Teaching English in China

By | January 8, 2017

China is the world’s most populous country and second largest by land mass. It shares land borders with Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Vietnam. Neighbouring maritime countries include South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan.

The climate in China is mostly a dry season and a wet monsoon season with a large difference in temperature during the winter and summer months. The climate does change from region to region because of its sheer size.

China’s rapid process of industrialisation has let to major environmental issues such as water quality, pollution and the expansion of deserts. Some of these environmental issues have become a big problem for the country, especially in the larger cities.

Read more about China from Wikipedia.

Why Teach English in China

By Bilale Boyce (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You can get first-hand experience of everyday life in the world’s most populous country. As the country is so big and populated, there are opportunities for teaching all over and no two experiences will be alike.

The demand for native English speaking teachers is rapidly increasing and as a result, finding a job in the country is pretty much guaranteed. You don’t necessarily need a degree, and although a teaching certificate is often required, you can still find work without one.

As the demand is increasing rapidly, you’ll find that a number of schools are offering generous teaching salaries and benefits to attract teachers to come and work.

Many Chinese people want to learn English and the demand for teachers has never been higher. However, as the country is so huge, there are nowhere near enough native English speaking teachers to fill all the available positions.

As a country that continues to develop at a very fast pace, you’ll also find that you won’t be stuck for things to see and do. The cities are modern and have all the entertainment that you need. There are many tourist sites to visit all over the country and you certainly won’t be bored when you’re not teaching.

Where to Teach English in China

There are opportunities all over the country and each town or city offers a unique experience. We’ll be covering the main locations individually because of the diversity of the country and teaching conditions. The most popular destinations are: Beijing, Tianjin, Nanjing, Suzhou, Shanghai, Ningbo, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan, and Guangzhou.

Types of Teaching Jobs in China

Public Schools

Tianjin Skyline

By Nangua (Flickr: Tianjin Skyline 2009 Sep 11 by Nangua 1) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Here you’ll be working for the government and this has many benefits: you’ll be working between 16-25 hours per week, no weekends or evenings, national holidays, paid vacations, co-working with a native teacher, and sometimes an apartment is thrown in too! In most cases classroom sizes will be between 20 and 40 students, but there some are horror stories of classes with 60, 70, 80 and even more students!

Private Language Schools

In a private school you could be teaching various types of students including children, adults, beginner or advanced level students, business people, government workers and more!

Unfortunately, you’ll be working some evenings and most weekends, but the salary is often higher than in public schools. Some of the larger schools offer fantastic benefits including accommodation, flight reimbursement, insurance and other things. Not all schools offer benefits, so it’s best to check before you accept a job.


There are both public and private universities in China and there are many benefits for working in either. You’ll generally only work a maximum of 20 teaching hours per week and you’ll have a lot of free time. There is quite a lot of competition for jobs in universities because of the pretty high salaries, good benefits and lots of free time!

International Schools

There are many international schools in the country and they mostly cater for the children of expats. The salaries are by far the highest but they also have very high standards. You’ll need to be a qualified teacher in your home country to get a job in an international school. These schools aren’t just for English teachers and all subjects are generally taught in English.

Private Lessons

You’ll also find that there are many opportunities for taking private lessons. You should first check that your contract allows you to take private lessons. If it does, then this can be a very good way to earn a few extra dollars.

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Teaching Requirements and Qualifications

Teaching requirements and qualifications can vary depending on the school that you are working for. It is possible to get a job without any kind of qualifications or experience; however, you will need to be a native English speaker from a recognised English speaking country. This means that you need to be a citizen of the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or Ireland.

Schools are crying out for teachers and as a result, many will not require that you have any kind of qualifications.

If you want to find a job with a higher salary, then having a degree, a teaching certificate (such as a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA), and experience will always help.

Expected Salary and Living Costs

[sociallocker id=”2068″]Salaries can range from as little as $900 (USD) to as much as $2600 (USD) per month. International schools will even pay as much as $4500 (USD) for highly qualified teachers.

Most schools even have a number of extra benefits for teachers which include paying for your visa, flight allowance, contract completion bonus, health insurance, accommodation assistance, paid holidays and free training programs.

The cost of living can vary considerably depending on which city you are working in and although living costs are steadily rising, they are still much cheaper than most Western countries. A cheap meal can cost as little as a few dollars and transport can also cost just a few dollars per journey. Your biggest expense will be your accommodation, but a number of schools provide accommodation for their teachers.

Read more about the cost of living from Numbeo.

If you get a higher paying job and your position comes with all the benefits listed above, it is entirely possible that you can save a lot of your salary or use it for travelling around when you’re not working.[/sociallocker]

Visa Requirements

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

Most schools will make the necessary arrangement for your visa. But the most important visa to get is the Z Visa, which is designed for employees in the country. This visa is process in your home country before relocating to China.

If your school asks you to apply for a visa other than the Z Visa, then you should ensure that you are working legally in the country.

You will also need to get an entry permit; this can either be a single entry or multiple entries.

Moreover, you will need to have a health check. People with HIV, TB, and other infectious diseases will be denied a visa.

You can get more information about the Z Visa here.

How to Find a Job Teaching in China

As you need to apply for your Z visa before entering the country, most first time English teachers in China will secure a job before arriving. There are many places online that advertise for English teachers and you can often complete the recruitment process online via Skype.

If you are already in the country and you are coming to the end of your contract, you can look around for teaching positions and apply in person.

Beware of some scam advertisements. Be wary of any school that charges you an application fee or asks for personal information such as bank account information. Always research schools to find out which ones have a good reputation before accepting any position.

Teach English in China

China has become a very popular destination for TEFL teachers. There is a huge demand for native English speaking teachers and as a result, you don’t necessarily need a degree and you can often expect pretty good salaries and good benefits.

The living costs are usually much lower than they are in the West, and it’s entirely possible to save money. If you don’t want look for a job and arrange everything by yourself, there are many internships available. However, they have very low salaries when compared to non-internship jobs.


Although I have never worked in this country, every effort has been made to ensure that this information is correct. This blog post has been written after extensive research online, interviews with teachers who have worked or are working in the country, and local schools have been contacted. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. If you have worked or are working in China, we would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and share your experiences with us.

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