Published 4th July 2019
With an estimated 390 million English language learners, 100 000 native English-speaking teachers and 1 000 EFL teachers being hired every month, it’s no surprise that teaching English as a Foreign Language in China is popular with TEFL graduates. But one main questions still is what is the average salary in China?
It’s not only the job market that attracts teachers to this country, though. China is a country of superlatives. It has some of the highest buildings in the world, the oldest historical monuments, the most delicious food, the most interesting culture. There are about as many reasons to visit China as there are people living there – and that’s a lot!
Of course, if you are thinking of teaching English in China there are a few things you need to consider. Culture shock is one – because it’s a real thing – but also you new way of life. China is a country like no other, and living there is guaranteed to be different to what you are used to.
In order to fully understand what it will be like living in China, you need to be aware of your potential living situation. Where will you live? What will you eat? What will you do for fun? And most importantly, what will you earn?
The average teaching salary in China
EFL teaching salaries in China range from 8 000 RMB to 20 000 RMB (£915 to £2 200). That might seem like quite a broad range of salaries but bear in mind there are a lot of factors affecting this magical number.
First of all, public schools and language schools are going to pay on the lower end of the scale, while private and international schools will pay more. However, if you are paid a lower salary, you are probably working fewer hours. The higher paying jobs will also require a higher qualification and/or teaching experience. If you wanted to, you could teach private students for about 150 RMB an hour.
Salaries also depend on where you are working. You’ll earn a higher salary in Shanghai (a Tier 1 city) than in Hangzhou (a Tier 3 city). But of course the true meaning of your salary is not in the number, but in its buying power.
Cost of living in China
Even though a salary of £900 might not sound like much, remember that the cost of living in China is probably lower than where you currently are. Again, living in Shanghai is more expensive than Hangzhou but the principle applies in general – according to Expatistan.com, living in Shanghai is 39% cheaper than in London, and living in Hangzhou is 57% cheaper than London.
But let’s look at the cost of living in a bit more detail.
An estimate would be a monthly living cost of 5 500 RMB if you were living in Shanghai. This includes accommodation of approximately 3 000 RMB, eating well (in restaurants rather than street food) and entertainment. If you are willing to buy a bowl of noodles from the street vendor or eat in a dim sum bar rather than eating in an expat restaurant, and you sing karaoke rather than watching movies you’ll save heaps of money and your cost of living would be a lot cheaper – and why wouldn’t you?
But the beauty of your salary for teaching English in China is that it includes so much more than just money.
Benefits of teaching contracts in China
Teaching salaries in China usually include a range of benefits. Flights will be paid for – though you may be reimbursed for one flight when you arrive and your other flight when you finish your contract, but essentially your flights are taken care of. Your visa will also be taken care of and paid for by the school.
Housing is usually included or if it isn’t, you will be given a housing allowance. When you realise that accommodation costs can take up the majority of your salary, this is a big saving.
Meals will often be provided by your school (unless you’re at a language school). This is generally lunch but can include breakfast or dinner as well. Some schools provide all three meals and accommodation on the school premises, meaning you save on commuting costs too.
The cherry on top, though, must be the vacation. As a teacher in China you are given ten days paid vacation, but there are eleven national holidays which are paid as well. As a teacher in a school, you will get a total three months holiday though any days which are not national holidays may be unpaid.
So even if you were earning a very average salary (12 000 RMB) and living in Shanghai, you would still only need to worry about half your meals and your entertainment. If you’re smart, you could save the majority of your salary – for travelling during your holidays, of course.
Ultimately the average teaching salary in China is not a straightforward story. There are a number of elements to consider. The bottom line is that a teaching salary in China might be less than you expected but it comes with its fair share of perks and a cheaper-than-expected cost of living, which makes it much more valuable than just a number. With the added bonus that you are living a life you would never expect in a country like no other.