There are around 6,000 to 10,000 expatriate English teachers working in Hong Kong. Most of them are from Australia, New Zealand, the UK and North America. English-language proficiency has retained its importance in Hong Kong, despite massively increased resources for Putonghua/Mandarin teaching since the 1997 handover. If you speak English, it is generally easy to get around, make yourself understood and do business.
Faced with decreasing levels of English capability, the government has launched various initiatives in recent years to improve the level of English in schools and the workplace. There is a strong social bias in favour of English. In most cases people who know English get higher salaries and enjoy better job prospects. This is a strong incentive for many locals to learn it.
As in many places in Asia, demand for English teachers can exceed supply. This does mean, there are still private language schools in Hong Kong that may employ unqualified teachers. These schools usually pay below average wages.
For full-time primary and secondary teaching positions you will need a degree plus PGCE, or education degree and experience of teaching English. For tertiary full-time teaching, a Masters in Applied Linguistics/TESOL is recommendable. For part-time teaching, you’ll probably need a degree, TEFL Certificate and some teaching experience. The academic year runs from September to June, so most full-time recruitment happens between February and April.
Salaries and Work Visas
Most English teachers prefer to work in tertiary institutions because the working conditions are good and salaries often higher than in private language schools. Tertiary language centres commonly employ a mix of full- and part-time teachers.
Full-time tertiary English teachers are usually sponsored by an institution, which does the paperwork for work visas. They receive basic health insurance, generous periods of leave and often a bonus of 10-15% paid at contract end. Full-time salaries vary but are usually between HK$28,000 and HK$50,000 a month.
Part-time teachers can register as a business and seek to obtain an ‘investment’ visa or a work visa if they find a sponsoring host institution willing to employ the applicant for sufficient hours to meet the qualification criteria. First-time visa applicants are usually granted a single-year visa. On renewal, a visa may be extended for one, two or three years.