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Jan 23rd, 2024 by David O Connor

Teaching in China: Salaries, Living Cost & Saving Potential

What are the salaries for teaching in China?

Teaching in China is a rewarding experience in more ways than you can imagine. Aside from the cultural, historical, and culinary enlightenment, teaching in China can also be profitable.

China has traditionally been one of the best-paying destinations for foreign, English-speaking teachers. Not even a pandemic has managed to change that fact!

One of the most common questions asked by prospective teachers is…

How much money can you save teaching in China?

Most foreign teachers working in China save between USD 600 and USD 1,500 per month after all their expenses are paid.

Naturally, your initial salary and chosen lifestyle will determine how much (or how little) you put away every month. At the end of the day, it all comes down to salary VS living costs.

Wondering how much you can earn and save while working as a teacher in China?

We’ll give you a thorough breakdown of all the aspects that determine your potential salary, your lifestyle, and your eventual savings.

Here’s what this guide will cover:

  1. Overview of Teaching Salaries in China
  2. Teaching Salary Averages – at a Glance
      • Kindergarten teaching salaries
      • Training Centres teaching salaries
      • University teaching salaries
      • Public School’s teaching salaries
      • International Schools’ teaching salaries
  1. The Salary Package – What You Really Should be Looking at!
  2. Living Costs in China
      • The highest living costs in China
      • The most affordable living costs in China

 

Overview of Teaching Salaries in China

How much you can earn in China as an English teacher will primarily depend on four main factors:

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Your experience in teaching ESL abroad

(and teaching, in general)

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Your formal qualifications

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The type of teaching job

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The teaching destination

Demand is another primary driver of teaching salaries.

 

Demand for English teachers is currently high, yet there are not enough applicants to fill all the roles. This is likely due to people’s hesitance to move to China after the events of the last three years. Those considering finding a teaching job in China,

soon have the ball firmly in their court.

 

At the beginning of 2022, teaching salaries in China increased as foreigners began to return. We had anticipated that these salaries would eventually return to pre-COVID levels, but they have not. Great news! We expect that these salaries will remain the same until mid-2023. However, the second half of the year is uncertain and will depend on how many people make a move in the next few months.

Teaching Salary Averages at a Glance

Quote

The average monthly salary of foreign teachers in China ranges from 14,000 to 21,000 RMB (USD 2,500-3,400).

Highly experienced teachers who work in prestigious schools can negotiate a salary of 22,000 to 32,000 RMB (USD 3,500-5,000) per month, but this usually requires several years of teaching experience, and the role to be offered in one of China’s major cities.

What is a major city, you ask?

China classifies its cities into ‘tiers’ – the lower the number, the more significant and prominent the city. Here's a handy guide to

Salaries for teaching English in China’s kindergartens
18,000 RMB (USD 2,800) on average

Kindergarten teachers are some of the highest wage earners in China, with salaries beginning at 18,000 RMB (about USD 2,800). 

Private kindergartens tend to offer more money, especially in bigger cities. In a well-known private kindergarten in a Tier 1 city, you could make up to USD 5,000 per month, making you one of the most highly-paid English teachers in the country.

Learn more about Kindergarten Teaching Jobs in China

 

What are the salaries for teaching English in China?

Training centre jobs don’t pay super-high salaries (approximately USD 3,000 in tier 1 cities and USD 2,500 in tier 3 cities).  However, they can be considered part-time jobs, so the workload VS salary equation is actually quite favourable. Additionally, training centre teachers can make extra money by moonlighting as private English tutors, given the abundance of spare time.

Learn more about Training Centre Jobs in China

What are the salaries for teaching English in China?

Salaries for teaching in universities
between 10,000 - 16,000 RMB (USD 1,500 - 2,500)

University teaching jobs offer many advantages, such as a lighter workload, a weekday schedule, and more flexibility. Salaries vary from one university to the next, ranging from $1,500 to $2,500. These are among the lowest-paid teaching jobs in China yet often considered low-stress and considerably rewarding.

Learn more about University Jobs in China

Salaries for teaching in public schools
between 16,000 - 24,000 RMB (USD 2,500 - 3,800).

What used to be the lowest-paying teaching jobs in China have now become impressive middle-earners. As the competition among schools heightens, so have their paying potential.

In a Chinese public school, expect your salary to range between USD 2,500 and USD 3,800.

Learn more about Public School Teaching Jobs in China, and you’ll discover why these are some of the easiest teaching jobs to secure.

public-vs-private-schools

International School Teaching Salaries

Many prospective English teachers focus solely on their monthly salary when calculating their savings potential. However, teaching in China is a “package deal,” meaning the actual value of a teaching position is determined by the entire ‘salary package’, which includes salary, housing, medical insurance, and return trips home (among other things). 

Neglecting to consider the cost of these additional items could mean that the top-dollar salary in a Tier 1 city may not be worth it. We strongly urge you to evaluate the entire salary package before accepting any teaching position.

Here are the most significant salary package inclusions you should be seeking, in order of importance:

  1. Housing/rent allowance
  2. Medical insurance
  3. Yearly airfare allowance
  4. Relocation reimbursement
  5. End-of-year bonus/gratuity

Your housing costs will take up most of your budget if you live and work in a Tier 1 or 2 city, where rent is expensive. Does your salary package have any rent allowance? If the school is offering housing, is it a shared apartment or large enough for you and your family? These are essential questions to ask!

Medical insurance can also be very costly in China, so enquire if your employer is willing to co-pay, and make sure it includes family members if moving with your brood.

Most top-tiered teaching positions will offer a yearly airfare allowance, which will help you get home for a visit once a year. Nowadays, when airfares have skyrocketed, this could make the difference between visiting your friends and family, and not. Moving to China with your family? Find out if your airfare allowance includes their tickets too.

The last two inclusions (relocation reimbursement and end-of-year bonus) are not necessarily deal-breakers, BUT they can sum up to a handsome USD 5,000 each, in your pocket, so they are also worth mentioning.

What you should know about teaching salaries in China

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Your qualifications matter

YOUR qualifications and overall teaching experience can actually be the main factor in securing the highest salaries for teaching English in China.

It goes without saying that the more qualified you are, the higher the salary that you can demand. This goes for any teaching job in any city across the country.

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Be aware of the extras that can drive up teaching salaries

Perhaps you’re offered a salary that isn’t all that good at face value but, upon a closer look, you discover that the ‘mediocre’ salary includes a generous monthly housing stipend, a return ticket home for the school holidays and the reimbursement of your moving costs, plus a fantastic health insurance that covers all eventualities.

All things considered, maybe that salary ain’t so bad now, is it? Travel and rent are bound to be your biggest expenses when living and teaching in China so try to negotiate some kind of inclusion into your salary package that takes care of them – at least in part.

Moral of the story – look at the whole picture and don’t just get stuck on one part of your salary package!

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You can round off your salary with private tutoring

Plumping up your income by moonshining as a private tutor can be very lucrative in China. The starting rate is about USD 50 an hour but you can demand up to about USD 80 USD if a) you are very good and in high demand and b) if you live in a Tier 1 city.

Be warned, teaching on the side of your regular job can be illegal. While a side gig was something almost every teacher dipped into, it's now fraught with danger. Teacher can now be reported by neighbours with in the return for rewards of a reported 10,000 RMB .

The highest living costs in China

  • Imported goods of any kind

Imported goods from the West, such as clothing, food, wine and cheese, have high import tariffs in China. As a result, locals pay a premium for these luxuries. Eating in an international restaurant, regardless of location, costs three to five times more than in a local, family-run restaurant. Even Pizza Hut is considered upmarket in China so it is even possible to spend a lot of money on very average Western food.

 

  • Gym and/or personal trainers

Having a personal trainer and spending time building serious muscles is not as common in China as it is in the West. Both have become status symbols for the few locals who indulge, so expect to pay big yuan for that little luxury.

 

  • Travel at peak-times

During Chinese New Year, flights and accommodation in China go through the roof due to the large number of people travelling to their hometowns to reunite with family. Usually, these services are affordable in the country, but this period is an exception.

 

  • Upmarket, central apartments

Even though China is usually known for being relatively low-cost, that is not the case when it comes to luxury apartments in the CBD. If you choose to rent one of these apartments in a Tier 1 city, you may be paying the same amount as you would for a rental on New York City’s Fifth Avenue.

 

Luckily, in China, every expensive option has a budget fix.

 

The most affordable living costs in China

  • Public transport & taxis

Living in a suburban area in China is an ideal way to save money. Instead of owning a car, many expats opt to buy an e-bike if they are close to their school. Transportation like taxis and metro/bus rides only cost around USD 60 per month, or USD 30 if you don’t take taxis. This is a great way to save money while still being able to get around quickly. Plus, you can walk everywhere, burning those calories you would have burnt at the gym!

  • Local meals

Expats rarely cook in China; if they do, it is often to cook a meal reminiscent of a favourite from home. The cost of purchasing the ingredients for one meal could buy a week’s worth of dinners from a local restaurant. Chinese culture encourages frequent eating out, so six nights a week may be spent at a local eatery with friends. This is a great way to save money and enjoy delicious food!

  • Local groceries (especially fresh produce)

When moving to China, you should locate the nearest fresh produce market to get delicious and affordable meat, fish, vegetables, and fruits. Exploring new flavours is a great way to enjoy your time in China, and shopping at a local market can help you keep your living expenses low.

  • Local beers

Tsingtao is the most well-known beer in China, but each province has a unique local brewery worth discovering. If you live in a large city, you can buy the most popular beer brands from all over the country. Swap that French Bordeaux for a local beer and you will save loads.

  • Outer suburb apartment

You don’t need to move far from the CBD of any city to in instantly slash your rental costs. If saving is a priority, moving just 15 minutes outside the city centre is arguably the most critical ‘cost saving’ tactic you should adopt. You can save even more money by choosing a clean, comfortable two-bedroom apartment rather than a penthouse. Public transportation is excellent and affordable, so living outside the city centre should not be a problem.

  • Off-peak travel

If you stay home for the Chinese New Year and book your trips during the off-season, you’ll find incredible deals on travel in China, both domestically and abroad. A weekend getaway to Bangkok or Seoul could cost as little as a few hundred dollars, so you can enjoy it frequently. Plus, if you save money by eating locally and not hiring a personal trainer, why not spend those savings on travel? China’s central location in Asia makes it the perfect place to take advantage of low-cost trips!

At a glance, it’s easy to see that China is affordable if you keep it ‘local’. Eat, drink and do as the locals do, and your monthly living costs will be just a fraction of what they are back home. Coupled with impressive teaching salaries, your saving potential working as a teacher in China are reason enough to move here!

Top hacks for negotiating a better salary for teaching English in China

Some international schools will insist on 2 or 3-year contract. If you can avoid this kind of long-term commitment, you’ll be better off. Instead sign for 12 months only. That way you’ll have a chance to renegotiate your salary after a year.

If you are particularly happy with your teaching job in China, approach your employer well before your contract expires. Give yourself enough time to negotiate a new one with a better deal. If you can't come to an agreement, you then have lots of time to find a new position.

Not happy at all, your contract is about to expire and you’re considering moving? Contact us and we’ll see if we can find you a better offer, in a better school.

If the employer won’t budge on the salary and you really don't want to leave, negotiate for more perks. Extra benefits like improved living subsidies, health insurance policy or an extra flight ticket home for the coming year can sweet your package.

Keen to see what else China has in store for you? Read our comprehensive Guide to Teaching in China, check out the latest teaching jobs on offer and contact us if you’d love some help in finding your dream job in this sensational country.

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David O Connor

David O Connor

David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is a lover of craft beers, book clubs and super long road trips.

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