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ESL Teaching – The Average Salaries in China in 2022

What are the salaries for teaching English in China?

The high ESL teaching salaries in China are what primarily attract teachers from all over the world. The country’s normally competitive salaries have further risen lately, due to the consequences of the pandemic. A silver lining of sorts, you may think? Indeed!

Read on to find out just how much you can make teaching English in China in 2022!

*The average salaries in China for teachers are based on an array of teaching jobs throughout China. You may need to dig a little deeper to find the exact averages for your preferred location. 

One of the most common questions we field here at China by Teaching is in regard to salaries. How much do teachers make in China, you’re wondering? Well, it depends.

A few crucial variables determine salaries. They are:

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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 for foreign teachers is at an all-time high, in 2022. Many foreign teachers scrambled back to their home countries at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and most simply never returned. As China reopened to the world, and tried to get its normal life back on track, schools and teaching institutions found themselves woefully short of ESL teachers, all over the country.

As a consequence, we’ve seen average teaching salaries in China skyrocket this year. If you’ve ever contemplated finding a teaching job in China, there really is no better time than right now to make the move.

Whilst we envisage teaching salaries to eventually return to normal by next year, China will continue to offer enticing remuneration and will undoubtedly remain an awesome teaching destination. How do we know that? Because pre-pandemic China was already a rewarding destination for teachers and the ‘average’ salaries were higher than almost anywhere else in the world.

Here’s what you can expect your salary for teaching English in China to be in 2022.

Quote

Most foreign teachers in China earn between 14,000 RMB (USD 2,500)  and 21,000 (USD 3,400) per month. The most qualified teachers, working in the most prominent schools, can expect salaries of approx. 22,000 - 32,000 RMB (USD 3,500-5,000). The upper end would require several years of teaching experience post qualification in a tier 1 city. 

Remember the most important factor about Salary will be dictated by the city you live in and the cost of living. Naturally, more expensive cities Shanghai and Beijing will have the highest salaries. Cities are usually split into tiered cities. This is a breakdown of those tiers:

Tier 1: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and  Guangzhou

Tier 2: Chengdu, Xi'an, Nangjing, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Dalian, Ningbo, Wuhan, Qingdao etc

Tier 3: Yangzhou, Guilin, Sanya, Shantou, Nanchang, Huzhou, Hohhot, Jilin, etc

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

Kindergarten teaching jobs are among the best-paid in China. The average salaries hover around 18,000 RMB (USD 2,800). Reputable, private kindies pay higher-than-average salaries and teachers can earn even more if they are in top-tiered cities.

Kindergarten Salaries by Tier (Average):

Tier 1: 22,000 – 32,000 RMB ($23,750 – $5,000)

Tier 2: 20,000 – 26,000 RMB ($3,450 – $4,000)

Tier 3: 18,000 – 24,000 RMB ($2,800 – $3,750)

The perks of this specific teaching job are pretty universal in China, although you’ll find a considerable discrepancy in salaries between public and privately owned kindergartens.

It goes without saying that you should have a deep passion for teaching and interacting with children to find kindergarten jobs rewarding. If you do, you’ll enjoy the lighter workload, more relaxed ambience and generous lunch breaks (oftentimes upwards of 2hrs). Throw in some fun and active classes and it can be a very enjoyable experience indeed. 

If you have little to no teaching experience but still want to earn a very decent salary for teaching English in China, kindergarten jobs are ideal

What are the salaries for teaching English in China?

Salaries for teaching in training centres
24,000 RMB (USD 3,750) on average

Training centres offer extra-curricular English classes that complement traditional schooling. Usually, classes are held in the evenings and on weekends and can be offered to kids and adults alike.

The salaries for teaching English in China’s training centres aren’t fabulous (about USD 3,000+ in major cities). However, these jobs can be very enticing in other ways.

Training Centre Teacher Salaries by Tier (Average):

Tier 1: 24,000 – 30,000 RMB ($3,750 – $4,700)

Tier 2: 18,000 – 26,000 RMB ($2,800 – $4,050)

Tier 3: 16,000 – 22,000 RMB ($2,500 – $3,500)

Working evenings and weekends can leave you with a lot of time off during the week which means you can supplement your income with private tuitions. Plus, you can negotiate two consecutive weekdays off (say, Monday and Tuesday) to create your own weekend.

If you’re coming to teach in China primarily for the cultural experience and the chance to explore and discover a new country, a training entry job will fit your bill. Not only will you get time off when everyone else is working (less-crowded tourist attractions and cheaper travel costs) but you will work fewer hours and will be in contact with a much greater array of students.

Overall, this can translate into an excellent teaching experience even if you won’t necessarily be earning a whole lot. Mind you, the pay VS teaching hours ratio is still impressive.

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)

Coveted for their lighter workload, weekday schedule and overall greater flexibility, university teaching jobs can boast fantastic perks. These teaching jobs can be quite varied and so are the salaries, which range between USD 1,500 and USD 2,500 depending on the university’s prominence.

At a Chinese university, you won’t be following a set curriculum so will enjoy much greater freedom with your students. They, in turn, will be older and more independent which also means you’ll potentially enjoy more rewarding and challenging discussions in class. You’ll teach 20hrs a week at most, have weekends and evenings off and be held in high esteem in your immediate community, which in itself is a wonderful bonus.

The demands and requirements on university teachers are not nearly as strict as, say, international school positions, and the rewards can be phenomenal. Plus, if you nab a position with one of the most prestigious universities in the country, your salary for teaching English in China can stretch far above the average.

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

Once upon a time, public school jobs were one of the lowest-paid teaching jobs in China. Not anymore! Granted, they may not yet be on par with higher-paying positions, yet the salaries for these jobs have increased quite a bit in recent years. Moreover, the usual perks that have traditionally attracted many first-time ESL teachers remain, making public school jobs increasingly enticing.

What are those perks? First of all, your position and teaching visa will be secured and protected under a government mandate. You will also have a curriculum to follow so won’t need to pour in hours of class preparation. The working schedule is laid-back and among the least stressful of all the teaching positions, which suits those who are just starting out or anyone who prefers to just go with the flow and have an easier time.

If that’s not enough, public school jobs are perhaps the easiest to get in China because requirements aren’t so strict.

If all that isn’t enough, note that public school teachers also benefit from a lot of time off (school holidays and public holidays can add up to four full months). Just be mindful that many offered contracts have a 10-month limit. This is usually done to short-change you in the holiday-pay department! Keep that in mind when negotiating your contract.

For many, public school jobs are a great way to get some in-classroom experience or move away from teaching young kids. No matter your motivations, you won’t regret spending at least a year in the public school system in China.

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Salaries for teaching English in China:
Public VS Private Schools

As is the case in many countries, schools in China can be either publicly or privately funded. The latter range from kindergarten and include middle and high schools, bilingual schools and even academies where lessons are taught in English.

Average teaching salaries in China’s private schools will almost always outrank those in public schools although the workload, stress, commitment and expectations will also be much higher.

In public schools, you’ll follow a set curriculum and will work closely with a local teacher. There’s still a lot of competition among public schools so don’t think these are ‘easy-peasy’ jobs, all-round. Your teaching schedule will closely resemble a 9-to-5, and your accommodation will often be provided. You’ll have less paperwork to worry about and extra-curricular activities to supervise.

Although your average teaching salary in China may be only USD 2,000+ a month in the public system, the overall package can be very enticing indeed.

In a private school, however, expectations are as high as average salaries. Those expectations, meanwhile, will come at you from all sides: from your employer, fellow teachers and, most especially, parents. You can make some serious money working in a private school but there’ll be no slacking off.

The upsides are fantastic working conditions (high-tech amenities and equipment that simply don’t exist in public schools), more teaching freedom, a highly-regarded standing in the community and exceptional salaries.

You can learn more about the differences between private and public schools, right here.

Salaries for teaching English in China – By Location

Your choice of destination will have as much impact on your salary as your job title. As you might imagine, the largest, most affluent and prominent cities offer the highest teaching salaries.

Luckily, Chinese cities are categorized into a tiered system that makes identifying the salary bracket relatively easy.

When you learn more about China’s City-Tier System, you will understand that with the bonus of a higher salary comes the downside of a higher cost of living. 

However, China is still a very affordable place to live and you’ll find day-to-day living costs to be much lower than in most Western countries. Yes, even in the country’s most expensive cities.

A lot of your monthly expenditure will depend on your habits. Your preference for foreign imports, craft beers and how much you socialise will dictate how much money you can save every month. 

Even with expensive tastes, though, it’s quite an effort to get through your salary every month and not have at least some left for a rainy day.

This is what makes teaching in China so enticing for many teachers.

In Tier 1 Cities (like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen) teaching salaries start at USD 2,600 per month and can go as high as USD 5,000.

In smaller and less prominent Tier 3 cities (like Dalian and Guilin) that salary will drop by about 25% – here, you can expect to earn between USD 2,000 for the lowest-paid positions and USD 3,500 for top-notch positions.

Teaching positions in Tier 2 cities (like Chengdu) will naturally fall somewhere in-between.

The prominence of a particular school can also drive up teaching salaries. Even in Tier 2 and 3 cities in China, average salaries for teachers can be impressive if the school that is highly regarded. Conversely, you can be paid below-average in a Tier 1 city, if the school has a terrible reputation.

At the end of the day, salaries for teaching English in China work on a yin and yang balance. In essence they are determined by more than one factor. Location, job type and school prominence are the main salary drivers.

But there is something else you need to know about…

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 .

Average Salaries in China – How Does Teaching

Compare?

The average salary in China in 2022, across the entire job-market, is about 7,400 RMB – or just under USD 1,200 per month. This is considerably lower in most developed nations and explains how the living costs are kept comparatively low.

The median salary, however, is almost USD 5,000 a month which does hint at the fact that about half the population can’t even break the average-salary mark. A huge percentage, on the other hand, earns astronomical salaries.

China’s average salary discrepancies are not surprising, given the tiered city system, the sheer number of employable adults and the vast array of both skilled and unskilled jobs, in both the public and private sector. Every year, China manages to create over 12 million jobs in its (very many) bustling cities.

By comparison, the ESL teaching sector is well-paid, explained by the huge drive in demand over the last two years. Even the least-paid teacher in the remotest city, will manage to make the average salary in China. The majority earn much more than that.

What’s more, foreign teachers are in a much better bargaining position that the average Chinese employee. Whist almost all sectors should see an 8-10% salary increase every year, many do not. ESL teachers, on the other hand, can renegotiate their existing teaching contract, or gain better-paid employment with another school, as soon as their current employment contract expires.

For this reason, it is also important to not commit to long-term contracts with any school in China. A 12-month contract is the norm but, sometimes, a school might push for a 2-year contract. This is obviously not to your (financial) benefit.

How much can you live on an English teacher salary in China?

This is perhaps the most important question you should be asking and the answer is: surprisingly little!  

Here’s a quick summary, but read on for more detailed info:

  • In Tier 1 cities, you can enjoy a decent standard of living and still save whilst earning just 18,200 RMB (USD 2,800).
  • In Tier 2 and 3 cities, a salary of USD 2,000 will still see you save some of your pay if you don’t overindulge on imported goods. 

Your spending habits will play a huge role in determining your lifestyle in China.

Take this into consideration when trying to determine the ideal teaching salary for you.

For more details, take a look at our Cost of Living in China blog.

Prominent cities offer the greatest range of living costs and that’s because you can ‘live like a local’ for little money or live like an executive expat and spend five times as much. Overall, costs are still lower than in most Western countries.

Even in ‘expensive’ cities in China, you can pay just 4,000 -6,000 (USD 600-950) a month for a shared apartment in the city centre. Enjoy an excellent local meal in a restaurant for 40 RMB (USD 7). You can get a monthly gym membership for USD 50 and spend peanuts on public transport.

If you buy your groceries locally and don’t go crazy on funky cocktails, it’s easy to see just how well you can live on an English teacher salary in China.

Cost of living – Tier 2 & 3 cities

Your salary range may well be 25% lower in lesser prominent Chinese cities yet the decrease in living costs will plummet even more. Sometimes, living cost can be just 50% of major cities. This means you’ll actually still end up with more yuan in the bank at the end of every month.

And isn’t that the aim of the game?

Average costs for meals, beers, gym membership and public transport are only marginally lower in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. However it’s rental prices that make all the difference.

Take Ningbo, as an example. This bustling and gorgeous city is just 200km away from Shanghai yet rents here are almost 70% lower! This is what will see you save some serious cash. Add to this the fact that Ningbo is actually an excellent teaching city and boasts many prominent schools. You’ll see that the bottom-salary-dollar is not the only thing to consider.

 

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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