Hong Kong can be an excellent place to live and teach, with its vibrant city and relaxed countryside and its welcoming population and excellent food. It offers a lot for a teacher looking to relocate and try their hand teaching English in another culture.
There are multiple options for English teachers in Hong Kong. There are learning centers, public and private schools, colleges, tutors and universities. Each sector offers different salaries, perks and roles. Hong Kong can be an exciting and potentially lucrative place to work,
but it is important to check what is is you will actually be working for before accepting a teaching role here. .
With so many options open to teachers it is important to look at each in more detail. You will find a breakdown of the opportunities for teachers below.
This article covers the following useful topics to help you plan your move.
- Teaching Opportunities
- Private Language Schools
- Public Schools
- International Schools
- Universities and Colleges
- How To Apply for Positions in Hong Kong
- Teaching Salaries and Locations
- Visa Requirements and Where to Look for Work
- Cost of Living, Health and Safety
- Educational Culture
What is Asia’s World City?
I have a lot of experience in Hong Kong having lived here for over 13 years, and counting. It is an ever-changing place, so no one person, site or group can even begin to claim to know everything about this exciting and fast moving city. It is an SAR of China (Special Administrative Region) and has been since the handover from Britain to China in 1997. The main languages, or official languages in Hong Kong are Cantonese, English and Putonghua, however there are significant numbers of other nationalities in this melting pot of a city, so Tagalog, Urdu and many more you can be heard as you travel around.
There is a huge need for English instruction and it can seem like there is a tutorial center around every corner, and some even next door to each other. It is a busy working city, and seems like it is jammed into a small area in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, however about 60% of it is actually either designated park or forest land. So although being synonymous with being an urban jungle, if you head a little out the city there is plenty of the more traditional jungle to explore as well.
What Teaching Opportunities are There in Hong Kong.
Just before you start booking those plane tickets, we should take a look at what you are going to need first. Hong Kong is not a place you can come with just a winning attitude and a big smile. Though they will help of course! You will need to have qualifications, and in some cases experience behind you. A full degree is a minimum, if its in English, or English related subjects it can open up more opportunities. A TEFL, of a minimum of 120 hours, is becoming more of a requirement than a preference now as well. For the high end and high salaried all of these certificates and some years of experience are going to help.
Those high end salaries are certainly available in Hong Kong. They are difficult to get though, hard to find but very financial rewarding. The NET scheme and the international schools sit close to the top of these salary ranges and we will discuss those two as well as the entry level teaching options below. The salary range in Hong Kong can be from about 20000 HKD to 105000 HKD a month. This is about (2500 – 13000 USD a month) and there is a huge difference from the top to the bottom.
It is always worth making a list of learning centers and dropping off a good resume if you find your self in Hong KongTeacher Tips
What are the Teaching Roles in Hong Kong
Private Language Schools
A tutorial center or private language center is where a lot of teachers start their teaching journey in Hong Kong. It is where I started myself. (not at the best one I might add as a caution!) There are huge international groups like English First and Monkey Tree, to little one or two location centers. They work with everything from preschool to adults and for everything from holiday language, citizen tests, exam preparation, phonics and STEM schools. There are Music centers, language centers, cram schools, science, multi intelligence, coding, Lego, the list is literally endless. I have never seen a city so full of opportunities, if you have the dollars, to have yourself or your children educated.
Jobs in these places are advertised quite often locally, in local papers and sites like Classified Post, Jump and others but the larger recruiters will often post ads as well. (there may well be ones on this page that ad networks have put on here as well). There are sites like Dave’s ESL Café, though less so now, and Facebook groups on Hong Kong Jobs as well.
Financially they often, but not always, sit at the bottom of the pile but without knowing that Hong Kong is an expensive city (more on that later) the salary can look quite enticing. Make sure you can afford to live here reasonably well before you make that jump though. Salaries can range from 12000 HKD a month (often with housing included though) up to 28-30000 HKD a month. For reference this is about 1500 USD to 3800 USD You are likely to need a 120 Hour Tefl and a degree for these.
Read the Contract carefully if you work at tutorial centers, the vast majority are great but there are still some that are in it for the wrong reasons.Teacher Tips
Hong Kong Public Schools
There are two main ways into the public schools system. There is the Hong Kong governments NET Scheme (Native English Teaching Scheme) Which is a two year contract that comes with allowances for housing, bonus structures (15% over the 2 years) medical and return flights home at the end of contracts. This salary scale follows the local teachers scale but the extra bonus and allowances can make this very very lucrative. the housing allowance is currently 21000 or so HKD a month and the salary scale is here. its starts at point 15 and goes to point 33 for secondary ( 29 for primary) there are also long service perks as well. You can click here to see a full breakdown and table of the salary for the NET Scheme as of 2021.
If not on the NET scheme there are still many schools who will employ a school-based NET teacher and will offer their own package, this can be basic or generous and it depends on the school, as a rule of thumb it is likely to be from about 23000 HKD to 30000 HKD a month. You are going to need a degree and a 120 Hour TEFL Certificate for these roles, and likely more if the NET Scheme teaching positions.
Either way, it is likely the job roll will be fairly similar, with the NET scheme teacher likely to have more responsibilities. For primary schools teachers there is often a focus on reading and reading skills, and extracurricular activities and in secondary schools it could be managing a whole class for four or five lessons a week, or running hour long lessons for most of the school. There is no set requirement for a NETs role so it can be variable. Make sure you discuss it with the school at interview to make sure you are able or willing to fulfil those duties.
It will seem that every teacher you meet talks about the NET Scheme, but there are plenty of school based jobs other than this. Don’t put all your hopes on one job!Teacher Tips
The International Schooling System
There is a robust and growing selection of international schools in Hong Kong. It is a global city, and obviously a lot of expats come to call the city their home and look for international schooling options for their children. This offers more options that the traditional route of English teaching. These school may follow British, Australian, Korean, Japanese, French, and American curriculums the largest being ESF (English Schools Foundation) . There are IB schools, schools with their own school-based curriculum. This means there are often jobs for music, science, history and all the other wide-ranging subjects.
These schools also have a wide range of rewards and remuneration depending on the school. However, most of them offer a good salary, up to 7-8000 USD a month, with potentially flights and bonus structures and even housing included. These are much more traditional teaching roles with you likely to be taking a class or two for more than one class a week. Although designed primarily for foreign students more and more local people look to send students, cash allowing, to international schools. Recently the government has allowed international schools to take increased numbers of local students.
International schools are likely to follow a more familiar school system to Western schools, than the local system. Always ask what your role will be at interview to be sure.Teacher Tips
Universities & Colleges
This is a much more difficult educational area to get into. Hong Kong has eight higher educational institutions. Though it has 900 plus primary and secondary schools. Some like HKU, and some courses at Baptist University and The Education University of Hong Kong have courses delivered in English. This does offer opportunities for higher education professors and lecturers. These jobs will often be advertised internationally on sites like TES. However you don’t just stumble into these jobs and it is almost certain you will have experience in your home country along with Masters or Doctoral level qualifications.
There are options for English teaching at some of the vocational colleges that, anecdotally, I know are accessible to a broader range of people. These are often supplementary course in English for other courses. In Hong Kong this group is called VTEC and they post vacancies here
There are fewer roles in higher education, but Hong Kong does have English medium universities, they advertise in the South China Morning Post and on TES.Teacher Tips
Looking For Teaching Positions in Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong the school year starts in September for public schools and early August for International schools. Language centre recruitment are often gauged to start at this time as well, but can be recruiting all year, though there may be reasons for this. (teachers leaving mid contract etc.) The NET scheme often starts recruiting for the next year in the December the previous year and may require a face to face interview in Hong Kong as do international schools. . Either way that may help your chances. Though in the time of Covid a lot of this has turned into zoom or similar online interviews. However, we will do a fact guide to the NET scheme if there is enough demand for it. (I am a NET teacher in Hong Kong so know a little about a little on this role) Most contracts will last a year or two and possibly come with end of contract bonus or incentives.
Facebook groups are a great source for quick job opportunities and tutoring gigs. Just search for Hong Kong teaching jobs on Facebook and you will find groups and pages.Teacher Tips
How to Apply for Teaching Jobs in Hong Kong
Advice for Applying for Teaching Roles in Hong Kong
Also one piece of advice on applications in Hong Kong from a personal experience. Yes you need a CV, and covering letter. Yes it has to detail your experience, teaching philosophy and qualifications. However, something that will put you ahead of the pack, and something we will be writing an article on soon. Make a portfolio of your teaching. Photos, lesson plans, examples of work you use, anything and everything. Don’t make it 20 pages or anything but have something that actually demonstrates your abilities rather than just saying you can do what you say. Not enough teachers do this and it is more likely to get you through the door.
We covered a little about this in the individual options above. However here is a table of options and links that should have educational jobs in Hong Kong.
|Learning Centre |
|Net Scheme jobs.||School based Jobs||Higher Education jobs||International Schools|
|Daves ESL Cafe||yes||sometimes||no||no||sometimes|
What is the average teaching salary in Hong Kong.
The short answer is about $3-4000 USD a month but this is a really REALLY difficult question to answer as the lazy and ‘’cop out” answer is ‘’it depends’’ and the range as mentioned above is from $2500 to $13000 USD plus a month. there are more earning 2500$ USD than there are 13000$ USD so the average would not sit in the middle of this range.
Salaries for teachers in Hong Kong are often considerably higher than many places in the world, and very high when compared to other places in South East Asia. If we have to give an average it would be sitting at about 3-4000 USD a month.
For some of the higher end jobs there will be perks, housing, flights, bonuses and more. Housing in particular borders on the necessary rather than being a perk in this city that often ranks top of the most expensive places to live list. There are some further notes on this below.
Although salaries can be high here, always remember cost of living, especially accommodation can be eye-wateringly high as well. Plan ahead!Teacher Tips
What Qualifications Do You Need to Teach in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is more difficult to find quality employment that other places in Asia. Salary, conditions and the importance of education culturally means that these roles are taken seriously, and although the ”gap year teaching’ still exists here even they have higher requirements than other countries. As a minimum you will need a degree and a likely a TEFL for learning centers up to a PGDE or PGCE for NET scheme and International schools roles as well as a couple of years’ experience. You may get lucky with some tutor work with a 120 hour TEFL Certificate but there is a likelihood that your salary will reflect that.
Hong Kong likes qualifications a lot, the more you have the more options are open to youTeacher Tips
Where to Teach in Hong Kong.
Although Hong Kong is a small city there are huge variations in schools and educational environments. There are public schools in the New Territories with one class a level to huge schools in the city with over 1200 students and everything in between. The same applies for international schools. There are village schools with pools and gardens, and inner city schools with the busy streets of Hong Kong right outside. Although you have to go where the school is located, there are enough schools and centers of all types you can gauge your applications for the environment you prefer to live and work in.
As a rough rule of thumb the New Territories and Lantau island have more access to the countryside than Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. However, it is a well connected city with cheap and efficient transport so you are never very far from anywhere else. There are great walk and walking groups, biking, climbing sailing and boating groups all around. Do some research to check them out. Its a great way to meet people if you are new to the city as well.
There is plenty to do in this city, try to get out and explore the more far flung places and you will not be disappointed!Teacher Tips
Do You Need a Visa to Work in Hong Kong.
Yes, there is a work visa requirement to work in Hong Kong. It will run to the date of your contract and for the length of it. If you stay for more than one contract it is important to keep and eye on this date to avoid letting it lapse, for legal reasons of course, and if you actually stay for seven continual years you can apply to become a permanent resident. This gives you the right to live in Hong Kong visa free.
Hong Kong Visa system is very generous, if you stay 7 years you can get permanent residency. Trust me these years fly by very quickly.Teacher Tips
Educational Culture in Hong Kong.
Schools in Hong Kong usually run between 8am and about 3.30 to 4pm. With teachers normally scheduled to stay on for about 30 mins after the students. However, teachers will often stay later to catch up with marking or other organizational work. choosing to do this is up to you, I don’t unless I have a pressing need to. Most of the time promotions are not available for foreign teachers – international school aside so you are not winning points towards that! It is a very exam orientated educational culture, so be prepared for that.
Learning centers may differ from this, sometimes you will be placed in a school to deliver a program from the centers, and then have a lesson in the center in the evening. As they are busiest during the weekend it is often the case that you will have a day off (often one) in the week rather than the weekend. This can be a double edged sword. I would say you at least get to go around Hong Kong on a less busy day, however it is difficult to tell what a less busy day is in Hong Kong!!School jobs will likely give you the full weekend. Hong Kong has quite a lot of public holidays a year to add on to your holidays for the year.
There used to be a time where primary schools where split into morning and afternoon sessions these are very very rare now and most schools run through out the day now. (when not affected by Covid restrictions of course)
Children in Hong Kong are as a rule (kids will be kids) well behaved and lovely to work with. They are enthusiastic towards learning. You will however find, due to their personal circumstances and position a wide range of abilities in the classes you teach and it is something you should be prepared for.
If you are new to teaching, or teaching here, seek out advice from your colleagues for activities and topics that are interesting to local children.Teacher Tips
Other Tips and Advice About Hong Kong
Accommodation in Hong Kong is at a premium. It is often, if not top, very high on the list of most expensive places to live in the world. So double check your salary will cover the type of accommodation you want or need. The site numbeo can help you more with up to date costs, but a two-bedroom SMALL apartment can range from 13000 to 24000 HKD a month and if you come from a more reasonably priced place it will be a topic of conversation the whole time you are here. Some roles offer housing or allowances to help with this cost. To get an idea of the cost and what you get for that hard earned money you can check out examples here
Look outside of the main island for the better deals, this is a hyper connected city and transport is rarely a consideration here.Teacher Tips
Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world, although it is still a city. If you stay away from quiet places at night, and stick to well lit streets with people you should be fine. There is an urban legend of someone falling asleep fairly drunk in Wan Chai and waking up with more money in their wallet than they started with. I would not test this theory however. Petty crime like pickpocketing in busy or tourist areas happens, but if you are aware and careful you should be able to avoid most of this. I am from the UK and i have always felt safer here than at home.
Traffic is something to watch out for, although better than Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh, there are some questionable driving techniques here that may catch you unawares.
Hong Kong has an excellent public health system that once you are a resident you have the right to access. There are private doctors that can vary in price and for your information you are likely to need to see them for a sick note even for one day off. For serious injuries or conditions, you can access these services for minimal cost. Lots of employers will offer health insurance as part of the package and it is worth discussing this with them prior to taking up your role. Private health care is expensive, but fast and if you are coming from the US you are in for a pleasant surprise.
Sick days often require a sicknote for one day, this is most likely going to be paid for by you.Teacher Tips
Current Situation in Hong Kong and COVID.
The large scale protests in the city have largely stopped at the time of writing. The Co-vid situation in Hong Kong is being handled much better than in many other countries around the world and there is a culture of mask wearing and handwashing now. There is still a quarantine period when coming in from other countries which is annoying but reasonably effective so this will have to be factored in if you come over.
Now this is not relevant right now, but hopefully this virus gets under control in the near future and air traffic opens up. Hong Kong is an international air hub and is within 4 hours flight to so many stunning locations. Bali is three hours, Thailand is three hours, Malaysia is 3 hours, Taiwan is 1 hour, the Maldives are 5 1/2 hours away.
- Expensive but high salary in some roles – and of course bargains to be had
- Salary ranges from 2-12000 USD a month but averages at about 3-4000
- Not just a large city has county parks and nature all over the place
- Is a transport hub allowing you to make use of those teacher holidays
- Multiple options to teach in the city for all levels of qualification
- Is a relatively safe city, especially compared to other large cities.
- English is fairly widely spoken
- Jobs are often advertised in local media
Cant get here, or cant get back that easily at the moment but it is food for thought!
There is so much more to write but we will leave this here for the moment and update as and when things change. What ever you decide you will be welcome in Hong Kong and whether you stay for a year or twelve you will take away some great memories.
I am happy to answer questions if you are thinking of teaching in Hong Kong just drop me an email and can try to help. firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, mostly English but dabbled in outdoor pursuits and media. Thought is was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children. Feel free to take a look at our resources, email us on email@example.com, or jump on the Facebook group to ask questions. Happy learning, teaching or playing!