With its rich history, vibrant culture, and rapidly expanding economy, China is an enticing destination for individuals seeking to teach English abroad. Teaching English in China not only offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the fascinating traditions and customs of the country, but it also provides a highly fulfilling experience teaching abroad. So, if you’re ready to expand your horizons and explore a unique culture, read on to learn how to teach English in China.
There are five different types of schools where you could find yourself teaching English in China. These include public schools, private schools, international schools, training centers, and universities. Each is quite different from the other and the work will vary greatly. It is a good idea to get to know about the different options to help you decide where to apply.
Chinese public schools hire native speakers to assist with teaching English in the classroom. You would likely be assigned as a supplemental English teacher. They are responsible for helping young learners improve their listening comprehension and speaking. This means the classes will still have a Chinese teacher to handle English classes.
The Chinese teacher is mostly responsible for teaching grammar and covering test preparation. Your role as the foreign teacher is to help the students practice speaking English and be more comfortable doing so. With around 30 to 50 students per class, you'll certainly be kept busy!
A private language school, or training center, is a private language center where students go after school. Typically, they go there to learn English in the late afternoon, during the evening, or on the weekends.
This job is perfect for teachers who cannot wake up early in the morning. However, the downside is that you won’t have the usual Monday-to-Friday work schedule. Your weekends will be spent at the center.
Besides helping your students practice speaking English, you might find yourself assigned to help students prepare to take the SAT or the TOEFL. You may also be asked to fulfill the jobs of a public speaking coach, college counselor, or debate mentor. There are all sorts of jobs that you can get when you work for a private school.
Unlike in public schools where you’d be working primarily with young learners, you may also be assigned adult students at a training center. Some adults go there to learn Business English that they can use at work.
The good thing about private language schools is that the class size is a lot smaller when compared to a public school. You can expect to handle a class of 4 to 8 individuals in a private school and you might even get one-on-one sessions.
If you have the teaching qualifications (a bachelor’s degree in education, a teaching license, and at least two years of previous teaching experience), you can apply to be an English teacher at an international school. This is often one of the most desired teaching jobs for people teaching English abroad because the salary is significantly higher. China is no exception to this.
At international schools in China you can also be hired to teach other subjects (math, history, science) in English.
These schools usually cater to the children of foreign residents. Chinese students who dream of studying overseas also tend to enroll here.
Pre-university schools cater to students who are done with high school and are preparing to study in a college outside of China. These individuals need help in preparing for taking tests like the SAT, IELTS, TOEFL, ACTS, and more. You could also find yourself teaching students who may not have done as well as they wanted in their Chinese university admissions test (Gaokao) and require some assistance making up for it.
Teaching at a university is another option if you want to work in China. Getting one of these positions can be quite competitive, and you'll typically need a teaching license and prior teaching experience. Consequently, you can expect a decent salary and it will look great on your TEFL CV. Plus, if you can manage it well you can get a lot of free time since you’ll only need to teach a few classes a week. You can use that time to explore China and experience its unique culture!
Some teachers also offer their services online if they have spare time. Teaching English online allows you to schedule classes closer to each other since you won't need to commute to where your students are.
The salary for an English teacher in China varies depending on your teaching experience and the type of school where you work. For a newbie (1st year) ESL teacher without prior teaching experience, you can typically expect to bring home $1,200 per month with free housing.
Public schools in China pay a salary that can range between $1,200 - $3000 per month. You'll be expected to teach from around 20-30 hours per week. This is a pretty reasonable pay rate for public schools when compared to teaching English abroad in other countries.
Private schools: If you secure a teaching job at a private or international school, your monthly salary could be around $2,800 to $4,300 per month. This is more than enough for you to live a comfortable life in China. However, you may work slightly longer hours than you would at a public school.
International schools pay teachers around $3,000 to $5,000 per month. However, you will generally be expected to work longer hours than in a public school.
Universities in China pay English teachers $1,500 to $2,500 per month. You'll have significantly less teaching time than in an international school, but you will need to plan your lectures.
Many teaching jobs in China come with amazing perks like flight reimbursement, enrollment in a TEFL course, free housing, free Mandarin lessons, and full coverage of visa fees. These are offered on top of your regular salary.
Another benefit that may also interest you is the free health care insurance. Most schools offer health insurance plans for their teachers. This covers all visits to the doctors and hospitals up to a limit ($100 to $200). International schools and universities can offer more comprehensive insurance packages to their teachers. However, as always you’d have to ask your employer for the specifics of this benefit.
Depending on the teaching position, Chinese employers will look for different qualifications. Additionally, the government can also change the teaching requirements quite often so it is worthwhile to double-check with your recruiter or the hiring school to make sure that you have all the necessary paperwork. Below are the standard ones:
A TEFL certification is needed if you want to get a teaching job in China. If you already have significant teaching experience, this requirement may be waived. However, it is still better to have a TEFL certificate than not.
The quickest way to get TEFL certified is by doing one of the many online TEFL courses available. Such courses allow their students to study part-time, so you can earn your TEFL certification at your own pace.
A bachelor’s degree in any field or major is usually needed to qualify for a teaching job in China. Prepare a copy of your original diploma from the university. To prove the document’s authenticity, you will need to get it notarized.
Foreign teachers will need a valid passport issued from an English-speaking country. It can be from the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.
You may need to undergo a criminal background check. Once you’ve passed this, the issuing agency will provide you with a certificate of a clean criminal record. Make a copy of this and send it along with the original.
China is a huge country so choosing where to teach English there can be daunting. While many opt to stay in Shanghai and Beijing, China has many other cities you can explore.
The first thing to consider when choosing a place to teach is your interests and preferences. Do you like the bustle and chaos of big cities like Shenzhen and Beijing or do you prefer to live somewhere more relaxed like Chengdu or Nanjing?
Note that the bigger cities offer more job opportunities and higher salaries. However, the slower-paced cities feature less competition and a more relaxed work environment.
For a more immersive and unique adventure, you can also try finding job opportunities in Harbin or Yunnan. Staying here will give you a better chance of really getting to know the Chinese culture.
Let's take a look at some of the options:
History buffs would love to stay in Beijing. This cosmopolitan city is a place that every visitor to China must explore. You can spend your free time hiking the Great Wall, biking through the Hutong neighborhoods, or wandering in the Summer Palace. You will not run out of things to do in Beijing.
Since it is one of China’s largest cities, there are a lot of teaching jobs to be had here. There are numerous schools, language academies, and cram schools that hire teachers, even those with no teaching experience.
Living in Shanghai can be intimidating for some, but the fast-paced life in this city is often what teachers seek. If you are a fan of the urban lifestyle and big cities, then Shanghai is the destination for you.
Getting around is not a problem thanks to the largest subway systems worldwide. You can enjoy a night at the Bund, admire the views from the skyrises at the Financial Center, and have your fill of Western and Chinese dishes from one of the dozens of bars and food places in the French Concession.
Being China’s most populous city and its commercial capital, there is no lack of Chinese students who wish to learn English in Shanghai. This is probably where you will find most of the teaching jobs in the country.
If you want to have easy access to Hong Kong, Shenzhen is a place you should consider. It is a busy city that is perfect for those who love to eat, drink, and shop.
There are numerous teaching opportunities in Shenzhen since it is home to several ESL academies and international schools. There are even kindergartens here where you can work teaching very young learners.
If you want to teach somewhere that is full of culture and history, you should try applying to Hangzhou. This serene destination is just an hour away from Shanghai. It is known for striking the perfect balance between old and new.
You can spend your weekends relaxing at a traditional tea house or walking around Hangzhou Lake. If you enjoy livelier activities, you can also spend your evening at a KTV and sing your heart out.
Hangzhou is home to numerous private schools, ESL academies, and universities so there is no shortage of teaching jobs here.
Do you enjoy spicy food? Are you looking for a quiet environment with a low cost of living? If you answered yes then Chengdu is the place for you. Besides the laid-back culture, it is also home to the only place where you can watch pandas be their adorable selves. Despite life being less hectic in Chengdu, the demand for English teachers in this area is still considerable so you won’t have such a hard time finding employment.
If your passion is spending your days hiking and enjoying the outdoors, one place you should consider is Guilin in Guangxi. It is a beautiful place on the Li River that offers scenic lookouts and many mountains to climb. You can try swimming in the mud caves and feel the adrenaline rush of mountain biking on its peaks.
It may be small but there are still English teaching jobs to be found in Guilin.
Nanjing showcases China’s rich history and culture. It is a small city found north of Shanghai. You can drop by the Presidential Palace or explore the area near Xuanwulake.
The locals are very friendly in Nanjing. You can often see English teachers spending their afternoons with the retired locals either playing mahjong or studying Chinese.
Looking for work as an English teacher in China can be challenging, especially when some of the job listings are in Chinese. According to many ESL teachers already working in the country, the easiest way to find a teaching job is to go through a recruitment agency. These agencies can help you search for a job that specifically fits your qualifications and preferences.
You can also try searching online on your own. Most international schools post job openings on their websites. And since these are international schools, the websites would be in English.
Most language training schools hire at any time during the school year. You should keep your eye on their websites so you can submit your application as soon as there is an opening.
As for public and private schools, the peak period for teacher hiring is between November to February. The hiring process is quite quick. Some teachers get hired within one month.
The first thing you need to do if you are going through an agency is to contact a reputable recruiter. These agencies act as the middlemen that screen applicants and match their qualifications with those of the schools that are hiring.
Make sure that you have your CV and cover letter. You will need to send this to the recruiters. Avoid sending generic cover letters with your application.
Once the recruiter deems you suitable, the next step is to schedule an interview with you. This is usually done over Skype.
If you pass the initial interview, you will need to prepare more documents. These will be used to apply for your Chinese Z visa so you can legally work in China and secure a residence permit.
At this point, you may also be contacted for another interview, this time with the headmaster or school manager of the Chinese school that is considering you. After this, and if you pass, you’ll be presented with an offer. Make sure that you carefully review the offer before agreeing to anything.
After you’ve accepted the offer, the school will begin the process of securing your residence and work permit in China. Applying for the necessary visa can take from 4 days to a week.
The process will begin once the hiring school sends you a letter of invitation. You will submit this to the Chinese consulate nearest you. Bring this letter along with the other necessary documents.
Required documents for application:
A valid passport and a photocopy of the photo page of the passport
Copy of your bachelor’s degree diploma
Copy of your teacher’s license
Copy of your TESOL or TEFL certificate (minimum of 120 hours)
If you don’t have the TEFL/TESOL certification, you will need to submit proof that you have two years of teaching experience minimum
Certificate signifying that you passed a criminal background check from your home country.
You will need to pay $50 (UK resident) or $135 (US Resident). our school should sponsor you for this. Once you get your visa, you’re ready to fly to China and begin your adventure teaching English abroad.
Getting a job teaching English in China can be very challenging but highly rewarding. On top of earning decent wages, you also get to enjoy everything that the country can offer. The culture and the language are so different that you may be surprised and confused by them in the beginning, but this only adds to the appeal of this fascinating country.
Here are some important things to know to make your teaching experience better:
Chinese schools have large class sizes. It is not uncommon to be given a class with 30 to 50 students. Younger students are commonly very active and friendly. Those in middle school are much shyer than their younger counterparts. You might need more patience getting them to engage.
Your work schedule may not be as consistent as you plan it to be. Classes experience schedule changes and you may not be given many warnings to prepare for it. You may also be asked to do tasks that are not familiar to you. The key is to be patient and flexible.
According to ESL teachers working in China, you can wear casual clothes but not too casual inside the classroom. This means you should stick to business casual or smart streetwear to blend in.
If you cannot speak Chinese and plan on going out a lot, it is necessary to take a picture of your address. Make sure that it is written in Chinese characters This way if you get lost and need to take a taxi or ask for directions, you can show the photo to the driver.
Living in China on a small budget is possible because it is generally an affordable country. You may need to a bit more if you live and teach in Shanghai, Beijing, or any other large city, but the cost is still manageable on a teacher’s salary.
Plus, you won’t have to solely rely on your pay to cover your rent, food, transportation, and entertainment. Most teaching jobs in China come with perks that should lighten your burden.
Most of the schools in China, even in second-tier cities, give their teachers apartments. This could be an apartment that belongs to the school or is rented by it specifically for its teachers’ use.
These dorm-type accommodations can either be on or off-campus, but they are always near the schools. The apartment comes with basic furniture so you don’t have to worry about buying things like a sofa, refrigerator, bed, or table.
If housing is not provided, then you’d have to rent using your housing stipend. Expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $450 a month for a room depending on the location. Note that this rate is for shared accommodation. Most English teachers in China choose to share living space to save on rent.
The cost of housing mentioned above doesn't include utilities. Expect to pay from $15 to $60 a month for your water, electricity, and internet bills.
Your next big-budget allocation is for food. Depending on whether you enjoy eating out or choose to prepare your own meals at home, you’d be spending anywhere from $150 to $250 a month on food. Authentic Chinese food is delicious but quite cheap so you might find yourself eating at a restaurant more often than cooking meals at home.
If you get your food from a local food stall and buy your ingredients from the markets, you’d be spending less than $220 a month on food. Eating Chinese dishes is cheaper than buying food from Westernized eateries. You might want to consider that when creating your food budget.
Schools sometimes give their teachers bicycles to get from their apartments to the school. However, for going out, you’d likely need to take a taxi or the train. Public transportation in China is very affordable. To get around, you’ll spend about $10 to $50 a month.
China is home to ancient treasures such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. If you want something more breathtaking, you can even take a trip to visit Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum.
If food is your passion, you’ll find the greatest variety of dishes here. Each region has its own unique cuisine. You cannot miss the opportunity to try out the Beijing roast duck, the spicy hotpot from Chengdu, or the Shanghainese soup dumplings. This country is a haven for foodies.
And with it being home to at least 300 million students, it is the perfect place for teachers who want to teach English abroad. According to past estimates, schools and other institutions are looking to hire over 100,000 professionals to teach English in China and the demand for foreign English teachers is still increasing every year thanks to the Chinese’s enthusiasm to be fluent in speaking English.
So, why not get your TEFL certification and get out there!?
Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding teaching English in China:
How much can you get paid to teach English in China?
The salary of an English teacher working at public and private schools can be anywhere between $1,200-$4,300 a month. However, a few international schools offer salaries ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 per month.
Can foreigners teach English in China?
Yes. If they have a valid passport from an English-speaking country or the necessary teaching experience, foreigners can teach English in China.
Are English teachers in demand in China?
Yes. English teachers are very much in demand in China.
What qualifications do I need to teach English in China?
To teach English in China you will need a bachelor's degree (any major), TEFL certification, a valid passport (English-speaking country), and a certificate for a criminal background check.
Is teaching English in China worth it?
Teaching English in China is challenging but definitely worth it. The country has so many things to offer in terms of food, sights, and experiences. You will never run out of things to experience in China.