How much money can you make teaching English in China?
This is the question on most prospective TEFL teachers’ lips. And why wouldn't it be? Mainland China is one of the world's biggest markets for English language teaching.
In fact, it's estimated that more than 360 million students are learning English in some capacity in China. That’s a big number!
Thousands of schools and institutes across China, 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.
Read on to find out how much coin you could earn in China's booming education market.
So how much money can you earn teaching in China?
The amount of renminbi – Chinese money – you can make teaching in China 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 can make.
The lowest starting salary for a qualified ESL teacher in China is about RMB 6,000. The maximum you could earn is about RMB 18,000.
How much money you can make teaching English in China depends on a number of factors (pictured: primary school students in Jiangsu province).
To help you understand how foreign teacher salaries in China can vary significantly, below you’ll find four common scenarios which include an approximate starting salary in a small or medium sized city.
You could command an even higher salary in the big cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen.
Please note that this is a general guide only. A starting salary is one which is at the lower end of the spectrum; you could earn a lot more than this. All scenarios are based on the assumption that you have a bachelor's degree (in any field), which is a minimum requirement to teach English in China.
If you have a Masters and/or teaching experience, you could make even more money teaching in China.
How does a foreign English teacher’s salary compare with a local Chinese salary?
Even if you earned the lowest starting salary outlined below (i.e. RMB 6,000), you’d still be earning well above the average in most Chinese cities.
The generous salaries for foreign teachers, coupled with perks like free accommodation and a reimbursement of your airfare, mean you can live like a king or queen in China.
You can earn well above the average Chinese salary in most cities across China.
Keep in mind, however, that any money you save in China won’t go as far in your home country when you exchange currencies.
Not sure how much renminbi is worth in your currency? Check out our quick guide on money in China first.
Option 1: Full-time English teacher at a public school or university – approximate starting salary RMB 6,000
Teaching at a Chinese 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 around China.
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.
Some schools even offer specialist subjects like American culture and history. Chinese students love getting a taste of the outside world from their TEFL teachers.
These kinds of subjects can help Chinese students prepare for experiences overseas and entry into foreign institutions.
Subject teaching can earn you good money in China.
The contact hours for subject teaching are similar to English teaching – 16 hours per week is about the lightest load you could take on.
One of the challenges with subject teaching is that students may be grappling with understanding the course content as well as the language of instruction itself (i.e. English!).
Option 3: Part-time English teacher at a private language center – approximate starting salary RMB 8,000
Some private language 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 at least 30 hours is considered full-time.
The more hours you work, the more money you can make teaching English in China. It’s simple, really.
Note that there is usually weekend and evening classes at private language schools, and your time off will probably be on a couple of weekdays.
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 language 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 make a lot of money teaching English in China.
Private centers typically pay generous salaries starting from RMB 12,000.
You can make a lot of money in China teaching English at a private language center.
Considering you can live comfortably in China on just a few thousand renminbi per month, after just one year of teaching (and consistent saving) you could return home with enough money for a big purchase, like a second-hand car.
Stay in China (and save) for a number of years and you might have enough money to put towards a deposit on your own place once you return home. It’s a big – and fair – reward for putting in a lot of hard work.
Perks in addition to your salary
When teaching in China there are other factors to consider on top of the base salary you’ll receive.
Airfare reimbursement, sign-up bonuses, performance bonuses and so on all need to be factored into the equation.
In addition, perks like free accommodation, electricity, water, internet, and even Mandarin lessons, make teaching English in China all the more favourable.
One of the perks you can get by teaching in China is the free accommodation.
What kind of lifestyle do you want in China?
How much money you can make teaching English in China all boils down to this: what kind of lifestyle do you want?
If you’re willing to put in the hours, teach at a private language center to maximize your earnings.
On the other hand, if you would prefer to work fewer hours and have more time to relax and travel, teach at a public school.
Regardless of your choice, you can earn a generous local salary teaching English in China. And you'll have a brilliant time!