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Teach English in Hong Kong: Requirements, Salary, Jobs

Teach English in Hong Kong

Often overshadowed, by its better marketed neighbour, China, where teaching jobs are abundant, Hong Kong is a fantastic place to teach English. Hong Kong might be a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, but it has a completely different legal system and its own unique culture. If you’ve considered becoming an English teacher in Hong Kong, you’re in luck because the majority of locals are Chinese and there is a strong demand for English teachers. We’ve put together this guide for you to find all the latest information about the requirements needed to teach in Hong Kong as well as the salary and benefits you will earn working there. This includes the local TEFL courses and teaching jobs that will help get your teaching career started.

Hong Kong is both Cantonese Chinese and a past British colony. It is located in East Asia and is an important hub connecting many destinations. It is often seen as the connection between China and the west. Because of the influences it has received from all it’s Asian immigrants, Hong Kong has claimed itself to be Asia’s World City. The climate is subtropical and cooled in winter by sea breezes. English teachers enjoy the winter time’s mild temperatures from December to February. The summers are hot and humid but the city is well equipped with air conditioners and you will often be wearing a jacket to keep warm.

The main locations English teachers are are, on Hong Kong Island, where you will find the highest skyscrapers and the financial centre, Kowloon, where you have great views of the island with many residential buildings and markets, New Territories, where you will find farms and villages, as well as Lantau Island and the Outlying Islands.

If you are an experienced English teacher, Hong Kong will be a great place for you. The place is amazing and the salaries will be high as schools often look to experience as a factor in your pay. If you are a recent graduate and would like to teach in Hong Kong, there will also be many opportunities available to get your teaching career started.

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).
  • You should be from a native English speaking country: 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.

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 jobs

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 jobs

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 jobs

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 jobs

Probably the least common place for English teachers to work 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.

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

When we combine Chinese culture and Confucian ethics, with British ethics and western culture we get a unique culture only found in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is often said to be a good introduction to mainland China, or "China light". Thanks to the western influence, Hong Kong is much easier for teachers to settle into than mainland China. Here you can learn a lot about Chinese culture, while having a more western experience. You can even use the websites and apps you would use back home like Google, Whatsapp, and Facebook, which are blocked in China. The locals are also super friendly and and foreigners, especially foreign teachers are very well welcomed. Because of the size of Hong Kong it's easy for new teachers to feel overwhelmed once they first arrive, so here are a few insider tips:

  • Hello Hong Kong! You'll be glad to know that there Chinese and English are both official languages in Hong Kong. So you will have no issue navigating the city as an English speaker, with more than 50% of the locals speaking fluently. In China and Taiwan, Mandarin is the version of Chinese spoken, while in Hong Kong it's Cantonese. Learning Chinese is not necessary at all, but while in Hong Kong, this is a great opportunity, even if you just learn a few words and phrases. To say "hello" in Cantonese, we can say "Néih hóu" (pronounced "nay hoh"). So Néih hóu Hong Kong.
  • Hong Kong is much greener than you thought. Only a fraction of the region is built up and most of the region is filled with mountains and green zones. There also are so many beautiful island and beaches. So if you love nature and hiking, you will a busy teacher inside and outside of the classroom!
  • Hong Kong is one of the wealthiest cities in the world, with the most skyscrapers. If you are a city lover you will love the views. Social status is important to locals so there is no shortage of luxury fashion brands and electronic stores.
  • In Hong Kong they follow the standard western convention of greeting by shaking hands. Once thing to remember is to accept or give gifts with 2 hands instead of one, and also don't open any gifts received until you are alone.
  • Eating comes first in Hong Kong, where eating is a great way to learn all about the culture. Locals eat both for their health and to get together with other and local restaurants are social gathering places, so be sure to spend some time their with your friends and fellow teachers. Dim sum and yum cha, are some of the foods you need to try! Drinking Tea is just as popular as a social event and one thing to note is that pouring for others (seniors first), is very polite and if someone's pours for you a quick 2 finger tap on the table is a way of saying "thank you" without disrupting the conversation.
  • Make sure not to get in the way of people especially when they are in a hurry. Hong Kong is a fast paced place to live and people are always in a hurry. If you get shoved or pushed while at a market or on the MRT (Mass Transit Rail) during rush hour times, don't take offence as the locals don't see it as rude, they are just very energetic and that's how it's done.

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

You don’t need to speak any Chinese. In fact, your school will often ask you to speak English to your students even if you can speak Chinese. The reason schools hire foreign English teachers is because they want the students to learn more than just grammar and vocabulary, they want students to learn about English culture. For this reason they only want English to be spoken in English classes, so students can be fully immersed.

Do I need to be a native English speaker?

Being a native speaker isn't a legal requirement to teach in Hong Kong, but many schools will focus on recruiting native speakers. In Hong Kong, accepted native English speaking countries are the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa. Being from one of these countries, definitely gives you a competitive edge. The reason for that is schools could hire talented locals as English teachers, but the reason they want foreign teachers is because they want students to be fully immersed in English culture.

Another reason is that some non native speakers have accents that are difficult to understand and that is definitely not the best experience for the students. If you are a non native English speaker you still have a good chance though. When applying for jobs, you should highlight your strengths such as qualifications and experience and try to show employers that you can speak English fluently and clearly.

Can I teach English in Hong Kong without a degree?

Having a degree is a legal requirement to teach English in Hong Kong. Without a degree you will not be able to get a work visa. Your degree can be in any subject for most jobs and does not have to be in Education, English or Linguistics. Some schools like universities and international schools look for more experienced teachers with advanced or education degrees. In the past it was easily possible to teach without a degree, especially at private language schools. However in recent years this rule has been quite strictly enforced so although there will be some schools willing to hire you without one, it will not be easy to find them.

If you can find a way to stay in Hong Kong and are willing to do a bit of looking around, there will be some opportunities for you. Some people who study and tutor English part-time to earn some money. If you can build up a client list of students or teach online you will be able to earn some money while in Hong Kong.

Another options is the Working Holiday Visa for eligible nationalities. This will allow you to legally live and work in Hong Kong for 12 months. The purpose of this visa is not to work full time so you will only be able to work with the same employer for 3 to 6 months (depending on your nationality). You will also not be able to renew the visa after the year is up. However, this is a great way to experience teaching English in Hong Kong with a job at private language schools or tutoring English privately. The main requirements for the Working Holiday Visa are:

  1. Be aged between 18 and 30.
  2. Hold a passport from: Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom.
  3. Have enough funds in your bank account.

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

Most schools will ask teachers for their TEFL certificate (or TESOL, CELTA) when recruiting so this is almost always a requirement. Exceptions will be made for experienced teachers who have at least 2 years teaching experience. One thing to note is that not all TEFL courses are equal and it's important to take your course with a reputable one. 120 Hours is the minimum course length needed and a good course should also have a practical aspect to it. You can take the TEFL course in your own country, or even in Hong Kong if you prefer. Doing the latter should also provide you with a good introduction to the region along with some insider tips and tricks for when you start your teaching job.

How to get a visa to teach English in Hong Kong

To legally work in Hong Kong, you will need to apply for a Z Visa. The only requirements for the Visa are to have a Bachelor's degree in any subject and a TEFL certificate (or sometimes 2 years experience). Once you accept a job and sign a contract, your employer will help you process your Visa. You will need to send them the following documents:

  1. Copy of passport
  2. Authenticated copy of degree
  3. Proof of teaching experience (References, recommendation letter)
  4. Police clearance certificate
  5. Copy of teaching certificate (If required)

The school will then obtain an invitation and Foreign Expat Certificate which you will need to process the visa. Once they send those to you you can go to a Chinese Embassy or Consulate and process the visa. The visa issued is actually temporary but once you have you arrive in Hong Kong, you will have 30 days to convert it into a Residency Permit.

When to apply for a teaching job

The school year in Hong Kong starts in August or September with the first semester ending in January with a short break. The second semester starts in January and runs until June. Most schools will hire teachers before the semester starting 3 or 4 months before August and again before January so applying at those times will be the best. However, private language schools work on their own schedules and hire teachers throughout the year, so you can start applying to jobs whenever it's most convenient for you.

How to apply for a teaching job

Hong Kong is one of the most completive places to teach English. Many jobs can be found on our Hong Kong job board, 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:

  • You should look professional. Teachers are an important part of a schools image and schools will consider that when hiring. Make sure to dress smartly and neaten your hair. Men should also trim their beards and tattoos and piercings shouldn't be visible.
  • Also, don't to forget to smile, looking friendly is important, especially if you will be working with kids.
  • Update your CV with your latest qualifications and experience. Make sure your CV is adjusted for teaching jobs. Highlight important things such as your qualifications, teaching certificates, experience and nationality.
  • Tell them about yourself. You can send an email, write a passage on your CV or even better, record a video telling the school about yourself and why you want to teach with them. Make sure you remember to look professional and speak nice and clearly.
  • Send a teaching demonstration. An experienced teacher will know exactly what should be done in the classroom, and sending a demo video is a great way to showcase that. You can just sit at a desk in your room and pretend you are teaching a class.