Have you ever considered a job teaching overseas? There are literally thousands of teachers being hired all over the world and, while it is useful, you don’t necessarily need a degree in education or even a TEFL certificate. Many jobs will train you when you arrive and these days, the demand for foreign, native English teachers is so high, that you really just need the motivation to find a job. But how lucrative is this overseas career and is it worth relocating your entire life to China to pursue work? We’re here to tell you that you can make great money teaching English in China and with the cost of living in the country so low, you’ll easily be able to save some money while you’re there.
The English Teacher’s Salary In China
Of course, as in any job, the salaries can vary widely for teachers in China. If you have a degree in education, a CELTA certificate and some previous experience, you can get paid as much as three or four times more than a less qualified candidate. Job applicants who are teachers by trade, can expect to make as much as $5,500 / month, but these are university jobs and will also require 40 hours / week or more.
If you’re just out of college, or high-school, with no teaching experience and no CELTA or TEFL certification, you can expect to be paid between $1,200 and $1,500 / month. The good news is that most of these jobs are cram-school positions, meaning that students are attending your class outside of their regular school hours. This means that you will likely only work between 15 and 25 hours / week, depending on the school and location.
Hours of Work
You read the above 15 – 25 hours / week and got excited right? That will give you plenty of time to explore China and get to know the culture. While this is true, keep in mind that you’ll spend between 5 and 10 hours / week creating lesson plans and planning for your classes. Luckily however, Saturday and Sunday are usually full 8 hour days for cram-school teachers, so this means that you’ll have lots of available hours throughout the week. You will have plenty of time to get to know China, its food, its people and who knows, maybe even learn some Mandarin language!
Taxes in China are extremely low. We were only taxed about 5% of our pay cheque each month, but you should check with your national government to find out if you will be taxed twice. Some countries have a tax-treaty with China, meaning that you will only be taxed what the Chinese government decides to tax you. It’s worth researching this before you go. Canada and China do have a tax-treaty (as of November 2012 this also includes the autonomous state of Hong Kong), which should mean that you are deemed a non-resident for tax purposes for the duration of your teaching contract. There are a lot of factors to this tax law however, including primary and secondary ties to Canada, residential ties and income earned in Canada while you are away. It is important that you read the Canadian Government Website on these sections and get to know your situation well before leaving.
Without letting your head spin too much from Canadian tax laws, let’s get into some of the more exciting aspects of teaching English China… like bonuses! You can look forward to some extra money coming in, besides your regular teaching income. Many schools have retainment bonuses, which means that if you keep 90% or more of your students, you’ll get a nice little addition to your pay cheque. In our experience, these bonuses can add up to as much as $200 / month (depending on how many students you retain). A nice bonus for sure.
Most contracts in China will include a return flight to and from your home country, but keep in mind that you’ll often have to pay for your ticket upfront, and be reimbursed later. Our contract paid us back half of our flight cost after 6 months, and the remainder at the end of our one year contract. It’s worth noting that these allowances are a set amount, so you can’t fly first class and in some cases, the allowance won’t cover your entire flight cost. Make sure you know exactly what the school will cover, before agreeing to the job.
End Of Contract Bonus
Schools in China have had a hard time keeping teachers through their entire contract. It’s not easy for them to recruit new teachers last-minute when someone quits, so they’ve added bonuses to their contracts for those who stay and keep their commitments. These bonuses can range from $350 – $750 and can make for a pretty nice perk at the end of one year.
Health Insurance Coverage
You can expect that your English teaching contract will include some health insurance while you’re in China. Generally, once you obtain your residency permit and working visa, the school will pay for basic health coverage for you. This will cover basic check-ups and most emergency situations. While doctor visits and prescription drugs are generally inexpensive in China, it’s a good idea to ensure that you’re covered by your school while you’re there.
Living Expenses In China
This is the great part about teaching English in China. The living expenses are incredibly low outside of the big cities like Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. That $1,500 / month is going to go a long way in China. We’ve broken down some basic costs below:
- 1 Bedroom, 800 sq ft apartment: $350 / month
- Large beer in a store: $0.50
- A large meal out with a beer: $5 – 7
- Large beer in a restaurant: $1
- 1 week of basic groceries: $75
- Bag full of fresh vegetables from the market: $3
- 15 minute taxi ride: $3
- 3 hour Fast Train between cities: $15 – $25
- Local bus: $0.50
- 1 month average talking on local cell phone: $20
- 5 gallon water delivered to your home: $1
For more, check out: The Cost Of Living In China.
If you’ve been thinking of teaching English overseas, we strongly recommend considering a job in China. The culture is unique and, while there are some things you’ll have to get used to, the country is safe, friendly, exotic and fun. Now that you know what the wages and cost of living are like, you can start to decide whether a job in China is right for you. As a little extra motivation, as a couple we were able to save $21,000 teaching English in China for one year. It’s definitely doable and you’ll have a great experience along the way. To look find a job, check out Tefl.net, TransitionsAbroad.com and Daveseslcafe.com and for more information on how to get into teaching, check out Nora Dunn’s article here. Good luck!