If you are wondering how much you can earn working as an English teacher in China, this article is for you.
Due to the currency exchange rate and lower cost of living in China, you might not earn as much as you do back in your home country (US, UK, AU, NZ). However, your teaching salary in China will provide you a comfortable living that would have sometimes been a luxury in your home country.
How much can you make teaching English in China?
In general, teaching English in China offers a decent pay which allows for a comfortable lifestyle for expats. It might vary depending on a few factors.
So how your salary teaching in China is determined?
First of all, your salary standard will be based on the average salary in China. With the growing economy, there’s a steady increase in the average salary rates for Chinese people. In a purpose of attracting foreign talent, the average salary for foreigners is generally higher than local employees.
For foreign teachers teaching English in China (ESL teachers), your salary depends on mainly three factors:
- Your qualifications and teaching experiences
- The type of institutions you teach at
- The location of your school
Let’s take a look at each factor in more details below:
1. Your salary teaching in China depends on your qualification and teaching experience
To be qualified to teach English in China, there are some basic requirements:
- Valid passport from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand
- Bachelor’s degree in any subject
- Passing the medical test
- Passing the criminal background check
- A TEFL certification (+120 hours)
These items ensure you obtain your work z visa in order to teach in China legally.
Formal teaching experience is not required but much preferred, therefore you’ll see a difference in salary between experienced ESL teachers and inexperienced teachers (university graduates) in China.
Salary for inexperienced teachers
For teachers without teaching experience, or university graduates, the salary will range from 10,000 RMB to 15,000 RMB (USD $1,584 ~ $2,123) per month.
Salary for experienced teachers
For experienced ESL teachers, especially those with more than 2 years teaching experience in China, the salary can go up to 18,000 RMB to 25,000 RMB (USD $2,548 ~ $3,539) per month.
Of course, the exact amount of salary will also depends on the location as well as the type of institution you work with.
Some second tier cities will never be able to afford an experienced ESL teacher as much as 25,000 RMB, but the salary of 15,000 RMB in a second tier city can potentially go longer than the 25,000 RMB salary in a first tier city.
2. Your salary teaching in China will vary based on different institution types
Below is the infographic of a teaching in China salary guide based on the institution types.
As it shows, apart from your qualifications and experiences, how much you earn depends on the type of institution you work for. Generally speaking, greater income comes with bigger responsibilities.
Let’s take a look at each type and the working conditions:
Public Schools: 8,000 – 11,000 RMB per month (1,268 – 1,740 USD)
Public schools in China belong to the government educational system, the teaching hours usually are around 20 hours/week, Monday to Friday. You will be able to teach students from multiple English level, and generally a medium to large class (30 – 60) size.
The teaching schedule won’t be very packed giving you a lot of free time on your own, usually a native co-teacher is there to work with you preparing and delivering lesson enabling you to cope with the environment better. Another one absolute perk is that most public schools have canteen open to you for lunch (amazing food!).
Private Institutions: 8,000 – 16,000 RMB per month (1,270 – 2,535 USD)
As you might already have heard that in China, parents usually have high expectations towards their kids’ academic performance, and private Institutions are where parents sent their kids to further develop their skills after normal school hours.
In these institutions, teaching performance expectation for teachers is generally higher which results in more working hours (as well as the increase in salaries).
Private institutions are generally more open and less restrict about candidates’ background. Candidates who have high English skills and a genuine passion for teaching in China can get a shot in winning a position there. Working hours are different from public schools where after-school hours will be your working time.
International Schools: 10,000 – 25,000 RMB per month (1,584 – 3961 USD)
International schools in China are for expats’ kids or kids from more well-off families (that aim to send their kids overseas). Most classes in international schools are taught in English (100%), therefore expectations for foreign teachers here could be more than English language, and extended to other subjects such as history, arts, maths and physics etc. Of course, your salaries will be aligned with high expectations and more working hours.
Bonus: Accommodation Allowances and Flight Reimbursement
Apart from that, flight reimbursement (exact amount varies) is often offered at the end of the one-year teaching in China contract. If you really enjoy your teaching job and would like to extend, you are more than welcome! The average length people stay and teach in China is about 2 ~ 3 years.
3. Your salary teaching in China also depends on your location
China has a unique tier system for all cities, and it’s used as a point of reference to refer to different economical development levels.
There’s usually a noticeable difference among these cities in terms of the average salary standard, cost of living, city infrastructure and business opportunities etc. Therefore, choosing different cities to teach English in China also results in different salary.
For cities with lower pay, the lower cost of living will often offset it, meaning you can enjoy the same or even better standard of living comparing to the city with a higher pay. However, if you want to have access to a better entertainment life, bigger expat community, bigger cities (Tier 1 or new Tier 1 cities) will be your choice.
So let’s take a look at the pay scale for different tier cities:
|City Tier||Salary (USD)||Cost of Living (USD)||Rent (USD)|
|Tier 1 Cities||$2,123 ~ $2,800||$1,000 ~$1,500||$400 ~ $600|
|New Tier 1 Cities||$,1415~$2,123||$700 ~ $1,100||$283 ~ $424|
|Tier 2 Cities||$1,415~$1,840||$560 ~ $1,000||$212 ~ $424|
|Tier 3 Cities||$1,132 ~ $1,415||$424 ~ $566||$141 ~ $353|
For most Tier 1 and new Tier 1 cities, teachers will be provided with housing allowances that will cover at least 80% of the rent cost; and for Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, the accommodation will usually be provided for free.
Cost of living in China
As mentioned above, different cities have different salary standards and cost of living. However, in generally you will have a comfortable living.
You’ll get to experience cheap but amazingly awesome food, super convenient and cheap transportation, and many other entertainment activities as well. Also, a decent amount of savings if you are determined.
Want more luxury? You can have your restaurant order delivered to you anytime you can, get a pampering massage every now and then, or a one-year gym membership. They are all very much affordable for your earnings as an ESL teacher.
Sample budget from an ESL teacher
Non-monetary reward: a new life experience
Apart from getting paid decently, teaching in China is a great opportunity to open yourself up to a new and exciting experience. Check out the stories from other teachers:
Experience of Jennifer: My Teaching in China Experience
Teaching in China Story: Culture Shock? Most Welcome!
Teaching in China Story: A Spontaneous Decision Turned Life-Changing Experience
Teaching in China Story: The Beginning of A New Chapter
Are you ready to teach English in China?
Teaching in China is an experience that is meant to stay within you for a lifetime. You’ll get to experience, learn, grow and impact.
Why wait when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this presents itself?