Teaching English in Oman – A Guide
The Middle East is known as one of the best areas to earn money as an EFL teacher. Experienced teacher and blogger, Eric, tells us all about his experience teaching English in Oman in this fascinating blog post.
When the media reports on political and social events in the Middle East, we always hear about Saudi Arabia or the UAE. Sporting events sometimes bring Doha or Qatar into the conversation, and war brings in Syria, Yemen or Kuwait at times. But we hardly ever hear about Oman. Why the mystery?
The truth is that Oman is nothing less than the fabulous jewel on the Arabian peninsula for teachers of English and almost every other subject, and I would like to take a moment to tell you what you can find in this mysterious land. Teaching English in Oman at a community college for four years literally changed my life, and I would like to share some of that with you.
What kind of English teaching jobs in Oman are available?
While teachers of math, science, art, history, Arabic, and so on are hired throughout the year in public and private schools in Oman, I will concentrate my focus here on teaching English in Oman, specifically ESL or EFL for Omani natives. Full-time positions range (as an average) anywhere from 1,600-3,000/month US dollars tax-free, depending on your experience and qualifications. Your yearly contract will typically include: annual airfare to and from your home country, medical insurance, 60 days paid leave, a furnished accommodation allowance, and sometimes subsidized children’s schooling.
Teaching positions are advertised throughout the year by recruiters, the schools themselves, international job boards and forums, and various websites on the Internet such as the well-known Dave’s ESL Café. I will confine my comments here to the most popular recruiters, since that is how I obtained my lecturer position and I consider it one of the best ways to get hired on in Oman.
Once you are hired, you are assigned an individual or small group of individuals to guide your every step in Oman to ensure that you get the best advice and most timely reminders on all your official responsibilities while you are in the country. That includes everything from apartment rentals to medical appointments (exams, shots, etc.) as part of your visa package.
There are hundreds of recruiters servicing the Middle East, many of them in Great Britain and other Western countries, and you may be signed up with them and be receiving boilerplate offers from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere every day, but I will mention two recruiters I recommend specifically for work in Oman: TATI and GlobNet (globnetllc.com). They can help you find work with the Ministry of Manpower, my recommendation, in one of the seven technical colleges in Oman, which have 40,000 students spread out across seven cities (if you are hired, you often have a choice where you want to work): Nizwa, Al-Musanna, Muscat (the capital), Salalah, Ibri and Ibra, and Shinas.
It is tempting to hope for the Higher College of Muscat, where a student can obtain a Bachelor’s of Technology, but keep in mind the country’s population growth in the last ten years with countless new shopping malls has brought mind-bending traffic jams and other big-city problems (but not crime) you must contend with if you live there.
Your recruiter will guide you through the work visa application process, and will also be on call at all times for information you might need while living and working in Oman throughout the year. Sometimes their response time is not ideal, by western standards; but they always come through.
What qualifications do you need to teach English in Oman?
To become what is usually called an “English lecturer” in Oman, the basics are simple: native English fluency, a college degree (preferably in English or related field, but there is wiggle-room here), a TEFL or CELTA certification, and at least two years’ teaching experience.
If you aren’t sure what these qualifications are, see our blog post on qualifications for teaching English.
Obviously if you can speak Arabic, you have a huge advantage over other applicants. I shared an office with a Jordanian who spoke English quite well from living several years in Texas, and of course he was fluent in Arabic. He was not the only non-native speaking teacher at the college. He was very successful, going on to an even higher-paying teaching position at a private university in Muscat, and not long afterwards he became chairman of the English Department there at the College of Engineering.
I mention my colleague for an important reason. One of the absolute requirements for teaching in Oman is native-English speaking fluency. The requirement is posted wherever you look – on school advertisements, recruiter ads, job boards, etc. But this is not stet in stone. Oman is desperate for good English teachers. Many citizens still grow their families large, with at least four or five children, even though the practice is not as widespread as before Covid. With the need for English in the country so high, classrooms tend to have anywhere from twenty students on up to forty or fifty. The demand for good teachers is very high.
In the college where I taught, half the English teachers were Indians. There are reasons for administrators demanding native fluency as a requirement for its teachers, and it should be noted that between 1970 and 2000, it was mostly Indians who educated everyone in English in the country. These are highly educated, highly motivated, wonderful colleagues who make great teachers, and yet by some standards they are not speakers of native English.
I often recommend Oman to gifted teachers, but sometimes if they are from India or Pakistan they will complain that they are “not qualified.” My suggestion is that if you think your spoken English fluency is native or close, put in your application, claim native speaker fluency and see what happens in the telephone interview. One major recruiting agency in Oman used to consist predominantly of native Indians, by the way.
Read our guide for more on where to teach English as a ‘non-native speaking’ English teacher,
What is the visa and work permit process as an English teacher in Oman?
As you might expect, the school that hires you must sponsor your working visa, and while the process is somewhat complicated, with several interviews and a medical exam, your recruiter or point person at the school will arrange it for you every step of the way. Obviously you should have your passport and other documents with you. Usually a driver will be sent to pick you up on the days you have to appear in Muscat; some of this is time consuming, and that is why job boards often tell you to begin your application process way far in advance.
The school year begins in late September and continues through fall, winter and spring quarters, and ends in June. Therefore the peak hiring period for ESL teachers tends to be in August and September, when officials at your school know how many students they have to place in how many classes, and how many teachers they will need.
That said, I personally applied for a position in November, got an immediate interview in December, was hired and flew from USA to Muscat in December. I got an unfurnished apartment in two days, bought a few necessities at a local market, and began teaching winter quarter in January. This kind of “rapid mobilization” is common, so be prepared.
Read all our blog posts on teaching English, including country guides and interviews with experienced teachers about how they started out.
Daily life as an English teacher in Oman: The good and the bad
Since almost everything in Oman is good, I’ll start with the one difficult thing: the heat. The heat is tough everywhere – in your office, in the classrooms, in your car, and at home. Air conditioning is obviously the solution, but you may need to purchase something for where you live. I had to buy two air conditioners for my apartments during my four years in Oman.
Don’t forget the stress on your car, especially if you’re adventuresome, as I am, and like to head out to the hills for hiking or backpacking. And don’t forget your water. If you’re out camping in the outback and your car breaks down, you can be in trouble with temperatures way over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also keep in mind there is always some dust in the air from the desert climate. It’s not bad in most places, but people may have allergies and suffer some from the air quality. The good news is that all the local medical doctors know what to prescribe for allergies, so it’s not a big deal.
One caveat: choose your dentist carefully, and absolutely on the recommendation of someone you trust. Like probably everywhere, there are good and bad dentists in Oman. Generally speaking, no matter where you teach, you should probably still look in Muscat for a good dentist. I recommend the dental clinic at Muscat Private Hospital, but it might be pricey.
That said, let’s quickly take a look at some of the good things. Because of the high respect for teachers and the high pay for teaching ESL, you will save money – it is literally impossible not to, with the cost of living maybe only half your salary. Your active teaching hours will depend on your school, but your weekend is Friday and Saturday.
It’s easy to open a bank account. When I taught English in Russia, this was not a good idea. But in Oman, your recruiter will make some calls for you to arrange direct deposit with one of the main banks (e.g. NBO or Bank Muscat, but international banks like HSBC and Citibank are also available), and your money will be safe.
You will probably be offered a credit card too. I got one, even though I mostly paid cash for everything I needed, including a car. Your colleagues at the school where you work will help you buy a car (it’s mostly word of mouth), unless you are disciplined enough to just walk – we had several individuals at my college who preferred walking. You will need an umbrella under the glaring sun, and there are certainly taxis everywhere. But without a car, it’s hard to explore the many beautiful sites in Oman. Not to mention possibly a weekend trip up the coast to Dubai.
My wife and I are avid swimmers, and the waters of the Indian Ocean off the Gulf of Oman are warm year-round. We used to drive over to an expansive beach near Barka twice a week, where you can go out in the water and look back either at the camels on the beach or, in the distance, the ancient Portuguese military forts towering mysteriously over the city.
Other well-known sites to visit: the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, which is the largest mosque in Oman; the Nizwa fort, probably Oman’s most visited monument, dating back to 1650; the Wadi Bani Khalid in the Hajar Mountains; and Masirah Island, just off the coast in the Arabian Sea, a popular site for windsurfing and even traditional wave surfing during the summer.
A final word about the people and their core beliefs. Oman is a Muslim society which believes in their God Allah and His Prophet Muhammad. Omanis are generally of the Ibadi sect of Islam, which is more moderate and liberal than in other places (e.g. Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia). Women can hold office and own land. Alcohol is sold in special stores, if you have a permit. Expats who practice different religions coexist peacefully with Muslims. Most Indians are Catholic, for example, and worship separately in their Christian churches.
As a personal testimony, I can say that I found the Omani people truly caring and decent throughout my time in Oman. I will never forget that if you break down on the highway, more drivers will stop to help you within a minute or two than you will ever see in western countries.
And finally, the food is excellent! Qabuli rice with lamb, raisins, cinnamon and chickpeas, or shuwa, another lamb recipe, or mashuai kingfish! The list of traditional foods eaten by the people on the Arabian peninsula is quite long, but however much you remember from the list, you will never forget the shawarma, which is the most popular and my favorite street food in the Gulf! Go teach ESL in Oman, it will be the most memorable (and most financially rewarding) experience you will ever have!
Eric Woro is CELTA-certified and holds an M.A. in English from UW in Seattle, Washington. He currently manages the instructional website https://dialogueswithidioms.com .
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