With almost 1.4 billion citizens at the time of writing and a gigantic economy, China is the market to focus on in the coming decades. China has officially outlined its plans to become the world’s biggest superpower within the next 30 years, which means China is going to spread its influence globally.

In order to do so, China needs educated professionals who speak foreign languages, English in particular. Chinese vice premier announced in 2015 that more than 300 million people in this country were learning English, while the numbers just kept growing in the meantime.

If you are thinking about your career and considering some major changes, it might as well be the opportunity for you to step up and apply for the English as a Second Language (ESL) position in China. However, before you do, you need to understand how things work there and how to earn a decent salary.

In this post, we will show you the benefits of ESL teaching and present you 11 tips to negotiate teacher’s salary in China. Let’s check it out!

How much you can earn as a teacher in China

The Benefits of Teaching in China

Teaching in China can bring you substantial benefits both financially and culturally. There are dozens of reasons to go abroad and join one of the Chinese schools, but we selected only a few most important advantages:

–          Work-life balance: Foreign teachers in China don’t have to work overtime to make a decent living. You can easily combine classes with leisure activities, achieving the long-term work-life balance.

–          Travel opportunities:China is an enormous country, which gives you a plethora of travel options. Besides that, it’s easy to go abroad and visit some of the neighboring countries such as Japan, Thailand, or Vietnam.

–          International experience:Work experience in China can enrich you as a person. Besides, your employment history can add extra value to your resume.

–          Language learning opportunity:More than 1 billion people speak Mandarin, thus making it the second most spoken language in the world. You can use your time in China to learn their official language.

–          Social engagement:In China, you are not only a professional who does their job but also a person who helps locals to expand their viewpoints and learn more about the Western civilization.

–          Meet foreign cultures: Another benefit of working in China is that you get to face entirely different people and culture. It’s a lifetime adventure that you will remember forever.

Top 11 tips on how to negotiate teacher's salary in China

How to Negotiate Teacher’s Salary Conditions in China: Top 11 Tips

Now that you’ve seen the advantages of choosing China as your teaching destination, it is time to learn how to negotiate your salary over there. Since every successful negotiation requires rigorous planning and strategic thinking, make sure to read our tips carefully. Here they are:

  1. Do the research

Before you take off, you should conduct a thorough research to find out how it feels to work in China and what to expect there. A report shows that most first-time English teachers in China typically make up to $2K (12K RMB) per month.

Teacher’s salary in China depends on various factors such as type of school (private or public), your own academic background, location, and many other features. However, we recommend you to demand more than $2K if your goal is to save some money aside.

  1. Consider the location

Your teaching location affects your salary negotiations strongly. If you find a job in Beijing or Shanghai, your costs of living will be much higher than in less popular or rural areas of China. For instance, the average living cost in Beijing in 2018 is approximately $1.3K, what is about three times more than in smaller towns or villages.

However, you have the reason to negotiate a higher salary regardless of your teaching location. In case you are offered a position in the metropolitan area, you should ask for more to cover everyday expenses. On the other side, rural regions of China are so unpopular that you can play the scarcity card.

  1. Fight for the salary immediately

Chinese employers will rarely ever give you a raise unless you are a genuinely impressive teacher. That’s why Calum Coburn, a speaker at Negotiation Experts, recommends doing your best to get the appropriate financial compensation immediately: “If they send you an interview invitation, it means they need you and want to hire you. This is the opportunity to apply the skills you could gain in a negotiation workshop to negotiate a comprehensive employee benefits package as well.”

  1. Apply for different jobs

You should also apply for several positions to evaluate and compare different offers. This process can give you a valuable insight into the existing market conditions, while you can use this information to negotiate a better deal somewhere else.

Be polite, but let your desired employer know that you have a much more lucrative offer in another institution. This claim will reveal your professional authority and probably convince the targeted employer to hire you eventually.

  1. Use expert knowledge as an excuse

Let’s say that you are a native English speaker who has a degree in IT and software engineering. Your expertise in this area can serve as an excuse to demand a more appropriate financial arrangement, especially if you are going to work in a city or region attractive for IT-focused companies. Don’t be afraid of highlighting your specialty because such an emphasis gives you a comparative advantage over your peers.

  1. Exploit international certificates

English is the lingua franca of our era, so it’s completely natural to see hundreds or even thousands of schools and courses in this field all around the world. However, some institutions are more credible than others and we suggest you earn a certificate in linguistics.

Some of the most renowned English exams include TOEFL, Cambridge exams, OPI and OPIC, TOEIC, and CPE. As a native speaker, you probably won’t have a problem finding a teaching position in China, but it definitely wouldn’t hurt you to complete one of these courses.

  1. Use your appearance as an advantage

It’s not uncommon for Chinese companies to hire foreigners to represent them in public relations-type roles. Foreign employees, especially white Westerners, make Chinese businesses look more prestigious and internationally-oriented.

The same goes for Chinese private schools – when they hire a Westerner, they can show off and raise tuition fees. This gives you another reason to negotiate more employee benefits and demand a higher monthly compensation.

  1. Learn Chinese

Who makes a better ESL teacher than a native English speaker? Here is your answer – the ideal candidate is a native English speaker who also speaks Chinese. Of course learning another language could turn challenging for some people. Nonetheless, if you work hard enough to gain at least some basic conversational skills, your efforts will make you a far more desirable employee.

You sure can learn the most essential phrases within a few months, so give your best to make it happen. It’s a time-consuming process, although the result will be rewarding. Knowing Mandarin Chinese even on basic level, you are able to earn much more money than an average teacher.

  1. Use your personal contacts

Networking is a critical segment of career-building. Regardless of the country, you can use personal connections to break the ice and find a suitable job. If you know anyone who already works in China, don’t hesitate to give them a call and ask about the current situation out there.

Besides, you can ask people who used to work in China to recommend you to one of the local employers, thus raising your professional authority through word-of-mouth promotion. You can use an endorsement as the cornerstone for future salary negotiations because you and the recruiter have the same acquaintance who can prove your skills and knowledge.

  1. Make it clear

When you finally reach the agreement and determine the compensation package, you should make the legal partclear by signing a contract. However, keep in mind that the contract should precisely state all details of your agreement or else you might end up losing. For instance, don’t just mention that you will receive an annual bonus, but instead write down the exact amount of this benefit. That way, you can rest assured that you will receive everything you deserve.

  1. Ask for more

Although it’s difficult to convince a Chinese employer to give you a raise, it’s not impossible. After all, you can’t expect to earn more unless you ask for it. Once you prove to be a diligent and loyal worker, you can demand additional benefits, including a better salary, housing and transport allowance, sick leave, annual bonuses, medical insurance, etc.

Negotiate Your Teacher's Salary in China


Today, China is a highly profitable market for foreign teachers who are skilled enough to get a job in public or private schools. However, you need to be bright enough to arrange quality terms of service. Chinese employers can be difficult negotiators, so you must learn how to approach them before discussing the salary issue.

In this post, we revealed the benefits of ESL teaching in China and presented you 11 tips to negotiate teacher’s salary in China. Remember our tips to increase your chances of getting an awesome job in China. Feel free to leave a comment if you need additional explanations – we are always glad to help you out!

Author’s bio:

Lilou Hoffman is a resident digital marketing guru at Negotiation Experts. Passionate about website promotion and building relationships around the world, Lilou’s background includes online marketing and project management. Lilou is enjoying deepening her understanding of how to best guide sales professionals to meet their targets and consistently perform at their best.