ESL salary in Saudi Arabia

It is no secret that many people move to Saudi Arabia attracted by the very advantageous salaries offered to ESL teachers. No other country in the world offer better salaries than Saudi Arabia and the lists of perks (benefits) that expats receive on top of their basic salary is usually enough to tip the balance and convince people from all over the globe to move to the intriguing Kingdom.

So what can you expect? How much exactly can you earn working as an ESL university teacher in Saudi Arabia? What is the cost of life and how much can you save living here? Is everything you heard true?

I have decided to be open about my financial situation in this post, not to brag but to shed some light on the actual situation here. Of course I am only one person and as I will explain further down in this post, salaries are often calculated on an individual basis so I cannot account for every expat in every city in every university. Still, I think it will help to get a clearer picture.

ESL salary in saudi arabia

A university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

 

Basic ESL Salary in Saudi Arabia

If you have already looked online for ESL jobs in Saudi Arabia you must have noticed that there are basically 2 types of offers when it comes to salaries and neither are very specific. They either mention a salary range or simply indicate that salary is negotiable. At first this may seem frustrating: “why don’t they write down HOW MUCH?”.

There is actually a simple explanation for this, they don’t advertise a basic salary because it is very often calculated based on each candidate’s merits. Salary offers are based on several factors, among them: nationality, qualifications, experience, Gulf experience, languages spoken, city of employment… as well as a whole bunch of other factors that are usually neither clear nor advertised.

It can be hard, when you look for jobs, to know exactly how much you can expect and you may have to wait until you receive an offer to get a clear idea. Yet don’t despair, as I mentioned above, Saudi Arabia has no close second when it comes to high salaries and if you are a strong candidate you will be glad you didn’t give up.

ESL Salary Booster

Before I give you straight figures, here are some factors that can seriously help to increase your basic salary:

  • accepting jobs with Oil and Petroleum Industry companies located in the Dammam region, which is less popular with expats due to the extremely hot climate and the lack of entertainment
  • a Phd in English or Applied Linguistics
  • applying as a couple
  • a Direct hire offer (as opposed to an offer from a recruiting agency)
  • having previous experience in Saudi or another Gulf country

So how much do I make here in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia?

As a British national, with an MA from the UK with 5 years teaching experience, I started off by earning a little more than SAR 15 000 per month. (SAR=Saudi Riyals). I will let you use a currency converter to get a better idea of how much that is but it is basically equivalent to USD 4000 (USD=US Dollars). With a 3 to 5% increment every year you renew your contract, it adds up quite nicely.

I think this is a medium to high salary here in Saudi. Some ESL teacher earn much less while others earn way more. That’s not the point though,

Saudi is not about basic salary, it’s more about the long list of PERKS that come with it… and this is where to real money is.

Perks are what makes a huge difference in the kind of life you can have here and/or how quickly you can save money for that all important (and expensive) project back home.

ESL Salary in saudi arabia

Money isn’t everything. How’s that for a work place?

Salary, Perks & Savings

I was once talking to someone back in the UK and they were arguing that earning SAR 15 000 is not that much better than a good salary in the UK and that it didn’t justify moving across the world to a country like Saudi Arabia. I had to agree with them that some people in the UK do make some really good money too but…. and there is a giant, huge, enormous BUT…

the question shouldn’t be how much you earn or how much money comes into your bank account. The real deal breaker is how much you got left to live on at the end of the month!

Let’s first make a list of the main perks I’m getting here as an ESL teacher in Jeddah:

  • 2 return plane tickets per year
  • 60 days paid holidays + 21 days National Holidays
  • Visa and Iqama (residence permit) fees paid for me
  • Class A medical insurance
  • Free medical check up + immunization shots
  • Free housing in a fully furnished family flat
  • Free transportation to work, to shopping centers and the beach + free airport transfers every time I need it
  • Gas bill = paid for me
  • Electricity bill = paid for me
  • Water bill = paid for me
  • Free Internet
  • Free telephone home line + calls to other home lines
  • Free and unlimited access to recreational facilities (Olympic size swimming pools, gym, tennis courts, playground…)
  • Zero taxes: what you earn is what you keep

I may have forgotten a few small things but I think this is basically it. Now let’s do the math and calculate my monthly expenses: that means food basically and some mobile phone credit. On a regular month I spend between SAR 3000 and 4000. If you have children, you will need to add schooling expenses on top of that.

So again let’s count: 15000 – 4000 = SAR 11 000+ per month that I can save!!! How does that compare to the UK or to your own home country? No comparison with the UK, where once you’ve paid your taxes, your rent, your bills, your children’s education and your grocery shopping you have nothing left. Forget about savings, you’re usually happy if you can buy food at the end of the month!

So here you go, this is the real math you should do if you’re thinking of moving to Saudi Arabia. I’m pretty sure you will come to the same conclusion thousands of other expats have come to: Saudi is a heaven to make and save money. And it’s not just me! I have heard countless stories from people around me here since I arrived. A lady from the UK can work here for 1 year and she will be able to afford 5 years of education in a fancy private school in the UK for her child. Another from the US will work here for 2 years to completely pay off all her student’s loans and debts. As for us, in less than a year our dream of building a little family house will become a reality inshallah.

Of course there is much more to Saudi Arabia than making money. It is country with a rich culture and the perfect place to get out of your comfort zone and experience something truly unique.

Have you considered taking a job in Saudi Arabia? What attracted you? Or what is it that is stopping you?

 

42 thoughts on “ESL salary in Saudi Arabia”

  1. Ted says:

    Hi there. I am a US citizen. I just got an offer (today) from a Saudi university for a total package of 12,300 SAR with a base salary of 9,000 SAR, and I am frankly very surprised it’s as low as it is. But I don’t have degrees in linguistics or English. My MS and PhD (world-ranked research universities) are in different disciplines, though I hold both a CELTA & DELTA and have been teaching at the university level for over a decade, including all levels of ESL.

    Why do you think the salary I’m being offered is so low? I hate having to mention this–I really, really hate it–but research is telling me I have to acknowledge it. I’m an African-descended US citizen and this is obvious when I submit my passport info page to schools. I’ve had schools in Asia receive just my CV, call me within minutes of it being submitted to set up a Skype interview only to be visibly disappointed on meeting me online. I never hear back from those places–they even cease responding to my inquiries. And while I can teach in South America or developing nations (I should point out that I’ve also been rejected for positions in Mexico, Honduras, Chile, and Costa Rica), I cannot afford to work simply to pay for my own living expenses. I also cannot justify taking two-years to pursue a second master’s degree in TESOL, especially since I’m already not very successful winning posts in the field despite my professional experience here in the US.

    Please feel free to be very blunt as nothing so far is working out for me. I just need to know if I should abandon TEFL and return to my old discipline. Thanks in advance.

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Hi Ted and thank you for being in touch and sharing your story.

      You\’re totally right: this offer SUCKS big time. Even with the current downward trend of salaries, 9000sar basic is nothing for a US passport holder with a Phd!!! Your offer should reasonably be around 20K basic with a nice package including free housing, transportation and medical insurance at the very least.

      Sadly, I do think your analysis is also correct! I also hate having to say this but it is a fact that native English speakers of African descent are usually offered much lower salaries than their Caucasian counterparts! It SUCKS but this is the reality.

      I cannot advise you how to move forward from this. It depends on your priorities at this point in your life. If you are living by yourself without a family to support and if the package they offer you include FREE housing, then know that you can totally live on that and save quite a bit too. You wouldn\’t be working just to pay your expenses.

      Have you tried discussing the offer with them? The fact your MS and PhD are not in linguistics really isn\’t a issue and that\’s a FACT too. Especially as you hold a CELTA and DELTA and you have ESL teaching experience. Clearly the offer is not fair. If your priority is to monetize your qualifications and work experience, then you should try to get at least 20000 sar basic salary in Saudi Arabia or look elsewhere.

      If you want to discuss this further, feel free to email me anytime: diaryofaserialexpat@gmail.com

      Thanks again for sharing this on the blog. All the best.

      1. Ted says:

        Thank you so much for your prompt and frank reply. It’s very valuable. Yes, I did write the university and, as tactfully as I could, tried to sell myself, including pointing out my degrees, certifications, university teaching experience, leadership roles in academia and corporate US, and my work in international education. They haven’t replied back to me. Oh well.

        It’s very important for others like me to read what experienced individuals like you have to say. As you know, the CELTA & DELTA are not cheap. Before I pursued them, I had very frank talks with recruitment officers about race dynamics. They ALL told me I had nothing to worry about given my background. In fact, several of them were annoyed that I should even broach the subject (yeah, I’m the bad guy). And years later, other than ESL positions I acquired at universities where I was already teaching in the math or physics or engineering departments, here I am having difficulty securing even minimum wage ESL positions in developing nations. Programs should be required to divulge these challenges to potential students who’re shelling out upwards of 15K USD for certificates and more for degrees.

        Thanks to your confirmation of what I’ve read elsewhere from other well-prepared African-descended teachers seeking employment internationally, I’ll just resign myself to staying in my own field. Again, I really appreciate your honesty. I know it’s not easy having that particular conversation. Best to you and your website.

        1. Jameela Deen says:

          I hope they will reply to you soon with a better (decent) offer. In the meantime, thank you again Ted for posting these comments. It is really helpful to other readers. I haven\’t experienced all sides of Saudi Arabia so it is important that people like you accept to share their experience on this blog. I wish you all the best for your career.

  2. AbdulYekeen Tajudeen says:

    Hi, I studied electronic&electrical engr at a university here in Nigeria and I am planning to write celta certification to enable me get an English teaching job in Saudi Arabia for my wife I working Makkah already as a nurse. Please would I be a able to get English teaching job with celta certification and what would likely be my salary for I have 10 years experience. Thank you

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      What you must know is that in order to get a teaching job the first and main criteria are (in order of importance): 1) Nationality – you should be from an English-speaking country 2) Qualifications – an MA is absolutely essential. It should be an English Language or teaching major preferably, it must be from a recognized accredited university and online degrees are not accepted and 3) teaching experience – minimum is 2 or 3 years
      A CELTA can sometimes be a bonus if you don\’t have all the above requirements. Salary packages depends on the requirements too: the more boxes you tick the higher your salary.

  3. Zainab says:

    Hi,

    I have a question for you; I just received an offer to interview. In the email, I’m being offered a package of 12000 but a base salary of 9375. Here are my qualifications;

    Female U.S born educator,
    M.Ed TESOL
    5+ Years foreign experience, although not in the Gulf
    I am African American with a Islamic name ( Born and raised Muslim)….I’m wondering if this is a factor. I’me taught ESL in multiple countries and I am aware that some employers base their pay on race. Does this seem low for you?I’m actually shocked at such a low minimum offer for a M.Ed AND I’m NYS certified to teach grades K-12…

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Hi Zainab. To answer your questions I agree with you that it is a very low offer. Both the basic salary and package 9000are very low. As a US national with a M.ed and 5 years experience this is way too low to be acceptable! 9000sar is what non-English natives would get. I also think that your analysis of the situation may be correct: race could be a factor sadly. As for being a Muslim you\’d think it would be a bonus in KSA but sadly again it is not. Some employers (more precisely people who do the selection) actually prefer non-Muslim candidates. You should ask for 13 or 14k sar minimum as basic salary. Hope you get a decent offer…

  4. Tabby says:

    Hi Jameela,

    I have a BA in Applied Linguistics, Post Graduate Diploma in Language Teaching, TEFL certificate and 5+ years teaching experience. I am currently doing my MA TESOL too. Do you think a vocational college would pay a salary 15,000 SAR for a (foundation) EFL teacher? Most of my teaching experience has been teaching children (3.5 years). In any case I do think it’s important to consider all other benefits too. Thank you so much for your honest response.

    1. Tabby says:

      I forgot to mention, I’m from NZ too. Thanks.

    2. Jameela Deen says:

      Hi Tabby and thanks for stopping by. It looks like you got an impressive CV in the making. My suggestion is to wait until you MA is completed then start applying everywhere, including universities. As a native speaker from an English speaking country (NZ), you could indeed get an offer around 15 000 sar. In your CV, put forward (1) your nationality (the most important criteria) (2) your MA in TESOL and (3) your 5+ years teaching experience (not important if it was children) and you should get some serious offers. Most of my teaching experience was with children when i first applied in Saudi and I got several offers from universities so don\’t hold back and send your CV everywhere you can. All the best with job hunting 🙂

      1. Tabby says:

        Oh my goodness thank you so much for your response. I just managed to read it now. I think I will follow your advice and stay on and complete my MA this year.

  5. Farida says:

    Jameela, thank you for the wonderful information! Does one need ESL certificates to teach English there? I have a Masters degree in a public health field but no direct ESL teaching experience other than tutoring. I am from America. Also, how feasible is it to get contracts for myself AND my husband? He has a Master’s in math and is also American. We are Muslim too, by the way, so social norms aren’t much of an issue.

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Thank you for stopping by Farida. To answer your questions i\’d say you have a lot working for you already: American + MA + couple. If you want to teach in your fields you\’re OK but if you want to teach English then a CELTA would certainly improve your chances. Beware of online esl certificates those are not recognized here. CELTA is expensive but you\’ll make your money back in no time over here. Let me know if you make a move maybe I can help…

  6. QCarelse says:

    Love your post, its so informative and it has me definitely interested and im quite excited to live and experience their culture

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Thank you for your encouragements. As for coming over to Saudi Arabia, now is the time. Things are changing fast around here and Saudi will not always be the financial paradise it is at the moment. Mark my words, salaries are being re-negociated at lower rates as we speak

  7. Tolyn says:

    What about kids school. How is the education system. Did your work pay for kids school?

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Hi Tolyn and good question. Education is quite a headache in Jeddah as private and international schools are really quite expensive and nowadays most employers only pay for it if you hold a phd (which is not my case). As an expat, you will be looking at international or private Saudi schools. The first are usually very good but very expensive plus many have a tough selection process and/or waiting lists. Private Saudi schools are just as pricey but the level might not be up to your expectations so i\’d be careful in that respect. In Jeddah, you must also consider location as transport is a real issue for some people and it can add to the expenses. If you need more details feel free to email me. All the best

  8. Noah says:

    How difficult it is to buy books in Saudi? Are the bookshops very well stocked like the typical waterstrones or BOrders type place?

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Hi Noah, it is fairly easy to buy books in Saudi and they do have big bookstores, the most popular being Jarir Bookstores where you will find a very bog stock of books in English and Arabic (a few other languages too). They have pretty much everything you\’d expect for children and adults, fiction, non fiction, educational, Islamic… One major issue i\’ve had is when trying to buy complete series of books. They seem to have a tendency to only stock a few volumes of the whole series so it can be annoying. Here is their website so you can check out their stock: https://www.jarir.com/sa-en/
      Jarir is not the only one bookstore chain either so i think you\’ll be fine.

  9. Zhikrullah says:

    jameela, can you please give me an idea of how much a phd holder wishing to lecture in a university gets. I have about ten years experience in teaching biochemistry and pharmacology. jazakillahu khairan in anticipation of your response

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Hello there and thank you for your question. It\’s a little hard to give an answer. As you may have read in the post above, universities have their very own salary scale systems and those are not made public. However it is a fact that your nationality (not your Phd) will be the first thing to be looked into when determining a salary package. American and British (and other native English speakers) get top offers, while those who are non native but hold one of the English speaking countries passport also get good salaries. Having a phd and experience will most likely get you a good salary here but i do not know the salary range in your field. Teaching ESL is a slightly different branch of university teaching here. For further details and possibly accurate information may i suggest you check out some Expat forums such as InterNations or Expatblog

  10. Andy nesbit says:

    Hi!

    I’ve been teaching in China for nearly 6 years and have recently been looking into taking the family and moving to Saudi Arabia. Your article has convinced me to go for it!

    Do you have any recommendations for good schools/universities in JEDDAH? Any advice would be much appreciated.

    Thanks

    Andy

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Hello Andy

      and thank you for stopping by. I hope you can turn your idea into a plan. At this point i may not have many advice, i suggest you first look into applying for jobs and if you get some offers, get in touch again and i can help you with the specifics (location, transport to and from major places, schools…).

      In the meantime, here are a few basic advice. If possible, try to get a job with an employer directly as they offer better salary and packages than recruiters. Salaries are fixed by employers so shop around, don\’t accept the first offer. Think carefully when choosing a city in Saudi, the country is big and you\’ll be spending most of your time in the same region, so make sure it offers the facilities you and your family need. Finally while Saudi is a great option to earn and save money, it comes with strings attached, namely a culture and way of life that doesn\’t suit everyone. If you\’re not ready to live by Saudi customs, then you\’re better off applying in the other Gulf countries such as Qatar, the UAE, Oman…

      Feel free to contact me anytime, i\’ll be more than happy to answer any question and to help you through the process if i can.

      All the best for you and your family.

      1. samiya says:

        SAlam, Jamila
        vERY GOOD ARTICLE. is there a chance to contact you ?

        1. Jameela Deen says:

          You (and anyone else) can contact me anytime by email: diaryofaserialexpat@gmail.com or through my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/diaryofanexpat

  11. Jackie Bolen says:

    Thanks for the excellent information. I’m always curious about salaries and although I think I have a very decent salary working at a uni in South Korea, I’m always interested to see what else is out there.
    Jackie Bolen recently posted…Free Talking for ESL Students: Why I Hate It

  12. Gdragon says:

    I am in a little corner of Asia and I pull in 40,000 Saudi currency per month. With my end of contact bonus my tax rate is 8%. Expenses under 10000 per month. I have a pool and Gym in my building too. You don’t have to be in Saudi to earn big. I have a PGCE and Masters in TESOL.
    Plus, plenty of cinemas, bars, etc on my doorstep. I think the salaries in Saudi have been stagnant since the seventies. Still not too bad but not that great if you are qualified with over ten years experience. G

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Glad to know you\’re doing well and you\’re happy where you are.

  13. RITA wADE says:

    Wow and thank you, very informative.

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Thank you for stopping by and for your encouragements. Always welcome 🙂

  14. Katrina the Two Week Traveler says:

    I know a few people who have taught in Saudi. I can’t imagine how much they must have in their bank account after 5 years. It seems like it’s probably a more difficult place to live compared to other countries though. Do you have to wear the full abaya/hijab everywhere you go?
    Katrina the Two Week Traveler recently posted…How I Lost All of My Money in Barcelona, Spain

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      After 5 years, if they haven\’t lived a life of luxury then they probably have a nice little staff of cash tucked away. As for living in Saudi, it is definitely not as hard as you would think. I plan to write many more posts about our life in Jeddah to share my experience here. Most of the things i read about Saudi before coming here were either wrong or not completely true and the general image is rather negative while in fact many people from all walks of life actually find Saudi very much to their liking.
      To answer your question about the Abaya and Hijab, here again it is more complex than yes or no. It depends on the city you live in. In Jeddah it is best to wear it when you go to town but within the compound you can wear whatever you like. Muslim ladies wear Hijab, non muslims don\’t have to, although many chose to do so anyway. The face veil (niqab) is not compulsory. Saudi women wear it, some muslim expats do too, non muslim expat ladies don\’t and are not required to. In my university, female teachers wear whatever they like in the classroom. Hope that helps answer your question. I\’ll be writing about all those aspects of Saudi Expat Life soon…

  15. iftikhar ahsan says:

    Very helpful comment

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Thank you come back often to check newer posts

  16. Charlie says:

    That is an absolutely incredible amount of perks and savings (great post, by the way). I can definitely see why so many people would be attracted by an offer like that. Do Saudi take on a lot of ESL teachers for secondary and primary kids out of interest?
    Charlie recently posted…Teaching in Taiwan: An Interview with Teacher Liezl

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Hi Charlie and thank you for your comment. Yes Saudi also hires primary and secondary teachers but nowhere near the scale of university teachers. Salaries would definitely be lower too not to mention that to teach younger children you will need knowledge of Arabic (which is not required at university level). Hope that answers your question, feel free to contact me if you want to know more.

  17. Tim UrbanDuniya says:

    I’ve definitely considered it before!! I’m quite settled in Pakistan now… but who knows what the future holds? 😀
    Tim UrbanDuniya recently posted…UrbanLegends: Anna Johnston and Australia’s ‘culinary capital’

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Exactly and if you ever need some inside info on Saudi i\’ll be happy to help you inshallah. I read your post a while back on learning Urdu, it\’s clear you\’ve found your happy place in Pakistan. I wish you all the best there 🙂

  18. Corinne says:

    Jameela, You’ve convinced me. Where or where do I sign up?
    Corinne recently posted…Weekend Travel Inspiration – Frances Mayes

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      LOL glad to see my maths skills convinced you, i\’ve never been any good teaching maths… looks like i\’m getting better. It\’s all a matter of perspective isn\’t it? Anyway if you\’re serious about signing up, send me a private email and i can try to point you in the right direction.

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