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Teach English in Hong Kong

From gleaming skyscrapers to lush national parks, every-flavour street food to Michelin-star restaurants, and ancient traditions to future-forward technology – if you choose to teach English in Hong Kong, you’ll discover a city packed with colourful contradictions.

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A British colony until 1997, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China. But don’t expect living and teaching in this country to be anything like life in China. People in Hong Kong speak Cantonese, an entirely different language to Mandarin, which is spoken by 70% of the Chinese population. English is also an official language of Hong Kong and is spoken by just under 50% of the population, about the same number of people who also speak Mandarin Chinese. 

Speaking English is a major priority for the people of Hong Kong, some of whom send their children for English lessons as young as 6 months old. To compete effectively in the world playing field, Hong Kong emphasizes that English is taught universally from childhood up. 

Native speakers are in demand in Hong Kong right now. Teaching jobs for both qualified and new TEFL teachers are plentiful, but prepare for some tough competition for the top-paying positions.

Take a look at a few of the key facts you’ll need to know before teaching English in Hong Kong: 

  • Hong Kong is both a country and a city, and there are positions available across the whole region. 
  • Expect an average monthly range of HK$30,000 - $62,000 (approximately $3,600 - $8,000/£3,024 - £6,720). Public schools offer stability with salaries between HK$25,000 - $70,000, while private language schools tend to be in the HK$18,000 - $25,000 range. International schools top the chart, with salaries reaching HK$30,000 - $80,000, but competition is higher.
  • To teach English in vibrant Hong Kong, arm yourself with a bachelor's degree, a TEFL certificate (minimum 120 hours), and/or two years of teaching experience. International schools and universities might seek specific subject degrees or higher qualifications like master's or PhDs. So, polish your resume and get ready to dive into this dynamic education hub!
  • You’ll be paid in Hong Kong Dollars (HKD)
  • The main languages spoken in Hong Kong are Cantonese and English
  • Teaching opportunities include government-led programmes (such as NET), public schools, private schools, international schools, private language schools Hong Kong universities and private tutoring.
  • The age limit tends to be 60, and preference is often given to young, female teachers for teaching children. 

Requirements for teaching English in Hong Kong

Wondering what you’ll need to teach English in Hong Kong? While there are teaching positions for both new and experienced English teachers, it’s important to understand that Hong Kong can be quite strict compared to other Asian countries when it comes to requirements. 

Prospective foreign language teachers will have to meet both the requirements set out by the government (to obtain the correct work visa) and those from individual schools and employers. 

As stipulated by the government in Hong Kong, an English teacher must have: 

  • A bachelor’s degree in any subject
  • Two years of previous teaching experience and/or 
  • A TEFL certification from an accredited provider 

Most employers in Hong Kong look for native English speakers. Depending on what type of school you want to work at - especially if this happens to be a top international school or university - you may also be expected to have a degree in English or teaching or hold higher qualifications such as an MA, PGCE or even PhD.

TEFL Certification for teaching English in Hong Kong

One of the best ways to increase your chances of finding a teaching job in Hong Kong is with TEFL certification courses. This is especially true for English teachers who don’t have any prior teaching experience, as you’ll require a TEFL certification of at least 120 hours to meet the minimum requirements for the Hong Kong Z Visa.

But TEFL courses aren't just about ticking a box on the visa form - they provide everything you need to know to start your teaching journey, as well as give you the confidence to teach in real-life classrooms when you land in Hong Kong.

Teaching English in Hong Kong without a degree

Can you teach English in Hong Kong if you don’t have a degree? The short, simple (and legal) answer to that question is, sadly not. To get a work visa - which is a government requirement for all teachers to work legally in Hong Kong - you need to hold a university degree. 

Of course, you’ll see a lot of people on the internet (or when you land in Hong Kong) saying this isn’t true - that teaching English abroad in Hong Kong is possible without a degree. While it may happen, it’s not a recommended route to take. If you don’t follow the correct process or receive a work visa, you won’t have a leg to stand on if there are any disputes with your school or employer. Even worse, the government is known to carry out work visa spot checks on schools. For English teachers without the correct paperwork, this can lead to a short trip to the airport and an abrupt end to their time in Hong Kong. 

Don’t worry too much if you don’t have a degree, there are still plenty of other countries around the world where you can teach English abroad

Teaching English in Hong Kong Without Experience

Unlike a degree, teaching experience in Hong Kong is more of a flexible requirement. What does this mean exactly? For starters, the need for two years of experience can often be waived if the candidate is TEFL certified, usually with a minimum of 120 hours, from a respected provider. 

Not only does this usually allow a new TEFL teacher to meet the requirements for a work visa, but many schools are also happy to employ young teachers looking for their first role. This is especially true in private language centres and for teaching young learners at kindergartens. 

On the other hand, international schools will often require their teachers to be both qualified and experienced, meaning it’s unlikely a newly qualified TEFL teacher will be able to land a job at this type of institution.

Visa for teaching in Hong Kong

As mentioned earlier, to legally teach in Hong Kong, you’ll need a work visa from the government. This is known as the Z Visa and both the requirements and process are very similar to the Z Visa needed to work in mainland China. 

Before you apply for a Z Visa, you’ll need an offer of employment from your school or employer. They will usually take care of a large portion of the visa process and paperwork for you. However, you will still have a few things to take care of yourself before you leave your home country. 

Alongside evidence of your degree, TEFL certificate/teaching certificate and proof of any relevant experience (like a reference or letter of recommendation), you’ll usually also need scans of your passport, passport photos and an invitation letter from your employer. You will then need to visit your nearest Chinese consulate/embassy with all of the correct documents and, if everything is in order, you should receive a Z Visa in around seven days. 

Teach English in Hong Kong: Salary and Cost of Living

Two of the most commonly asked questions new ESL teachers have about teaching in Hong Kong are: “How much can you make?” and “How much does it cost to live there?” While Hong Kong might be expensive compared to other countries in Asia, like Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam, the average salary for a foreign English teacher tends to be relatively high. If you are qualified, have a degree in a relative subject or have previous experience, your salary will be even better. This means that most ESL teachers can manage living costs quite comfortably and enjoy all that Hong Kong has to offer.

Let’s take a look at each question in more detail below: 

RestaurantsCost
HKD ($)USD ($)GBP (£)
Inexpensive restaurant meal60.007.646.21
Domestic beer (0.5 litre)50.006.375.18
Regular cappuccino37.934.833.93
Water (0.33 litre)8.161.040.84
MarketsCost
HKD ($)USD ($)GBP (£)
Regular milk (1 litre)23.853.042.47
Loaf of white bread17.642.251.83
Regular eggs (1 dozen)28.243.602.92
Apples (1 kg)34.914.453.61
TransportationCost
HKD ($)USD ($)GBP (£)
One-way ticket (local transport)10.001.271.04
Monthly pass (regular price)500.0063.6951.76
Taxi start (normal tariff)24.003.062.48
Gasoline (1 litre)20.862.662.16
UtilitiesCost
HKD ($)USD ($)GBP (£)
Electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage (for a regular apartment)1,626.03207.13168.31
Regular prepaid mobile tariff (per minute, local without discounts)0.810.100.08
Internet (60 Mbps, unlimited data, cable/ADSL)202.9825.8621.01
Clothing and shoesCost
HKD ($)USD ($)GBP (£)
Pair of jeans (Levis 501 or something similar)631.2180.4165.34
Summer dress in a chain store306.3839.0331.71
Nike running shoes (mid-range)702.6389.5072.73
Men's leather business shoes1,031.94131.45106.82

(Source: Cost of Living

Hong Kong isn’t a place where you’re going to experience too much of a culture shock. It’s a popular cosmopolitan city where you’ll be able to meet expats from all over the world, although with a high turnover, expect to be making new friends on a regular basis. 

You can find foreign food and products easily, although shopping and dining like a local will give you the best value for money. Hong Kong also has good nightlife, plenty of outdoor pursuits on offer and a cuisine that many Westerners find much easier to get on with than the food in mainland China.

With an excellent transport system and links to wider Asia, travelling around Hong Kong and beyond is easy and relatively affordable, as long as you avoid the busy national holidays. 

What benefits do employers in Hong Kong offer teachers?

One of the best ways to make your money stretch further in Hong Kong is by ensuring you find a job with good benefits. Many schools and employers in Hong Kong will offer a package of extra perks on top of a basic salary. Most importantly, this can include free accommodation or at least a generous housing allowance. Given how expensive apartments can be in Hong Kong, this is crucial if you want to save money while you’re working in the region.

Alongside accommodation, some employers will also offer completion bonuses for those who stay for one year or more, free flights, healthcare, visa costs and even free meals. Be sure that you know exactly what is included in your contract, and what you’ll be expected to cover on your own. Start-up costs in Hong Kong can be expensive, which means you might need to save up in advance before you fly out if your new school isn’t going to help cover costs. 

How much can you make teaching in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is renowned as one of the top spots in Asia for lucrative teaching roles, even when compared with high-paying destinations like Japan or the high-salary teaching market in South Korea. The basic monthly salary for full-time positions is likely to be in the region of HK$16,000 to HK$65,000 (£1,550 – £6,300 / $2,000 – $8,380) per month, while those looking to make some extra as a private tutor can charge between HK$100 – $550 (£10 – £50 / $13 – $70) per hour. 

Of course, what salary you’re offered will depend on your qualifications and experience. But many schools in Hong Kong will also ask candidates what their salary expectations are, which is why it’s a good plan to have a rough idea before you interview. As a guide, for a new TEFL teacher (that is, someone with a TEFL qualification but no real-world experience) the average salary is around the £1,500 ($2,600) mark.

How much does it cost to live in Hong Kong?

You might already have heard that Hong Kong is expensive. But did you know that it’s actually the fourth most expensive country in the world? Not to mention, the most expensive country in Asia? Rent is particularly pricey, so finding a job that provides accommodation is certainly a bonus, though it’s likely to be a shared apartment. If you need to find your own place, using flat share websites such as AsiaXpat or GeoExpat will help you to find something affordable.

There’s no shortage of rental accommodation in Hong Kong with supply meeting demand, but you might find affordable properties are quite cramped and tired looking. Better deals can be found in the older, less fashionable areas of the city and beyond Hong Kong Island.

Country Avg. monthly salary Degree required Start of term Teaching experience Housing & flights included Suitable for non-native English speakers Age restrictions
Teach in Hong Kong £1,550 - £6,300
($2,000 - $8,380)
Yes August No Not usually Yes Under 60

Download our teaching English in Asia guide

English Teaching Jobs in Hong Kong

Brand new ESL teacher looking for your first real-world teaching experience? Or experienced teacher, qualified in your home country, searching for your next move? No matter what stage you are at in your teaching career, with such a high demand for foreign teachers in Hong Kong, you shouldn’t have much of a problem finding a job.

But you should know that Hong Kong, unlike many other countries in Asia, is much more of a career country than it is a turn-up-and-just-teach destination. This means that if you don’t have a degree, any teaching experience, or you’re just looking for a short-term teaching gig to fund your travels, you might want to consider somewhere else. However, if you’re hoping to stay for a year or, even better, two, you’ll find a good range of teaching jobs in Hong Kong

English Teaching Programmes in Hong Kong 

The most popular teaching programme in Hong Kong is the government-run NET (Native English Speakers) Scheme. Just like JET in Japan and EPIK in South Korea, the NET programme helps to place teachers in local schools, with the aim of improving English proficiency among children. NET is extremely popular with foreign teachers, in part because of the excellent salary and benefits package – it’s one of the most lucrative teaching jobs you can land in Hong Kong. A monthly salary for a NET teacher starts at HK$31,750, rising to HK$73,775 (approx £3,000-£6,800/$4,100-$9,50), with the added benefit of a monthly housing allowance, usually HK$20,989 (approx £1,950/$2,700).

TEFL teachers on NET are placed in public-sector primary and secondary schools, and usually assist local teachers for a 2-year contract. There is often a tendency to favour female teachers for positions with young children, but this is seen as normal and not discriminatory in Hong Kong. 

NET teachers will need a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate as a minimum but those who have previous teaching experience will find it much easier to secure a job.

FAQs

  • Q. Are English teachers in demand in Hong Kong?

    Yes, there’s a strong job market for English teachers in Hong Kong. As one of the world’s most important financial hubs, Hong Kong is an international country where English is spoken by around 50% of the population. Native-speaking English teachers and those with qualifications and experience from their home country are particularly in demand. 

  • Q. Can a non-native speaker teach English in Hong Kong?

    While a non-native speaker can teach English in Hong Kong, it will be more difficult. You’ll need to prove your level of fluency matches that of a native-speaking English teacher. Having a desirable second language - such as French or Spanish - as well as some previous teaching experience or qualifications may help you to secure a position. 

  • Q. How much do TEFL teachers in Hong Kong make?

    The average salary for full-time ESL jobs is likely to be in the region of HK$16,000 to HK$65,000 (£1,550 – £6,300 / $2,000 – $8,380) per month. How much you make will depend on where you are working - for example, NET is the best-paid teaching programme in Hong Kong - as well as your qualifications and experience. 

  • Q. Can I teach without a degree in Hong Kong?

    Those who want to legally teach English in Hong Kong will usually need a degree. This is because a university degree is one of the requirements for a Z Visa, which allows you to work in Hong Kong. 

  • Q. Do you need teaching experience to get a TEFL job in Hong Kong?

    Unlike a degree, you don’t always need experience to find a job teaching English in Hong Kong. However, it does help. And for those hoping to teach at an international school, it will likely be a requirement. In place of experience, a TEFL course will usually be accepted, as long as it's from a reputable provider.