Pay and benefits vary between employers. However, due to the demand for ESL teachers, the competition among recruiters to attract qualified candidates is advantageous to you. Salaries in China are competitive and often include a variety of benefits in order to attract the best possible candidates. While the different schools and institutions in China may offer varying levels of compensation, most offer free airfare, accommodation, and paid holidays. China is a fantastic place to start a teaching career, earn (and maybe save up) some money, live well, and experience a new and an incredibly fascinating culture.

At times, interested candidates may think they can earn more back in their home country, but because of China’s relative low cost of living, the salary an ESL teacher earns could go a long way and be saved more easily and effectively.

Below is an example of a typical package offered to ESL teachers:

  • Competitive Salary: USD $ 1,500 – 3,000 per month
  • Quarterly and year completion bonus *
  • Overtime: USD $ 15 per hour *
  • Sponsored legal Z work visa
  • Housing or housing / rent allowance
  • Annual leave and sick leave
  • Basic health insurance
  • Airfare Bonus: 1 per year *
  • Training
  • Reimburse portion of CELTA cost for successful applicant *

*Subject to working location. Details will be specified during the interview process with the recruiter or school.

Typically, international schools and private training institutions pay better than public school and universities. However, public schools and universities do offer other benefits to compensate your salary. Below is a high level assessment of pros and cons for each type of institution:

Public Schools:

  • Pros: Fewer hours (typically 16 – 25 hours), lunch provided, longer paid vacations and more holidays
  • Cons: Large class size (up to 40 students), less pay, less support for the application process and visa arrangements

Public school china

Private Language Academies:

  • Pros: Better teaching support than public schools, more structured curriculum, smaller class sizes (up to 20 students), bonus and paid flights
  • Cons: Longer hours, less paid vacations and holidays

Private English teaching school


  • Pros: Lighter workload, fewer hours (typically 20 – 25 hours), paid airfare, and provides an added boost for future job opportunities due to the university’s reputation
  • Cons: Less pay, less support for the application process and visa arrangements

University English teaching

International Schools:

  • Pros: High salary, structured curriculum, and better teaching support
  • Cons: Tough competition, longer hours (up to 40 hours) and other certification may be required

International school

Private Tutoring: USD$ 21 per month

Many ESL teachers work as private tutors to supplement their salaries. With an average rate of RMB 140 ($20) per hour, it is an easy way to increase your income while teaching in China. There is a high demand for one-on-one tutoring for business people, adults, and high school students as well. It can be difficult to make tutoring a full-time gig without a decent network of connections, so this option is best for teachers who already have some experience teaching English in China.

The freedom of working as a private tutor is quite appealing – no managers, contracts, and the ability to control your own schedule. Once you have a base of connections established, private tutoring can be a great way to earn money in China as an English teacher.

Cost of living in China

With most ESL teacher’s salaries, you can expect to put away a good amount of money while working in China as the cost of living is relatively lower than most western countries. Of course, the cost of living varies between the metropolitan cities and the countryside. However, looking at the average cost of living in Beijing can give you a good idea of the cost of living in most places you would likely work.

Keep in mind that food and housing tend to be more expensive in densely populated cities like Shanghai. Rent is usually included in your teaching contract and you can typically expect to eat lunch at your school, which will save you some cash each month.

Cost of living in China