How much does an international teacher earn in Dubai?
If you go to Dubai, the life of an international teacher is pretty amazing: great weather, good pay and lots of travel! Ever since my husband and I moved to Dubai, our lives have changed for the better. We have more money, do lots of nice things together and the weather is always great.
As we were kind of desperate to go abroad – I was so sick of the UK, we settled for Dubai. It wasn’t my first choice and I wasn’t excited about this destination until the contract got signed. But Dubai is actually pretty awesome!
You have the brunches, the many travel destinations and the overload of British expats that makes this into a favourite destination for many international teachers.
But what about the pay? How much do you earn as an international teacher in Dubai? And do you get to take a lot of money home?
First of all - How do you get paid
When working in Dubai you will receive a UAE bank account on which your school will deposit your complete pay. Where other international schools might deposit half of your pay on your local bank account and half of the pay on your UK bank account, in the UAE your whole wage will be paid in Dirham on your local bank account.
But what if you are saving? What if you want to easily transfer money from the UAE to the UK?
Quite a few people would clear their bank account at the end of the academic year and head to a bureau de change (exchange counter) to exchange their Dirham into Pounds. Now, this posed a couple of problems. First of all – depending on how much you saved – you would be travelling with a couple of thousand of pounds in your bag which means your bag will probably be searched in the airport as the sniffer dogs are also trained to sniff out money. Aditionally the rates at the bureau de change are BAD. You will literally lose hundreds of pounds exchanging your money in Dubai.
My husband and I would always use Transferwise – now Wise in order to transfer money from our UAE bank account to our UK bank account. This way our money would be on the account within 2 hours (sometimes even a couple of minutes) and at a rate that could not be beat by bank nor exchange office.
I would highly recommend signing up to Wise – even when you are not going abroad to teach, just because it is in my opinion the best way to make international payments. You can click here to sign up or to check the exchange rate they are offering.
There are many private schools in Dubai, choose the right one
When I say that “there are many private schools in Dubai” I literally mean that there is one on every corner. My husband and I live in Al Nahda 2 which is about the size of a sheet of toilet paper – maybe 3 square kilometres – and there are 4 (!!) private schools.
But before you rejoice at the high probability that you will be able to get a job in Dubai easily (which is true), you need to know that there is a massive difference in schools, the packages you are likely to get and the workload you can expect. You need to choose a school that is right for you and your expectations. Otherwise you are very likely to break your contract early or do a “runner”.
Negotiating your contract never hurts
When you initially receive your contract, you might want to negotiate your salary. As a first-time international teacher, you may expect anything from 9500 AED to 12.000 AED. Anything under that salary you need to renegotiate – when you received an offer on the low end of that you might want to try to het some more. If you are a head of department I would not accept anything under 13.000 AED as there are classroom teachers out there who earn more than that. When taking on extra responsibilities such as being a head of year – ask for at least 1000 AED extra.
When my husband received an offer for the school, he is at now we were told the salary was non-negotiable. He has a masters from the Uni of Cambridge and studied at UCL – one of the best (if not the best) education institutions in the UK, and still he needed to take a pay cut from his London teaching salary when moving to Dubai. We asked the recruiter whether or not we would be able to renegotiate (I was a bit angry as it was not the promised great Dubai Salary we were expecting) but the school did not even want to talk about this. I would have understood if there was a pay scale in place – but almost everyone was on a different salary which would sometimes mean that people with less experience took home more pay.
Whether the school is open for negotiation or not might tell you a lot about school and management culture. So keep this in mind!
Your first contract as a teacher in Dubai will always be your worst
As a classroom teacher – and sometimes even as a middle leader: your first contract teaching in Dubai will always be your worst. The times that teachers can go to Dubai for a year or two and come back with a down payment for a house are gone.
More and more teachers are going international. As you might have read in my other post about acing your international teacher interview there is a shitload of competition. Depending on what school you are going for, there can be 500 other candidates applying!
Teachers who stay in Dubai for longer than 2 years however, are gold dust. Your second contract at the same school – or at a new (and better) school will often be a lot better and you will earn a lot more! If not – you are not valued and you should get out as soon as possible!
Dubai is also a great step on the ladder of being an international teacher. It can help you to get some international teaching experience which you can use as an advantage to get into other and better schools all over the world as international experience is a great plus!
When your contract is over you need to renegotiate hard
Whether you have a one year or a two-year contract – you need to renegotiate your contract! Depending on if you are ready to move on or if you want to stay at the school you go in hard or soft, but keep in mind that the money most private schools receive in tuitions is crazy high in relation to teacher wages. In fact, for the academic year of 2017-2018 Dubai schools received a whooping 7.8 BILLION AED. That’s almost 2 billion pounds. But teacher pay went down or was stagnant at best.
There’s a lot of money going around in private and international schools and the rule is that if you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it. Yes – some schools might have pay scales, but trust me: a lot of them don’t. Could be that your colleague with less experience is actually earning more. Why? Because there were less (good) applicants. I hate this part about Dubai private schools – but I am sure that unless you are employed by a big chain this might be the case in loads of different destinations all over the world.
Anyway, renegotiate your contract after 2 years. Good teachers that stay in Dubai after 2 years are like gold dust. A lot of teachers leave after (or even during!) their first year and a majority will want to move on after their second. If you want to stay at the school you are currently teaching, ask for a 20% to 25% raise and settle for anything over 15% (even though that means they are cheapskates). If you are looking to earn more money you might also look at another school and think about what you realistically want to earn. You can use your current salary to negotiate with new schools in Dubai. Some schools pay more than Dhs 20K + 17k per month housing for head of departments depending on where you are and how big the school is. There’s always room for a wiggle or a move!
Are you leaving? The school might want to put in an offer anyway. Think about what you need to stay. Better accommodation? Better end of year bonus? Better pay? Put everything on email and throw it out there. See what happens. Worst case scenario they say no and you can be on your way to another great country to teach at!
Great pay comes with great responsibilities and no personal life
Although you might be starstruck by the amount of money you can earn in Dubai (or not – depending on where in the UK you thought) , keep in mind that many of the expensive schools – who pay teachers very well, also require you to work hard. And with working hard I mean – they work you to the bone.
Three formal observations per week, work until 6pm – sometimes even 8pm at night. Working on Saturdays… I have heard so many stories of teachers who make great (amazing even) money, but who need to work so hard that they don’t have any time for their kids or partners.
You will need to make that decision for yourself – do you want a shitload of money and no personal life? Or are you looking for a better balance between your personal life and work life? When researching the school you are looking to apply to, take an extra look at their work culture. When you are already in Dubai and looking to move schools, use your network to talk to teachers who are currently teaching at the school.
You won’t easily get those 50k or 60k salaries in Dubai anymore as a classroom teacher
Let’s stop spreading the myth that you can easily earn £50k or even £60k a year tax free as a classroom teacher in Dubai. That *might* have been the case some time ago, but it definitely is not true anymore. Because of the massive influx of teachers looking for a position in Dubai and the fact that schools can easily pay Indian or local teacher half the salary a British or American teacher, you should be happy with anything north of £25k as a minimum.
Yes… that’s quite a pay cut if you come from London. But keep in mind that housing is included and that kids are (often) a lot better behaved than in inner London schools and that the overall quality of life in Dubai is much better than in the UK – think of the weather alone!
Can you negotiate on accommodation
First of all I would say that you should never ever accept a contract in Dubai without accommodation. Almost all schools offer accommodation and if they don’t they are cheapskates and this will be felt in their day to day workings and work culture.
But if they do, the quality of the accommodation varies. Schools often have two or even three buildings they rent or own apartments in. This can not only mean a difference in space and cleanliness (think cockroaches!) but also in whether you have access to a pool, a gym or public transport.
You might want to research accommodation for the school you are applying to as there are massive differences not only between buildings but also between schools. Maybe ask the school for the name of the building or for pictures of your apartment so you can make up your mind whether you want to take the accommodation provided or the allowance.
Also make sure not to accept any shared accommodation in Dubai. The fact that sharing accommodation with someone who is not your husband or wife is actually illegal (although it happens a lot), it is just the school wanting to cheap out on you. It is a sign that the school does not respect you and your application. In a city where so much real estate is sat empty, it is a goddamn common curtesy to at least provide you with private accommodation!
If you are not happy with the pictures, the building or the location of the accommodation provided by the school you are always allowed to take up an allowance. I know in our case that the allowance was a bit of a pisstake and wouldn’t get us anything more than a cramped studio. We were happy with the pictures we have seen and decided to go with the accommodation provided.
Before rejecting the accommodation and accepting the housing allowance I would research rental prices in the area of the school – or within a reasonable drive. This will not only give you an idea of what is available, but you will also have a stronger point to negotiate from. If they would, for instance, only provide you with Dhs 36000 and you see that you won’t be able to rent anything that looks remotely like a 1 bed apartment, you should negotiate.
They failed you in providing good accommodation in the first place, they shouldn’t fail you in the housing allowance as well!
Differences in Packages
Before you accept the job, you should also have a look at the package that is offered. Most – if not all, schools offer you a yearly flight from and to Dubai. They will also (have to) pay for your visa and for your medical insurance. And this is where a school will show you whether they take care of their staff or not.
Medical insurance is incredibly important in Dubai as you need it to be able to get your residence visa. Bad schools will offer you bad insurance. It is as simple as that. It is not uncommon for teachers at bad schools to have to shell out a lot of money if they get ill or want tests done. The insurance offered by good schools covers blood tests and scans. Check if the insurance is international insurance. Again: bad schools won’t want to pay for your international insurance while better ones will want you to be healthy and will pay a premium to get you great insurance which will almost always be an international one.
Does the school pay you back the visa costs for your spouse and kids? That’s an important one as a visa can cost more than 750 pounds! Good schools will; bad schools… well, I guess you see where I’m going.
Another thing to think about when choosing schools is whether or not your kids will have a free space at the school. Good schools will offer you spaces for your kids throughout primary and secondary. We decided to move away to Nepal because the school in Dubai would not only offer me and our future kids free international health care, flights home and to repay our visa costs, the kids would also have a free space at the school. Which is basically what every good and respectable school will offer. If schools say ”no school in Dubai offers visa fees or flights for kids and spouse or free spaces for kids” they are lying through their teeth. It is true that a school cannot sponsor your spouse and kids – they can pay the visa costs!
Another one to look out for is Internet and Dewa costs. Almost all schools you want to teach at will pay for your internet and water and electricity costs. We pay 87 pounds for our internet (just internet) and 60 to 70 pounds for water and electricity (even for months we are not in Dubai!!!) while friends of ours at premium schools like Kings get their utilities, internet and tv for free.
What kind of furniture is included? When we moved in we got 1 cup, 1 plate, 1 knife, 1 fork, 1 bowl, 1 pillow, and a 1 person duvet – not to mention the worst couch ever. Some schools will offer their staff free pots and pans, complete sets of cutlery, an Ikea sofa or even spending money to OR ship stuff over OR buy new furniture in Dubai. Choose wisely because you don’t want to be out of pocket when you get there. Have a look at the countless Youtube Videos about teacher accomodation to get a sense of what to expect and what schools will offer their teachers. If you want to read more on what to expect from teacher accomodation, you can read up on my blog post about teacher accomodation.
I would also say working 1 or 2 weeks for free is a big no-no. When you are asked to head to Dubai early for induction, this induction needs to be paid – it is not a holiday. If a school is not paying you for induction, I would run away as far and as fast as you can.