kong. I’m a 31 y/o American looking to start a teaching job (either math or English) ASAP in HK but I don’t have a big network there. I’d like to start this month and would prefer not to wait 6-12 months to start work as most FT positions advertise. From all I have read, it seems that Part-Time is the best route to jump quickly into a job, but I’m open to FT also. I have 7 years tutoring experience for a private tutoring company in the U.S., but I do not hold any teaching degrees or certifications. I have a BS in Mechanical Engineering and have tutored Math/Physics primarily. I’ve researched TEFL/CELTA like crazy, but torn between online vs In-class (both time and $ difference) to accomplish my objective of getting a job ASAP and working 1 year or less in HK. I know there is high demand for NET in HK having spent the summer traveling across China and HK, but now that I’m back in the U.S. I’m having a hard time getting a response from HK part-time job postings. What would you do if you were me? 🙂

  34. Such a great site! I have a BA and MA in French and about 9 years experience teaching university French in the U.S. (Native English speaker) I’m planning on doing a CELTA course — do you think my previous language teaching experience will be attractive to schools even though it’s not in English?

    1. Hello Chris, thanks! Your French skills would definitely be very useful. First of all, you have extensive classroom experience, second of all, many schools and students really do want bi-lingual teachers. French is a highly sought after language in the Middle East, in general.

  35. Hi there,
    I’m currently an American grad student, native English speaker, hoping to teach in Indonesia. I have a few questions about qualifications:

    The program I’m in is at an environmental education school, so I have a year of teaching experience. Also, I am a teaching assistant for a communications 101 class. However, the degree will be an MS in Natural Resources with a certificate in environmental ed. Because the program is so teaching heavy, I could potentially change my degree to an MEd. Is there a significant difference between these two in the hiring process? I also have a BA in philosophy/literature/language.

    Do I need a teaching certificate or would the degrees be enough? I’m also considering getting a CELTA just to add to my qualifications. Is there anything else I can do to give myself a better chance? I have several friends with little teaching experience who work at an international school and make good money, but I may be interested in university level work as well.


    1. Megan, with an advanced degree and your credentials, you’ll have no problems at all teaching at a university level. But, I strongly urge you to get the CELTA too. Many private schools require it (assuming you’re teaching English)–and it’ll help off-set the single year of teaching experience.

  36. Hi Rashad,

    What a fantastic website! Can I please ask if you got your English-teaching certificate before you left for your adventures? I’m considering a full time course in Bangkok. I have no teaching experience…

    Thank you


    1. Thank you, Anya, really appreciate it. The English CELTA was part of the adventure…the first month, actually. I got it in Bangkok through IH Bangkok–I used that first month not only to get the CELTA, but also to sight-see Bangkok and nearby islands. Not having any teaching experience is perfectly fine! There’s really no better place to learn than in Asia. Once you graduate from the program, you should have no problem landing a job.

  37. Hi, it’s late into the night here in Spain now, as I have just stumbled upon your site, it’s fantastic !! My husband & I are TEFL teachers in Spain, but are Irish, aged 51 & 52. We are both Celta qualified, without a degree, & would like to move to The Middle East to earn some decent money and immerse ourselves in a new culture. We have both a huge amount of the world travelled, so integrating would not be a daunting prospect for us. What are our chances of securing a good contract, & and would you be able to put us in the right direction. Thanks so much for the great blog, you must spend half your life replying to the likes of us!!!!! Do you reply to my email or how does this work???!looking forward to hearing from you.

    1. Thanks for the comment, guys! It certainly sounds like you have a ton of experience teaching, which would be very helpful. The best countries to teach in to make money in the Middle East are the GCCs, namely Saudi Arabia. Securing a position there can take a while, since the schools move very very slowly, but I would head over to Dave’s ESL Cafe and apply there. There are tons of positions available on the International Job Board. On a side note, a degree is usually required, so I would highlight other certifications you have, and your years of teaching experience.

      1. Hi, and thanks for reply. We have been told by agencies that a Degree is essential. For obtaining a visa for KSA/ UAE.they say we have no hope of getting a job there without some kind of a Degree, is this true in your experience????!?????
        Thanks for your help.
        Yvonne & Sean.

        1. Unfortunately it is true, and it is enforced. I have heard of people getting around it once they are in Saudi. Meaning, they worked in another capacity, just to get into the kingdom, and then approached schools and were hired. However, this is not a feasible option for most.

  38. Hi Rashad,

    So my Bachelor degree was actually in English with a Literature concentration. I graduated in December of 2012, but since then I’ve really just been working low-wage hourly positions to pay the bills (well, sort of pay the bills). This past year, I applied to the JET program as well as Teach for America (not an abroad program) with no success, probably due to the fact that I’ve had no teaching experience. I was recently accepted into the CELTA program, but wanted to see if I could get into a Master’s program before I made that commitment.

    Today, I received that letter of acceptance (my first all year) into a Master’s of English Education program at a local state university. Initially, my plan in pursuing the Master’s was to use this degree to teach overseas, but the cost of formal graduate education is so high, that now I’m reconsidering my options. I’m aware that the EPIK program now requires its applications hold either a CELTA/TEFL certification or Master’s Degree for consideration, and South Korea was one of the main destinations I was considering. It seems as though the requirements for these positions are becoming more and more restricting. Obviously being the more affordable of the two, do you think that a CELTA certification and the related teaching experience gained through the coursework would be enough to secure a decent paying position in a foreign country such as South Korea or those you mention? If I were to pursue my Master’s, I’m looking at approximately 25-30K worth of student debt to pay off as opposed to just a simple 4K for the CELTA. Which of the two do you think would be more beneficial and conducive to landing one of these higher paying positions?



    1. Zac,
      I currently teach in South Korea and have for the past 5 years. A CELTA, plus your bachelor degree is fine for getting into EPIK, as well as other ESL jobs in Taiwan, China, or Japan. A master degree really opens door if you want to work at the university level. Get the CELTA, apply to a few countries and teach for a year or two first and see how you like it. If you love it and want to continue and move up to a university teaching position, then go for your masters. You should also be able to save at least 12K while teaching 1 year in South Korea, easily. So, easier to pay for grad school then.
      Shoot me an email if you have more questions.
      – Andrew

      1. This is all a new possible option for our future. My main question, will they transfer an entire family to teach? My husband has been teaching ( technical degree and bachelor’s) for the last 8 years in the US. We have four children ( 6 of us total) . I’m aware schooling isn’t normally free like it is here in the states. Do you think this possibility is just out of the question? Thanks for all input!

        1. You may want to look at the larger universities, such as KAUST. These probably would, as well as international schools. I doubt smaller schools would shoulder the cost of an entire family, but you never know. Have I seen it happen? Absolutely. But you will need a recruiter to help you get into places like KAUST, or contact them directly. Princess Noura University in Riyadh is another large university which may.

  39. Hello,

    I have a bachelors degree and will be taking the CELTA, do you think continuing on and doing the DELTA certification is worth the additional time/expense?

    Thank you,


    1. I believe you only really need the DELTA if you plan on becoming a teacher of CELTA. If your plan is to go and work as an ESL/EFL teacher then the CELTA alone is sufficient.

  40. Hi there. A late in the day convert, training to teach English is the best career move I’ve ever made! It started out as teaching to travel, now it’s travelling to teach. I love both in equal measure. I feel a bit like a mum one day, James Bond the next, getting to travel and see amazing new cultures. It can work for us (quite) oldies too 🙂

  41. Hi Rashad,

    Great site and great info!!

    Could you clarify something for me though. My wife and I (both from law backgrounds here in the UK) are looking to move to Dubai within the next year, what would be the best route to take in order to teach English?



    1. Thanks, Adam! 🙂

      Teaching English in Dubai or any GCC country requires a CELTA or TEFL certificate, which is the first thing I would obtain. I would then get in touch with a recruiter to help place you. They do prefer you have classroom experience, since that part of the world pays best, but also demands a lot in terms of qualifications. You can have a recruiter contact you by filling out this form: http://www.bankerinthesun.com/english-teaching-jobs-in-saudi-arabia/
      or checking out Dave’s ESL Cafe.

      Hope this helps! Safe travels,


  42. Hi guys,

    I am an MBA graduate from India currently working with JP Morgan into investment banking. (Realized soon enough that its not really my thing!) I am really keen on teaching English abroad. (Specially in Europe). I needed some guidance on it.
    1. I came across courses like CELTA etc from Cambridge and Trinity. Are they good enough? Do they offer complete placement assistance? (Because it seems very difficult to me to sit here in India and randomly apply to teaching jobs in Europe. I am not too sure if that would carry any weight at all)
    2. I don’t come from a country which is recognized as a native English speaking country. However I have done all my education in English (even my MBA). So is that really a problem in the job market?

    Looking for some guidance. Thanks in advance!


    1. Hi Rhea, the CELTA is great. Probably the best you can get, and it is the one I would recommend you get. I got mine in Bangkok and it cost $1,600 five years ago. As for the native English-speaking part–it really depends on how much experience you have. If you are planning on teaching in Saudi Arabia or the GCC, you’ll want to have at least a couple of years of experience under your belt. Your Masters is a big compensating factor–you could likely land a job in South Korea or China, and take it from there. Classroom teaching experience can compensate, as it did for this Brazilian lady teaching English in Saudi: http://www.bankerinthesun.com/2015/02/expat-female-living-in-saudi-arabia/

  43. Hello,

    I was considering enrolling in a Masters in education degree program that is focused on teaching english as a second language, as my bachelors degree is not in english or teaching. How advantageous would this be in comparison to getting an in class CELTA or TEFL/TESL certificate? How much more money would I likely be able to earn with the Masters in Education in TEFL?? And, would I likely be required to have less teaching experience than those with simply a bachelors and a CELTA certificate in regards to finding a relatively high paying job in the Persian Gulf States?

    Anyone with knowledge on this topic, please respond to any pros and cons of pursuing a Masters in Education in TEFL. Especially as it pertains to making good money teaching abroad, especially in the Persian Gulf States.

    Thank You

    1. Hi John! I don’t think anything can match a Masters in Education. That opens far more doors than a TEFL. A TEFL serves to certify someone and give them a layer of credibility. A Masters of Education goes far beyond that. You will be considered a prime candidate for teaching jobs in the Middle East, as long as you have a year or two of teaching experience. I would recommend you talk to a recruiter for more specifics–you can either find them online or by following the link at the end of this post.

      1. Thank you Rashad,

        Many of the Masters of Education, or Masters of Teaching programs in TESOL are largely done online. Is that a problem? For example, many programs are online, but require an internship as part of your graduation, would that still carry the same weight? Or are universities over seas going to be adamant that the program be all in class? This is my last major concern in choosing a program, as I want to start a respectable program that will get me a lucrative job in the persian gulf, but can’t necessarily move cities in the next couple months.

        Simply put, will universities in the persian gulf discount my degree if it was largely done online, even if my degree is from a prestigious university like USC or America University in Washington DC. Or, will it make a world of difference to go to an in class program like the Middlebury Institute of international studies in monterey, CA. ????

        Thank You for any help you can provide.

        1. Hello John, sorry for the late response!

          Firstly, universities in the Persian Gulf will require a TEFL Certificate along with your degree. Do not get an online TEFL certificate, as Middle Eastern recruiters do not generally recognize online TEFL certs. Your best bet is the CELTA, which is a a classroom certificate administered by one of the top worldwide universities. It costs roughly $1600.

          As for your TESOL Masters, that really depends on what is written on the degree itself. Does it state that it is online? Many times it doesn’t. I doubt it would matter if it’s a reputable university. You’ll definitely be entering sketchy grounds if your online degree is from a relatively unknown university. If you want more information from a recruiter, feel free to fill out the recruiter form (link on this page) and a recruiter will contact you.

          Hope this helps!

        2. I would avoid doing and online Masters if you are looking for a job in Saudi. They do not recognize online degrees, and when I was getting a visa, they required that the school filled out paperwork stating how much of the degree was online vs. face to face.

  44. Hey Rashad, thanks for all of this helpful informatiooooon! whats better a linguistic degree with TELF/Celta or a English degree with a Telf/CELTA? which one is better to get a Celta or TEFL? also when husband and wife apply together for teaching positions hows does it work? if ones wife were to get pregnant on the job while in Saudi what happens? do they give them a payed leave?
    mohamed recently posted…Business Etiquette in Saudi Arabia: Tips & AdviceMy Profile

    1. Hi Mohamed! I doubt English or Linguistics degree would be viewed too differently. As long as you have either and preferably a CELTA (vs other TEFLs), then you’ll be looking real good. Although there are so many exceptions to the rule depending on location. Some positions require couples and these are processed together. Your contract is no different than other other contract, and is enforceable by the Labor Office, so if a lady gets pregnant on the job, she does get paid leave. This is a by law in the contract, and contracts vary. You would need to get in touch with a recruiter for more info:


      1. Thank you for replying ASAP! I also wanted to know so for example a bachelors degree in linguistics and a TEFL whats the average salary expected when applying for jobs in Saudi Arabia or is anything possible(high salary) and what city’s in Saudi Arabia pay the better salaries? children born there do they get citizenship and allowed to go to school? also being a Muslim and being familiar with the culture of Saudi Arabia does that give me a better chance during interviews to land a job there. thanks again!
        mohamed recently posted…Should Non-Saudi Women Get Involved with Saudi Men?My Profile

        1. Hi Mohamed, getting a job in the $40-60k range is easily doable with a university degree, TEFL, and experience (in Saudi Arabia). If you follow the link at the bottom of this page, you’ll notice the recruiter is offering salaries up to 60k. There are jobs that pay even more–these are usually industry-specific (ie. aerospace firms that need English teachers) or corporate English.

          A child born in Saudi Arabia does not get citizenship. To obtain citizenship, one of the parents must be Saudi. To obtain Saudi citizenship, if no one is Saudi, you must be Muslim and qualify using a point system. Warning: it can take a decade to qualify for citizenship–it’s such a difficult process. I would check out the Ministry of Interior’s qualification criteria.

      2. Hi. Thanks for the info! I’ve recently completed my BSc degree in Microbiology at The University of the Witwatersrand which is in Johannesburg, South Africa. I’m planning on furthering it with a Postgraduate certificate in teaching. I’d love to move on to Saudi Arabia -after “cutting my teeth ” here at home for 3 years maximum. But Can you please point me know the right direction? What would even be my first step?

        1. You’ll definitely need a CELTA certificate, and then I would go through the numerous recruiters that can be found in forums, such as Dave’s ESL Cafe. Just bear in mind you’ll need to contact A LOT of recruiters, since the positions are either seasonal (in terms of hiring), or limited in number for each recruiter. You’ll hardly find one recruiter with many vacancies.

  45. Hello. So this is my situation. I’m 23 years old. I am graduating college with a degree (BA) in Sociology May 2016. I would like to teach english in Korea. I was born here in the U.S. and currently reside in New York. Do I need to finish my degree to teach abroad? What certification would you recommend for teaching in Korea? And beside speaking to a recruiter, are there any more steps I need to take? Thank you very much.

    1. Hello Daniel! S. Korea has undergone quite a revamp. You will need a college degree, but a TEFL isn’t always necessary there. You WILL need to obtain police clearance from your country before applying. You should have a clean record, otherwise they will not hire (legally). Many teachers with background issues were forced to leave S. Korea as a result of this new background check requirement.
      Rashad Pharaon recently posted…Business Etiquette in Saudi Arabia: Tips & AdviceMy Profile

  46. Hi I would like to know. Would I be able to teach English with just the TEFL in the Middle East as I don’t have a degree in any field? I’m from South Africa.

  47. I am a recent College grad plus native speaker (United States) and have been flirting with the idea of teaching English overseas,, but my major and experience is not in English nor teaching. Assuming I got a proper cert and managed to get a year experience in teaching somewhere, what are the odds of landing something in the Middle East? Unlike some other people posting, I am not older and lack the decades of professional experience and advanced educational degrees some possess.

    1. Hey Rick,

      I’m Chris, I hope all is well. I’m about to be a recent graduate (this fall, but I’m 24, took some time off to work). My degree will be in TEFL though. You’re the first person who (I’m guessing) is around my age who is interested in teaching overseas. Would you mind getting into contact? My email is ckelly2291@gmail.com if you’re open to it. I just sent my info to the recruiter on here too by the way.

  48. Hi Rashad,
    This is great information and I really appreciate your honesty. I’ve read through most of the comments and that is very admirable of you to reply to all these questions. And a lot of work so I’m sorry in advance for asking you yet more questions. Does Saudi require an ESL certification? Which middle eastern countries don’t require that? If I do obtain a certification, which is best, easiest and cheapest? I do have an MBA but only professional experience (graphic design & marketing), no teaching. Which country should I go after? I love traveling and am open to new experiences. I need to get out of the cubicle and be around people and culture-not corporate culture. Ugh. Please give advice. Thx!

    1. Hello Kristin!

      It’s no problem at all, I enjoy answering questions 🙂 Your question is sort of a Catch-22 for Saudi Arabia. You can find work without a TEFL cert, but you’d have to go to the local language centers IF you were there. However, to get into the country, you’d most likely need a TEFL cert, along with some experience–so getting into the country is hard part. Since you don’t have any experience, I highly recommend you get a TEFL cert to teach anywhere in the Middle East (or the world, for that matter). If you do obtain one, you could walk into language schools in Dubai and eventually one would probably hire you. The ideal situation is to get a TEFL cert and go teach for a year or two abroad, I would recommend China or Vietnam, and see if you like it. If you do, you’d have some experience and qualifications to teach in Saudi Arabia or the other GCCs–where you’d make some serious money.

      The CELTA is the Rolls Royce of TEFLs, it costs about $1600. Others are cheaper, but don’t mistake that for lesser quality. It’s just that the CELTA is a recognized name–however, i-to-i offers a hybrid online/classroom option which has become very popular and is very affordable. And while you’re teaching English, you could set yourself up on elance.com and still offer your professional graphic design services. Check out the following posts for more info, Kristin:

      http://www.bankerinthesun.com/2015/01/teaching-english-in-saudi-arabia/ (Teaching English in Saudi Arabia)
      http://www.bankerinthesun.com/2015/03/best-digital-nomad-jobs/ (The 5 Best Digital Nomad jobs)

      Hope this helps! Feel free to ask more questions, or to email.

      Safe travels!
      Rashad Pharaon recently posted…The 5 Best Digital Nomad JobsMy Profile

    2. Hi there,

      I’ve been teaching in various countries for about 4 years, and due to the high level of teachers available now, schools/universities are getting pickier on the qualifications they require. Most decent jobs require a degree and a CELTA minimum. To really benefit from your time in Saudi, I’d recommend a CELTA and a few years experience in Europe or Asia. During your time in Asia, , doing an MA in ELT online is defo worth while to bank the big bucks in the Middle East, especially university positions.

  49. As an experience tutor in China, I can attest to the ability to make a lot of money. Private tutors in China are in seriously high demand. With expertise in the field, you can earn upwards of 50 dollars US an hour. If anyone has any questions about tutoring in Shanghai especially, feel free to drop me a line. Cheers !

    1. Hi SauFudao

      Good to hear about you.

      As you are welcoming to queries so here is one from my side; i hope you would take some time to reply.

      Could you please tell me something about non-native speakers; how should they see their career in English teaching in China? Apart from China, do you also have some idea about Vietnam job prospects for non-native speakers? As I am going there for TEFL certification next month. Your little advice/guidance may be of my great help.


    2. Experienced tutors in Hong Kong can earn close to USD 100 / hour (and some even more). Naturally, costs of living in Hong Kong are higher than in Shanghai though.

    3. Hiya,

      My boyfriend and I have been looking into teaching in South Korea; but I am beginning to fear that it may be difficuiIt, is this the case in China? I have a linguistics degree but is a TEFL needed? I would love to know more about your experiences.


      1. Katrina, from my understanding you need a TEFL anywhere you go if you’re looking for legit, over-the-table work. There will always be exceptions. But the TEFL is just one of those certifications that get you through the door in a legitimate manner. However, I do know some language centers in China that hire without TEFLs, but the teachers do not possess a work permit and they teach on either a student visa, or a tourist visa. South Korea has become a lot harder, especially after the thorough background checks they’ve recently started conducting. I’d recommend you also look into Vietnam, if saving money is your priority.

    4. I am thinking about teaching English in China. Since I supplement my income with tutoring in VA, can you tell how to get it started in China?
      Thank you!

    5. Hi Sou Fudao and Rashad! It’s really good to hear about your experience in China and Middle East. I am Russian native, have been living in US for over 9 years, American citizen. I used to live in Dubai and really not interested in Middle East, more in Asia, Malaysia, Korea, Thailand may be.
      I am not sure if you would know, but really want to ask a question. I I have Associate in Arts and TEFL/TESOL/ CTBE certification, I have done it online. I don’t really have experience teaching. I have registered in one of the tutor sites to try to get into online tutoring and today got at automated message offering to apply in one of the Malaysian schools with really decent pay. The description also states they require Bachelor’s degree.
      My question is to both Sou Fudao and Rashad. Would you guys know if I have a chance of landing a position in Asia? At the moment I am being offered to tutor online by two scholls in different timezones and going to accept them both part-time, the difference in time will help a bit here to do both of them. As I know it will take time to plan and prepare for trip to Asia, I thought by then I will have some experience in teaching. Tt will be online though… What do you think?
      Thanks for this awesome blog Rashad!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Agness! I’ve yet to go there and I really should. Well, wait, would Hong Kong count? Was just there. But I’d love to experience mainland China and it’s scenic panoramas. Will definitely be bringing my tripod…

  50. Wow, teaching others the English language, even at the beginner level is a very good and noble activity.
    The younger generation and any active person need to master this language if they want to achieve great success in business or to improve career.
    A few years ago, I was teaching English a few small children when I had a temporary job at a kindergarten. The little ones were so cute, and they mastered a few words and usual expressions pretty quick.

  51. Dear Rashad, thank you so much for the valuable advice. I have one question. Aside from certificates like CELTA and TEFL, what exactly are the models of face-to-face instruction that last 40 hrs or so that would be preferable for someone seeking a high paying ESL job. I’m just getting started and I want to properly invest in myself. Thanks in advance! 🙂

    1. Hello Ana, all ESL certificates that are not online generally have the 40-hour component (some online ones do too). The 40 hours are comprised of personal instruction, as well as watching others instruct. I wholeheartedly recommend the CELTA as one of the best options.

  52. Hey I just stumbled upon this amazing article and I have some really important questions. I am transferring universities here in New York and I will start working on my bachelors in TESOL. I will also minor in International studies. I am planning to volunteer for the Peace Corps right after graduating and teaching English for the two years there. Is this a good way to begin my teaching experience abroad? Should I do more? Is getting a bachelors in TESOL a good thing? I’m currently freaking out because my family is completely against what I am doing since I was previously studying to become a nurse practitioner. Please let me know your opinion on this situation, thanks 🙂

    1. Dear Jose, getting a bachelors in TESOL and two years teaching experience in the Peace Corps gives you an excellent base upon which to build your teaching career. A nurse practitioner is a solid career as well, but many countries, such as Thailand, restrict this profession to natives only. TESOL is universal and always in heavy demand. To make good money at it, you have to be willing to live in places (at least temporarily) that may not be the most popular. But it will enable you to teach and travel the world…

  53. Hi Rashad,
    I’ve been thinking about finding a job in Saudi Arabia for 5 months, but I’m waiting for my graduation on May. I’m getting my masters on MA-TESL, I also have TEFL certification. Honestly I don’t have much experience , all I do is volunteering in ESL school here in USA since August. Most of students in this school are from Saudi Arabia, and they are so friendly and nice ! That made me wanna go there and live 🙂 my English is good, but I have little Turkish accent ! Do you think I can find a job in Jeddah, Riyahd or Dammam ?

  54. Hi Rashad,

    Thank you for the detailed insight on teaching abroad. I have 10 positions open in an esteemed university in Saudi and many in China, I would be happy to help your blog visitors land ESL teaching jobs in these two countries but don’t like to just share a link without your permission. You have my email address, please send me an email if you are interested to take another step towards helping others and we can work something together as well.

    Keep well


      1. Hi Rashad,

        Thanks for your response, I will be looking forward to your email.

        I will be moving to Saudi very soon and I will have access to more jobs. The first ten has been filled, now we have another ten available. If anyone interested, please let me know.

        Thank you

          1. Dear Rashad,

            Can i please have Shaban’s e-mail address?
            Besides i want some advices from you. I have completed B.A & M.A in English. I am non native English speaker. I have IELTS score 6.5. Am i qualified to be an English teacher in China/Arab. Please, give me guidance. Thanks in advance.

          2. Hello, Jahir, if you wish I can forward your information to Shaban.

            You seem to have strong qualifications in the English arena, but you did not mention a TEFL certificate?

          3. Dear Rashad,

            Extremely sorry for my late. I didn’t mention about TEFL certification because I don’t have any TEFL certification. Now, I am confused of TEFL. Is it crucial for me too? Also confusion comes about my being non-native speaker. Can you please help me out to get proper direction. If i need TEFL, how can i get from my home country(Bangladesh)?
            Thanking you in anticipation.

          4. Jahir, you will need to get a TEFL to teach in Saudi Arabia. Also, if you’re not a native speaker, you will need some teaching experience. Unfortunately, getting a job in Saudi if you’re non-native, don’t possess a TEFL, and teaching experience, is very hard.

        1. I am also very interested in applying for a job in Saudi Arabia. Could you please give me more information as to how I can get in contact with you about a job?

          Thank you

        2. Hi Shaban

          I am also very interested in applying for a job in Saudi Arabia and would appreciate it if you could send me your email or details as to how I could apply for a job.


        3. Hi, my husband & I would like to teach in The Middle East or anywhere that the pay is good. We are a married couple from Ireland, but now work in Spain as TEFL teachers for over a year now. We both have the CELTA certificate, but don’t have a degree. We are mature……..I am 51 & my husband is 52 .What good opportunities do you think would be open to us? I see these Hugh salaries being advertised, & wonder “where is the catch” ? I’d really appreciate some advice, the blog is so helpful. Kind regards.
          Irish Cailin.

  55. I wish you’d spend a bit more time on the requirements of each country (and maybe you do in the comments, I didn’t read them all). Yes, you can make good money, but each country has their own unique set of requirements to work there and you’re not going to come close to S300k unless you have some serious qualifications.

    Good post though, def inspiring for those interested in teaching abroad!

    1. Hi Tim, good observation, and I may cover requirements in future guest posts by recruiters. In my opinion, Saudi Arabia trumps all countries in terms of compensation. I have seen some obscene packages offered to ESL teachers. You’ll also see a few eye-openers posted with various recruiters. Although they need to list the requirements, they often do bend (break) them. It’s hard enough as it is to recruit anyone, in any field, for KSA.

      1. Hey Rashad:

        I’m curious about how much the rules are bent to get CELTA or TEFL qualified ESL teachers in Saudi. The reason I ask is because I posted something on Dave’s ESL cafe asking teachers about my chances of securing work in the Middle East since I don’t have a teaching degree and/or 2 years of ESL teaching experience. I would have my English degree and the CELTA/TEFL, plus 20 plus years of corp comms experience. Everyone who responded indicated that I would be hard pressed to secure anything in the Gulf states so just thought I’d run this past you. I’m sure the requirements are more stringent in places like UAE since they are deemed to be more desirable but if I’m going to even consider pursuing this I need to know there’s a reasonable chance of securing a decent contract.


        1. Andrew, very few know about Saudi Arabia, which is vastly different in methodology than other Gulf States. I’ve seen rules bent all the time; I bent them myself when I recruited candidates in my field. I know plenty of non-native English speakers there, as well as folk who don’t have much teaching experience. If you have absolutely no experience, however, I do recommend you get some as it will increase your chances wherever you are. However, there may be corporate English job postings which may fit your profile, especially in the Dammam area. My advice is to go ahead and apply. It takes but an hour to send your CV and cover letter to 5-10 recruiters, and include any form of classroom/training experience you have had, and why you would be the ideal candidate.

          Here is an example of rules being bent: http://www.bankerinthesun.com/2015/02/expat-female-living-in-saudi-arabia/ a non-native hire (yet her job posting clearly said native only). You need to just apply.

  56. Hello Rashad,

    The blog you have created is very useful for the visitors like me. I have completed Masters degree in Education from Nepal and I have been teaching English in college for 7 years. I am certified in TESOL also. I want to be resettled in Saudi but I do not have any idea to get recruiters there. what could be the best way to contact suitable recruiter there ? Thank you for reading my query.

      1. Dear Rishad,
        I checked all the information in the link that you provided but all of them seek native speakers as a teacher and we are non-native speakers. are there any other sources where we can get assistance in these matters ?
        Thank you Rishad providing time for us to get clarification.


        1. Thats it. I found out the same , while planning to work abroad as a TESOL, TEFL teacher. Recruiters ae seeking only native speakers.

          1. Gentlemen, see my latest interview with a non-native English speaker. I know plenty of non-native speakers there. It is normal for the schools to post what is LEGALLY required by law. No one would overtly bend rules on a job posting–this is common-sense. Just apply. See the following two articles, including one from a non-native speaker:


  57. Hi Rashad,
    I stumbled upon your blog by accident like some of the people who posted and I’m glad I did. This was an interesting post and very informative. Maybe I missed it, but how long have you lived in Saudi? Though you said you aren’t a teacher, maybe you can still answer my question.

    I’ve been contemplating about going to Saudi Arabia to teach EFL as well. I already have 10 years of EFL teaching experience under my wing, including a masters in education, Cambridge diplomas, and other skills related to the field. However, my main concern is how Saudi students would react to and treat an Asian American male teaching them in class. Unfortunately, I am not so informed about the lifestyle in Saudi, only random stories here and there offer me a sense of ideas, but I have heard that Asians are seen as the low working class and they are treated differently in a negative way.

    Perhaps you can share some insight into this.

    1. Hi Jason! Lived in Saudi for 3 years and my family is from there. There are many teachers of various nationalities and I haven’t personally heard of any problems with students. Does that mean there will never be any problems? Of course not. But the folk you mention above are mostly service industry workers, not teachers and professors. There is definitely a two-class structure, but I know quite a few non-native ESL teachers, and none have experienced any problems. I really wouldn’t worry about it. There are plenty of Indian professors too–and they have no problem getting private Saudi students, allowing them to earn extra income after school.

  58. Hi Rashad,

    First, I want to say that your blog has been very helpful. Reading through the comments and your answers has been great. That said, I have a question. I have a BA in Biology and am in the process of getting my CELTA right now. How likely is it that I find a job in KSA with these credentials? I feel like every job opening wants someone with a teaching license and 2 years of experience. I saw that you have said they make exceptions but I wasn’t sure how many.

    Also, I am convert to Islam and I was wondering if this was something I should highlight or not when applying for a job.

    Thank you for your time! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Nicole, and sorry for the late response. I would definitely add on your CV that you are Muslim, if you’ve already converted. It will give them peace of mind knowing that you are familiar with the religion as an expat female, and practice it too. My advice is to consistently apply. I am releasing an interview on the site in the next day or two, which details how an expat lady found an ESL job in Saudi Arabia without meeting the listed credentials. Although, admittedly you may have problems getting a teaching job if you have absolutely zero teaching experience.

  59. Hi, thanks for the informative post. I’m interested in Saudi jobs. I am a married female and I have a degree in English lit and a PGCE. I also have a 5 yr old child. Hubby would be working elsewhere.Is it possible to find a job with a dependent? I read that some companies are only offering family visa’s to males.

    1. I know a couple of female teachers who brought their non-working husbands to Saudi as a dependent. It is possible, but it definitely narrows the options and choice of cities. Is it possible? Absolutely. But your best bet is to contact a recruiter that can help with these type of positions 🙂

  60. Hi Rashad,

    Interesting article! I think Hong Kong also merits a mention as a decent place for teachers and tutors to make a good income. I realise that technically Hong Kong is part of China, but in terms of teaching environment they are quite different. Teaching income here can easily be in excess of USD 100K / year.

  61. Hey Rashad:

    It’s been really interesting reading your postings as I ponder the possibility of a significant career change in terms of teaching English abroad, I have a degree with a major in English and a minor in Communications/Publishing. From what I’ve been reading it sounds like a CELTA designation would be good for the prospect of teaching in the Middle East, or at least at my “first choice” countries like the UAE. I’m certainly prepared to get that within the next couple of months. I have a number of years experience in Corporate communications – I’ve done business analysis work, written business cases, internal and external comms, managed projects, and most recently spent the last 4 years within the Change Management practice. I turn (a very young looking!) 50 next month but I’m hoping that my specific degree coupled with my years of hand-on business experience will carry some merit with prospective employers.

    Any thoughts/advice you have would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks – keep up the great work!

      1. Hey Rashad:
        Will look forward to reading the post. I’m just curious – you mentioned that the post will be about teaching English in Saudi. Will most/all of the information also be applicable for the other Gulf states like UAE for example?

        Thanks again,

    1. Hi

      Fascinating read and great article

      I’ve got tesol cert and currently completing my 0U pen degree with a concentration on creative writing. I have 4 years esl teaching experience in Latin America and a few months volunteering in Asia.

      I was wondering what tge chances are of getting a well paid oil industry teaching job in the Middle East are? I am a single 38 year, Scottish old male and would consider a couple of years to fill the bank balance. I know Saudi is ultra conservitive but nearby destinations seem a little more liberal.

      Would you recommend Saudi, Bahrain, Dubai etc ??



      1. Hi Ali, I would recommend Saudi’s east coast i.e. Dammam area. You’ll find plenty of oil firms there looking for ESL instructors. You’ll also find that you can cross into Bahrain within 30 minutes by car (a long overseas bridge). My advice would also to speak slowly during the Skype interview. Saudi ears are not acclimated to the Scottish accent, so it may be difficult for the interviewer to understand you if you speak quickly 🙂

  62. I am female, 57(!), South African, got a B>Sc (maths and chem) , HDE, 25 years teaching experience in maths including 2 years in Kuwait (no exp in ESL) but completed a CELTA 2 months ago. I have been sending my application to recruiters on Dave’s ESL cafe (for Saudi) and they all say sorry, my client says you need 2 years ESL or EFL exp. Please help. Can i go to Saudi and apply directly?

    1. It’s a lot easier applying directly in Saudi, but getting into the country is another story–they offer no tourist visas. If you know a Saudi, they can invite you in as a visitor. I would also apply directly to the Saudi Universities, such as Princess Noura U in Riyadh. Are you a native speaker of English?

      1. I am native speaker, yes. i have applied directly to PNU and other universities whenever I could get their e-mail addresses. A lot of them have no e-mail address listed on the website.

  63. Hiya,

    I am in Saudi arabia now. My salary is $36k a year. Is this too low or this a starting salary?? In how many years can I start to ask for a $50k salary?

    Thank you,

    You deserve a medal for replying to everyone!!

    1. Thank you, Ali! I am assuming your salary includes paid-for accommodations and other perks? You can’t really ask your employer for much of a raise, since we both know employers are bound not to give much of an increase. The best thing to do is to move to another one–and to keep other cities in mind. Since you are on location already, you could job-hunt after a year on the job. I wouldn’t recommend any earlier, since the prospective employer may find you unreliable and think you’ll be looking elsewhere immediately after they hire you.

      1. Thanks for the reply! It actually doesn’t include any other perks! Thanks for the advice. I Will stick it out until I finish one year! 🙂

  64. Hi, I’m a 47yo female from the US, I’m making the transition to teaching ESL; I was a graphic designer for 17 years, before that I worked in business administration (I have a BS degree). I obtained a CELTA last summer and was hoping to land an ESL job teaching adults (as I have no experience with children). I’d love to try the Middle East, but every single job description says “2 years teaching experience required.” But if what I’m reading here is true (there’s a shortage / high turnover), would it be worth it for me to still apply? I was hoping that my recent years as a designer (which included lots of assisting clients with presentations, managing client conferences, etc.) would count for something…thx

    1. To Diane and Rashad,

      I am a female about the same age also looking for employment abroad, specifically Dubai. I just received a Masters in Literacy/ESL but have no TESOL or CELTA. I’m not sure if this is will meet the requirements for working overseas but I am hoping the school will offer time to obtain needed certifications if offered a teaching position. The downfall for me is that I do not have a teaching license but I do have teaching experience in US public schools as well as at a local public university. I am hoping this will help acquire a position in Dubai.

      1. It’s all about a give and take, and at the worst the recruiter will simply ask you to get the CELTA. I would NOT get an online ESL certificate if you want to teach in the GCCs. These are not generally accepted over there, so taking that short cut will not help. As opposed to Saudi Arabia, Dubai is a little more competitive, but before committing to any certifications I would contact local recruiters and see if they are willing to accept your credentials as is. They would take you in no time in Saudi Arabia, but Dubai may be a little more challenging. Contact the recruiters first…before doing anything.

    2. Hello Diane 🙂 It’s definitely worth applying. You will always find an open door somewhere, the posted criteria is one they don’t follow too well. It’s not like Thailand, where everyone is backing on the country’s backdoor. Saudi Arabia especially has a hard time recruiting teachers. I would contact the recruiters and apply. At the very worst, you could easily get some experience in Asia and then move to Saudi Arabia or the GCC. I would recommend at least 6-12 months of experience, though.

  65. Hello Rashad,

    Thanks a lot for taking the time to write this post.
    I am seriously considering teaching English in the KSA. I have my BS in Business, 4 years of ESL experience, and am finishing my MEd. in Education as we speak. No TEFOL, of CELTA certs.

    I am wondering, where can I look to find a good paying job? You mentioned Dave’s as well as FB group pages. I have heard many people mention salaries between 6-8K per month, but have not found anything that good myself. Where would you suggest I look?

    1. Hi Andrew,

      With a MEd, you’ll have NO problems teaching anywhere you want. I would gun for international schools and universities. Best money is the Middle East, in my opinion. Dave’s ESL has plenty of recruiters posting positions. Every once in a while, a high ticket position is posted. Either way, I would contact all recruiters, even if the salary is not 6-8k, as they may need to fill such positions the very next week. Stay in touch with them, the search for the best positions may take several months, but the wait will be well worth it.

      On another note, if you are IN the country, you’ll quickly make contacts and find the best positions. The biggest hurdle is getting in. Stay in touch and feel free to email me!

      1. Hi Rashad,

        I appreciate you taking the time to write me back. If I were offered a job at a university in Saudi Arabia for around 4K a month as my first job in the Middle East, would you think that to be a fair offer or would you suggest I hold out for a higher paying one? I am trying to establish what the average minimum wage is in the middle east as a starting point for my job search.

        Here in Korea, it is safe to say 2K a month is an average starting salary and anything below that is considered pretty low. Most people can expect to make over 2K a month, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, etc starting out. Is there a similar standard for middle east salaries?

        Thanks again,

        1. Hi Andrew, 4k is very decent for starters. Once you’re there, you can easily go on the hunt for higher pay, but getting into the kingdom is the most important step. I am assuming the 4k also comes with perks, such as housing paid for by the employer and medical insurance?

          1. Rashad,

            Yes, that package also includes housing, insurance, etc. Where in Saudi are you living now? If I end up working over there, I will contact you. Do you have a personal email account, or this site the best way to contact you?

            Again, thanks so much for taking the time to respond to me and all the others asking questions on your page. I really appreciate it.


  66. Guys don’t get too excited. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Do some real hard core research. Reach some of the private teacher blogs to the get real picture. I’ve been an ESL Teacher for 16 years so I know a thing or 2. It’s a fun job and can be a career for those willing to give up stability and security they can have at home, It’s not all peaches and cream so read your private blogs too. Saudi is a very hard place to live, and you will be under tight control, and like in Saudi or Asia or any foreign country you can lose your job in an instant if you are not liked and there are few fringe benefits, so keep all these things in mind.

  67. Dear Rashad Pharaon

    Just read your blog and was so fascinated that I thought I would write to you and find if I would also have a chance to be a teacher over there. I have been teaching hotel management for the last 12 years and I actually teach the college students in India but I wouldn’t mind teaching the school kids since it was my dream to be a teacher for the school kids but ended up teaching the college students.

    Is it possible for me to get in here.


    1. Hello Keith, you certainly can teach there, but I always recommend you get a CELTA certificate. I’m assuming you have a college degree (but even that, in many cases, is unnecessary). Check our Dave’s ESL Cafe for a comprehensive listing of positions available in the Kingdom 🙂

  68. Hi there!!!!

    I’ve just found your blog and I can’t stop reading it!!! It’s simply amazing!!!!

    I’m definitely up for the idea of teaching English in KSA!!! However, there’s only one hurdle: I’m not a native speaker, since I am from Bolivia and therefore my native language is Spanish, but – modesty apart – I speak English almost at the same level of a native speaker, with a very little accent that I’m sure can go away with practice. I understand it’s obviously way harder for someone who isn’t a native speaker AND doesn’t even hold a passport from an English speaking country, but, would it be ABSOLUTELY impossible for me to find a job???? I would like to expat myself to the Gulf, but I’ve got a degree in Business Administration and another in Law, which are, well, basically worthless over there since they are local degrees. The other option for me would be becoming a cabin crew for a Middle Eastern airline, but competition is tough and I’m a little bit on the short side (I’m a guy), so it certainly wouldn’t hurt to look for another options.

    On the other side, I had a few years ago the opportunity to apply for college in your country, unfortunately I didn’t study hard enough and failed my Chemistry and Physics SAT’s, which I think was the major reason for my failure. Since then I thought that I should better resign to just live and work in my country – not that I don’t like it, I love it, and I have a good life here, but I’ve always had a really bad case of wanderlust. And it was this year, when that bug that I thought had finally given up on me, started biting me again. So here I am, busting with expat dreams again!!!! Just a little background, so you don’t think I’m completely insane!!!!

    Hope you are doing well. Good job!!!!


    1. Thank you very much for the kind words, Fernando! It put a big smile on my face this morning. I would definitely not say that it is impossible to find a job there, but I would highly recommend you first get in touch with recruiters there. Many are willing to cut corners since finding English teachers to teach in Saudi Arabia is very hard. It isn’t exactly the Disneyland of Entertainment, if you know what I mean lol. Keep me posted, and let me know if you have any other questions.

      1. Thanks for your reply!!!

        I’ll let you know if something interest happens. Actually making the decision would be the hardest part, especially because though I’m pretty much used to being by myself, leaving my family behind would be pretty hard.

        As for Saudi, with a good internet speed and some compound party (not too many though, I’ve heard they party absolutely HARD over there) I would be fine, but it wouldn’t hurt to live in Dammam, if you know what I mean.

        BTW, I hadn’t realized Saudi was actually your country. It has a poor image over here, but “hearing” someone actually from there showing a balanced view of it makes you want to know that place. If only they issued tourist visas!



  69. I’m just looking to get my foot in the door. I’m currently teaching in Thailand at a high school (first semester teaching). I have a BM in music and a TEFL certificate. Do I still have a chance? Most of the posts ask for a Masters with atelast 2 years of experience. There has to be a place for me there;) thanks.

    1. You definitely have a chance. I assure you not many Masters applicants apply there. It’s very hard to recruit teachers there, so they’re always willing to cut corners. If you are able to teach a musical instrument, I would emphasize that too.

  70. You can always consider teaching in China. I was reading up on the salaries online and they can be pretty high if you have the right qualifications. Especially at international schools: (4) International Schools

    15,000-35,000. While not all International Schools are equal, they are pretty much the best you can get in China when it comes down to money. These positions will typically require a proper teaching license or degree in education along with a solid work history.

  71. This is half of the story. Turnover in Saudi is atrocious, which is why the average pay is the highest in TESOL. Hmm. The salary is highest there, but people are quitting saudi jobs in droves. The number one rule in job hunting is ‘nobody quits truly good jobs en-masse’. I’ve been warned off saudi by more than a few of my colleagues, and they weren’t all bitter losers with an axe to grind. So I will pass on Saudi, Especially now that the Saudi gov’t is floating the idea of sacking all native English teachers and sending them home. I’m smart enough to know that if I take a job in Saudi by merely replacing a quitter, I will soon be on a plane going home as well. No thanks.

    PS–Dave’s ESL is one of the most biased sites out there. Telling the truth about these crappy jobs can get your posts deleted and your username banned.

    1. Hi Thane, thanks for the sharing the other side of the coin. The government has floated many ideas in the past, none of which have taken effect. If they ever do take effect, you will find 100 loopholes employers will use. You have to understand the dynamics of the kingdom’s politics to understand why they are so openly floating crazy ideas like this one. I definitely do not counter the high turnover point–you are absolutely correct. You need to be ready for Saudi, it is a place like no other and the culture shock can make people leave within a month. Thanks again for commenting, you make great points.

    2. Well, I’m not sure where Thane Thane got his information from but it is ridiculous to make such sweeping generalizations about the turn over rate in Saudi Arabia. Actually, I taught for year for a Saudi university in Jeddah and it was one of the best experiences of my professional teaching career! The teaching schedule was very relaxed, there was plenty of off time between semesters and a very long (paid) 60 day summer break. To be sure, Saudi Arabia is not for everyone and if you’re the type of person who thrives off the party lifestyle and lots entertainment options then Saudi Arabia probably won”t be the ideal work/living environment. However, if you are the studious type and prefer quiet time rather than always being surrounded by crowds of people, then a teaching stint in Saudi Arabia would probably be to your liking. Personally, during my time teaching in Jeddah, I met teachers from around the world and many of them had been teaching in Saudi Arabia for 5 years or more. I will actually be going back to teach at a college in Jazan starting in January 2015. What’s nice about teaching in Saudi Arabia is the fact that you are able to save a considerable amount of your salary due to the fact that the cost of living in relatively low and that your employer takes care of most of your expenses.. I would highly recommend that anyone considering teaching in Saudi Arabia go for it. It will certainly be a highlight in your teaching career.

  72. Rashad the post is informative specially for newbies. I got question.

    How would you see vietnam, china, taiwan and france interms of money saving?
    And my great desire is for korea, but hell they want native speakers. How to avoid such restriction?

    1. Hello Manoj 🙂 I see Vietnam and China as very good, Taiwan as good, and France as mediocre (in terms of money saving, that is lol). You can’t really avoid the native English teacher restriction in S Korea. They’ve really tightened up considerably, including thorough background checks.

  73. Dear Rashad, I enjoyed the article, and see that you know a lot about Saudi. My main question is will schools pay for my kid’s education if I take my family to Saudi?

    thanks, Brendan

    1. Hello Brendan, if you work for an international school you typically get an allowance of 2 children. Everything is negotiable in Saudi Arabia, they really do need good teachers and will make the necessary arrangements–but I must stress that this is true mostly for International Schools. If you work for a language center you generally will not get educational benefits for the children. I would recommend checking out the International Job post at Dave’s ESL cafe and email the recruiters that are posting the Saudi positions.

  74. HI Rashad, if I have 2years completed of an IT degree and I have the CELT qualification. Basically what Im asking is if it is possible to get a good teaching job without a degree and just the CELT?


    1. Yes, exceptions are always made, especially if you have experience. If you have a 2 year degree that helps too–I don’t know if you actually received an Associates Degree (2 years) instead of a Bachelors (4 years). I recommend checking out Dave’s ESL cafe International job boards and speaking to the recruiters posting Saudi positions. Better yet, Saudi Arabia is a “who you know” type of place. So if you join ESL groups on Facebook, many in the groups will actually have worked in Saudi and can give you names and numbers so that you can bypass the whole recruitment process. Just go to your search field on Facebook and type in Teaching English Groups and you’ll see quite a few. Hope this helps!

  75. I think for many people who complain about the $700 a month salary in Thailand, they would rather keep complaining about that than to sit in Saudi and earn $5k a month. Personally you couldn’t pay me $300k to live in an Arab state. If you’re main motivation is to make money….don’t be a teacher!

  76. I have taught in Brazil in my 30s mostly to business people.
    Is there a cut-off point, age-wise in Saudi Arabia where they consider you too old?
    I”m a young looking in-shape P90x guy in his 40s now.
    How big are the classes?
    Is it mostly kids or adults that require the instruction?

  77. Nice article and great website. I wonder if you have any knowledge about non native speakers teaching. I am a certified teacher from the Netherlands, with two bachelor degrees and a masters degree.

    I know the visa rules in Korea will not allow me to teach there, but I am able to get a decent paying job in China (had some offers the few times I was there on vacation).

    Are there any options for me as a non native speaker to teach in Saudia Arabia?

  78. Hi Rashad,

    I’m a Canadian finishing up a second year contract with EPIK in Busan, South Korea.

    I have been researching Saudi Arabia for the past few months and have been wondering about the advertised certified teachers qualifications. Are these just preferred qualifications?

    I have an Honours B.A. with in-class TESL certification plus my teaching experience with elementary(KOR) middle(KOR) and adults(volunteering in Canada pre-Korea).

    What could I negotiate with my experience? What areas with decent expat communities?

    Thanks for all your time and valuable insight.

  79. Hii by having alook at this page for a person like me who has lots and lots of dreams of teaching abroad, I have got some idea that this is something which is possible,no necessity of stepping back.I have done my. Btech(electronics),I am ready to get TEFL,wat else should I do for some easiest and better opportunities in saudiarabia for teaching English over there.

    1. Hello, if you happen to be in Saudi Arabia, it will be a lot easier getting the job, even if you are not a Native English speaker. They have a severe shortage of English teachers. I definitely recommend a TEFL certificate if you are not a native English speaker–but first, speak to some recruiters, see if they are willing to get you a job without one.

  80. Thank you for all the information! I am another recent graduate in my early 20s, looking for opportunities to teach English in Saudi Arabia. I have my BA but only a few months experience tutoring students an no teaching certificate. I am confused as to which Teaching English certificate I should obtain. I have looked into Oxford Seminars but worried that the certificate would not be enough to get a good job in Saudi Arabia. The CELTA is a expensive and they don’t offer it often in my city, only twice a year. Do you have any suggestions of which certificate would be most useful and worth the money with no actual teaching experience?


    1. Aya, I really recommend the CELTA, since you cannot really go wrong with it. It is universally accepted as one of the best, but what I recommend is this: go to http://www.daveseslcafe.com/ and check out the international job board. Choose one of the jobs you are most interested in, and check out the requirements. Many will tell you what type of TEFL certificate they require. You will notice CELTA is the most popular, but many are willing to compromise. I prefer this method as you can see what is required by schools you are interested in before you actually invest the time and money in getting the certification.

      With that said, many schools will hire you without a certification if you get a little experience and you are on location. For Saudi Arabia, I recommend you contact the recruiters–they will make exceptions. Many exceptions.

  81. I’m a senior at a top university in the US majoring in History. I don’t have any teaching certificate but I have volunteered to teach ESL classes at YWCA to new immigrants. I’m looking at English teaching job abroad. I’m actually an immigrant myself, but my English is as good as any native speakers. I have been to china, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan for fun. I have interned in china as well. But I’m looking at Saudi Arabia for a teaching job, as an asian female, would this make me less likely to be employed?

    1. Helen, I really recommend you get a CELTA. There are always ways around things–and if you go to one of the recruiters posted on the ESL cafe site, they may get you in no prob. But having a CELTA will affect your pay and, once in the kingdom, open up the door to far more legitimate opportunities. Being a native English speaker is preferred, but for a country that has a shortage of English teachers, I’m sure they’ll make the exception.

  82. Hmmm… Even if I don’t spend any of my salary it wouldn’t add up to $300,000 in a year.

    I’m currently in Saudi Arabia, how do you recommend I get into private tutoring? It was so much easier back in Ireland!

    1. The $300,000 is over five years, Sahar, not one 😀 Getting tutoring work in Saudi Arabia is relatively easy, but you first must teach in a school or university. Eventually students will approach you for private lessons. You can get them to refer their friends to you and give them a discount, or advertise in the papers. I know many tutors who charge up to 300 SAR per hour, especially if it is related to college-entrance examinations.

  83. Hi,
    I am a Canadian native english speaker with a TESOL . I have been teaching English in southern spain for over 8 years. I specialize in teaching young children, but I have been teaching all ages. I do not have a BA , but I have another 12 years working as an early childhood educator before moving to Spain. My husband ( also TESOL certified ) and I want to move to Dubai to teach english next year, do you think it will be´a problem finding work considering we do not have a BA but are TESOL certified.
    Thank you so much for your insights and advice.

    1. Dubai high schools and universities are strict with their requirements, but you could find work in one of the many language schools. Within six months I’m sure you could land a very lucrative job in a school, but you’d need to make some on-the-ground contacts first. Applying from abroad will be nowhere near as effective. The same can be said for any GCC country. Safe travels 🙂

  84. I’ve done a TEFL and CELTA and have a BSc in Computing. Buy I have no additional experience in teaching apart from the tefl and celta. What are the chances of me getting a job in Saudi and oh yh i know arabic too? And how do you go on about getting students to do private tuition for the extra money?

    1. Muhammad I wrote a post recently about it. Check out my latest post “Finding Work in Saudi Arabia”–it explains TEFL in detail also. Don’t worry, you can easily find work, especially with a double TEFL/CELTA. After a few months you’ll also be able to privately tutor–it’s all by word of mouth. Students will talk to one another, and before you know it you’ll be tutoring English AND Maths. You make more tutoring the sciences, usually about 250-300 Riyal an hour (about 60-70 USD). The hardest part is just getting there. I would apply through a recruiter online at Dave’s ESL Cafe.

    1. Hi Brandy, thanks for your comment! It really depends on the salary package you get, but you could easily sack away 75% of your earnings. What gets a lot of expats is the constant in and out of the country (for weekends, none the less). I understand people may get cabin fever, but I was there three years in a row without leaving once. I’m not saying everyone could do that, but no need for travel every single month…

  85. Although you say Saudi Arabia is the best money maker and other gulf states, I have to disagree. Most Saudi jobs may pay upwards of $3000+ per month but top out around $4k. There are a few trade schools that pay 7k if you search hard enough and Aramco is the holy grail but again very difficult to get.

    Id say try your best in the UAE. Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi provide jobs at $4000-$5500 if you search hard enough in the universities and high schools. the UAE provides a great western lifestyle with the great middle eastern money. So of course it is highly competitive but the UAE is the best place to be in the middle east if you can get hired. http://www.teachaway.com and http://www.seekteachers.com seemt to have a lot of job opportunities in the area.

    1. Whereas I do agree there are PLENTY of jobs in the salary range you mention, if you’re willing to take jobs in the more remote areas of Saudi, the pay is considerably higher. The defense and oil/specialty firms also have far higher pay scales. Most teachers just need be patient and look for them–and of course, masters degrees pay very well.

      I just went to Dave’s ESL, picked the first listing I found for Saudi http://bit.ly/OL68el. Mind you, this is only for 12 months salary, they always give a 13th month if you complete the full year, which would be nearly 70k tax-free with a BA degree.

      As for quality of life, you’re completely right. UAE is far better in that respect.

    2. “Most Saudi jobs may pay upwards of $3000+ per month but top out around $4k. There are a few trade schools that pay 7k if you search hard enough and Aramco is the holy grail but again very difficult to get.”

      Really? I’m getting over $8k, 1st middle east post, with a BA, CELTA, and a few years teaching experience. And I’m in Riyadh.

      You must not have looked very hard. Anyway who in their right mind would live here for $3k??

      1. I agree that 3-4k seems kind of low, but I think he is referring to generic university posts. There are some very high paying ESL jobs, but you really should be on location to best find them.

      2. when you say 3k do you mean us dollars? I’ve been offered 12,750 riyals plus the extras (free company digs or allowance, transport, airfare etc) and I have a mediocre english lit degree only from a mediocre uk uni. It is still better pay than china however.

        so just curious, what 3k are you reffering to? USD or EUR or GBP…just curious on.


        1. Hi Alan, I’m referring to USD. You can get a lot more. You’re doing the right thing, the best jobs are found on location. Once you’re there, check out the universities (go there in person) or the Dammam area. Lots of companies in the technology sector are hiring privately.

  86. Thank you so much for this post sir!!! It’s really enlighting and very inspiring!!!However, may I ask for some clarifications? You are refering to native english speakers or not obligatory? I am a Greek student, majoring in translation and interpretation on english and french and already done as an aupair for 3 months in China, so I think I do have some good teaching skills. So do you think that this post could apply to me as well or not? I am sooo interested in Asian languages and I have already visited China and S.Korea and I know that there are a lot of english teachers there with different programs such as Talk but you ALWAYS have to be a native speaker to participate with these programs. Do you know any way out? Thank you a lot in advance.

    1. Hello Sanji, the TEFL/ESL world is full of contradictions when it comes to hiring. The “posted” guidelines are one thing, but if you are on location, interview, do not meet the educational/native fluency guideline, but LOOK and TALK the part, you can get hired on the spot. I’ve seen it happen again and again. It’s also based on networking. Once you know people in the field who have studied in your country of choice, they can often recommend you. Networking is everything.

      That being said, the programs you are discussing have pretty strict admission requirements. The best way is to go to the country of choice and network there, or join an ESL Group on Facebook that targets your country of choice (Facebook keyword search: Teaching ESL in Saudi Arabia, for example), and start networking online before you move.

      If I don’t give you a fast and clear answer, it is because there is none. Yes, the law of those countries may require one thing, but the schools often do something else…

  87. Thank you for a very thought-provoking post! I have long been contemplating the idea of teaching English as a means of gaining longer-term (and hopefully more meaningful) cultural exposure.
    The Middle East in particular holds a lot of appeal to me, precisely because of the way it is mythicized and simplified, if not outright misrepresented, in much mainstream media. I study international relations (with the intent to pursue a career in diplomacy or intelligence), and this has given me a really acute sense of obligation to experience first-hand the way of life in other parts of the world. This sort of experience, I think, cannot be attained through mere travel or tourism – it requires integration into the routine and practicalities of daily life. ESL, as a well established and globally institutionalized industry, seems to me to be a viable springboard for just such an experience, especially for a twenty-something-year-old between undergrad and grad school.
    My main concern with working in e.g. Saudi Arabia would be the challenges associated with being a young, white female. Social/discrimination concerns notwithstanding, how feasible is it for women to actually obtain ESL employment in a country as socially conservative as Saudi Arabia?
    Also – is a lack of teaching experience – despite CELTA/TEFL qualification and class time – a major impediment for finding relatively well-paid and reputable placements?

    Thanks for your advice!

    1. Hello Monica, thank you for reading the post 🙂 Saudi Arabia is a strange creature. One has to really enjoy the exotic to live here. It’s a place fighting the Western influence, some buildings still only have Arabic signposts, as if refusing to show the English translation. It’s not that it is unwelcoming, but that it is trying to remain authentically “Arabic” and non-touristic.

      If you enjoy adventure, then Saudi Arabia is definitely a place for you. It will also give you on-the-ground experience about the locals, customs, and politics.

      To teach in Saudi Arabia, you must have a college degree and a CELTA. Employment is easy to find online through Dave’s ESL Cafe–women are in high demand because the universities are segregated male/female, so having female teachers for the female students is absolutely necessary–and the talent in short supply. I would recommend the city of Jeddah as it is full of expats. Riyadh is far more conservative, but pays better since it is the capital city. Western females aren’t really bothered as long as they wear the abaya around the shoulders (you should try to cover your hair too, although I see Western ladies, even in Riyadh, not follow this rule). If you looked Saudi, you would definitely fall under a different category of scrutiny. You will not be disrespected, however be prepared for many lengthy, curious stares.

      With that said, the fact that you are a working Western woman means that you are treated differently, not the same as a Saudi lady. You will be forgiven for many cultural misteps and hardly be exposed to discrimination. What you refer to as female discrimination is a treatment that is endured to a degree by the local women, between tribal families, and runs deep in the culture due to tribal honor & expectations. As an expat you need not worry about this (unless you choose to marry a Saudi)

      Hope this helps!

  88. You hit (my) nail on the head! =) I’m preparing to leave the U.S. to teach English as a springboard to living abroad. My immediate goal is to pay off my student loans, so I’ve got to make this teaching year (or two) count, which means leveraging my varied background for the highest paycheck possible. While there are some considerations to be made for living in certain countries, especially as a single woman, the Middle East is definitely on my radar. I’m taking a serious look at Saudi Arabia especially due to the high potential salaries.

    1. Thanks for your visit, Nikki! Although China and South Korea are great options, Saudi is an excellent choice for the money. The social life is not as exciting, I’ll admit, and the weather can get very hot, however all teachers enter a clique of expats, which gives a really good support system. You also have to consider that if you go out in public, you’ll have to wear a abaya around your shoulders (no need to wear on the head if you’re expat–they usually leave you alone). This is something many expats quickly get used to. Being that I’m on the internet a lot at starbucks, I love reading and cultural exploration, I like the gym, and I don’t drink much, it’s an ideal option for that profile. Email me if you need any help finding a job here, or need further info! 😀

      1. Hi Rashad,

        Would I be able to get a job with a BA in English and everything completed but my semester of student teaching for Education K-12 and Special Ed Dual Cert?

        I just can’t seem to afford to live in US and do student teaching and work to support myself. I don’t really want to teach here long-term though – teaching was not my dream, I just wanted a job but I am a good teacher.

        1. I’d really recommend getting a TEFL cert or CELTA and you’d be good to go. Although if you’re already in any of these three countries, you could get hired without a teaching certificate. What credentials they require on job postings and what they actually hire are entirely different things… if you can get in the country, you’d likely have no issues at all. On another note, if you did complete your k-12 teaching certs, you could work at an international high school and make two or three times more.

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