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Why Teach English in China?

Teaching English in China is one of the best ways to see the world. As China increases its foothold as an economic powerhouse, the demand for English and ESL teachers is also on an upward trend.

At the moment, the teaching jobs in China offer one of the most competitive teaching packages with not just high salaries, but also attractive benefits such as accommodation, return flights, and even health insurance. As a result, you will be able to enjoy a ‘good life’ in China given the low expenses required for daily necessities such as food and transport. Most teachers do stay in China for longer than expected given the high-quality lifestyle they get to enjoy as a foreign English teacher.

However, teaching English in a non-English-speaking country will come with its set of challenges.  Nonetheless, it is through tougher times that you hone your skills which will help increase your employability for future endeavors. Potential employers will be keen to hear about your experiences and what were some of the creative ways you had undertaken to overcome the struggles that are usually associated with carving a career in a foreign country.

How Much Do English Teachers Earn in China? 

While the general notion is that as an expatriate teacher, your salary is on a higher scale compared to the average local employee, your pay package is also largely determined by your personal qualifications, teaching experience, and also how well you negotiate with the institution.

The following illustrates the expectation salary-wise according to institution and location. Do bear in mind that pay packages are still largely based on your experience and qualifications.

China categorizes its cities into tiers and the lower the tier, the higher cost of living. The breakdown is as follows:

Tier 1: Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen

Tier 2: Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Ningbo, Qingdao, Suzhou, Tianjin, Tsingtao, Wuhan, Xi’an

Tier 3: Changde, Dongguan, Foshn, Guiling, Guiyang, Hohhot, Lanzhou, Lhasa, Nangton, Nanning, Urumqi, Wenzhou, Zhuhai, Zibo

The cities are classified according to the GDP and population.

For example, if you are looking to teach in a Kindergarten, the average salary is indicated below:

Tier 1: 17,000 to 26,000 RMB

Tier 2: 16,000 to 21,000 RMB

Tier 3: 14,500 to 28,500 RMB

From kindergartens to tertiary institutions, English teachers are in demand. Kindergartens offer the best paying jobs and career opportunities are highly sought after. Universities are known to offer lower pay packages but the workload is often lighter and the schedule is flexible.

Your salary would also depend if the school was public or private. Over the years, public schools have increased the salary scheme to attract better talent. In public schools, the commitment is usually 10 months as there are school holidays and semester breaks. Private schools offer more attractive salaries but expect more commitment from teachers too. Private classes are usually extra curriculum and pressure is not only from your employers but parents who are willing to spend good money on their children to get a head start.

All in all, pay packages in China for foreign English teachers are generally more than sufficient even on a comfortable local lifestyle. Tier 1 cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen can offer salaries starting from USD 2600.

If you are driven enough and if your contract allows for it, private tutoring is also a lucrative route with a starting rate of about USD 25 per hour.

Which Tier 1 city should I consider? 

If you would like to take baby steps into immersing yourself in Chinese culture, Shanghai or Shenzhen are good starting points.

Tier 1 cities are like any other megapolis. The city is always thronging with activities and there are loads of expatriates and easily accessible international cuisine, which can make you feel right at home.


Shanghai is China’s financial center and job opportunities abound for English teachers. It is probably the most western-influenced city of China and the demand for teaching adults or business English is also fairly sizeable.

Shanghai is home to one of China’s landmarks, the Bund where deep ancient history and modernism co-exist and embrace each other’s diversity. Often considered as one of the top selections for first-time English teachers, Shanghai provides top-notch amenities and is well connected within its city walls and the rest of China.

The population in Shanghai is 27 million and growing! It is easy to make new friends and assimilate quickly into this cosmopolitan city. If you enjoy the fast-paced city living, Shanghai makes an ideal choice for you as an English teacher.


Shenzhen is China’s marvel child. It has caught up as a Tier 1 city in just 30 years. Starting off as a village, today, Shenzhen rivals Shanghai in terms of quality of lifestyle for any expatriate teacher. To teach English in Shenzhen is an increasingly ideal choice for first-time English teachers given the city’s similar pace to Shanghai.

One of the perks of teaching English in Shenzhen is the lower cost of living as compared to Shanghai or Beijing. Having said that, Shenzhen’s 12 million population is made up of both foreigners and locals, with 40% comprising expatriates or residents from other Chinese cities.

Shenzhen is located in the southern tip of the Guandong province, separating China and Hong Kong. The weather is generally warm and it does not experience freezing cold winters.

Teaching in Shenzhen or Shanghai has its inherent perks and benefits. Living in either city is an expatriate dream come true if you prefer the city-beat lifestyle. Both cities offer their unique interests and attractions, with historical monuments and contemporary skylines, a testament to China’s progress and desire to be one of the leading countries in the world. Career opportunities are welcoming of English teachers and now is a good time to consider making a move to China to see what is installed for you next.

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