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Teaching ESL in Dubai, UAE

Dubai (the largest city in the UAE) is not just a dream destination for many world travelers and businessmen, it is an incredible city with real opportunities for ambitious, experienced ESL teachers to make serious money. If you are ready for a new and different teaching job and distance and relocation are not a problem, then Dubai is an ideal place to earn tax-free wages and gain valuable, perhaps once in a lifetime, experience in one of the world's wealthiest places. Note that while Dubai is the favorite, many teachers end up in Abu Dhabi or elsewhere in the UAE. Salaries should be just as good, but lifestyle can be quite different; Abu Dhabi and smaller cities will be much more conservative than Dubai.


You'll need proof of citizenship from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, Canada, or South Africa and a Bachelor's degree, as well as a Master's for teaching ESL at some high schools and universities. You must have TEFL/TESL certification, preferably to include actual classroom teaching hours. Additional certifications such as the CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults) can be obtained at some universities, at a British Council, International House, and numerous other schools worldwide. Have your resume up to date with all your ESL experience, qualifications, awards, and papers (if any), and notarized. You can use a public notary at home, but later you will have to go to your country's embassy in Dubai for notary services. Employers will ask for references and recommendations, and expect excellent English language skills, leadership ability, and flexibility.

The required residency visa or permit is sponsored by your employer who takes care of all the paperwork, processing, and associated costs in most circumstances. Necessary documentation includes a passport and three passport photos, labor/employment identity card, physical evaluation and medical tests, health card, and a criminal background check. The residency visa is good for three years and renewable.

Work Schedules & Salaries

When your resume is complete, you should check school websites, newspapers, and other sources of job information for ESL teachers.,, and are excellent sites for worldwide job openings including ESL teaching positions. Expat forums or blogs and advice from current or former teachers are always helpful. After gathering and reviewing relevant information, contact the school(s) you're interested in and submit the requisite documentation for employment. Some schools will accept a request by e-mail or even by phone, and you may receive a quick reply to set up a personal interview. If all goes well and you are accepted, you will then sign a formal two to three-year contract.

ESL teaching jobs in Dubai are rated at the top of the list in terms of salary and benefits Monthly tax-free wages range from $3,000-$5,000, with the seven international universities paying the highest salaries. Class schedules for the Sep-May school year vary from all day to half days 8am-1pm for an average 20-25 hours a week teaching and additional hours in preparation time. Education is heavily emphasized and compulsory in the UAE beginning at age five, and you will find the students are receptive, respectful, and eager to learn.


A large percentage of the expatriate population are Asian, Indian, Pakistani, and British. Although traffic is a problem in most major cities, you will find outstanding transportation services in and around Dubai with buses, taxis, trams, the metro, and the abra boats to cross Dubai Creek ($.30). You can enjoy your free time sightseeing, attending cultural events and festivals, and shopping in this cosmopolitan city. Western products, food, and types of entertainment are readily available. The dirham, about $.27 in U.S. dollars, is the standard currency and used in most places, although many establishments accept dollars. As in most foreign countries, you'll get a better exchange rate at the exchange houses. Currency fluctuations do occur since the dirham is tied to the U.S. dollar.

Even though the cost of living is high, ESL teachers will be able to travel, save, and live well while earning substantial salaries provided by their contract. Airfare from your home for the interview and return is paid for by the school, and again once a year thereafter. Rent-free housing or an allowance, health care, and other benefits are provided by the school.

Disadvantages (or things to remember)

The climate in Dubai is hot and humid most of the year, with little rainfall, and only slightly lower temperatures in December through March. There are many languages spoken in Dubai in addition to Arabic and English, so you may find communication difficult in some areas while working and living in Dubai. You need to respect the Islamic laws, customs, and religious observances especially during Ramadan, which may be unfamiliar and more restrictive than you have previously experienced. Female teachers should dress conservatively, but do not have to wear a veil.

Job Outlook

The demand for ESL teachers in Dubai has steadily increased in the past few years, as more and more international companies move here and require English language skills for successful business communication. ESL teachers will find unlimited job openings as new public and private schools open up each year to accommodate expatriates and their families. Consider teaching jobs at language schools and universities. You can earn extra money by private tutoring, often run by the schools. Spring and summer are probably the best times to find ESL teaching jobs. Along with the growing demand, you can expect considerable competition for these high paying jobs. This is where experience really counts, and the more years you have, the more likely you are to be hired. Teaching experience gained in Middle Eastern countries is always a plus when applying for an ESL teaching job in Dubai.


ESL teachers with considerable experience may want to venture beyond their familiar surroundings and explore the high paying jobs in Dubai and the rest of the UAE. The vast wealth on display, impressive lifestyle, out-of-this-world attractions, interesting culture, and a great opportunity to save may be justification enough for relocating to the amazing city of Dubai or one of the more traditional cities.

April 2013 - Sharon L Slayton

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