How Much Can You Make Teaching in China: A Look at School Salaries

by Dec 19, 201618 comments

The average teaching salary in China is 12,000 RMB.

That wasn’t so hard, was it?

But before you go counting your unearned money, know that there are a lot of variances when it comes to different types of schools and even different cities.  China is a big place and one where both the teaching requirements and salaries take some time to understand.

This page will explain the different types of schools in China, the average salary for each based on city, and any other perks or benefits you can expect.

How to Use this Page

  • Identify the city or cities in which you’d like to teach
  • Determine the tier of the city, see this guide for more info
  • Browse this page by school type and compare the salaries based on the different tiers

Understanding the Tier System for Chinese Cities

Cities in China fall into 3 different tiers based on their populations, economies, and overall development in relation to other cities.  Both what you can earn and what your employer will provide vary widely based on the city so it’s important to keep that in mind when job hunting.  Here’s a quick breakdown:

Tier 1

Cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen

Average Cost of Living: Around RMB 7500/mo

Tier 1 cities in China rival any other developed city on earth and are the most advanced, affluent, and cosmopolitan in the country.  Teachers working in these cities will have no issue finding comforts from home like foreign foods and Western apartments, but expect to prices to be higher than other tiers.

Tier 2

Cities: Nanjing, Chengdu, Kunming, Wuhan, Xiamen

Average Cost of Living: Around RMB 5000/mo

The best way to describe Tier 2 cities ‘up and coming’ – these cities have many of the same attributes as tier 1 but with far less recognition.  These cities are the fastest growing in China and there is a significant demand for all things foreign, making it an easy city for teachers to get a job while still saving a good chunk of their salary.

Tier 3

Cities: Yangzhou, Zhongshan, Guilin, Foshan

Average Cost of Living: Around RMB 3000/mo

Tier 3 cities fall behind the other tiers in both economic and structural development, but are still a good option for those looking to live cheaply in an authentic Chinese environment.  Don’t expect too many frills here, housing can be basic and specialty food hard to find.

It’s important teachers take the city, salary, and cost of living into account when looking for a job so we have broken out each school salary by tiers to make it easy.

Schools and Salaries


Kindergartens are not for everyone though they do tend to pay well.  Expect a Monday to Friday schedule with classes in both the mornings and afternoons.  Because these schools are privately owned experiences vary, so it’s best to speak to some current or foreign teachers if possible.

CitySalary (RMB)Salary (USD)
Tier 110,000-20,000$1,450-$2,900
Tier 29,000-15,000$1,300-$2,200
Tier 37,000-12,000$1,000-$1,800

Training Centers

Training centers abound in China and are seemingly on every corner.  They exist as a sort of after-school program where kids can go and get more help and generally operate at night time and on the weekends (you will not have Friday and Saturday off here).

The centers are almost always smaller than regular schools and most tend to be newer and better equipped with smart boards, etc.  These schools are privately owned and motivated by money and it’s common for teachers to receive bonuses based on performance and student retention.

CitySalary (RMB)Salary (USD)
Tier 112,000-20,000$1,750-$2,900
Tier 210,000-12,000$1,450-$1,800
Tier 35,000-10,000$725-$1,400

Public Schools

Public schools are big, chaotic, and often overwhelming for new teachers.  Class sizes are big (30+ students), but you usually have an assistant to help keep control and your schedule is light at around 10-15 teaching hours per week.  You also get quite a few paid holidays, including a month for both winter and summer holidays.

CitySalary (RMB)Salary (USD)
Tier 111,000-18,000$1,600-$2,600
Tier 29,000-15,000$1,300-$2,200
Tier 37,000-10,000$1,000-$1,450

International Schools

International schools are the holy grail for a lot of teachers – they are generally well-funded, well-built, and have a great teaching and learning environment.  Teachers are expected to be experienced (often with specialized degrees or licenses) and the pay and benefits reflect that.  Schedules follow traditional schools back home but class sizes tend to be small.

A word to the wise – countless Chinese schools simply attach ‘international’ to their name with no accreditation or proof, these schools aren’t all bad but it’s worth doing your homework to ensure you’re applying for a registered international school.

CitySalary (RMB)Salary (USD)
Tier 115,000-30,000$2,200-$4,350
Tier 213,000-25,000$2,000-$3,600
Tier 310,000-20,000$1,450-$2,900


Universities aren’t for everyone as they tend to justify their low teaching hours with an equally low salary.  Still, teachers can generally expect students with whom they can converse and interact with and a support system comprised of other professional and caring staff.  Overall, they tend to be a great place to start or further your teaching career and are quick to dismiss teachers that don’t take the position seriously.

CitySalary (RMB)Salary (USD)
Tier 18,000-10,000$1,150-$1,450
Tier 27,000-9,000$1,000-$1,300
Tier 35,000-8,000$725-$1,150

Other Perks

If you’ve looked at even one job in China then you’ve seen that most of them offer more than just money.  Things like accommodation, flights, and year-end bonuses are the most well-known, but the details of each can vary just like your salary.

The good news is that you can always negotiate on these if you feel they are unfair or lacking compared to what other jobs are offering.  Here is what to expect:


As long as you are working full time, housing is almost always provided with a few exceptions, namely companies that claim to pay more so that you can find your own housing.  Generally, housing is either provided for you or you are given a stipend and support to find your own.

If your school provides housing, great, you can stop reading.  If your school provides a stipend, you can expect it to be anywhere from 1,000-3,000 RMB depending on the city.  If you have expensive tastes, this might only cover a portion of your rent and you are still expected to cough up the deposit and rental agency fee.


While some schools try and dress a free flight up as your year-end bonus, the only really free flights come from true international schools or top university positions.  If you’re applying for those positions it’s not uncommon to also receive a moving allowance for you and your family.


Bonuses come in all shapes and sizes in China and I’d suggest making it a requisite for potential jobs, even if it’s in the form of a flight allowance.  The most common bonus is based on your monthly salary and is generally 75% to 100% extra awarded at the end of your contract (basically one-month extra pay).

Other schools might offer less or reward teachers based on enrollment or retention, but the idea remains the same: bonuses are awesome and you should make sure one is factored into your contract before you sign.


  1. Hello,I am from an English speaking native;Ghana. I will graduate from the university of Ghana this year , can I use a TEFL certificate in place of work experience?

    • No, you’ll almost certainly need the 2yr of experience.

    • Hello, are there grade specifications For degree requirements (ie first class, second class, third class) ?

      • Hi Caleb – not entirely sure what you mean but your degree needs to be the equivalent of a 4-year bachelors degree.

  2. Hi,
    I am a nonnative English teacher, holder of a bachelor’s degree and TESOL (150hs),
    with 7 years of teaching English in class.
    can I teach in China?

    • You will need to look harder for a job but it’s likely that you’ll be able to find a school to hire you.

  3. Hi. I’m Canadian, TESL certified with 4+ years of teaching abroad. I expect to have my U.S teaching license next year.

    Any idea what kind of salary I can expect for my credentials in China?

    • Hi TJ – with those credentials I’d aim for at least 30k and would not accept less than 25k, esp in a tier 1 city. I know of a few schools in Shanghai that pay around 23k for teachers with a TEFL but no license so you should be able to command much more – good luck!

      • Thanks. That’s a higher pay than what I had expected. Does having TESL/TEFL certificate make a difference once you have a teaching license? Or is it only beneficial to those not holding teaching licenses?

        • The difference is negligible as a teaching license opens you up to jobs at international schools where the entire curriculum is in English so a TEFL doesn’t carry any weight.

          • Also, is there bias towards white teachers? I heard that even international schools would often pick white teachers over teachers of colour.

            I understand that one should expect some racism due to ignorance in China. However, can this affect one’s employability?

          • Yes, unfortunately, there is bias among employers but it’s far less common in bigger cities and even less so when it comes to international schools. With your credentials, I wouldn’t worry too much.

      • Hi, if I do just a tefl course in South Africa, would I then be able to teach in China ?

        • If you meet the other requirements you should be good to go.

  4. Good day,

    I hold a bachelors in computer science, and worked as an IT sales man with 4 years work experience.
    I am a Botswana citizen with a British degree with no previous convictions. will I be eligible to work in China

    • Hi Richard – it will be hard due to your passport but not impossible – you may need to speak to quite a few recruiters.

  5. Hi! I am an American citizen and native English speaker, with a bachelor’s in linguistics (but no teaching experience). Do you know how much I could expect to earn?

    Thank you!

    • Depends on the city but you can expect around 20k in tier-one cities like Shanghai or 10k-15k in smaller cities.


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