Teaching Salary in China Guide

Andrew Lynch

The ongoing globalisation of China has meant the Chinese government is welcoming more overseas teachers than ever before. Almost 1.5 billion people live in the fourth largest country in the world which means there is a huge array of teaching job opportunities in China at all levels.

Given the size of the country, your salary in China as a teacher can vary quite a lot, depending on where you are based, the institution, job role and experience. This salary guide will give you a clearer idea of how much you can earn and what to expect when working there.

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Teaching in China salary by educational setting

Your salary as a teacher in China will vary depending on the city but also importantly the type of institution you decide to teach in.

Teaching in international schools

You should expect the best salaries in international schools, somewhere in the region of RMB 12,000-30,000 (£1,350 - £3,300) per month. You’d be expected to work a 40 hour week and given the salaries on offer, there is a lot of competition to secure a job at one of these institutions.

Teaching in private schools

Teaching in a private school in China offers a monthly salary in the range of RMB 6,000 - 15,000 (£700 - £1,700). While this is lower than international schools, the benefit packages are generally better. This includes enjoying longer holidays and shorter working hours (around 16-25 hours a week), with some also offering free lunches to teachers.

Teaching at universities

University salaries in China tend to be quite low, typically between RMB 7,000 – 10,000 (£800 - £1,100) per month, but as with private schools, the other parts of the package are more generous. This means less teaching time (20-25 hours a week), paid holidays, airfares and accommodation.

Private tutoring

Taking on private tutoring is a good way to top up existing salaries, with the average rates around RMB 140 (£16) per hour. Whether it’s for high school students, or people working in the business world, there are always plenty of opportunities here. Private tutoring does tend to have more opportunities for those teaching English in China rather than other subjects.

Salary for teaching English in China 

The average salary for those teaching English in China ranges vastly due to teaching experience, educational institution type, and whether you’re teaching in a city or rural area. On average though, TEFL teachers can expect a salary of 7,000 RMB (£780) per month if in rural areas with public teaching, whereas those teaching privately in cities should expect a salary almost triple that at 18,000 RMB (£2,000) per month. Higher salaries will require more experience and require more hours, therefore, a lower salary should be judged against the workload and how important free-time is to you when you are teaching English in the country.

Do qualifications affect how much I will earn teaching in China?

As is the case with any teaching role, your qualifications will play a big role in determining your salary in China. This also takes into account how long you have been teaching, whether or not you are TEFL certified (for English teachers) if you have a degree and are a native speaker. The more prestigious roles will require most - if not all - of these as a minimum, with a Bachelor’s degree being the most crucial of all. You should ensure that you are familiar with all requirements to teach in China before applying.

Even if you do not have any experience there can still be opportunities. For those teaching English, as long as you can produce a TEFL certificate it confirms that while you may not have held a full-time teaching role before, you have taught inside a classroom as part of the course.

Generally, the more experience you have, the more you can earn, but with so many teaching opportunities available in China as long as you have the basics you can quickly navigate your way up the salary ladder.

Where in China do teachers get paid the most?

Chinese cities are divided into an ‘unofficial’ tiered system which will influence how much you can earn compared to other regions. The average teaching salary in China is around RMB 12,000 (£700 - £2,100) pcm, although this changes depending on the city.

City Tiers Average public salary Average private salary
Tier 1 (Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen)

RMB 8,000 - 11,000

(£900 – £1,200)

RMB 11,500 - 18,500

(£1,300 - £2,100)

Tier 2 (Wuhan, Xiamen, Nanjing, Chengdu, Kunming)

RMB 6,000 - 8,500

(£700 - £950)

RMB 9,700 – 12,400

(£1,100 - £1,400)

Tier 3 (Zhongshan, Guilin, Yangzhou, Foshan)

RMB 6,000 – 8,000 

(£700 - £900)

RMB 8,400 – 9,700

(£950 - £1,100)

For example, tier 1 cities include Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen, where salaries can range between RMB 8,000 – 11,000 (£900 – £1,200) pcm at universities, and RMB 11,500 – 18,500 (£1,300 - £2,100) pcm in language centres. Tier 1 cities are where teachers get paid the most, especially in private teaching institutions.

Tier 2 cities such as Wuhan, Xiamen, Nanjing, Chengdu and Kunming offer a lower set of salaries. Working in a university may see you earn between RMB 6,000 – 8,500 (£700 - £950) pcm, with a language school offering RMB 9,700 – 12,400 (£1,100 - £1,400) pcm.

Tier 3 is the lowest bracket, which includes the likes of Zhongshan, Guilin, Yangzhou and Foshan. Salaries on offer tend to range between RMB 6,000 – 8,000 (£700 - £900) pcm and between RMB 8,400 – 9,700 (£950 - £1,100) pcm at a language school.

What is the cost of living in China?

While some of the salaries offered by education institutions may not be as high as some Western countries, this is balanced out by the low cost of living in China.

Rent will be the largest outgoing each month, although some schools offer free housing or rent subsidies which will significantly reduce your expenses. If you do have to pay your own rent, the location will be the biggest factor, with cities being the most expensive and rural areas being cheaper. You should expect to pay anywhere between RMB 2,500 – 6,000 (£300 - £700) pcm, depending on where you are based, with costs being less in tier 2 and tier 3 cities.

Mobile phones with data charges should cost something close to RMB 50-200 (£6 - £23) per month and utilities and WiFi approximately RMB 300 (£33) per month. An average taxi ride will cost around RMB 21 (£2), while getting onto a subway train is about RMB 2-7 (20 – 80p).

Treat these figures as a rough estimate to give you an idea of how much you will need to cover bills each month. You can then create a budget against the salaries being offered for the roles you are applying to and see if it works for you.