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 everthing 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 negociable. 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.


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 earn 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).

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?



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 accross the world to a country like Saudi Arabia. I had to agree with them that some poeple 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 all the perks I’m getting here as an ESL teacher in Jeddah:

  • 2 plane tickets per year
  • 60 days paid holidays + 10 days National Holidays
  • Visa and Iqama (residence permit) fees paid for me
  • Class A medical insurance
  • Free medical check up + immunisation shots
  • Free housing in a fully furnished family flat
  • Free transportation to work, to shopping centres and the beach + free aiport 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 unlimitted access to recreational facilities (Olympic size swimming pool, 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 maths and calculate my monthly expenses: that means food, children’s education and some mobile phone credit. On a regular month i spend between SAR 2000 and 3000.

So again let’s count: 15000 – 3000 = SAR 12 000+ 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 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.

I’ll try my best to show you how on this blog… stay tuned.


30 thoughts on “ESL salary in Saudi Arabia”

  1. 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…

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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:
      Jarir is not the only one bookstore chain either so i think you\’ll be fine.

  5. 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

  6. Andy nesbit says:


    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.



    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: or through my Facebook page:

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. RITA wADE says:

    Wow and thank you, very informative.

    1. Jameela Deen says:

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

  10. 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…

  11. iftikhar ahsan says:

    Very helpful comment

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Thank you come back often to check newer posts

  12. 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.

  13. 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 🙂

  14. 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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