China has long been the biggest employer of TEFL practitioners in the world. Not only does it have a huge population, but the focus and commitment towards education is extremely high.

However, things have been changing recently. The government has implemented new legislation to ease the burden on families desperate to get the best grades, and this has shaken up the TEFL industry. So after all the upheaval, how much can you earn teaching English in China?

Photo by zhang kaiyv:

Typically, TEFL teachers in China earn ¥15,000-30,000 ($2,200-4,400) per month, with the main source of employment being training centres (language academies). Universities and public schools pay a little less, while international schools may offer much higher salaries.

TEFL in China is in flux, so quite a lot of the information you can find right now is out of date. This article was written in August 2022, but figures may change in the coming years, so I’ll update them as necessary.

It’s definitely worth getting your head around the different employment options available to you, as some common practices are now illegal, and others pay more than they used to. In this article, I’ll run you through the main opportunities.

Searching for the perfect TEFL destination with the best earnings? Compare countries around the world with my free resource: How Much Do TEFL & TESL Teachers Make? Countries compared.

Options and earnings for TEFL teachers in China

While the industry has experienced serious changes, most TEFL teachers in China can find work in training centres (what I usually refer to as language academies). Public schools and universities are another option, as are international schools which typically have high salaries, but are more competitive.

Private tutoring is, well… legally tricky. First of all, you can’t get a visa if you’re going to be self-employed. Secondly, employers don’t like it when you do private tutoring on the side, and thirdly, it’s now illegal to give for-profit private tutoring.

Plus, it’s not going to pay any better than other types of employment.

As I don’t want to get anyone into any legal trouble, I’m going to exclude private tutoring from this article.

Earnings SourcePer Hour ($)Hours Per WeekPer Month ($)Annual Estimate ($)
International schools14-2840+2,200-4,40027-53K
Training Centres22-4420-302,200-4,40027-53K
Public Schools24-3520-302,400-3,50029-42K

Some of these figures may look different to those from a few years ago. That’s because salaries in training centres have gone up recently, making them quite lucrative.

And the salaries don’t give the whole picture. Lots of employers, especially training centres, provide accommodation (or a stipend towards it), airfares, and paid holiday time. Public institutions may offer these too, although perhaps slightly less generously.

Then there’s the cost of living. Before rent, a single person can live comfortably on ¥4,000-6,000 ($600-900) per month. If rent is part of your pay package, you’re looking at a lot of savings!

Image by JLB1988 from Pixabay

As China is such a huge country, there is variation in the salaries you can earn. In general, so-called “Tier 1” cities (Beijing, Shanghai, etc.) offer better salaries, but living costs are higher. The smaller Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities pay less, but are cheaper to live in.

The school year in China starts in September and ends in July with a winter holiday in January/February. School days are long, starting at 7.30 am and ending at 5.00 pm, with a couple of hours for lunch.

How much do TEFL teachers make in training centres in China?

Training centres (also known as language academies) are a huge industry in China. While Chinese law banned for-profit companies providing tutoring for core curriculum subjects, there are still ways for these businesses to teach English, just in a less formal way (conversation, drama, etc.)

Class sizes are quite small, from 5 to 15, and you could be teaching little kids, teenagers, or adults.

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric:

Salaries in training centres have gone up in the last few years. Nowadays, you can earn ¥15,000-30,000 ($2,200-4,400) per month working 20-30 hours a week. This works out at around ¥150-300 ($22-44) per hour. Not bad!

As mentioned earlier, major cities offer higher salaries. Qualification and experience is also a factor, because those with a beefier CV can negotiate the upper end of these salaries, and get more perks.

Whatever your experience level, you’ll definitely need a 120-hour TEFL certificate as a minimum.

If you’re looking for great value TEFL certificates, I recommend International TEFL and TESOL Training. Click the link for 15% off all courses (I receive compensation, so you’re supporting me, too). Not convinced? Read why I’d choose ITTT over other TEFL course providers.

ESL Base has a great list of training centres in China which you can find here. Beware that some schools may no longer function in the same way, or even exist, due to the changes in government policy.

I must advise you to be careful when looking at training centres. Many of them are reputable and fair establishments that do everything above board. But many are not. Some shady practices are at play, often hiring staff illegally, or vanishing into thin air without paying salaries.

Do your research before committing to anything you’re not sure about.

For more on the shady side of TEFL, read my article: Is TEFL Legit? Guide to trustworthy certificates and jobs.

How much do TEFL teachers make in international schools in China?

International schools are present in nearly every country around the world, so you can bet there are plenty in China.

Typical earnings for TEFL teachers working in international schools in China are ¥15,000-30,000 ($2,200-4,400) per month. That’s roughly the same as training centres. However, you’ll have to work longer hours at international schools, probably 40 per week or more. That gives an hourly rate of ¥90-190 ($14-28).

Photo by Magda Ehlers:

A major downside of international schools is the fact they’re much more competitive and require higher qualifications. A teaching license and a few years of experience is a must. Even worse, they’re often less generous when it comes to additional perks.

The benefits of working in international schools are stability and structure. You can trust most international schools to be legit and not disappear overnight, and you’ll likely have a more structured teaching experience with the same classes every week.

What’s more, you can reach even higher salaries as you rise up the chain of command, with ¥40,000 ($6,000) per month achievable at the very top end.

How much do TEFL teachers make in public schools in China?

Public schools in China often hire foreign native English speakers as teachers. Salaries for TEFL teachers at public schools in China are generally between ¥16,000 and ¥24,000 ($2,400-3,500) per month.

Hours aren’t too long for this kind of teaching job. You can expect to take 20-30 hours of classes a week, with support from a Chinese teacher. This works out at ¥160-240 ($24-35) per hour.

Classes in public schools are large. The smallest groups might be 20, but the biggest can be 40, 50, or even 60.

Image by Cim from Pixabay

How much do TEFL teachers make in universities in China?

University teaching jobs are relatively competitive (probably unavailable for new TEFL teachers), and offer a light schedule for a decent salary.

TEFL teachers in China working in universities earn ¥8,000-16,000 ($1,200-2,400) per month. Around 15-25 hours a week of teaching gets you an hourly rate of ¥100-200 ($25-30).

Although it’s not as lucrative as the other jobs in this article, it’s still a great wage that allows you plenty of free time to travel and immerse yourself in the culture. And salaries may go up soon, too.


Despite the upheaval and uncertainty around private tutoring companies in China (not to mention the situation with online classes), there’s a lot of money to be made as a TEFL teacher there.

In fact, compared to other countries, only rich middle-eastern nations like Saudi Arabia can compete in terms of salary vs. living costs. It’s quite feasible to save five figures per year. And if you’re a fan of Chinese culture, it could be your dream job!

But there’s a risk. Some TEFL teachers have fallen foul of dodgy practices and laws they weren’t aware of. And there’s always an element of political tension on the international stage. I suggest you do your research and make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Why not head over to my resource: How Much Do TEFL & TESL Teachers Make? Countries compared to see what countries around the world can offer?

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