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.
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.
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?