The road to getting a job in Dubai isn't always the easiest or quickest but for me, it has been the most rewarding. There are a few routes you could take when looking for a job in the United Arab Emirates but I'll walk you through what worked (and didn't work!) for me. If you're a certified P.E. teacher in your home country, you could also be a P.E. teacher in Dubai.
If you're openminded with where you teach, find out how to teach at an international school in the Cayman Islands.
Requirements to get hired in the UAE:
- be able to speak English at a native speaker fluency level (may have to prove this with IELTS scores depending on your nationality)
- have a degree in teaching (can be a B.Ed, PGCE or whatever your country’s equivalent is)
- have a valid teaching license from your home country
- have a clean criminal record
- have a valid passport
Want to live in Dubai but prefer working online? Check out this freelance visa guide to learn more about Dubai's new remote worker visa to see if you qualify.
Where to start
I always recommend using a dedicated teaching recruiter.
These recruitment companies act as a liaison between international schools and prospective teaching candidates. In the world of teaching abroad, a recruiter’s job is to source qualified applicants for teaching abroad positions. There are a few recruiters that specialize in teaching jobs in the Gulf region and I have hyperlinked a few of them here (these are the ones I have personally used in the past):
You can sign up with one or as many recruiters as you desire, it doesn’t affect your chances of getting hired.
You can also check out teaching English in other countries around the world, to compare and contrast it to teaching in Dubai to ensure you're making your best decision for you.
Note: Whenever a teacher successfully arrives and starts teaching, the recruiter is paid a commission by the school/company. This means that for you, working with a recruiter should be completely free because they’re paid by the school that ends up hiring you.
YOU SHOULD NOT PAY A RECRUITER MONEY TO TEACH ABROAD.
What you'll need to sign up
You will need the following items when you begin your search so make sure you have digital copies that are scanned:
- Copy of your passport information page
- Comprehensive CV which you can cut & paste from
- Clear photo of you against a plain background wearing professional clothes and looking approachable (this should be a small file)
- Clear copies of your relevant degrees
- Clear copies of your teaching license
- At least 1 letter of reference
Most recruitment agencies will ask for these documents to be emailed to them in the beginning of the process to see if you are eligible to work with them. You may also need to cut and paste information from your CV into recruiters’ own CV format or onto their website so be prepared for all of this to take a long time.
As you prepare to pack up your life at home to move abroad, there are a lot of things to keep track of. You have to balance getting official documents with scheduling interview, packing with still working your full-time job and spending time with your friends and family as many of them doubt your decision. Sometimes it can feel like a lot to take on, just remember, you got this. Take some deep breaths and focus on prioritizing what you need to get done and don't lose sight of why you're moving in the first place.
How to ace the interviews
The recruiter should do a quick interview with you just to check your English speaking ability and to double check the information you gave in your CV. Once you’ve passed this, then they will start matching you with schools. Be upfront with the recruiter about the type of school you’d like to work at, what country you would prefer and any other details that are a necessity for you.
The next step is for the recruiter to distribute your CV to all of the schools that meet your criteria (and the ones whose criteria you meet) and will contact you when a school shows interest.
The recruiter emails you with an interview time and day, at best, the website of the school, no mention of the salary package and you need to be ready IN CASE it’s an offer you could consider. The interview time is always fixed and you need to fit your life around it. When the recruiter says to be ready an hour before and an hour after the appointed time, they mean it. There can often be confusion due to time zones.
Once you have secured an interview with a school, I suggest you start researching about teaching in the Middle East and all sorts of possible interview questions.
I started researching and studying the kind of questions I would be asked from information I found online (very scant info I might add). Any qualified teacher with a bit of experience could answer most questions with ease. They usually just ask you to elaborate on your teaching experiences and give you situational questions.
The questions usually lead on from each other for example, “Tell us how you would ensure that learners with low English proficiency remain engaged in the lesson …” which led on to “How would you deal with a learner that became disruptive in the classroom because they were not engaged with the subject material?” It sounds a bit daunting but if you have spent any time in a classroom, you should be ok. Each interview usually lasts around 8 questions and they always gave me a chance to ask them questions. Here are some of the questions I ask at interviews:
- What kind of resources will I have access to in my classroom
- Are there restrictions on what topics I can teach in the classroom and how will I know what topics to avoid?
- What is the average number of students in a class?
The average interview time is between 20-30 minutes depending on how many questions you ask!
A lot of people become dejected at this point in the process when they do interview after interview and don’t hear anything back.
PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THIS PERSONALLY.
In the world of teaching abroad, white people are perceived as more desirable to hire for international schools and people from ‘western’ countries are often picked over more qualified candidates from other countries. This is a harsh reality of teaching in the Middle East (or teaching abroad in general). I urge you to keep trying and not give up- the perfect opportunity will eventually present itself to you!
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Accepting an offer
If you persevere and survive the previous steps, you will most likely receive an offer whether you’re in the game for months, years or mere weeks. If you get sent a contract, read it very carefully taking into account your owed holidays and what the school will/won’t provide. You are allowed to negotiate the salary and you are allowed to turn down jobs. Recruiters will still help you if you reject offers that aren’t a good fit for you.
Once you’ve signed the offer letter/contract then you will begin the process of document collection. Your recruiter should have all the required information as to what you need and how you go about obtaining these items in the required manner.
The UAE work visa is very simple: the company emails you your visa once they have the required scanned and attested documents and then you just print out the visa and take it along with you.
Remember that attestation of documents will take time and money. You may have to courier things back and forth. You may have to do medical tests. You may have to get things translated. This is often the most frustrating stage where a lot of people fail. Be strong, the paperwork will soon be over (well, sort of).
Bonus tips to get hired in the UAE:
Tip 1. I recommend not resigning from your current job until you have that visa in your hand.
If that is not possible then try to set aside some money and have a contingency plan ready if you find yourself without work while you await your visa.
Tip 2. Be money conscious.
Calculate how much you would need to live in your new country for two months without any income and add 20% on top of that. Try to make sure that you have enough to buy a return ticket, if you need to come back earlier.
Tip 3. Ultimately, the road to becoming a teacher in the UAE is a long and often frustrating one.
In hindsight I wish I had done more interviews and not just accepted the first school that wanted me. I also wish I had saved up more money to tide me over those first few months!
However, teaching in this country has been also one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
I have been able to teach many different grades as well as strike a good work-life balance here because most schools don’t require you to do any work after 4pm; this has allowed me to pursue my passions of photography and blogging.
With one of the lowest crime rates in the world, tax free salaries, special rules & allowances for ladies and an array of experiences on offer, this is one of the best countries to live in. I have been able to travel to over 12 different countries for holidays since I moved here, I found the love of my life in Dubai and have enjoyed the generosity of Emirati hospitality & Islam.