How much money do ESL teachers make in China? This is actually a tricky question and there is a large amount of variation in teachers salary in different parts of China; a little like asking 'how long is a piece of string?'
In general, the salary of an ESL teacher in China will range from 6,000RMB a month in a university in the middle nowhere up to 20,000RMB for hard-to-get jobs in Shanghai (I've even heard of 4,500RMB per month unbelieveably....why anyone would want to get TESOL qualified and then travel all the way to China to work for that is beyond me...and universities need to wake up to that fact!) and this will come with free housing. Again the quality here in housing has a massive difference too; I've been to a mate's university apartment which was really plush and another friend's apartment which was probably around 50 square-metres and pretty squalid...check photos first!
Mid-Range ESL Jobs
The majority of jobs in China for ESL fall into the middle-of-the-road bracket of 7,500RMB to 10,000RMB and will probably be in training centres. You'll get free housing if teaching kids, but will have to cough up for housing yourself if you opt to teach adults. This can be a major drawback for teachers as they will need to get together six months rent upfront, in addition to the cost of their flights, before starting a job in an adults' training centre. Throw the fact that teachers now have more checks for the visa to do, with additional time and costs, means that coming to China to teach in adults' training schools is now not very appealing at all and so adults' schools are having trouble finding enough teachers.
Whether these schools will be forced to raise salaries substantially to attract good teachers in 2016/17 remains to be seen. I hope so.
Mid-Range jobs teaching kids
Mid-range private language centres for children, such as EF, Aston, Kid Castle and Giraffe offer free housing from the get go, which, especially for teachers new to China, is a God-send. However the lower salary on offer is also hurting these schools and they are all crying out for teachers now. Those schools raising salary are feeling it easier to recruit though. Many of these schools require degree, teaching cert and experience, exactly the same as the high-end jobs! Why work for less when you can get more?? Mid-range schools may need to lower their expectations to become viable choices for teachers again. Teachers working at these schools can expect quite a lot of admin work each week to earn their salt.
The High-End Jobs
Reletively new on the scene are the International School positions and International kindergartens as parents are turning away from their kids solely learning English to giving them a more rounded education for their children with western teaching methods. Here it is not uncommon to find salaries of 15,000-20,000RMB per month, but competition is high and you have to know your stuff.
One problem with these jobs is the ridiculously high rent costs of apartments in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc. What's the point of earning 15,000RMB in Shanghai but spending 7,000RMB on a flat (or commuting for two hours a day)? You may as well not take the job.
In general, I can see a transition now happening in China in terms of reduced foreign teachers coming, schools struggling to meet recruitment deadlines and a need to raise salary vs a stubborn determination not to do so. An interesting few months and years ahead!
by Stuart Allen
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