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The Guide to Teaching English in China

Benefits of Teaching English in China

More Job Opportunities

Nearly all Chinese students are required to learn English and there’s no better way to learn than from native speakers. That’s why schools, organizations, and teachers prefer to hire teachers from English-speaking countries.

There are over 1.39 billion Chinese with at least 400 million English learners, making China the top job market for English teachers soon.

Cultural Immersion

China has one of the oldest and richest cultures in the world, dating back thousands of years ago. Teaching in the country is the best way to get up close and personally experience this distinct culture.

Generous Benefits

Teachers in China are well respected and generously paid. With the country’s low cost of living, it’s easy to save money and live comfortably. You can also get holiday breaks, which gives you ample time to travel around.

Learn Chinese

No doubt you will get a full immersive experience. Being forced to use a language is one of the best ways to improve your language skills!

English Teaching Jobs in China


Teaching English in kindergartens can be so much fun. Classrooms are vibrant and child friendly with teaching assistants to help you. Lessons focus on songs and activities, with flashcards and other resources often provided by the school. On average, you’ll teach 4-20 students for 30-45 minutes. Teaching hours are from 8:30am to 4:30pm with a two-hour lunch break, Monday through Friday.

Public Schools

Public schools in China include primary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges. Classes can have up to 40 students. Lessons typically focus on oral English and you get to design your 45-minute lessons. Working hours can vary from school to school, but generally they’re from 8:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.

You only teach 16-18 hours per week with limited office hours in public schools, giving you more time for other activities. On top of that, your accommodation is already provided on campus.

International Schools

China has recently seen a phenomenal growth in international schools with no signs of slowing down. These schools have world-class facilities, varied curriculum offerings, and smaller than average class sizes. International schools typically offer primary to high school education.

Qualifications to teach in international schools can be higher than in public schools, but you also enjoy a better salary and more benefits. In most cases, free on-campus housing is also provided.

Language Training Schools

There are thousands of English language schools across China and are the most popular option for English teachers. Many of these schools are in larger cities where the demand for English teachers is high. Students range from kindergarteners to business people with lessons focusing on reading and oral English.

Technology plays a big part in language schools. They commonly utilize interactive whiteboards and computers as teaching methods. Classes are usually conducted in the afternoon, the evening, and on weekends. Teachers are required to render an average of 20-25 teaching hours per week, plus 10-15 hours for office planning.

Language training schools offer better salary and benefits than public schools. Performance and recruitment bonuses are also offered as teachers are required to get involved with student recruitment and other marketing activities.


Many universities in China also hire native English teachers, however, the pay is considered the lowest among all the teaching jobs. Teachers are normally required to work only 18 hours per week, with limited office hours from Monday to Friday. With the extra time, many teachers top up their income with private tutoring.

While the salary may be low for teachers, universities also provide on-campus accommodation. If you’re a traveler, you’ll also enjoy its long summer and winter holidays.

Private Teaching(Part-time)

There’s also a high demand for private English teachers in China, especially in larger cities. Private teaching is also a good way to supplement your income. If you are already employed, you should first check if your contract allows for this.

Online Schools

Online schools designed for English learners are getting more popular in China. This explains the increasing demand for online native English teachers. Teaching English online offers flexibility, comfort, and freedom while earning a generous salary, which is often on an hourly rate.

Requirements to Teach English in China

To secure a full-time, well-paid English teaching job in China, you need to obtain a Foreign Expert Permit, as well as a work visa, also known as a Z visa. To do so, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

Be a native-level English speaker

One of the basic requirements to teach English in China is that you should come from one of the native English-speaking countries, which include the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Even if you are a native English speaker, but are from other countries like the Philippines or Singapore, you may not be able to legally teach English as a second language (ESL) in China.

Hold a TEFL/TESOL certification

If you are a licensed teacher in your home country and can provide a teaching certification, or you hold a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certificate, no prior teaching experience is required.

It is important to note though, that while a TESOL certificate is accepted, most schools are more familiar with TEFL. In most provinces, the requirement is 120-hour TEFL certification which can be completed after you apply. You can get the 120-hour credit online, in-person or overseas, as long as the TEFL agency is accredited and accepted in China.

Online TEFL starts at around $300, but can go higher depending on which company you chose. In-person TEFL ranges from $1,500 – $3,000 USD.

Hold a bachelor’s degree

Another requirement is to submit a college diploma authenticated by the Chinese Embassy or Consulate. This authentication process is important because, in the past, there have been several cases of people submitting fake diplomas. The authentication process can be a bit confusing, but the school you will be working, or your recruiter, can assist you once you’ve found a job in China.

Pass a criminal background check

Most jobs in China require a local criminal background check from your home country or country of residence if you are living abroad for a year or more. If you’ve been living in China, you’ll have to get your credit checked from your home country regardless of how many years you have been living in the country.

While the process of getting a criminal background check differs for each country, generally, it takes a few weeks.

Be under Chinese retirement age

Chinese schools are prohibited from hiring employees who are older than the standard Chinese retirement age, 55 for women and 60 for men.


Apart from having good spoken and written English skills and excellent interpersonal skills, your passion and enthusiasm in teaching makes a big difference in motivating and engaging your students. Moreover, you should be fully adaptable to the Chinese culture, can enjoy working with non-native English teachers, and can effectively work alone or as part of a team.

Can You Teach English in China Without a Z Visa?

It is not uncommon for applicants who don’t meet the strict requirements in China to teach while on a tourist or business visa. More often, the demand is from schools that can’t afford or don’t meet the qualifications to hire foreign teachers. While you can teach English in China without a Z visa, you will not enjoy the same legal protection and rights afforded to teachers who are legally employed. Your salary may also be lower.

Salary & Benefits

The salary level of English teachers is based on four key factors: location of work, type of school, teaching experience and qualifications.

Most language training schools offer lucrative benefits packages on top of the monthly salary, which may include free housing and flights. Some schools also offer additional perks like contract completion bonuses, health insurance and free Mandarin lessons.

Types of Benefits Detail

(1 US dollar = 6.87 Chinese Yuan/RMB)

Monthly Salary Salary for teachers with no experience (but with a degree and TEFL) starts at RMB9000, while more experienced teachers earn RMB14,000 – RMB20,000. Teachers in tier-1 cities earn more than the average salary rate.
Accommodation Most schools provide in-campus housing or stipend
Flight Reimbursement Some schools offer this benefit
  • 2 weeks paid vacation plus sick days
  • National holidays
  • School holidays for public and international schools
Health Insurance This is an additional perk for some schools
Other Benefits
  • Assistance in securing visa
  • Chinese language training

The VISA Process

Having the right paperwork can make the visa application process simpler and faster.

The requirements to get a work visa, also known as a Z visa, to legally teach English in China vary slightly from province to province. Here are the general steps:

Step 1: After receiving and accepting a job offer from a school in China, prepare the following documents:

  • Passport
  • Authenticated Bachelor’s Degree certificate
  • 120-hour TEFL/TESOL certification
  • Résumé or CV
  • Authenticated clean criminal background check
  • Recent photo
  • Reference letter from a previous employer
  • Medical check (most provinces will require this)

Step 2: Once complete, get a quality, colored scanned copy of the previously-mentioned documents and email them to the HR department of the school. Keep the original documents; you will take them with you to China.

Step 3: Upon submission, you need to inform your future employer, who will be applying for your work permit, where you be filing and submitting your visa application (e.g. the Visa for China Centre in London, UK.). Waiting time could take up to 28 work days, depending on the province.

Once your work permit is available, your school will send you an official invitation letter with your work permit documents. This is done electronically or via a courier to your home address.

Step 4: Visit your country’s Chinese Visa Application Service Center website and download the visa application form, as well as other country-specific information.

Step 5:  Take the following documents to the nearest Chinese Visa Application Service Center or Chinese Embassy/Consulate:

  • Official paperwork from your future employer
  • Passport (valid for at least 6 months)
  • Completed visa application form
  • Passport photo

Your Z visa should take about 3-7 days to process. In some countries that allow submission via mail, the process could take up to 10 work days.

Upon Arrival

Upon arrival in China, your school will help with converting your temporary visa into a Residence Permit. This process could take between 2 to 6 weeks. While processing, you’ll not have your passport with you, so it’s a good idea to make a few high quality copies of it beforehand.

Living in China

The cost of living in China, including bigger cities like Beijing and Shanghai, is substantially cheaper than in Western countries. Even if your salary may be lower than in your home country, you’ll still be able to save up and have extra cash for weekend activities and travels.


Most schools provide free accommodation or a stipend. If you have to rent on your own, this can be your biggest monthly expense. Monthly rental costs vary from place to place.

For instance, in major cities such as Shanghai, one room in a shared three-bedroom apartment costs around RMB3000 while a one-bedroom apartment costs around RMB5000. By comparison, rent in Chengdu, Hangzhou and other Tier 2 cities costs about RMB2000-3500 per month for a one-bedroom apartment.

Apartments in China are mostly affordable with modern facilities. It’s worth considering that most owners will require an up-front fee equivalent to four month’s rent. To help their teachers, many schools offer a start-up loan for this purpose.


Monthly utility costs, which includes heating, water, electricity and internet, varies greatly from one city to another. For big cities (Tier 1), the monthly cost is around RMB400-500, while it is in the RMB250-350 range for Tier 2 cities.


The Chinese are known for their mouth-watering cuisine, and a meal in China is relatively cheap. One meal, at an inexpensive restaurant in Shanghai, costs about RMB40. If you are looking for familiar fast food, such as McDonald’s, a meal costs about RMB30. You could also treat yourself to a mid-range or western-style restaurant for as low as RMB120-200.


Comfortable public transportation is readily available in China. Common choices include taxis and buses, while subways and light rail trains are also present in major cities. Buses are the main choice for cities and suburban areas due to their affordability and convenience. Should you wish to ride in a taxi, the plug-in rate is RMB 8-14, depending on the city, with additional costs for the subsequent kilometers.


There’s so much to see and do in this incredible country; this is where you might want to spend your extra cash. With long holiday breaks, there’s more time for you to explore new places.

There are inexpensive hostels and hotels across China, which cost RMB120 on average. However, in bigger cities, the minimum is about RMB250. If you want a more luxurious accommodation, a 5-star hotel would cost around RMB500 in smaller cities.


enlarge the image to check how long the high-speed train takes to each major city

from TravelChinaGuide

Where to Teach English In China

The city where you will be working in is one of the key factors that will determine your salary and other benefits. Needless to say, identifying the right city for you is an important decision to make.

Chinese cities are broken down into different tiers:

Tier 1 Cities

Tier 1 cities are premier cities including Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. They feature what other megalopolises have to offer–more job opportunities, a bustling nightlife, a wide range of restaurants and supermarkets, and a large expat community. Salary and benefits in Tier 1 cities are also higher than those in lower tiers. However, they come with an expensive cost of living.

If you enjoy working in a fast-paced environment with more job opportunities outside of your work, working in a Tier 1 city might be for you.


Tier 2 Cities

Chengdu, Nanjing and Hangzhou belong to this tier. Most cities under this tier are coastal cities or capital cities of each province. The teaching opportunities in these cities are fewer than Tier 1, but there’s also less competition.

While they are a step lower in terms of size and economic wealth, Tier 2 cities are highly regarded by Chinese and foreigners alike as a great place to live in. The support system among foreigners is also strong, with sizeable expat communities that are more closely knit.

Tier 2 cities are ideal for those who prefer a less crowded city with a strong support system from other expats.


Tier 3 Cities and below

Medium-sized cities such as Wenzhou, Quanzhou and Changzhou fall under the Tier 3 category. These cities may not be popular, but they have millions of residents of which a significant percentage are interested in learning English.

Life in Tier 3 cities is simpler, with less nightlife and social activities. Western fast food chains are not that common and they are usually located in big malls. Expat communities may or may not be present and if there is, you can expect it to be tightly knit.

Tier 3 cities and lower is a great choice for teachers who want to experience a deeper cultural immersion. With a lesser number of foreign teachers, it also means less competition and more bargaining power in terms of rate. With the lowest cost of living among the different tiers, you’ll enjoy a comfortable life in these cities.


Where to Find an English Teaching Job in China

If you have the qualifications, but don’t know where to start looking for an English teaching job in China, you can check the following:

School Websites

School websites are one of the best sources of information for job openings in China. If you have a school in mind where you would like to work, check their website regularly for any teaching opportunities.

Offers can vary widely across different schools. Make sure you understand the terms of the job offer and compare them with those from different schools before signing.

ESL Online Job Boards

You may also check for job openings in nearly a hundred different ESL online job boards. These job boards allow you to filter teaching opportunities on specific countries or regions. In some cases, you may submit your application directly through the website, while others provide the contact information of the employer.

You need to take extra precautions when checking these job boards, as scams do exist in China. You should also carefully assess and research the position and school before signing a contract and flying to the country.

Recruiting Agency

Using a recruiting agency provides a more hassle-free experience. These agencies are paid for by the schools, so their service is free for the applicant. The agency is responsible for finding the best candidate for a position and help that candidate through the entire application process.

If you are applying through a recruiter, be sure to clarify the terms of the contract, including the benefits, housing and bonuses. This is important to avoid confusion and to set the right expectations.


Can I teach English in China without speaking Chinese?

Definitely! You can teach English in China even if you don’t speak a word of Chinese. However, knowing some basic words can be useful in everyday life. That is why many teachers also take Mandarin lessons.

How long is a typical teaching contract?

Most teaching contracts are good for 12 months.

How long does it take to finish a 120-hour TEFL course?

Some teachers were able to complete it in as little as two weeks, but many teachers finish it in at least 4 weeks.

How much can you save while teaching English in China?

Your savings will ultimately depend on your lifestyle. With the high salary and low cost of living in China, you’ll have great saving opportunities without compromising a comfortable living experience.

Do I get medical insurance? 

Most schools provide local medical insurance. While the coverage is limited to your city, this can give you peace of mind knowing you’ll be treated for your condition without cost on your part.

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