What You Need to Teach English in Hong Kong: Part 2

Different Teaching Jobs, Salaries, Contracts and More.

This is the second article I have written in this series. You can catch the first one here. In this part, we will be focusing on actually looking for work, what kinds of work there is out there given my experience and looking at some of the details you might need to be aware of. Let’s dig in!

Different Kinds of Teaching Jobs

When I arrived in Hong Kong, I had no idea what I had let myself in for. I knew I’d be working with younger children but it’s hard to understand how tough that experience is until you go through it. Naturally. One of my first realisations was of how big the class sizes were. I’d be teaching between 20–30 kids. I remember wondering how it could be possible to teach such a number of children. I had the easier job, too. I was a subject teacher meaning I was only responsible for teaching the children English. Before you begin to search for a job, you need to know what kinds of teaching jobs there are out there. I’m going to focus on Kindergartens here because it’s what I know.

Teaching jobs are generally separated into two types. We have covered subject teachers so I will talk a little about class teachers. A class teacher is responsible for the whole curriculum except for Chinese language subjects so the job duties will differ massively. This is important to know because being a class teacher is way more demanding than being a subject teacher. You are responsible for implementing the whole curriculum. If this sounds daunting to you, that’s understandable. I started as a subject teacher and worked my way towards being a class teacher. It is hugely rewarding but incredibly hard work at times. There are many jobs that you might end up doing. There is a trend in Hong Kong to get the most blood you can out of each stone so do be aware of what your job duties are regardless of whether you become a class teacher or a subject teacher.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

 When’s a Good Time to Apply For a Job?

When I applied for my job, it was during the summer in August. I was fortunate to hear back from my then employer right away and soon enough I was on a plane to Hong Kong. Since then, in my experience, it is best to start applying for a job after Chinese New Year, so around February. This will give you enough time to apply for good jobs as well as give companies the time to get your work visa sorted. You can still find jobs year round but the best ones normally get snapped up early.

Any good places to look for a job?

There are many websites that can help you to find an English teaching job in Hong Kong. I found my first job through Dave’s ESL café. Having lived in Hong Kong for a good amount of time, I have discovered a few more websites worth checking out.

JobsDB Hong Kong — This website has the added option of signing up and uploading your C.V for employers to find, making it easier to find a job.

Indeed HK — This is a good option for finding teaching jobs that often don’t show up on JobsDB.

CPJobs — This website is an offshoot of the South China Morning Post which is the most popular paid English Newspaper in Hong Kong

Besides the websites mentioned, you can also join Facebook groups and have a glance on Meet-Up. If you go the Facebook route, there is a group that is hugely helpful called “ EFL Teachers of Hong Kong” not only for browsing job posts and general help but they actually tend to attract the kinds of employers who would be willing to sponsor work visas. This makes your task of working in Hong Kong infinitely easier! I like this group for another reason too. Often when people come to Hong Kong to work as an English Teacher or fall into this line of work purely by accident, they tend to have a degree, which is great but they often get locked out of better-paying jobs simply because they don’t have any kind of teaching certificate. Well “EFL Teachers of Hong Kong” which is run by Angelina Komar who teaches the Trinity cert TESOL at traintheteacher.org can help you get set on the path to picking up that certificate by studying full-time or part-time. Granted, this is more for people who have yet to pick up a teaching certificate of some kind, which as I said in my previous article is really something you should have before you arrive here. Meet-Up is another place you can look at to put you in contact with teachers who are working in schools all throughout the territory. You can start with the group Hong Kong teachers and expand your social circle out from there. The world is your lobster.

 A Word About Visas

There are always many ways to peel a potato. I entered Hong Kong on a tourist visa and completed my work visa whilst I was in Hong Kong. I have had friends who have received their visa through the post and entered Hong Kong using it. One thing is for sure, make sure you get your visa before you start working! Divulge in information here!

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Photo by Taduuda on Unsplash

 What will an Agency do for you?

As I mentioned earlier, I found my first job in Hong Kong through Dave’s ESL café but I want to detail my experience a little here because I feel it will be useful. The job I found was an English teaching job working through an agency. They are great for schools because it means the school doesn’t have to directly deal with sponsoring your work visa or for that matter, they don’t have to deal with anything. They just expect an English teacher to show up and work. Looking back on it, I think working for an agency first is a good first job to have in Hong Kong because they take care of a lot of things for you. Especially if you haven’t worked abroad before. This is a great place to start for first timers.

A place to stay — an agency will often sort you a place to stay. This will be a shared place with one or two other people working for the same company. It can sometimes be a great start when you come to a new country because you are all going to be having the same shared experience. There is also the option to find somewhere else to stay. Your agent will normally give you a rent budget. This can be great if you are paired with unsavoury types.

Training and teaching resources — The agency I came in with offered some basic training and this was invaluable to get an idea of what to expect going into the job. It is always valuable to take what they give you but also make sure you do your own homework on what your job really entails. I ended up taking their advice and used a game with the kids for a month. I remember a teacher at the school I worked at sarcastically saying after a month “Oh, hurray kids! A new game”. Agents also offer some basic materials to make your time with the kids more fun, which is a definitive plus!

Opportunities to explore your new home — It’s great to have someone show you around your new home. Agencies generally take the time to make their employees feel welcome by showing them around and putting on gatherings every month or so. They’re also a great source of knowledge about your new home. They can tell you how to get to places, what is worth seeing, how to take the bus, subway and train, etc.

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Photo by Olu Eletu on Unsplash

What might your first contract look like?

Contracts in Hong Kong are varied. This is a walk through of sorts as to what might be in a general contract. Let’s talk about that first job I had. Back in the day, a general salary was $12’000 HKD per month, but do bear in mind, this was 10 years ago so salaries have somewhat adjusted for inflation. I think, for a starting salary in this day and age, you should expect between $15’000–$20’000 per month. Some might be on the lower end because some contracts include housing. It can be common to receive bonuses in the range of $3’000 HKD on school holidays such as Christmas, Chinese New Year and Easter. Some contracts also offer money for air-tickets upon completion which is generally in the range of $5’000–$7’000 HKD.

Being employed by an agency, they can basically put you anywhere and you don’t have much of a say about it. I was put in two schools. I spent three days in Sham Shui Po and two days in Cheung Sha Wan. (both next door to each other on the MTR so that was convenient) My job was as an “English teacher”. What this translated into was more like an English Enrichment Activity Leader that spent 20 minutes in each of my classes (total 6 in the morning and six in the afternoon. Yes, I was bloody tired at the end of each day) teaching oral English and phonics through the use of games. That’s what my normal day looked like every day except when we had special events which were part of my contract. I had to do four a year so this could be anything from a parent outing to a graduation ceremony. I also had to work Saturdays working half day teaching English drama to kindergarten kids.

Unless you work in a learning centre, one of the things you’ll find pretty standard on any school contract is that you won’t be able to take leave when you like. You have to follow the school calendar which is a blessing and a curse. It means that you get a lot more days off than the average person in Hong Kong. Most people only get 7+ days annual leave for the entire year. However, Hong Kong does also have a lot of red days (public holidays) so that offsets it a little. The curse part comes in the fact that you have to buy travel tickets at the most popular travel times of the year so every time you go on holidays, it might be a little bit more expensive than off peak travel times.

For Sick leave, most contracts follow the government minimum. When you work, you accrue sick leave days and according to the government, if you take 4 days or more off with a medical certificate, you are entitled to 80–90% of your salary for the days taken off (providing you have accumulated enough sick days). Less than that, depending on your contract, your salary will be deducted. In most cases, if you take “unauthorised medical leave” you would probably be deducted $300–400 HKD a day. Pretty standard really. It always a good idea to check the Labour Department website to stay up to date with the law.

What about if you want to leave your job? This varies but most places expect two months’ notice or the equivalent amount in wages. You really need to read your contract carefully here. Some agencies write ridiculous things in their contracts. You might come across clauses like “upon termination, you are not allowed to work in another school for 2 years”. These are clearly ridiculous and you need to really read your contract before signing it. You also have the usual suspects in there in regards to things you can be terminated for such as criminal offences, refusing to co-operate with the school, arriving late and leaving early or the school experiences something unforeseen and has to let you go. (like closing down for example.)

That’s it for now folks! See you in the next part. Don’t forget to share this post far and wide if you liked it!

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