Working in Hong Kong as an English Teacher – How much can I make?

Working in Hong Kong as an English Teacher – How much can I make?

How much can I make as an English Teacher in Hong Kong?
Well this is not a straight forward answer and depends on the schools and organizations that you will be working for, as well as your own qualifications.
Below I will list all of the options that I am familiar with, although this is obviously not a comprehensive list and there could be many more niche positions. My focus here is on Kindergartens and Tuition centres in that most fresh teachers coming to Hong Kong will be starting there. Also, if you have any questions at all or want some advice then I am more than happy to help so just let me know in the comments.

These salaries are monthly and in Hong Kong Dollars.

#1 Local Kindergartens (w/ an agent) – Employed by an agent that places you in local Kindergartens throughout Hong Kong.
$20,000 (no experience) – Also, you can look at receiving about $1,000/yr in raises. Some companies may provide bonuses for attendance, completing the school year, or staying with them for a certain number of years. Note that the salary and raises are decided by your agent and not the school or principal that you are working with. This is one of the downsides of going through an agent (other than the obvious one of them taking a quite sizable portion of your salary each month). Most teachers will move away from these companies once they have gained enough experience.

#2 – Tuition centres (also known as cram schools in countries such as Taiwan.)
$18,000-$25,000 (depending on experience, luck, and the organization but again $20,000 should be the minimum you accept). Many people will tell you that the unofficial minimum salary to qualify for a work visa is $20,000 anyways. Tuition centres are also more likely to offer you bonuses such as for attendance and the number of students that you teach in a month. However, many of these contracts are restrictive in that they try to force you to stay for a certain amount of time or say you must repay bonuses or other things if you leave within a certain time-frame. Just be aware of what you are signing and know there are many other options.

#3 – International Schools
This is an area that I am less familiar with but can still give you an idea of what to expect. Also note that this is the category with the largest discrepancy in salaries - some of the well regarded schools will pay substantially more than other schools that calls themselves "international" or “bilingual/trilingual” but mostly only cater to local students. The below are taken from direct job postings, official websites, or from my own experience. They also most likely are starting salaries and the people who have stayed at the schools longer could be receiving substantially higher amounts. There is also a high likelihood that these do not encompass the full pay packages and value of extras such as health/dental plans, bonuses, etc.

  • Precious Blood Kindergarten - $33,000
  • "Trilingual" HK Nobel Preschool/Playschool - ~$24,000
  • Zenith Kindergarten and International Nursery - ~$24,000
  • English Schools Foundation (Kindergarten) – $40,933-$71,633 + cash allowance of $8,050 per month + 20% gratuity.
  • English Schools Foundation (Primary & Secondary) - $40,933-$71,633 + cash allowance of $8,050 per month + 20% gratuity.(There are some small extras not listed here as well.

#4 – NET Program with EDB (Native English Teacher hiring scheme through the Hong Kong Education Bureau)
These are some of the most sought after positions, not just due to the high starting salaries but also the generous housing allowance that foreigners are offered as part of their remuneration package. (Note the housing allowance only applies to people whose normal place of residence is not in Hong Kong)

Primary NET program (as of Jan 2020)
- Base salary: $30,165 - $58,345. Where you fall on this scale will depend on your qualifications and experience.
- Housing allowance + $20,989.
Total for the lowest pay band: $51,154
Total for the highest pay band: $79,334
*Also, there are retention incentives after working a number of years.

Secondary Net Program (as of Jan 2020)
- Base salary: $30,165 - $70,090 Where you fall on this scale will depend on your qualifications and experience.
- Housing allowance + $20,989
Total for the lowest pay band: $51,154
Total for the highest pay band: $91,079
*Also, there are retention incentives after working a number of years.

#5 Schools throughout Hong Kong that follow the hiring requirements and salary guidelines of the EDB Net scheme but do not hire directly through the program.
They do this for a number of reasons including being able to hire someone directly, quicker, and with fewer hurdles. In my eyes this would be the best option as the position will be much quicker to attain and possibly fewer entrants to compete with.
An example would be the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals that run schools all over Hong Kong though I am unsure if they also pay a housing allowance.

Tung Wah Group of Hospitals - $30,165 + "Other benefits include a 10% contract discretionary payment, medical services, dental scheme and rental discount for Tung Wah’s residential properties."

Extra option or Extra Curricular Activity (ECA) courses / tutoring
- You may work for an agent or school that offers you the option of taking on part-time classes. These also vary widely depending on the school, the number of students, and what is being taught.
These could involve straight English courses, summer camps, or even cooking classes.
The bare minimum you might expect from these is probably $200/hour with $300/hour being a more normal amount you can expect. Other organizations I have encountered will pay $450/hour and higher but again this depends so much on the individual school that it is hard for me to say exactly. For private tutoring $300/hour is more or less accepted as a reasonable base rate for less experienced teachers while those with exceptional qualifications and awards could be charging $600-$1,000/hour or more with no ceiling. Again this depends on yourself, as much as it does your client.

*Note that if you are on a work visa then teaching privately or part-time through a company other than your sponsor is not allowed *legally. However, you can apply for a Sideline Visa, as I have discussed in depth here if you’d like to read up on it and go the legal route.

Other things to know:
* One more thing to note is that if you are working in Option #1 through an agent at local Kindergartens, you will usually not be paid for your summer vacation unless you are hired through the EDB scheme or directly by a school. However, all of the other holidays during the year should be paid including the long holidays such as Christmas, Chinese New Year, and Easter. There are also exceptions if you are not a full-time employee and being paid per day or by the hour so just make sure you understand your contract before you sign.

Please let me know if this has helped you at all or if you still need help on something else.
Good luck!

As usual, here are some links for you:
They may be out of date or broken by the time you read this but the main websites of each should still be active so you could find the current info that way. These were active as of January 2020. 

Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme – Hong Kong Education Bureau

ESF International Kindergarten teacher for the 2019-20 school year

ESF primary / secondary teacher for the 2019-20 school year

Tung Wah Group of Hospitals

Zenith Kindergarten & International Nursery


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