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What is the average English teacher salary in China?



The prospect of teaching English in China comes with the promise of a rewarding career, rich cultural immersion, and the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on students' lives. As China continues to integrate more deeply into the global economy, the demand for English language skills among its population has surged, creating vast opportunities for English teachers. Whether you're drawn to the bustling streets of a mega-city or the serene landscapes of a rural town, teaching English in China offers a diverse array of experiences and the chance to earn a competitive salary.

Salaries for English teachers in China can vary widely depending on several factors including your educational background, teaching experience, the type of institution, and the geographical location of the school. Generally, the compensation is not only competitive but also provides a comfortable standard of living, allowing teachers to enjoy many of the country's cultural and recreational offerings. This financial aspect, combined with the enriching personal and professional experiences, makes teaching in China a highly attractive option for many.

Understanding the salary dynamics and the factors that influence them is crucial for anyone considering this path. Whether you are a seasoned educator or someone looking to start a new adventure in teaching, the opportunities in China are abundant and promising.

Factors Influencing Salary Levels

The salary of English teachers in China can vary significantly based on several key factors. Understanding these can help prospective teachers set realistic expectations and plan their careers accordingly. Here are the primary elements that influence how much you can earn teaching English in China:

1. Educational Qualifications and Experience:

Higher educational qualifications and more extensive teaching experience generally lead to higher salaries. Teachers with a Bachelor's degree are the baseline requirement, but those with a Master’s degree or specialized certifications in education or TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) often command higher wages. Similarly, teachers with several years of teaching experience or those with experience in specialized fields, like business English or test preparation, can expect to earn more than those just starting in their careers.

2. Type of Educational Institution:

Salaries can differ greatly depending on the type of institution. International schools and private language schools typically offer higher salaries compared to public schools and universities. This is due to the different funding structures and revenue models of these institutions, with private schools generally having more flexibility in terms of salary offerings due to their higher tuition fees.

3. Location:

Geographic location is a significant factor in determining salary. First-tier cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou have higher living costs but also typically offer higher salaries to compensate. In contrast, second and third-tier cities might offer lower salaries, but the cost of living is also significantly less, which can mean that your salary has more purchasing power locally.

4. Contract Terms:

The specifics of your employment contract can also influence your salary. Some contracts may offer higher base salaries but fewer benefits, while others might offer a lower salary but include free housing, health insurance, paid vacation, and bonuses for contract completion or performance. It’s important to consider the total compensation package rather than just the salary.

5. Teaching Hours and Workload:

The number of hours you are expected to teach each week can also affect your salary. Generally, more teaching hours equate to higher salaries. However, it's crucial to balance this with the quality of life and personal time, as a higher workload can lead to burnout. Some institutions may also offer overtime pay or additional compensation for extra duties, which can increase overall earnings.

6. Language Proficiency:

While not as impactful as other factors, proficiency in Mandarin Chinese can sometimes influence salary, especially in roles where interaction with local staff or participation in community outreach is necessary. Language skills can enhance your value to the school and potentially lead to higher compensation.

By considering these factors, prospective English teachers can better navigate the job market in China and find positions that not only meet their financial needs but also provide a fulfilling professional experience. Understanding what influences salary levels allows teachers to make informed decisions about where and how they choose to teach in China.

Salary Ranges Across Different Educational Institutions

The salary for English teachers in China varies significantly across different types of educational institutions. Each type of school has its own set of expectations and salary scales, influenced by their funding, educational goals, and the demographics they serve. Here’s a breakdown of what you can typically expect across various institutions:

Public Schools

Public schools in China offer a stable environment with relatively fixed working hours and a consistent routine. Salaries in public schools range from 10,000 to 20,000 RMB per month. These positions often come with benefits like housing allowances, medical insurance, and paid holidays, which can make them more attractive despite the salary being potentially lower than in private institutions. Public school teachers are usually expected to engage fully in school life, which can include leading extracurricular activities and participating in school events.

Private Language Schools

Private language schools, also known as training centers, cater to a wide range of learners, from young children to adults. These schools often operate during evenings and weekends to accommodate the schedules of students who attend regular schools or work during the day. Salaries here can vary from 12,000 to 18,000 RMB per month, depending on the city and the teacher's qualifications and experience. These roles may involve more irregular hours but often come with prepared lesson plans and teaching materials, reducing prep time outside of class hours.


Teaching English at kindergartens involves working with very young learners, making it essential for teachers to be energetic and creative. Salaries in kindergartens can range from 12,000 to 28,000 RMB per month, potentially higher than in other institutions due to the demanding nature of working with children this age. Benefits often include housing, insurance, and sometimes bonuses for performance or contract renewal.

International Schools

International schools offer the highest salaries, reflecting their high tuition fees and the qualifications they require from teachers. Salaries here range from 15,000 to 30,000 RMB per month and come with substantial benefits packages, including housing, international health insurance, return flights home, and professional development opportunities. Teachers in international schools are usually required to have a teaching license from their home country and experience with an international curriculum.


Universities often offer more relaxed teaching schedules but typically provide lower salaries than other educational institutions, ranging from 7,000 to 30,000 RMB per month. The wide range in university salaries can be attributed to the difference between positions at prestigious institutions in major cities versus smaller regional universities. Benefits often include long vacations, a lower cost of campus housing, and a more academic environment, allowing for deeper cultural exchanges and personal time for travel or study.

Each type of educational institution in China offers different advantages and challenges, and the salary structures reflect these differences. When considering teaching positions, it's essential to look beyond the salary and consider the overall benefits package, the cost of living in the proposed location, and the type of teaching environment you are seeking.

Regional Variations in Salaries

The salary for English teachers in China not only varies by the type of institution but also significantly depends on the geographical location. The regional differences in salaries are influenced by the local cost of living, demand for English education, and economic development of the area. Understanding these variations can help teachers choose locations that align with their financial goals and lifestyle preferences.

First-Tier Cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen

In first-tier cities, which are the largest and most developed urban centers in China, salaries are generally higher. These cities have a high cost of living but also offer the most lucrative teaching positions. Salaries can range widely from 15,000 to 30,000 RMB per month depending on the institution. The higher salaries in these metropolitan areas reflect the greater demand for English education and the higher living costs. International schools and private language centers in these cities often offer the highest pay within this range, along with substantial benefits packages that can include housing allowances, health insurance, and bonuses.

Second-Tier Cities: Chengdu, Nanjing, Hangzhou, and others

Second-tier cities offer a balance between a reasonable cost of living and good salary potential. While these cities are smaller than the first-tier cities, they are often cultural hubs with growing economies and increasing demand for English education. In these locations, teachers can expect to earn between 12,000 and 20,000 RMB per month. The lower end of the salary range might be more common in public schools, while the higher end is typically seen in private language schools and kindergartens.

Third-Tier and Smaller Cities

In third-tier and smaller cities, the cost of living is significantly lower, and so are the salaries, which can range from 7,000 to 15,000 RMB per month. However, the reduced cost of living in these areas often means that teachers can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle on these salaries. Employers in these regions might also offer more comprehensive benefits packages to attract teachers to less populated areas. These can include free housing, utilities, and sometimes even meals, which significantly reduce the teacher's expenses.

Rural Areas

Teaching in rural areas of China is less common for foreign English teachers but can provide unique cultural immersion opportunities. Salaries in these areas are the lowest, reflecting the low cost of living and the limited economic development. However, teaching in rural settings can be highly rewarding for those interested in experiencing a different aspect of Chinese culture and contributing to communities where education resources are scarce.

The decision on where to teach in China should consider both the salary and the personal and professional benefits of different regions. Teachers often find that while first-tier cities offer higher salaries, second-tier and smaller cities provide a more relaxed lifestyle and potentially greater job satisfaction due to lower living costs and less competition for teaching positions. Additionally, each region offers unique cultural, social, and recreational opportunities, making them attractive for different reasons.

Additional Benefits and Perks

In addition to the basic salary, English teachers in China often receive a variety of additional benefits and perks that can significantly enhance the overall compensation package. These benefits not only provide financial incentives but also contribute to a more comfortable and convenient lifestyle while living abroad. Here’s a breakdown of common additional benefits that schools in China might offer:

1. Housing Allowance or Provided Accommodation:

One of the most significant benefits is housing. Many schools provide teachers with free or subsidized accommodation or offer a housing allowance as part of the compensation package. This can be particularly valuable in cities where rent can be a substantial expense. Accommodations provided are typically furnished apartments close to the school or in convenient locations, which helps reduce commuting time and expense.

2. Health Insurance:

Comprehensive health insurance is another critical benefit, especially given the varying standards of healthcare across China. Most reputable schools will offer health insurance that covers not only basic health care but also potentially more extensive coverage that can include specialist treatments and sometimes even dental care.

3. Flight Reimbursements:

Many schools reimburse international teachers for their flights to and from China. This reimbursement is usually provided once upon arrival and again at the completion of the contract, making travel to and from your home country more manageable and less costly.

4. Contract Completion Bonuses:

It's common for contracts to include an end-of-year bonus upon successful completion of the contract term. This bonus can sometimes be a significant sum, equivalent to one month's salary or more, serving as an incentive for teachers to fulfill their contract terms.

5. Paid Leave and Holidays:

Teachers in China usually enjoy paid national holidays, and many institutions also provide paid leave days. The specifics can vary, but generally, teachers can expect to have time off during major Chinese holidays such as Chinese New Year and National Day, in addition to personal vacation days.

6. Visa and Legal Document Assistance:

Navigating the visa process can be one of the more daunting aspects of moving to China. Most schools provide assistance with obtaining the necessary Z visa and work permit, including covering any associated fees. They often help with the renewal of these documents as needed throughout the duration of your employment.

7. Professional Development Opportunities:

To ensure teachers remain effective in their roles, many schools offer professional development opportunities. These can include workshops, training sessions, and sometimes funding for further education in teaching methods or language proficiency.

8. Mandarin Chinese Classes:

Some schools offer free or subsidized Mandarin Chinese classes. This benefit is particularly valuable for teachers interested in integrating more deeply into Chinese society or enhancing their career prospects in international education.

These additional benefits not only help mitigate the costs of living and working abroad but also demonstrate the schools' commitment to the well-being and professional growth of their teachers. When evaluating potential teaching positions, it’s important to consider the entire benefits package alongside the salary to understand the full value of the offer.

Cost of Living Considerations

When considering teaching English in China, it's crucial to weigh the offered salary against the cost of living in different regions of the country. The cost of living can vary significantly between cities and rural areas, affecting everything from housing to daily expenses such as food, transportation, and entertainment. Understanding these costs will help you make an informed decision about where to teach and what kind of lifestyle you can expect.

1. Housing:

Housing is often the most significant monthly expense, but many schools provide a housing allowance or free accommodation, which can substantially reduce this cost. In first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai, rent can be quite high, often comparable to major cities in the West. In contrast, housing costs in second-tier cities and rural areas are generally much more affordable.

2. Food and Dining:

Eating out in China can be incredibly cheap, especially if you enjoy local Chinese cuisine. Street food and local restaurants offer delicious meals at a fraction of the cost of Western-style restaurants. Groceries vary depending on the locality and the types of food you purchase; imported goods and familiar brands from home tend to be more expensive.

3. Transportation:

Public transportation in China is highly efficient and affordable. Cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou have extensive subway systems that are both cheap and convenient for daily commutes. Buses are another low-cost option. Taxis and rideshare services like Didi are also available and reasonably priced, though more expensive than public transport.

4. Healthcare:

While your employer will typically provide health insurance, healthcare costs can vary. In larger cities, international hospitals offer high-quality care but at higher prices. Local hospitals and clinics in smaller cities are less expensive but may not offer the same level of care or English language services. It’s important to ensure that your health insurance is adequate for your needs, especially if you prefer treatment at international facilities.

5. Entertainment and Leisure:

Entertainment costs can also vary widely. Big cities offer a plethora of entertainment options, from cinemas and theaters to bars and clubs, but at a higher cost. Smaller cities may have fewer options, but the lower cost of living allows for a comfortable lifestyle with ample opportunities for travel and cultural exploration within China.

6. Travel:

China’s vast size and excellent transportation infrastructure make it a great place to explore. High-speed trains can take you to various parts of the country relatively quickly and at low cost. Domestic flights are also reasonably priced, offering good deals for longer trips.

7. Miscellaneous Expenses:

Other costs to consider include mobile phone services, internet, utilities (if not included in your housing), and personal expenses like clothing and personal care items, which are generally affordable.

By carefully considering the cost of living, you can ensure that your salary will not only cover your daily needs but also allow you to save money or spend on travel and leisure activities, enhancing your overall experience while teaching in China.

Negotiating Your Salary

Negotiating your salary can be a crucial step in accepting a teaching position in China. Given the varying cost of living and the differing standards across various schools and regions, understanding how to effectively negotiate can help ensure that you receive fair compensation for your skills and experience. Here are some strategies to help you navigate the negotiation process successfully:

1. Understand the Standard Rates:

Before entering negotiations, research the typical salary ranges for the type of school and the region where you are applying. Information about salaries in public schools, private language centers, kindergartens, international schools, and universities can provide a benchmark. This knowledge will give you a solid foundation to discuss your salary and ensure that the offer is competitive.

2. Consider the Total Compensation Package:

When negotiating, look beyond the base salary. Consider other elements of the compensation package such as housing allowances, health insurance, flight reimbursements, bonuses, and paid holidays. Sometimes, these benefits can add substantial value to your overall package, potentially outweighing a higher salary with fewer benefits.

3. Highlight Your Qualifications and Experience:

Use your qualifications, certifications, and teaching experience as leverage in negotiations. If you have a higher degree, specialized training, or several years of teaching experience, these can justify a higher salary. Be prepared to discuss how your background will benefit the school and enhance the learning experience for students.

4. Be Aware of Regional Costs and Benefits:

Remember that salaries can vary widely depending on the location. A lower salary in a smaller city where the cost of living is significantly less might actually provide more disposable income and a better quality of life than a higher salary in a major city with high living costs.

5. Practice Cultural Sensitivity:

Approach the negotiation with an understanding of Chinese cultural norms. Direct confrontation and aggressive bargaining are not as widely accepted in China as they may be in other cultures. It’s important to be polite, patient, and respectful during negotiations.

6. Ask About Professional Development Opportunities:

Consider asking about opportunities for professional development and advancement. Some schools offer funding for further education or additional certifications, which can be a valuable part of your career growth.

7. Get Everything in Writing:

Once you reach an agreement, ensure that all aspects of your compensation package are clearly outlined in your contract. This includes salary, benefits, working hours, holiday entitlements, and any other perks. Having a detailed contract can prevent misunderstandings and provide security for both you and the employer.

8. Be Prepared to Walk Away:

If the negotiations are not meeting your expectations and the offer is not competitive, be prepared to walk away. Remember, there are numerous teaching opportunities across China, and finding the right fit might sometimes mean turning down an offer and continuing your job search.

By preparing thoroughly and approaching negotiations thoughtfully and respectfully, you can secure a fair and rewarding compensation package that reflects your value as an educator. This not only sets a positive tone for your professional relationship with the school but also ensures that you are compensated appropriately for your contribution to the educational community.

Maximizing Your Earnings and Experience

Securing a teaching position in China offers a unique opportunity to explore a new culture, develop professional skills, and potentially enhance your financial well-being. To maximize both your earnings and your overall experience in China, it's important to approach your job search and contract negotiations with a clear strategy and informed expectations.

1. Choose the Right Location:

Your choice of location can significantly impact your earnings and expenses. Big cities like Shanghai and Beijing offer higher salaries but come with higher living costs. Conversely, smaller cities or rural areas might offer lower salaries but have much lower costs of living, potentially allowing for greater savings. Consider what balance of salary and lifestyle is right for you.

2. Research Thoroughly:

Before applying or accepting a position, spend time researching different schools and regions. Look into the reputation of the schools, the experiences of past teachers, and the specifics of the compensation packages. Utilize forums, social media groups, and teaching abroad websites to gather insights and firsthand accounts.

3. Evaluate the Total Compensation Package:

When considering an offer, evaluate the complete package, not just the monthly salary. Benefits like housing allowances, health insurance, and flight reimbursements can add substantial value. Consider how these benefits can reduce your expenses and enhance your quality of life.

4. Negotiate Wisely:

Use the knowledge you've gained through your research to negotiate your contract. Highlight your qualifications and experience, and communicate clearly and respectfully. Remember that negotiation is not just about improving your salary but potentially securing professional development opportunities and other perks that can be just as valuable.

5. Embrace Professional Development:

Once you're in China, look for opportunities to grow professionally. Engaging in additional certifications, language courses, or other training can not only enrich your teaching abilities but also position you for higher-paying roles in the future.

6. Adapt and Engage Culturally:

Maximizing your experience in China goes beyond financial considerations. Engage with the community, learn the language, explore the culture, and build relationships. These experiences can enrich your life, make your time more enjoyable, and often lead to unexpected opportunities both professionally and personally.

7. Plan for Financial Management:

Being strategic about your finances, such as budgeting wisely, saving, and perhaps investing, can help you make the most of your earnings while abroad. Consider how you can use your time in China not just to earn but also to build a solid financial foundation for the future.

By following these strategies, you can ensure that your time teaching English in China is both financially rewarding and personally enriching. Remember that each teaching job can be a stepping stone to further opportunities, both in China and globally, as you build your career as an educator.

Team Teast
Team Teast
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