Hong Kong kids start learning English as young as 6 months old. Being both – a past Chinese and British Colony, parents have quickly adapted to raising their kids as multicultural, multi-language speakers. English goes hand in hand with Cantonese as one of the most widely spoken languages.
In this comprehensive guide, we aim to address the common question: “Can I teach English in Hong Kong for non-natives?”
Why Choose Hong Kong as your career destination?
It’s no surprise that Hong Kong has a massive demand for English teachers – and pays the highest among all countries.
Our research tells us that Hong Kong ranks 2nd in Top 10 Dream Destinations for Teaching English Abroad in 2023
An English teacher in Hong Kong can easily make between HK$16,000 to HK$65,000 in a month. Add to that the income earned via private tutoring or offering translation services and this position becomes a pretty lucrative one.
While Hong Kong employs both natives and non-natives as English teachers, the rules are a bit different for non-natives.
How can I apply for an English teaching job in Hong Kong as a non-native?
On the whole, it’s definitely easier for natives to find jobs in Hong Kong due to local and cultural preferences. However, there is a large volume of international schools and ex-pats in the country who keep the need for foreign English teachers alive.
Non-natives can look for positions via Hong Kong Job dB or global sites like Indeed. There are also various government programs that support English teachers such as the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) program.
The NET is a scheme (similar to the JET scheme in Japan or the EPIK scheme in South Korea) that allocates teachers to various secondary and senior secondary schools as needed.
Usually, you need a TEFL qualification to be a part of NET. Positions obtained via NET are coveted as they come with lucrative salaries, ranging from HK$31,750 to HK$73,775, along with other allowances for housing. These positions are offered on a 2-year contract basis.
You can also try applying directly to individual institutions such as ours. Non-natives usually have a higher chance of hiring in international schools. Other opportunities can include private tutoring organizations, private schools, and private language teaching organizations.
Apply to Fun to Learn English Learning Centre
Along with having a valid passport and clean criminal record, Fun to Learn English Learning Centre is looking for someone who’s punctual, creative, patient with students and has either a TESOL, CELTA, or TEFL certification.
The organization provides visa sponsorships, paid public holidays, and an MPF scheme. There are also government criteria that you need to satisfy, which we’ve discussed next.
Requirements to teach English in Hong Kong for non-natives
For non-natives, there are two levels of requirements that you will have to satisfy. The first is those set by the Hong Kong government for incoming streams of work people, and the other will be for the individual organization you are applying for.
The general requirements for such jobs are:
- Having a valid passport and work visa satisfies all requirements associated with the same.
- Being within 60 years of age. However, depending on the post, younger applicants or experienced applicants may get a preference.
- Have a bachelor’s degree in any subject of choice.
- Have an accredited TEFL qualification.
- May need to have two (or a few) years of similar experience (this varies based on the institute).
If you are applying to teach at a university level, you might need more accreditations such as a Master’s degree, PGCE, or a PhD. In general, local primary and secondary schools may prefer female teachers, however, this is seen as a normal cultural expectation rather than a discriminatory offense.
Having the right credentials and papers ensures that you have a leg to stand on in case of any disputes that may arise during your time there. It also allows you to claim your wages in case of any financial dispute with the school you’re working at. Hong Kong authorities are notorious for carrying out random checks at schools – so make sure you have your paperwork in order.
How do I get a TEFL accreditation?
Most non-natives use the Hong Kong Z Visa to work as a teacher. Having a TEFL qualification greatly increases your chances of acceptance. To get accredited, you can visit the official TEFL site and sign up for a course.
Most schools will want at least 120 hours of qualification or more. If you’re a new teacher, a TEFL course can go a long way in kick-starting your career, since the two-year experience barrier is waived for those with more than 120 hours of qualification.
Salary and cost of living
Hong Kong pays more than even Japan and South Korea when it comes to English teachers. However, this comes with the caveat that Hong Kong is the fourth most expensive country in the world to live in. Rent is usually high, though food and transportation costs are quite low.
On average, a single person spends around HK$8,200 on their regular day-to-day expenses, excluding rent.
Rent can vary from HK$16,962 for a single-room flat within the city to HK$12,150 for one on the outskirts.
Apart from the HK$16,000 to HK$65,000 per month that teachers make, you can earn an additional HK$100 to $550 by the hour by offering private tuition.
Unlike some countries that offer free in-flight bookings and accommodations, it is not common to find job listings with these inclusions in Hong Kong. However, NET-based positions come with a housing allowance of around HK$20,989.
Where can I teach English without being a native speaker?
Non-natives can apply for various job posts at:
- International schools
Hong Kong has around 700,000 ex-pats, necessitating the need for many international schools. These schools often follow British or American curriculums, with English as the medium of instruction. Thus, foreign, native language speakers are highly preferred.
- Language programs
Language teaching programs are stand-alone institutes that offer language courses for children and adults alike. If it’s hard for you to obtain a school-teaching job due to no prior experience, language programs can be a good place to start instead. Recruitment usually happens all year round however May and June are especially busy since more people sign up for the summer.
If you have higher qualifications and enough teaching experience, you could consider being a professor instead – and get a fatter check. However, universities prefer to hire those looking for a strictly academic career in the long run.
- Private Tutoring
While you cannot get a work visa with only the intention of hosting private tutoring classes, it can be a good side income to supplement your mainstream. You can also do smaller freelance tasks (article writing, translations, copywriting) and charge between HK$100 to $550 per hour.
Note: You can still visit using a Working Holiday Visa, however, this is only applicable for a handful of countries.
On the whole, with enough experience and qualifications, getting an English teaching job in Hong Kong is easily within reach for those who are interested enough. Though the competition for some of these jobs can be high, it’s worth the payoff.
Being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, you’ll not only get to teach some bright minds, but immerse yourself in a whole new culture!