Mike Cairnduff from Hello Teacher!

October 19, 2015
Mike Cairnduff

Last updated: August 12, 2017
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How much money can you make teaching English in China?

This is the question on most prospective teachers’ lips. Read on to find out how much coin you can earn in China’s booming education market.

Mainland China is one of the world’s biggest markets for English language teaching. According to the South China Morning Post, about 360 million students learned English in some capacity last year. That’s huge!

Thousands of schools and institutes, ranging from public elementary schools to private night schools, offer English as part of their standard curriculum.

This high demand for English instruction means a high demand for qualified, native English-speaking teachers. Countries in particular demand include the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

How much can you earn teaching in China?

The amount of renminbi, or Chinese money, you can earn depends on a number of factors.

The type of school, its location, what you teach, the amount of hours you’re willing to put in, your qualifications and past work experience all impact on how much money you’ll receive.

Below you’ll find four common scenarios for foreign teachers, including an approximate starting salary in a small city. Salaries in the big cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen are usually higher.

Please note that this is a general guide only. All scenarios are based on the assumption that you have a degree (in any field) as a minimum qualification.

If you have a Masters, then you can expect even more money.

Not sure how much renminbi is worth in your currency? Check out our quick guide on money first.

Option 1: Full-time English teacher at a public school or university – approximate starting salary RMB 6,000

Teaching at a public kindergarten, elementary school, high school or university can be a wonderful opportunity.

You could be teaching for 16 hours per week and still be considered a full-time teacher. How good is that?

Working part-time hours (as a full-time teacher) means plenty of time for extra-curricula activities, socializing and traveling.

Although you’ll be loving your newfound freedom, the expectation is that lesson planning is done in your spare time. If the school has a well-organized syllabus and lesson plans are already written up, your preparation time will be minimal.

On the flipside, if the class textbook is optional and you have free rein to teach what you like, this may mean many hours of research and planning is required to deliver a good lesson.

Be careful what you wish for!

Option 2: Full-time subject teacher at a public school or university – approximate starting salary RMB 7,000

If you can teach core subjects like maths, science or business, you can command a higher salary than teaching English alone.

You can earn a good salary teaching English in China.

Subject teaching can earn you good money in China.

Some schools even offer specialist subjects like American culture. These subjects help students prepare for experiences abroad and entry into foreign institutions.

The contact hours for subject teaching are similar to English teaching – 16 hours per week is about the lightest load you could take on.

Option 3: Part-time English teacher at a private center – approximate starting salary RMB 8,000

Some private institutions give you the option of working part-time or full-time.

Though it can vary greatly between institutions, about 20 hours constitutes part-time while about 30 hours is considered full-time.

The more hours you teach, the more money you can earn. It’s simple, really.

If you’re a touch on the disorganized side, teaching part-time at a private center could be for you. Lesson planning is usually taken care of, which means you simply follow a prescribed methodology.

Although it’s not quite a case of “just turn up and teach”, your life outside the classroom won’t be consumed by planning lessons either.

Option 4: Full-time English teacher at a private center – approximate starting salary RMB 12,000

If you’re up for teaching at least 30 hours a week, including evening and weekend classes, you could earn a lot of money in China. Private centers typically pay generous salaries starting from RMB 12,000.

Considering you can live comfortably in China on just a few thousand RMB per month, after just one year of teaching (and consistent saving) you could return home with enough money for a new car.

Stay (and save) for a few years and you might have enough for a deposit on your own home. It’s a big – and fair – reward for putting in a lot of hard work.

It’s not all about the money

Remember, there are other factors to consider in addition to the base salary you’ll receive. Flight reimbursement, sign-up bonuses, end-of-contract bonuses and the like all need to be factored into the equation.

It all boils down to this: what kind of lifestyle do you want in China?

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