Teaching English In China Shanghai Vs Hong Kong

Teaching English in Hong Kong or Shanghai can be one of the most effective ways to experience and live in Asia. Both these cities are cosmopolitan, offering an impressive job market filled with a vast array of opportunities for teaching English. However, what are the differences English teachers should look out for when considering career opportunities in these two cities?

This article aims to provide an insight into what to expect when moving to either of these cities for a teaching job.

Teaching in Shanghai

It could be said that Shanghai is the number one Eastern destination to teach English, and that makes it a great place for a TEFL teacher to start their China journey. Shanghai, over the years, has been transformed into a modern and slick metropolis that combines its eastern core with a western share.

It is a city that has its colourful colonial history sit comfortably with its modernised future plans, and its almost 14 million residents appear to have a thirst for economic success. All of these reasons make it a prime destination for those looking to teach English in China.

There are some things you should note when thinking about heading to Shanghai to teach English.

First, you need to understand that you might be required to have a federal or state background check done by the school you intend on working in.

Additionally, schools in China, not just Shanghai, typically search for teachers that are younger than 40 years old. This, however, doesn’t mean that you cannot get hired if you are older than 40. What it does mean that it would be slightly challenging. This is because the nation of China typically enforced a stringent retirement age for its local teachers, and this rule also applies to those looking to teach English as a foreign language in China.

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That being said, it is possible to get a job as a private English tutor. Should also note that competition amongst teachers for work can be quite intense in Shanghai and you are unlikely to find yourself in high-paying jobs at first, especially if you are just starting out as a TEFL teacher. Nevertheless, salaries for English teachers are amongst the best in Asia, ensuring that even new teachers can have a comfortable lifestyle.

The monthly income a teacher can expect to earn varies from 16000 to 26000 RMB which is approximately $2500 to $4000. It is also commonplace for schools to offer teachers subsidised or free accommodation. The accommodation is usually a shared one with another teacher. Other benefits to be had medical insurance, flight allowance, performance bonuses, language lessons and of course a very generous holiday package.

Furthermore, certified TEFL teachers can earn enough to save anything from $600 up each month after taking care of expenses. This means that Shanghai is a great place to not only earn but to save money while overseas. It can also be a great way to pay off any loans or student debts.

Just like the rest of China, Shanghai hires teachers all through the year, so prospective teachers are able to seamlessly plan their timelines and locate jobs.

As an English teacher, you will primarily work in public schools or private language schools. You can expect to teach anything from 20 to 25 hours a week, while an additional 10 hours is required to deal with things such as grading and lesson planning.

As stated earlier, there are various positions teaching in Shanghai, however, as with any industry, the high-paying jobs are usually already taken by dedicated and experienced workers. A prospective English teacher can also rise to this level; however, you will have to become established, showing your employers your ability.

Teaching in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is located just off China’s south coast, and it represents perhaps one of the most, if not the most, exciting job markets to teach English in China. Additionally, Hong Kong boasts a global reputation as one of the world’s most dynamic cities. This is because Hong Kong was a British colony for a long time, which made a huge impact on the culture and language till today.

As an English teacher in Hong Kong, you can find jobs all year, since interviews are simply conducted in advance. Typically, interviews are held via email and over the phone. Hong Kong differs from Shanghai in that English teachers are responsible for their housing expenses and airfare. A teacher in Hong Kong will often live in an apartment previously vacated by teachers. Additionally, you could also choose to room with colleagues.

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Hong Kong has extensive teaching positions with both adults and children; however, it should be noted that the Hong Kong teaching job market is extremely competitive. Additionally, most Hong Kong schools will only employ English teachers that are English natives. They must also have a TEFL certification and at least a 4-year degree.

With all these requirements, an English teacher in Hong Kong can be expected to earn anything from $3000 to $7000 per month. The city has a generous salary which can afford Hong Kong English teachers a comfortable lifestyle, with the ability to save at least $500 each month after taking into consideration living expenses and other expenses. Schools generally offer about 25 hours of work each week, providing teachers with ample time to explore the city and travel.

As stated earlier, English teachers in Hong Kong are required to have a TEFL certification. However, you don’t have to have previous professional teaching experience, as the TEFL certification provides you with the required qualifications and training to help you get hired.

And while you can find teaching jobs in Hong Kong all year round, you should expect downtime around the Lunar or Chinese New Year. This usually happens across 2 weeks from late January into early February.


As you can see, teaching in these two cities is quite similar. However, there are a few differences to consider, such as Hong Kong requiring English teachers to have a 4-year degree as well as TEFL certification and the fact that while Shanghai does offer subsidised accommodation, Hong Kong doesn’t.

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