Many of those teaching English in Saudi Arabia wish to save money, and it's still a good place to do that, despite a general stagnation in salaries. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) still has higher salaries for English teachers than many other parts of the world; however, free accommodation and zero tax also help teachers to save money. And it's a country with less ways than most of spending money. Although anyone who wants to can find ways – and many people do. Trips to Dubai, Bahrain and other parts of the Gulf are expensive, and spending the summer vacation in Europe or North America can also eat into your savings.
No alcohol, very limited opportunities for entertainment, difficult and unmotivated students, nowhere for both sexes to mingle - in fact speaking to the opposite sex is not allowed in public - unless they are your family. No cinema. No clubs. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women can't drive. Restrictions on books, blogging, magazines, Xmas trees. Also remember that your passport will be confiscated when you arrive. You will have to apply to have it given back to you if you wish to go abroad. This is to stop you doing a runner. The list of restrictions goes on and on...
And Saudi companies have been known to mess people around at the last minute. It does happen sometimes – so be warned.
A desert view – somewhere in KSA
No alcohol. A chance to save money, plenty of opportunities to brush up on your classroom management skills, the time to reflect on your life - and perhaps write your great masterwork. You will also have the chance to travel in a beautiful country which is closed to tourism. The people can be hospitable and you can learn about the culture. There is good diving in the Red Sea - Jeddah is the city to teach in if this interests you. You may even learn some Arabic.
The requirements for teaching English in the Middle East are the highest of any region of the TEFL world. Experience is required, usually from 3-5 years, often at a tertiary level. A first degree and some form of TEFL certification is the basic requirement, but at this level you will be looking at the lower end of the market - the worst employers and conditions. If you are in this situation it may be worth considering teaching English in Oman which has lower pay, but is an easier environment in which to live. Very often a TEFL Diploma or an MA TESOL is also required. For some jobs a PhD TESOL is necessary.
Most hiring takes place between January and August - although you should try to get something organized by March or April. Attending the conference TESOL Arabia which is usually held in March in the Middle East. Here you can meet many employers at the same time. A lot of hiring takes place then, and you have the opportunity to meet employers face to face, not only for teaching English in Saudi Arabia, but also for other parts of the Gulf. The hiring process in the Middle East is a lot slower than in other parts of the world.
If you can't attend you should approach universities and colleges, and other employers directly. Do a search of universities in Saudi Arabia, for example, and visit their websites, which is where a lot of jobs are advertised.
Many ESL jobs in Saudi Arabia are advertised online. Where possible, try to avoid going through agents. This often leads to tears, or at least, threads of negativity on various ESL forums. There are issues with some employers. You can ask questions about specific employers on forums such as Dave's ESL Cafe - Saudi Arabia forum although this forum is sometimes blocked by Saudi authorities because of the negative stories that emerge about certain employers in the country.
I had a telephone interview for a job at the King Fahd University. I was offered the job, despite - at the time - having limited university experience (I did have a lot of other experience). For reasons unrelated to the job offer itself, I turned it down.
The conditions were good. A private beach for university staff only. Supermarket, bank, travel agency and other shops inside the university campus. Independent accommodation on campus. All bills paid for etc.
On the negative side, I'm not sure how I would find working and teaching in an all male environment.
Teachers usually work 5 days a week - from Saturday to Wednesday - from 8 or 9 in the morning, until 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Teachers are expected to dress smartly, which means long sleeved shirts, pants and a tie for men. Teaching hours vary, but can be 15 to 25 hours of contact time per week + office work, being 'available' for students etc. Vacation times vary a lot, depending on where you are working. Some places offer 30 days paid leave in the summer; others offer 60 days or longer. The universities probably offer the more comfortable working conditions - although they are not all equal.
With salaries, much depends on your experience, particularly experience teaching English the Middle East. Universities like teachers to have at least 3 years experience teaching at university level after graduating from your masters degree. Many old Arabia hands complain 'That it isn't like it used to be,' which is probably true. Salaries have stagnated - but this is true in other parts of the world too.
Salaries vary a lot. Some jobs pay 12,000 rials a month, some up to 16,000. You're unlikely to earn much more, although a few people do. When teaching English in Saudi Arabia, your salary is tax free. Your employer will - or should - provide you with free accommodation and health insurance. Employers often provide free transport to work, and free return tickets from your country.
Be aware that the bad jobs in Saudi are bad. Make sure you don't end up with the challenges of Saudi and the pay of Korea , or worse. Avoid agents if you can – that is, if you are well qualified and have the right experience. Consider the investment of travelling to TESOL Arabia to meet potential employers. For a teacher who is new to the country, Jeddah, Riyadh or Damman are the best choices. They already have expat communities, and while very conservative, they are less conservative than some of the smaller provincial cities. Remember that if you plan teaching English in Saudi Arabia you will have to adapt to the local culture, which can take a lot of getting used to.
And with the drop in oil prices, life has become harder for many Saudis. Comfortable government jobs are no longer the norm, and it's likely that these changes will eventually be felt by English teachers in the Kingdom.
You may also be interested in these articles on other countries in the region: