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Teach English in Hong Kong: Requirements, Salary, Jobs

Teach English in Hong Kong

If you've considered teaching English abroad, Hong Kong presents an exciting opportunity often overlooked next to its larger neighbor, China. As a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, Hong Kong boasts a unique cultural and legal identity, distinct from the mainland. This vibrant city is rich in diversity and modernity, making it an appealing destination for English teachers.

Hong Kong, a melting pot of Cantonese Chinese heritage and British colonial history, stands out as a significant East Asian hub. Known as "Asia's World City," it seamlessly blends its past with a dynamic present, attracting people from across the globe. The subtropical climate offers mild winters cooled by sea breezes and hot, humid summers, with ample air-conditioned spaces providing comfort year-round.

Teaching in Hong Kong, you'll discover a variety of settings from the bustling streets of Hong Kong Island — home to the iconic skyline and financial center — to the cultural tapestry of Kowloon with its panoramic views, vibrant markets, and residential areas. Beyond the urban centers, the New Territories offer a glimpse into rural life with farms and traditional villages, while Lantau Island and other outlying islands provide a more laid-back, scenic environment.

For English teachers, Hong Kong is a land of opportunity. Whether you're an experienced educator looking for a competitive salary or a recent graduate eager to kickstart your career, the demand for English teachers here is robust. TEFL in Hong Kong, short for "Teaching English as a Foreign Language" in Hong Kong, is well-supported with numerous teaching positions available. Hong Kong provides a solid foundation for those aiming to thrive in an international teaching career amidst a city known for its rich cultural diversity and global connections.

Why Teach English in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong offers a distinctive environment for teaching English, blending vibrant urban life with rich cultural traditions. Here’s why Hong Kong could be an exciting place for your teaching career:

Hong Kong’s dynamic culture is a result of its unique historical background as a melting pot of Eastern and Western influences. This creates a fascinating urban culture where old traditions intermingle with modern international trends. As an English teacher in Hong Kong, you'll be part of a society that values education highly and integrates global cultural elements fluidly.

The city's landscape is iconic, featuring a stunning skyline filled with skyscrapers juxtaposed against lush green hills and islands. Hong Kong's urban density is balanced by easy access to beaches, mountain trails, and peaceful islands, offering a variety of recreational activities right at your doorstep.

Living in Hong Kong, while more expensive compared to other Asian destinations, offers a high standard of living. The city is known for its efficiency, excellent public transportation, and top-notch amenities, making daily life convenient and fast-paced.

There is a high demand for English teachers in Hong Kong due to its role as a global financial hub and the need for English in business and education. This demand ensures competitive salaries and benefits, making it a lucrative destination for teaching professionals.

The community in Hong Kong is diverse, with a significant expatriate population and a local community that is generally open and welcoming to foreigners. This diversity creates a vibrant social scene for teachers, offering numerous networking opportunities and cultural exchanges.

Hong Kong is renowned for its culinary scene, which includes everything from affordable street food to high-end international cuisine. The city’s food landscape offers a chance to explore a wide array of tastes that reflect its multicultural makeup.

Strategically located on the southern coast of China, Hong Kong serves as a gateway to Asia, providing exceptional travel opportunities both within the region and internationally. Its international airport is a hub for flights to countless global destinations, facilitating travel during holidays and breaks.

Teaching English in Hong Kong offers more than just a job — it’s an opportunity to experience life in one of the world’s most exciting cities, where professional opportunities and cultural richness meet.

Requirements to teach English in Hong Kong

If you have decided Hong Kong will be the place you will be teaching English for the next few months or years, it’s definitely important to understand what is required in order to secure a job. Generally teaching jobs aren’t as well advertised as China but there are excellent opportunities here. The main difference is that the best jobs love hiring experienced teachers. There are jobs for anyone who is able to teach English, but the high paying schools will want to see some experience behind you. For those with less experience, there are also many opportunities available for you here.

English teachers in Hong Kong come from all sorts of backgrounds. Having a degree in education and experience is fantastic, but not needed. Some teachers have degrees in business, arts, science, philosophy or even engineering. They might have come from a background in writing, speaking, coaching, law, or corporate jobs. Some of them are fresh university graduates. The most important thing is that they are passionate about teaching English. Besides a few exceptions, there are a few requirements that are generally followed:

  • You will need at least a Bachelor's degree - it can be in any field (Some jobs might require you to have an Education degree).
  • Teachers from a native English speaking countries are preferred: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland. However schools will hire teachers with all nationalities if they have good qualifications and experience.
  • A TEFL certificate is needed to teach in Hong Kong.
  • Experience is preferred, but not always a requirement. If you have experience in another field, other than teaching, that will also be in your favour.
  • You will need to pass a basic background check, and have a relatively clean criminal record.
  • Being under the ages of 60 for men and 55 for women is preferred as those are typically retirement ages.
  • You should have an interest in Hong Kong and Hong Kong culture.

Read More: What are the requirements to teach English in Hong Kong?

Salary and benefits for teaching English in Hong Kong

One of the first questions teachers have is how much money they will earn. Hong Kong is often seen as the place that links China to the west. It is seen as a shopping paradise for both Chinese and international visitors. It is one of the most expensive places to live in the world and has a very international environment. The salaries are relatively high because of the high cost of living, are are definitely going to provide you with a good quality of life.

The salary you earn, will depend on a few factors. The main factor is how much experience you have and whether your qualifications back you. The location you teach might also impact your salary. A school located in a central location might pay higher than another. The biggest deciding factor is the type of school you teach at. Here are a few examples of schools you can teach at and the salaries offered:

School Salary
Public Schools 25,000 - 70,000 HKD per month
Private Language Schools 18,000 - 25,000 HKD per month
International Schools 30,000 - 80,000 HKD per month
Universities 41,000 - 65,000 HKD per month
Private English Lessons 100 - 250 HKD per hour

Public school teaching jobs and salaries

One option to teach in Hong Kong, is to teach at public schools. At these jobs you will teach English as a second language to primary (ages 6 to 12) and secondary (ages 12 to 18) school students, as well as students with special education needs (SEN). The best way to get these jobs is to apply the Hong Kong government program know as the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme. The program hires foreign teachers for a 2 year teaching contract where you will teach alongside a local teacher. Your salary will be directly determined by your qualifications and experience and taking one of these jobs will have you working weekdays during the daytime. Teachers earn a salary of 25,000 to 70,000 HKD per month and also have great benefits such as a housing allowance, flight reimbursements and paid holidays.

Private language school teaching jobs and salaries

You will find the majority of English teachers at these schools. These jobs are plentiful and also much easier to get than the other options. Students here can be any age, from young kids and school students to adults and business professionals. Your job here would be focused on helping students with exam preparation or teaching them conversational and business English. At these schools your work hours depend on the school and contract but afternoons and evening on weekdays and weekends are common. Language school English teachers earn a salary of 18,000 too 25,000 HKD per month.

International school teaching jobs and salaries

International schools are some of the most expensive schools for students to attend. They are located in Hong Kong but follow an international curriculum from the United States or the United Kingdom. The students here are not only locals but also kids of wealthy expats. These schools are exactly like the schools in your home country so you should feel right at home. They offer a fantastic work environment with great benefits and teachers earn an average salary of 30,000 to 80,000 HKD per month. However, these schools look for professional teachers with an Education degree, teaching licence and experience in their home country.

University teaching jobs and salaries

Probably the least common place for English teachers to work in Hong Kong is at universities. These jobs require qualified and experienced teachers, so if you haven't prepared for an academic career with an advanced degree (usually a Master's or Doctoral degree), this is not for you. However, these jobs are very prestigious and have a lot of benefits such as long paid vacations and a lot of control over your lessons. University teachers earn a salary of 41,000 to 65,000 HKD per month.

Read More: What is the average English teacher salary in Hong Kong?

Cost of living in Hong Kong

Being one of the most dense cities in the world with more than 8 million people living there, living costs can be quite high. Your biggest expense in Hong Kong will be your rent with the real estate market being extremely overvalued. Apartment prices will vary depending on the location you live, with the highest prices in the city centre. Luckily there is excellent public transport and you can also consider living outside and commuting. As an English teacher your salary will also be quite high, so you can easily have a great quality of life in the city. Although rent is high, transport and food can be very affordable. This also depends on your lifestyle, because eating at gourmet restaurants and having a few drinks at rooftop bars will quickly raise your expenses. A single persons estimated monthly costs are 8,200 HKD per month without rent. The currency used in Hong Kong is HKD or HK$ (Hong Kong Dollar) and according to Numbeo here are some basic costs to consider:

Item Cost
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 16,962.96 HKD
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 12,150.68 HKD
Monthly basic utilities (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) 1,783.28 HKD
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) 176.88 HKD
Water (1.5 liter bottle) 12.87 HKD
Chicken Fillets (1kg) 78.66 HKD
Potato (1kg) 18.68 HKD
Rice (white), (1kg) 16.21 HKD
Banana (1kg) 18.30 HKD
Local Transport (One-way Ticket) 10.00 HKD
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult 565.51 HKD

Things to Know About Hong Kong and Hong Kong Culture

Hong Kong is a unique blend of Eastern and Western cultures, making it an accessible gateway to mainland China, often referred to as "China light." Here's what you need to know to make your transition as smooth as possible.

Cultural Blend

Hong Kong uniquely combines Chinese traditions with British colonial influences, offering a cultural experience where you can explore Chinese customs while enjoying the familiarity of Western amenities. Unlike mainland China, you have access to Google, WhatsApp, Facebook, and other Western apps, making it easier for newcomers to adjust.

Language and Communication

Hong Kong is officially bilingual, with both Chinese and English widely used. This makes navigating the city and daily interactions much easier for English speakers. While Mandarin is common in China and Taiwan, Cantonese is the local language here. Learning basic greetings like "Néih hóu" (hello) can enhance your local experience.

Urban and Natural Landscapes

Despite its reputation as a densely populated city, Hong Kong offers an abundance of green spaces, mountains, and beaches. These areas provide a respite from the urban environment and are great for outdoor enthusiasts interested in hiking and exploring nature.

Social Etiquette and Interaction

Hong Kong is a place where traditional customs meet modern living. When meeting people, handshakes are common, but remember to handle gifts with care — always give and receive them with both hands, and open them in private. In social settings, particularly at meals, trying local foods like dim sum and participating in tea rituals are excellent ways to connect with locals. Pouring tea for others (seniors first) and tapping two fingers on the table to say thank you are cherished practices.

Pace of Life

Life in Hong Kong is fast-paced, with a vibrant energy that reflects in everyday activities. Crowded places like markets or the MRT during rush hour might feel overwhelming at first. It’s normal to experience a bit of pushing in these settings; locals are not being rude, they’re just moving quickly. Adapting to this tempo can take time, but it's part of the city's charm.

Understanding these cultural nuances will help you settle into Hong Kong more comfortably, making your teaching experience and daily life in this dynamic city truly enriching.

Do you need to speak Chinese to teach English in Hong Kong?

If you're considering teaching English in Hong Kong, it's important to know that you do not need to speak Chinese to perform your job effectively. In fact, most English teaching positions in Hong Kong require you to use only English in the classroom. This policy is designed to immerse students fully in the language and culture of English-speaking countries.

The Linguistic Landscape of Hong Kong

Hong Kong predominantly speaks Cantonese, a dialect of Chinese that differs considerably from Mandarin, the official language of mainland China and Taiwan. Although both Cantonese and Mandarin share the same written form, their spoken forms are distinct, each with its own pronunciation, vocabulary, and tonal structure.

Why English Only in the Classroom?

The primary reason schools in Hong Kong hire native English-speaking teachers is to provide an authentic English-speaking environment. The focus is on helping students learn through full immersion, which includes exposure to various accents, phrases, and cultural contexts that native speakers bring. Schools often instruct teachers to communicate solely in English, regardless of their ability to speak Chinese. This approach ensures that students engage with the language as they would in a natural English-speaking setting, which is crucial for developing fluency and conversational skills.

Do You Need to Be a Native English Speaker to Teach in Hong Kong?

While being a native English speaker is not a legal requirement for teaching in Hong Kong, it is often preferred by many schools. Typically, recognized native English-speaking countries include the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa. Candidates from these countries often have a competitive advantage due to the high demand for teachers who can provide an authentic English language experience.

Why the Preference for Native Speakers?

The preference for native speakers in Hong Kong schools stems partly from the desire to immerse students fully in English-speaking cultures. Schools aim to expose students not just to the language but also to various cultural nuances, expressions, and accents that native speakers naturally bring. This immersion helps students understand and use English in a broader cultural context, which is invaluable for their language development.

Moreover, there is a concern that accents from non-native speakers might sometimes be challenging for students to understand, potentially hindering their learning experience. Clear pronunciation and familiar accents can make learning easier and more effective for students.

Opportunities for Non-Native Speakers

However, being a non-native English speaker does not disqualify you from teaching opportunities in Hong Kong. Many non-native speakers are highly proficient in English and possess strong teaching credentials and experience. If you are a non-native speaker seeking to teach English in Hong Kong, it is crucial to emphasize your qualifications, teaching experience, and fluency in English during your applications. Demonstrating your ability to speak clearly and effectively can significantly enhance your attractiveness as a candidate.

So, while native speakers may have an edge due to cultural and linguistic familiarity, non-native speakers with strong English skills and solid teaching backgrounds also have substantial opportunities to teach in Hong Kong. The key is to showcase your strengths and prove your capability to deliver high-quality English education.

Teaching English in Hong Kong Without a Degree

Teaching English in Hong Kong typically requires a degree due to legal requirements for obtaining a work visa. Most educational institutions, including public schools, universities, and international schools, rigorously enforce this rule and require at least a bachelor's degree in any subject, not necessarily related to Education, English, or Linguistics. Although it was once possible to secure teaching positions in private language schools without a degree, recent years have seen stricter enforcement of these requirements. Opportunities for teaching without a degree still exist but are rare and difficult to find, making them a less reliable option for aspiring educators without higher education credentials.

Alternative Opportunities for Non-Degree Holders

If you are in Hong Kong and willing to explore less traditional educational roles, there are still some ways to work in the field of English language teaching:

  • Part-time Tutoring: Some individuals study in Hong Kong and supplement their income by tutoring English. Building a client list and teaching English on a freelance or part-time basis can provide some financial benefits without the need for a formal work visa specifically for teaching in schools.

  • Online Teaching: With the rise of digital platforms, teaching English online is a viable option. This allows you to base yourself in Hong Kong or anywhere else, as long as you comply with visa regulations and local laws regarding employment.

Working Holiday Visa

Another pathway to experience teaching in Hong Kong is through a Working Holiday Visa, available to young people from certain countries. This visa allows you to live and work in Hong Kong for up to 12 months but comes with restrictions:

  • Duration of Employment: You can work for the same employer for only 3 to 6 months, depending on your nationality.
  • Non-renewable: The visa cannot be renewed after the year is up.

Despite these limitations, the Working Holiday Visa can be an excellent opportunity to gain teaching experience in private language schools or through private tutoring. The primary requirements are:

  1. Age between 18 and 30 years.
  2. Possession of a passport from eligible countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and others.
  3. Sufficient funds to support your stay in Hong Kong.

This visa is a valuable option for those looking to explore teaching English in Hong Kong without committing to a long-term career path or who do not meet the typical visa requirements for full-time teaching positions.

Teaching English in Hong Kong without experience

Starting a teaching career in Hong Kong without prior experience can certainly be challenging, but it's not out of reach. The educational sector in Hong Kong is competitive and tends to favor candidates with experience, yet there are entry-level opportunities available, particularly in private language schools. These schools often cater to a wide age range and sometimes offer on-the-job training, making them more accessible to newcomers in the teaching field.

Obtaining a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification can significantly boost your chances. This certification not only equips you with essential teaching skills but also enhances your resume, making you more attractive to potential employers. Some TEFL courses include internships, providing valuable real-world experience in a classroom setting.

Volunteering as an English teacher is another excellent way to gain experience. Many non-profit organizations in Hong Kong seek volunteer teachers to work with underprivileged communities. This type of experience can be very rewarding and adds a substantial edge to your professional profile.

When applying for teaching jobs, it's beneficial to highlight any relevant skills or experiences you might have, such as tutoring, mentoring, or any informal teaching roles. Showcasing your communication skills, adaptability, and enthusiasm for education can also help make up for the lack of formal teaching experience.

Additionally, networking can be a powerful tool in breaking into the teaching industry in Hong Kong. Connecting with other teachers, participating in educational workshops, and becoming active in teaching forums can lead to valuable insights and potential job opportunities. Even without traditional teaching experience, these strategies can help you begin a teaching career in Hong Kong.

Do you need a TEFL certificate to teach English in Hong Kong?

To secure a teaching position in Hong Kong, a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), or CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) certification is generally required. Most schools insist on one of these qualifications, although exceptions may exist for teachers who bring significant experience—typically at least two years of professional teaching.

Choosing the Right TEFL Course

Not all TEFL courses are created equal. It's crucial to select a course from a reputable provider to ensure that the certification is recognized globally. A standard course should comprise at least 120 hours of training, including a practical component that offers hands-on teaching experience. This practical aspect is vital as it prepares you for the realities of the classroom, enhancing your teaching skills and confidence.

Where to Take Your TEFL Course

You have several options for where to complete your TEFL certification:

  • In Hong Kong: Taking your TEFL course in Hong Kong can be particularly beneficial. It allows you to become acclimatized to the local environment, understand the educational culture, and possibly make connections that could lead to job opportunities. Additionally, completing the course locally means you can start applying for jobs immediately upon certification.

  • Online: Online TEFL courses offer flexibility and convenience, especially if you are currently employed or unable to travel. However, ensure that the online course you choose includes a practical teaching component or offers virtual classroom experience.

  • In Your Home Country: Completing a TEFL course in your home country is another option. This can be advantageous as some courses offer specific training that may include cultural orientation and teaching strategies tailored to the region you plan to teach in.

Each of these options has its advantages, depending on your circumstances and goals. If possible, look for courses that provide additional resources, such as job placement assistance or tips for teaching in specific regions, which can be incredibly valuable for first-time teachers abroad.

How to Get a Visa to Teach English in Hong Kong

To legally work as an English teacher in Hong Kong, you need to secure the appropriate work visa. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to apply for your work visa once you have secured a teaching position.

Step 1: Understand the Requirements

The fundamental requirements for obtaining a work visa in Hong Kong include having a bachelor's degree in any field and either a TEFL certificate or at least two years of teaching experience. These qualifications are essential to prove your eligibility to teach English professionally.

Step 2: Gather Necessary Documents

After accepting a teaching offer and signing your contract, you will need to provide your employer with several key documents to begin the visa application process:

  1. A copy of your passport, which must be valid for at least six more months.
  2. An authenticated copy of your degree certificate.
  3. Proof of teaching experience, which could include reference letters or recommendation letters from previous employers.
  4. A police clearance certificate to verify your criminal record status.
  5. A copy of your teaching certificate (such as TEFL), if required.

Step 3: Employer Assistance

Your employer in Hong Kong will play a crucial role in the visa application process. They will obtain an invitation letter and a Foreign Expat Certificate on your behalf. These documents are essential for your visa application and will be sent to you once ready.

Step 4: Apply for the Visa

With the necessary documents and certificates in hand, you will apply for the visa at a Chinese Embassy or Consulate. Despite Hong Kong's separate administrative and legal systems, it is categorized under China for diplomatic purposes, especially in consular services.

Step 5: Convert to a Residency Permit

Upon arriving in Hong Kong, the visa you initially receive will be temporary. You must convert this into a Residency Permit within 30 days of your arrival. This permit is crucial for your legal status in Hong Kong during your employment period.

By following these steps and collaborating closely with your employer, you can navigate the visa application process smoothly and start your teaching career in Hong Kong effectively.

When to Apply for Teachings Job in Hong Kong

The academic year in Hong Kong typically begins in August or September, concluding the first semester in January. The second semester then runs from January through June. Schools generally start their hiring process three to four months prior to the start of each semester, making early May and September ideal times to submit applications for the upcoming terms. This timeline is crucial for those aiming to secure positions in public or international schools. On the other hand, private language schools in Hong Kong operate independently of this schedule and often have vacancies throughout the year, providing flexibility for when you can apply.

How to Apply for Teaching Jobs in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the most competitive places to teach English. Many jobs can be found on our Hong Kong teaching jobs page, but schools will favour candidates with advanced degrees, education or English related degrees, teaching certificates (TEFL, TESOL, CELTA), as well as experience when recruiting teachers. Because of that, it's important to know how to send a successful application, so here are some tips:

Present a Professional Image

In Hong Kong, the appearance and demeanor of teachers are often considered reflections of the school's reputation. It's essential to maintain a professional appearance - dress smartly, groom well, and if applicable, keep tattoos and piercings discreet. A friendly demeanor, especially when applying for positions involving young learners, can also make a significant difference.

Tailor Your CV

Update your resume to emphasize your educational background, certifications, and teaching experience. It's important that your CV reflects the specifics of teaching roles, highlighting relevant qualifications like TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certificates, along with any teaching experience you have. Your nationality may also be relevant due to visa and regulatory considerations.

Personalize Your Application

Personal touches can set your application apart. Consider sending a cover letter or introductory email that conveys your enthusiasm and reasons for wanting to teach at the school. A brief, professional video introduction can be particularly effective, allowing potential employers to get a sense of your personality and communication style.

Include a Teaching Demonstration

Showcase your teaching abilities through a demonstration video. This doesn’t need to be elaborate - a simple setup in a quiet room will suffice. Demonstrate how you engage with imaginary students, explain concepts, and manage the classroom. This practical display of your teaching style can be a powerful component of your application.

By following these guidelines, you can craft an application that stands out in Hong Kong's competitive teaching market, increasing your chances of securing a desirable teaching position.