How To Teach In Abu Dhabi and Dubai

by | May 3, 2017

Hey, All,

I’ve been asked so many times how I can afford to work and travel that I decided to put together a guide to all of the different opportunities out there for you to work and live abroad.

There are a lot of different teaching posts available around the world, so I’m here to speak with people who have worked in them and spell out the pros and cons of working in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe so that you can decide which one is best for you.

This first post is one I have personal experience with: teaching in the UAE.

The Stats

Average Income: $2,000 month to $5,000 month

Free Housing/Utilities: Yes

Tax Free: Yes

Healthcare: Yes

Free flights: Yes

Vacation Days: 3 weeks Christmas, 2 weeks spring break, 8 weeks summer break, two or three long weekends, and half days during Ramadan.

Certifications: Needed? Yes and no. Abu Dhabi is now requiring a teaching degree or certification (TEFL won’t cut it), but I taught there from 2014 to 1016 with only a college degree. In Dubai, a college degree can still land you a job for now.

Contract Length: Most schools will require you to sign a 2-year contract.

Where to Find a Job:

Teach Away

Teaching Abroad Direct

Footprints Recruiting

Dubai Jobs

The Guardian

Teach Anywhere

*Disclaimer I am not affiliated with any of these sites or responsible for any job or experience you may have through them*


I found my job teaching at a SABIS school in Abu Dhabi through my college’s career portal on their website. My husband (only boyfriend at the time) and I both did a phone interview, and I took a bus from Boston to New York (in a snow storm) for an interview as well. They try to set them up for those who can make them, but it wasn’t required. We both were informed that we had the positions for the upcoming school year in February, and we signed the contract in March.

The contract included housing, utilities, flights at the beginning and end of the school year, healthcare, and a $2,200/month salary, equating to $26,400/year. However, we also received a raise our second year and a $10,000 bonus upon completion of our second year.

All in all, we received about $66,000 each in cash payment over the two years. With the value of the free housing, tax free income, and flights, the package was worth closer to $86,000 for the two years of work. Considering we were on vacation for about 7 of those months, it was a killer deal!

Every teacher (and I mean EVERY) also tutors kids under the table. The fees for an hour session usually range from $40 to $50 each, and there were some weeks before final exams where I was banking $1000 in tutoring sessions. It adds up fast.


The culture shock that I experienced after I moved to Abu Dhabi was real and definitely not easy to adjust to. When I first arrived, I thought that I’d be making a major lifestyle shift away from my drinking and party days in college (because it’s the Middle East, right?)

I was SO wrong.

There’s not a lot to do out in the middle of the desert, so we would hit the brunches hard. Brunch is a magical thing. In the UAE, it means that you pay a set fee and get access to a 5-star buffet and open bar for usually 4 or 5 hours at a time. Once those were done, we’d hit the bars and go dancing or drinking for the rest of the night.

There were beaches in Abu Dhabi, but we lived out in the suburbs (Khalifa City A), so they were farther away. It was also too hot in the summer and fall months, and they tended to be expensive to enter.

Instead, we’d usually opt to buy a Groupon to one of the luxury hotels and hit the pool for the day instead. In Dubai, there is a little more to do (the Jumeirah walk, Dubai mall, or Miracle gardens, for example), but you can only go to a mall so may times before you feel like you’re back in your pre-teen days.

On longer weekends, teachers would rent a car and drive down to Muscat or east to dive off of the Omani coast. The other Emirates like Ras al Khaimah and Fujairah offered some variety to explore but not much. All in all, the UAE is a strange place. If you don’t drink, and you love to explore the great outdoors, it is definitely NOT the place for you.

Now for the questions that I know you’ve been wondering about.

Yes, the UAE is Muslim. The call to prayer woke me up every night, and we often saw women dressed in burqas. However, they are pretty lax about applying their cultural rules to foreigners. When it came to clothing, my general rule of thumb was to wear either a tank top OR shorts but never both. With one or the other, I was usually fine. When we went out drinking, dresses, short skirts, and high heels were the norm.

The UAE is 80% expats, so there is a LARGE divide between the Muslim Emiratis and the Western expats. For the most part, the country is very first world, and the Muslim culture did not affect me much at all. I read a lot about horror stories and crazy arrests before I went, but they are rare (usually if you really piss off the wrong person). I have a friend who passed out drunk and woke up at the police station TWICE without consequence. It’s not as scary there as the media portrays it to be.


There were about forty other twenty-something Brits, Irish (so many Irish) and other English speaking teachers working at our school, so our friend group was built-in. We all lived in dorm-style apartments and hit the nightlife hard together.

We would also frequent the “Ladies Nights” weekly, which was basically just when bars said f it and let all women drink for free. Awesome! I made some lifelong friends in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, and the social aspect of the schools and carefree lifestyle (lots of money, lots of travel) was an amazing experience.

My Experience

The school year runs from late August to late June. As teachers, we were required to show up two weeks early our first year and one week before the school year started our second year. Those two weeks are all the training you get before you’re thrown to the wolves though, so it’s NOT easy in any sense of the word.

It was tough because in the US, if you dislike your job, you can quit and find a new one. Teaching abroad is unique in the sense that your job, visa, and housing are all rolled into one. I couldn’t exactly quit if I was unhappy because I would be deported and on the hook for a $1,400 flight home. That being said, NOT every school is the same. If you have a teaching degree, your school quality and salary will increase significantly.

While tough to deal with, it was also nice to have that push to stick it out through the homesickness and culture shock. I’m so glad that I did. I thought about giving up many times and not signing for the second year (and second year bonus), but staying was the right choice. The second year was so much easier in every way.

What else did I go through that I wasn’t expecting? Something that definitely needs to be mentioned is a unique feeling of isolation from the rest of the world. Isolation may be a strong word, but I definitely felt very far away from my friends and family in the US.

Part of it was the 8 hour time zone difference. Our school week also ran from Sunday to Thursday, which meant that when everyone on social media was enjoying their Saturday mornings, I was prepping and going to bed early for school the next day.

Additionally, we worked on Thanksgiving, slept through the Super Bowl, and there were absolutely no Christmas or Easter celebrations in school. We missed two Christmases at home with our families because flights home were too expensive. However, our European friends didn’t have that problem. Still, though, I wouldn’t trade the experience that I had there for anything. For me, the benefits definitely outweighed the cons!



So, in recap, over our two year contract, we taught for 17 months and travelled for 7. We made extra money easily on the side and banked $66,000 each in tax-free cash before we left. If any of this sounds good, teaching in the UAE just may be for you!

Do you have experience teaching in the UAE or Middle East? Please comment below and share your thoughts!

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  1. Dinesh Kumar Singh

    I am Dinesh(B.Sc chemistry Hons in 1993 with three year degree course).I want to teach Maths and Science in UAE private school. I have not B.Ed degree but I have 15years of teaching experience. I need help from you of whole process for joining as a teacher.

    • Slight North by Dianne Minardi

      Hi Dinesh, check out some of the links in this post to begin the application process for different school systems. If you have other questions about getting started, shoot me an email at Good luck with your search!

  2. Ksenia ilinykh

    Hi Dianne, are there exclusively summer jobs? I am a music (piano) teacher, and don’t have a teaching license, but teach at a college as an adjunct professor. Unfortunately, summers are not paid and I am looking for other work opportunities in late May-August.

    • Slight North by Dianne Minardi

      Hey, yes, I taught in the SABIS school system and they had a summer school/camp every year in Bath, England. A lot of teachers would go and they earned like $3,500 for 5 or 6 weeks, plus flights and housing was paid for. Usually they took teachers that were full time at the school, but since you teach a specialty thing like music I think you’d definitely have a shot at getting in. I’d suggest looking at the SABIS website to see who you can contact about that. You can also look at other schools in the UAE (GEMS is another big one) and contact them directly to see what they offer. Good luck!

  3. Ophil

    I’m a B.SC holder and my M.SC is still in view and I don’t have a TEFL. I have taught in about 4 secondary schools here in Bénin republic and currently lecturing in a university and want to ask what are my chances of getting a teaching job in UAE to teach English or computer science and I have written papers from various schools here attesting to my expertise and experience

    • Slight North by Dianne Minardi

      Hi! Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what your chances of getting a job are but my advice is to just apply to the schools and see what happens! Having a masters degree and teaching experience is a definite plus. Good luck!

  4. ebony

    Good morning I am considering and applying for teaching positions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I have been a elementary Special Education teacher for four years in the United States. I have a Bachelors in English and a Masters in Education. What advice would you give to me in terms of which location to pick and job options.

    • Slight North by Dianne Minardi

      Hey! Some people prefer Abu Dhabi but I definitely would suggest Dubai. The worst part about Dubai is that the traffic can be terrible, but there’s WAY more to do there, better beaches, and just an all around a better city to live in.

      As for job options, I’m not too sure on the best schools to teach in qualified teachers like you. My advice would be to join some Facebook groups, I just looked and there are a lot for teachers in Dubai and the UAE. Some of them look very active, so I think it’s a good resource to check out to see which schools they are recommending.

  5. B

    Hi, I’m apply right now to schools in the UAE. I was wondering about the teaching experience you had at SABIS? How were the kids? Did the listen about as well as you would expect?How were the other teachers at your school? The administration? or the school facilities?

    Sorry for the long ask! But thanks for any extra information!

    • Slight North by Dianne Minardi

      Every SABIS school is different, so it’s hard to answer for all of them. At mine, the kids were pretty poorly behaved and I did not find the administration helpful when I needed them. You kind of have to learn to fend for yourself because you don’t get a lot of training. Because of that the first year was really hard for me, but then the second year was a breeze. Try NOT to be like me and make sure you area really strict from day one, and you will have a much easier time! Definitely the best part of teaching there is the other teachers, they were all young and fun, and we all lived together and became great friends 🙂


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