Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China, consisting of the Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong Island. Over the past few decades, Hong Kong has become an economic powerhouse and one of the worlds major financial centers creating demand for native English speakers to teach ESL and business English.
Overview of Hong Kong
|Hong Kong Quick Facts|
Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)
Primary Language(s): Chinese (Cantonese), English
Religion(s): Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism (the majority of the population identifies as secular)
Working in Hong Kong
Most English teachers in Hong Kong are employed through the NET program discussed below. While there are a large number private language schools that also hire English teachers, the pay is usually better in the public schools and the benefits much better and work visas are guaranteed which makes it a more optimal choice for experienced English teachers.
Native English Teacher Scheme (NET)
The NET program is the Hong Kong governments program for recruiting native English speakers to teach in the public school system. Teachers can choose to work with elementary and middle school level students or high school level students. Teachers are typically required to sign a 2-year contract which begins in August and should apply during the Winter and Spring months. The NET program will provide teachers with the most stability out of any of the English teaching jobs in Hong Kong.
- Class sizes in Hong Kong, as in other parts of China, can be quite large. Most classes will be between 25 and 30 students going as high as 40 students and as low as 20 students in a class.
- The Hong Kong government requires teachers who wish to work for the NET program to hold a teaching certificate, a TEFL certification (either blended learning or onsite), a bachelor’s degree, and prior teaching experience. Next to universities, the NET program has the most stringent requirements of all English teaching job types in Hong Kong.
- Working hours will differ based on whether you are teaching elementary or high school level students. Teachers working for secondary schools will work between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm. At the Primary Whole Day School level teachers work between 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. Primary bi-seasonal AM schools operate between 7:30 am and 1:00 pm and Primary PM schools work between 1:30 pm and 6:30 pm.
- Salaries for a teacher in the NET program vary greatly depending on the level of experience a teacher has as well as which school they are working for. Typical salaries range between 22,000 and 48,000 HKD. Typical benefits include flight reimbursement, housing allowance, insurance, and bonuses.
Increasing Your Chances of Securing a Job
Schools in Hong Kong are going to be looking for teachers that have past experience at the level they are applying to teach. While this isn’t always true when it comes to private language schools, it is going to hold true for the public school system as well as universities. Aside from past experience, having a teaching certificate will be a requirement for securing a job at a public school along with a TEFL certification. Schools will be looking for you to have at the very least a 120-hour blended learning or on-site TEFL certification from a reputable institution. Lastly, you want to make sure that you have everything in order in terms of reference letters, crafting a solid resume, and proper presentation. Remember that appearance is extremely important in Hong Kong so appearing at your interview wearing a t-shirt and jeans, whether it is in person or through video conference, will almost certainly guarantee you will not have a successful outcome. Also, be aware that reference letters go a long way in Hong Kong so make sure that you request reference letters from past schools you have taught at. If you make sure all of these things are in order then you will most certainly have a leg up over the competition assuming they have not made the same preparations.
Before obtaining a work visa for Hong Kong you are required to first secure an offer of employment. It is highly recommended that you have an offer secured before arriving in Hong Kong, however, it is not a requirement and a work visa can be applied for after you land once you secure an offer of employment (though you will have to leave and re-enter the city in order to change over from your current visa to an employment visa). In order to qualify for a visa, the minimal requirements you will need are a bachelor’s degree in almost any subject and, depending on the level of student you will be teaching, a 120-hour TEFL certification will also be required (this is a requirement for the NET scheme). Teachers will also need to pass a background check, though, unlike in mainland China a medical check will not be necessary. Visas will generally take 6 to 8 weeks to process but may take longer if further inquiries have to be made to obtain information from you.
Standard of Living
The standard of living in Hong Kong is extremely high with a quality of life index score that continually places the city in the top 100 cities in the world. The economy of Hong Kong is robust as it is one of the worlds major financial hubs. Salaries for most professionals in the city, including English teachers, are quite high. Though, this also means the cost of living can be extremely high also when compared to the cost of living in many other places popular with ESL teachers. For English teachers who plan on moving to Hong Kong with their family, the city enjoys one of the highest ranked education systems in the world.
Typical ESL Teacher Salaries vs Cost of Living
Teachers who are both qualified and experienced can do very well in Hong Kong, particularly if they are hired into NET Scheme and/or they receive a generous benefits package that includes either housing or a housing allowance. The below table provides an example of what ESL teachers can typically expect to earn and spend in Hong Kong on a monthly basis. Both income and expenses vary vastly, depending on the employer, the teacher’s qualifications and experience and the salary and benefits offered.
|Monthly Income (USD)|| Monthly Expenses (USD)|
| Monthly Expenses (USD)|
Housing Not Provided
$2,800 - $6,000
Living in Hong Kong
Things to Do
Teachers in Hong Kong will seldom find themselves lacking something to do. Hong Kong is a rare city where ultra-modern cityscape melds seamlessly with historical buildings. Kowloon as well Hong Kong Island is full of parks, museums, hiking trails, and the surrounding islands offer a place to get away from the main city as well as numerous beaches and diving locations. Hong Kong is also conveniently located a few hours flight away from numerous other Asian hotspots such as Thailand, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Seoul and is an easy 1-hour ferry ride from Macau.
One of the best places to simultaneously escape from the city and get some of the most amazing photographs of the dense city at the same time. Victoria peak is situated above the skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island and is the highest peak on the island (31st overall in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Zone). There are multiple ways of getting there including taking a cab, a bus, or the peak tram. Victoria peak stands at over 500 meters tall and is well renowned as a place for hikers, joggers, and as a place for great photography of the cityscape during both daytime and night times. The summit is closed off and houses a radio antenna, however, there is a gigantic observation deck located near the summit as well as trails that go around the mountain and offer views of almost all parts of Hong Kong Island as well as remarkable views of the Kowloon Peninsula and Victoria Harbour.
Kowloon Walled City Park
Named from the notorious Kowloon Walled City which used to stand in the same location, the Kowloon Walled City Park is an often unvisited place by tourists and expats which holds some of the rich histories of Hong Kong’s past. The Kowloon Walled City, before its demolition in the early 1990’s, was the most densely populated place on the planet. The city was constructed originally as a military fort but later after the Chinese government leased Hong Kong to the British became a settlement outside the jurisdiction of both the Chinese government in Beijing and the British government in Hong Kong. Because of this, the Walled City was an ungoverned area which through much of the late 1900’s was controlled by various Triad organizations and became a haven for vice, smugglers, unlicensed doctors and dentists, and others seeking to escape the reach of authorities. The park now stands as a place to remember the history of the walled city and is also great for it’s walking trails and natural beauty. The park is located in Kowloon City and can be reached easily by bus.
Tian Tan Buddha
The Tian Tan Buddha is an enormous statue depicting a sitting Buddha on Lantau Island near Hong Kong Island. The statue is over 100 feet (34 meters) tall and is constructed entirely of bronze with a steel framework weighing in at over 200 tons. The statue itself was completed in 1993 and is a popular tourist attraction as well as being an extremely important location for the Buddhist population of Hong Kong. The statue is meant to symbolize the relationship between mankind and nature. Visitors can access the Tian Tan Buddha between the hours of 10 am and 5:30 pm Monday through Sunday and can access the island via cab, bus, MTR, or ferry. Aside from the Big Buddha, as it’s collectively known, Lantau Island is a popular place for residents of Hong Kong, expats, and tourists alike to get away from the city and has a number of popular beaches as well as numerous hiking trails.
It’s hard to live in Hong Kong and not interact or experience Victoria Harbour in one way or another as it is the main water channel running in between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula. However, Victoria Harbour is more than just a large body of water. The harbor itself is not the main attraction but the various areas around the harbor on both the Hong Kong and Kowloon side which offer spectacular views and photo opportunities if you are so inclined to take them. The Tsim Sha Tsui promenade on the Kowloon side of the harbour, which is home to the Avenue of the Stars (Hong Kong Cinemas answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California) is one of the best places to see the lights of the skyscrapers lining Central as well as other parts of Hong Kong Island. Also, there are numerous other popular areas along the harbor including various museums and restaurants that are world-renowned.
International Commerce Center
The tallest building in Hong Kong and a fantastic place for lovers of cityscape views and observation decks. The International Commerce Center is a commercial use skyscraper in West Kowloon. The building houses the Ritz-Carlton Hotel as well as a number of office buildings. There is an observation deck named Sky 100 on the 100th floor offering unparalleled 360-degree views of Hong Kong including Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula as well as Victoria Harbour and surrounding islands. The building itself is also well-known for the light and show every night from the over 500,000 square feet (50,000 square meters) of lights on two of the buildings facades which was ranked by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest light show in the world. Visitors to the International Commerce Center can access the observation deck between the hours of 10 am and 9 pm Sunday through Thursday and 10 am to 10:30 pm Friday and Saturday.