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Teaching ESL in Oman

Oman, a small state or sultanate on the southeast coast of Saudi Arabia, is listed among the nine best countries for teaching ESL. Modern and safe, it has a strong economy and maintains a good diplomatic relationship with the U.S., the UK, and countries in the Middle East and Asia. The education system in Oman has shown considerable improvement in recent years, and it offers excellent salaries and numerous benefits for experienced, well-qualified ESL teachers. Teachers are needed at public and private schools for all grade levels, technical colleges under the Ministry of Manpower, language institutes, international schools, and universities. The higher paid positions can be found in Muscat at the Sultan Qaboos and at the University of Nizwa, as well as in Mawaleh, Sohar, and Salalah.

Credentials / Qualifications / Hiring Process

Citizens from the U.S., UK, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa are eligible to apply. The basic qualifications are a 4-year degree, TESOL, TEFL, CELTA or equivalent certification, a background and reference check, and a minimum of two years’ experience. Some schools will accept a Master’s degree in Education, Linguistics, or other relevant subject in lieu of experience. A few will provide training if you lack the necessary experience.

Hiring is usually done from August-September, but recruiting is about twice a year. You can submit your resume and apply on line for some positions, but a personal interview will be required. You will need a work visa, which can take as long as three months to obtain, but most schools will assist you with the paperwork and pay for the application fee. Contracts are 1-2 years and often renewable, with many employers paying substantial end-of-year or end-of-contract bonuses.

Work Schedules/Salaries

Salaries are tax free, averaging $2,000-$3,000/month and up, depending on experience, and most schools furnish all teaching materials. The work schedule at public schools is usually 35-40 hours a week with 22-30 students per class. Private schools have fewer teaching hours, and universities require 20 teaching hours and an additional eight support hours in a conversation or preparation lab. Fall and Spring semesters are 14-16 weeks with a one-week break between semesters. Classes at private language schools are frequently taught at night to accommodate adult students after work, and ESL teachers may find these students tired and less receptive to learning than in regular classes.

Job Outlook

The education system in Oman continues to progress, as the country increases its global presence and ESL teachers are always in demand. Dave’s ESL Café, eslfocus, the guardian, and teachtotravel are good sources of job information. Expatwoman has useful information for all expats in Oman. Teaching at a British Council center is another job possibility. Keep in mind too that private tutoring pays well; advertise your services in Oman and add to your income.

Advantages

Most ESL teachers manage to save some money from their tax-free income and maintain a comfortable lifestyle since the cost of living is low in comparison with neighboring countries such as the UAE and Qatar.

Housing or a housing allowance is provided by the school, and single teachers often share an apartment to economize. However, if you are married or have a family, other types of accommodations are available. Housing costs depend on location, always higher within major cities, where good unfurnished apartments rent for $700 -$1500/month on a long term lease. You can expect to pay another $200- $300 for a furnished apartment. Rent for apartments outside the city limits average $500-$1100/month. Apartments in community type compounds with pools, gyms, and underground parking are another popular housing option for ESL teachers.

Utilities for a small apartment run about $60/month, although air-conditioning costs may be included as part of your rent. Internet averages $66/month; landline telephone service varies in price, but cell phones are reliable, inexpensive alternatives.

Food at local markets such as Lulu and Carrefour and prices at local restaurants are generally less than European countries and about the same as the U.S., with the exception of dairy products and beer. On the other hand, cigarettes and tobacco products are cheap. (Note: Numbeo.com is a good source for up-to-date information on the cost of living.)

Airfare (annual round trip) and the majority of health care for ESL teachers is paid for or reimbursed by the employer, although this may not include specialists, mental health, or dentistry, which will require paying for a supplemental health care plan.

ESL teachers receive two months’ paid vacation time after 10 months of teaching.

Possible Disadvantages

It gets extremely hot in Oman from May-September, but you can escape the heat and go to the beach where outdoor activities are either free or relatively inexpensive.

Since Oman is primarily a Muslim country, buying alcohol to take away from the store is complicated. You have to get permission from your employer to purchase any alcohol, and the amount you can spend is based on a maximum of 10% of your salary.

Be prepared to pay rent in advance for the whole year, rather than by the month, if the school does not offer a loan for this amount.

ESL teachers with children are at a disadvantage unless the school provides an allowance for their education, some do and some don’t, which can be as much as $7,000/year, payable in advance.

Public transportation can be expensive, as much as $130 for a one month pass, so many prefer to rent a vehicle for about $425/month for convenience and inexpensive gasoline and insurance costs.

Conclusion

ESL teachers will find numerous job opportunities in Oman since English as a second language is taught in every school. This is especially true in the public schools, but they are also needed by private industries and hospitality or service related businesses such as hotels, airports, and travel agencies. Check out the various websites such as gooverseas, teachaway, and transitions abroad for jobs and overall living conditions in Oman. You may be at a point in your career where you want to try a different experience in a small, beautiful country, which is probably not well known by most people. You will find the people in Oman are friendly and extremely tolerant of the Western way of life, perhaps more so than in other country in the Middle East. Enjoy the cosmopolitan city of Muscat, spend an evening at the opera, visit mosques and historical landmarks, or go camping in the desert near Nizwa. Travel to the UAE, India, or Egypt on your vacation, or take a short 4-hour drive to the fabulous city of Dubai on the weekend. If relocating to this part of the world is feasible, and you have the experience and qualifications required to teach ESL, Oman is worth considering for your next assignment.

January 2014 - Sharon L Slayton