Many teachers are drawn to the Middle East due to the high salaries and fantastic packages on offer (think plush apartments, bonuses and a couple of flights home per year!) but in return, Middle Eastern schools want the best, most qualified teachers they can find.
We’re often asked, ‘Do I need experience to teach English in the Middle East?’ and the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. You’ll also need a degree, but if you have a BA in English, Education or Linguistics, the amount of experience you need is reduced significantly, sometimes to only one year.
Luckily, there are a couple of countries within the Middle East where you can gain your experience, namely, Egypt and Turkey. Whilst the salaries are nowhere near what you can command in Saudi Arabia or the UAE, if you knuckle down and get a year or two of teaching experience under your belt, you’ll be eligible to apply for the vast number of positions. All good things come to those who wait, right?
Whilst many teachers gain their experience in places like Japan or China, if teaching in the Middle East is your end goal, it is a good idea to gain your experience in a Muslim country. This is because Middle Eastern employers want to know that you have an interest in their culture, as well as knowledge of their religion (you don’t have to practice Islam of course, but being surrounded by people who do, will help your transition to the region). In fact, many jobs listings state that you must be ‘culturally aware’. Other predominantly Muslim countries include Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Indonesia and Malaysia.
You’ll also need to be absolutely sure that teaching in the Middle East is what you want to do. You’ll already have committed at least a year of your life to getting the experience you need to land your tax-free salary but when you get your contract, you’ll often be asked to commit to at least 2-3 years with the school. Visas are expensive for foreigners, so the school needs to get a lengthy return on their investment. This is something you really need to consider from the outset, as if your goal is to earn good money before you take off TEFLing somewhere else, then the Middle East probably isn’t for you.
Remember, teaching in the Middle East is for the long haul, so invest your time wisely, and soon enough you could be on your way!