A British colony until 1997, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China, but don’t expect teaching and living in this country to be anything like life in China. People in Hong Kong speak Cantonese, an entirely different language to what people speak in mainland China. 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. If you happen to speak other foreign languages such as French or Spanish, you have a good chance of being hired at an elite international school in Hong Kong which offers several linguistics courses.

Speaking English is a major priority for the people of Hong Kong, some of whom send children for English lessons at as young as 6 months old, which means the demand for qualified TEFL teachers is huge. Predominantly, the private language school industry is filled with exam preparation classes, but there are also a large number of business English classes. In order to compete effectively in the world playing field, Hong Kong emphasizes that English is taught universally form childhood up.

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Key Facts

  • Popular locations for TEFL jobs: Hong Kong is both a country and a city – positions available across Hong Kong
  • Average salary for EFL teachers: 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. HK$100 – $550 (£10 – £50 / $13 – $70) per teaching hour for freelance work
  • TEFL qualification requirements: A 120-hour TEFL qualification will be required for most positions
  • Prerequisite university degree: You need a degree to work in Hong Kong. Some international schools and university positions require degrees in certain fields, or higher qualifications such as an MA, PGCE or PHD
  • Term times: School year starts in August
  • Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)
  • Language: Cantonese and English
  • Teaching programmes: Private Language Schools, Public Schools, Universities, Kindergarten, International Schools, Freelance, Voluntary
  • Age restrictions: Under 60
  • Previous teaching experience: Applicants for most jobs will find more success if they have a year or two of experience

Private language school recruitment for TEFL teachers in Hong Kong takes place year-round, with the exception of the Chinese New Year. Generally the best time to look for work teaching English in Hong Kong is in May/June time as the summer is a very busy time for learning centres, and you’ll consequently find a large increase in the demand for TEFL teachers. However, if you’re hoping to start with the academic year at an international school, it’s best to start looking early in the new year. In private language schools, you’ll often find that students range from young children to adults, and from beginners to advanced level, but that there will probably be a focus on exam preparation classes.

In public schools, TEFL teachers work as teaching assistants on the NET (Native English Speakers) Scheme, where they work alongside a local teacher. This scheme is put together by the Hong Kong government and is a major employer of foreigners in the state education system. You can work for the NET in primary or secondary schools; both roles require native or fluent speakers with TEFL experience, a BA and a TEFL certificate, as well as other qualifications depending on the role. Working for the NET scheme is by far the most lucrative position we’ve found in Hong Kong, although many international schools probably pay a similar salary.

Requirements for teaching English in Hong Kong

Country Avg. monthly salary Degree required Start of term Teaching experience Housing & flights included Suitable for non-native English speakers Age restrictions
Cambodia £650 - £950
($800 - $1,200)
No September No No Yes Under 65
China £1,200 - £1,600
($1,500 - $2,000)
Yes September No Yes Yes, if degree obtained from an English-speaking country Under 55
Hong Kong £1,600 - £2,800
($2,000 - $3,500)
Yes August No Not usually Yes Under 60
Indonesia £700 - £1,100
($850 - $1,350)
Yes July No Not usually No Under 60
Japan £1,600 - £2,200
($2,000 - $2,700)
Yes April No Sometimes Yes Under 65
Malaysia £900 - £1,850
($1,100 - $2,300)
Yes January Preferred Sometimes Yes Under 60
Myanmar £1,000 - £1,800
($1,250 - $2,200)
Yes June Preferred Sometimes No None
South Korea £1,300 - £2,000
($1,600 - $2,500)
Yes March No Yes No Under 60
Thailand £800 - £1,050
($1,000 - $1,300)
Yes May No Sometimes Yes None
Vietnam £950 - £1,300
($1,200 - $1,500)
Yes August No No Yes Under 60

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Living Costs

Hong Kong is the fourth most expensive country in the world, and the most expensive in Asia. Rent is particularly expensive, 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. When it comes to furnishing your apartment, IKEA is the best option – everything else is either expensive and bespoke, or cheap and poor quality, with little else in between.

Hong Kong isn’t a place where you’re going to experience too much 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 has good nightlife, plenty of outdoor pursuits on offer, great public transport, and a cuisine that many Westerners find much easier to get on with than the food in mainland China.

  • Accommodation: £2,235 – £4,136 / $2,993 – $5,537
  • Utilities: £131 / $176
  • Health insurance: Cost of typical visit to a GP: £39 / $52
  • Monthly transport pass: £51 / $69
  • Basic dinner out for two: £36 / $48
  • Cappuccino in expat area: £4.02 / $5.38
  • A beer in a pub: £6 / $8
  • 1 litre of milk: £2.22 / $2.97
  • 2 litres of Coca-Cola: £1.30 / $1.74

(living costs sourced from Expatistan)

Teacher Story

“In Hong Kong I taught English through an NGO. The organisation placed tutors into schools in which the students came from low-income households. These students were therefore less exposed to English language opportunities outside of school. Although there are many different ways to teach English in Hong Kong (often for more money), I decided that a high salary wasn’t everything and that I wanted to work in an environment where I would be helping underprivileged students. In Hong Kong it is extremely important for teenagers to learn English – if they don’t, they will most certainly not get a place at university. When I saw statistics of how many students didn’t make it to university based on their English-language skills, I knew I had made a good decision in choosing to work for a non-profit organisation.”

Madeleine, taught English in Hong Kong

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