Teaching English in China - the Salary and Budget Guide
This guide will help you answer the question: How much can I earn (and save) teaching English in China? You’ll also find information on the local cost of living in order to figure out how much to budget for when making the move to China.
The Typical Salary for English Teachers in China
Throughout the country, there are a large variety of jobs available but the salary depends on which schools and institutions you work for as well as your own qualifications and experience. English teachers in China can expect to make between 6,000 - 16,000 RMB (currently $890 - $2,400 USD). Those teaching at an international school, however, can make up to 30,000 RMB ($4,400 USD). If you are a first-time teacher, you can expect to earn between 6,000 RMB and 12,000 RMB per month which equates to around $890 to $1,800 US dollars.
Here is more information on the average salaries per school type:
The salary also depends on where you are based. The “big three”, Beijing (107,000 expats), Shanghai (209,000 expats) and Guangzhou (over 200,000 expats), pay the highest salaries but also have a higher cost of living compared to other cities around China.
Other benefits to Expect When Teaching English in China
Besides the salary, most teachers receive free housing or a housing allowance from their employer. On top of that, most schools also pay for the roundtrip airfare for their teachers.
How to Earn Extra Cash While Teaching English in China
Many teachers in the country take advantage of the high demand for private language tutors. The growing middle class in particular routinely hire tutors for extra English study for their children outside of school hours. In doing so, it’s not uncommon for teachers to double their income by taking on a couple of students in their free time. Most of these private tutoring lessons are paid by the hour with prices ranging from 180 to 250 RMB per hour ($26-$36).
The Cost of Living in China
While prices are on the rise, the cost of living in China is still favorable compared to most industrialized nations. So much so that in some parts of the country the cost of living is half of that in the USA. That’s why teachers in China can live very comfortably and have a strong purchasing power. Many teachers can afford a lifestyle they wouldn’t be able to enjoy back home. This includes luxuries like hiring a housekeeper, travel every month, regularly eating out at restaurants, relaxing spa sessions and enjoying nights out with friends and colleagues. Let’s break down the cost of living in China for individual areas below.
Cost of Living in China: Food
Eating out at local restaurants and purchasing produce and ingredients at Chinese supermarkets not only gives you an amazing insight into the Chinese way of life but also leaves you with money in your pockets for fun and adventure.
- Milk (1L) : 7 RMB
- Eggs (12) : 7 RMB
- Carrots (1kg) : 5 RMB
- Chicken breast (1kg) : 15 RMB
- Rice (1kg) : 8 RMB
- Bottle of water (1.5L) : 3 RMB
- Bottle of Chinese beer (.5L) : 4 RMB
Cost of Living in China: Leisure Activities
Leisure activities in China are very affordable and Chinese people love spending time out. This starts with frequent meals out with colleagues, friends, and family. Try your way through the wide range of regional dishes China has to offer. Then, you can hang out with friends at clubs and karaoke bars, work out at the gym or get a massage and relax. China’s leisure activities have something for everyone.
- Three-course mid-range restaurant dinner: 80 RMB
- Quick restaurant meal of rice or noodles: 25 RMB
- Large dumplings, a common street food : 3 RMB
- Housekeeper (2 hours): 30 RMB
- Massage (30 min) : 40 RMB
- 1-month fitness club membership: 150 RMB
- Movie ticket, international release: 65 RMB
Cost of Living in China: Transportation
The public transit network in China has gotten a lot of attention from the government in recent years who have constantly expanded and improved it. Today, it’s one of the most advanced and vast in the world. Taxi prices are very affordable and buses and subway rides are also inexpensive.
- Metro Ride : 3 RMB
- Taxi rate per km : 2.2 RMB (start fare ~ 10RMB)
- 20-min taxi ride across town : 25 RMB
- City bus : 2 RMB
- 3-hour bicycle rental : 8 RMB (plus 100RMB deposit, returned)
- Ferry crossing : 2 RMB
Cost of Living in China: Travel in China and Beyond
Travelers on a budget love China. The trains are fast and numerous and ticket prices are very affordable. Domestic flights are usually inexpensive, except for price rises during national holidays like Chinese New Year or the Mid-Autumn Festival.
- 1 night in a mid-range hotel: 350 RMB
- High-speed train, Shenzhen to Wuhan (3 hours): 490 RMB
- Slow train, Guangzhou to Wuhan (10 hours): 120 RMB
- Flight, Shenzhen to Beijing (2 hours): 800 RMB
- Flight, Shenzhen to Bangkok (3 hours): 1300 RMB
Sample Monthly Teacher Budget
To give you an example of how an English teacher in China spends their salary, here is a sample monthly budget:
- Gross income (salary) : Up to 13,500 RMB
- Rent: 3000 RMB
- Utilities (electricity, gas, water): 200 RMB
- Phone & Internet : 300 RMB
- Food: 1500 RMB
- Insurance: 295 RMB
- Remaining disposable income: 8,205 RMB
How Much You Can Save When Teaching English in China
As you can see from the sample budget above, the added benefits and high salaries in China allow you to save substantial sums of money during the length of your contract. Depending on lifestyle, an ESL teacher in China is able to save anything from $500 to $1,500 per month.
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