Teaching English In China:
Return Of The Dragon

With its growing might over the past two decades, the opportunities for teaching English in China have gone up substantially. Find out below how you can conquer the beast which has so much to offer in terms of adventure!
With its growing might over the past two decades, the opportunities for teaching English in China have gone up substantially. With the country’s trade and economic dominance, its links with the rest of the world have strengthened considerably. The success of its globalisation has led to the realisation in China that English speaking skills are indispensable to a world power. If you would like to have a detailed analysis, do take a look at our comprehensive guide below.  It might help you in making the right decision before embarking on your adventure of teaching English in China.

Snapshot Of China

Capital City





1.4 Billion



Chinese students today make their way to universities across the US, Australia and other English-speaking nations for higher studies. They realize that knowledge of English is essential for their success in universities abroad. The aspiration of youngsters to study in the world’s top ranked universities has also led to a huge demand for English speaking skills in the country.

The result has been the mushrooming of private language schools and the rise in demand for English teachers. If you are looking for an opportunity to explore an ancient culture even whilst exploring new professional frontiers, teaching English in China might be the perfect option. 

Is it easy to get a teaching jobs abroad teaching English in China? With the high demand, can you just walk into a well-paying assignment in one of the exciting modern Chinese cities in one of the best countries to teach English? Well, we would not advise it. The market for teaching English in China is much more complicated.

Table of Contents

How Easy Is It To Find A Job Teaching English In China

The international education boom led to the presence of nearly 400,000 foreigners engaged in teaching English in China. Government estimates indicate that there are approximately 300 million Chinese who are learning English. This demand for English language skills is met by 50,000 English-language training academies.  Reports indicate that the training market is worth $72 billion.

As the market for teaching English in China boomed, the country became a sought-after work abroad destination for experienced teachers and fresh graduates alike.  But since late 2019, the job market for teaching English in China is going through a period of turmoil. News reports indicate that in August-September 2019, the Chinese government cracked down on several foreign teachers in the country.

The government stated that the crackdown happened because a significant proportion of foreigners teaching English in China were doing so illegally or were not qualified to do so. Chinese media reports claim that nearly one-third of the 40,000 foreign teachers were working illegally. Action taken against teachers included deportations, fines and arrests.

The crackdown has led to a shortage of English teachers in the country. You can find a job teaching English in China in the public schools, private schools, private language academies or international schools. However, be sure to go through the right channels, work with the correct papers and follow all the rules and regulations of the country.

Public Schools:

Public schools offer the lowest salary scales for teaching English in China. Yet another drawback is that you end up being a cog in a vast government system. As a result, public schools are rather indifferent to your plight once you sign up. Do not expect any help in the settling down process. You will be expected to handle all the paperwork and other nitty-gritty of beginning life in a new country all on your own.

Private Schools:

Private schools offer better salaries than public schools. The class sizes are also smaller and therefore the work environment may be slightly easier.

Private Language Academies:

This sector has been booming since the last several years. If you are keen on teaching English in China, your best chance of landing a job quickly is in one of the numerous private language academies located across the country. Given the demand for English teachers, you can pick and choose your location. However, a word of warning. Not all the schools are professional in their approach. Some of them are notorious for not keeping to the terms specified in the employment contract. Be sure to do your research on the school’s reputation before accepting any offer.

International Schools:

There are a large number of international schools in China. According to a report, there were 564 international schools in China in the year 2017. Most international schools are located in the big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Chengdu.

The boom in international schools is because more and more Chinese parents are keen to provide an international education for their children. Known as the International Chinese owned Private School (iCPS) sector, the schools are normally partnerships between Chinese investors and foreign independent schools. The pay is excellent, perks are great and work environment matches the best in the world. Most schools offer positions only to highly qualified and experienced teachers. If you meet the requirements, there cannot be a better option to teaching English in China.

China has some of the best international schools in the world as can be seen with Wellington College in Shanghai


It is not difficult to get a job teaching English in Chinese universities. However, the work conditions are much better in the public universities as compared to the private ones.

Educating Abroad Quick Tip: There is a lucrative private tutoring market in China. Once you have arrived in the country and built your network of contacts, it is easy to get private tutoring assignments which will bolster your income and savings considerably.

How & When To Apply For Jobs Teaching English In China

When considering where and when to teach English in China, there are at least 4 or 5  decisions that you need to make to ensure you that your experience teaching English in China is the best it can be:

Some Of Our Latest teaching Jobs In China

  1. One of the first decisions to make when applying for a job teaching English in China is about the location where you would like to live during your stint here. China is a huge country. Life in cities like Beijing and Shanghai is very different from that in the quieter provinces.  The first step in your job search is to research the various locations. Once you have gone through the pros and cons, make a shortlist of places where you would prefer to work
  2. You also have to decide which sector you would like to work in. Public, private or international K-12 schools generally work on the 2-semester system. The first semester is from September to January and the second semester is from March to July. The main recruitment takes place from June- August. It is wise to get your research done and resume completed by the beginning of May. The private language academies hire throughout the year.
  3. How do you go about your job search? There are two options available. The first is to apply directly to schools. The other option is to take the help of recruiters. If you are planning to apply directly, there are several schools that advertise positions on the internet. However, you may face a few barriers. The ads are often in Chinese and are difficult to negotiate. Secondly, your application may make slower progress if you apply directly than through a recruiter. Most schools do have some kind of tie-ups with recruiters and it may be easier to land a job through them.
  4. The entire process from application to receiving your job offer can be done from your home. After your application is shortlisted, schools will arrange for interviews via videoconferencing.
  5. If you are selected post the interview, your new employer will send you the job contract. Once you sign it, the school will send documents for your employment permit, visa and any other paperwork that is required. Schools also often book flight tickets. You have to apply for the visa from the consulate/embassy in your home city.

Educating Abroad Quick Tip: Popular locations to teach English in China include Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu, Ningbo, Harbin, Guilin and Shenzhen.

The Qualifications You Need To start Teaching English In China

Until the recent crackdown Chinese schools, especially the language academies, were quite blasé regarding the qualifications and credentials of the English teachers they hired. However, the scenario has now changed.

Given below are the qualifications mandatory to get a job teaching English in China:

  • A Bachelor’s degree in any field
  • Passport holder of UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or Ireland
  • A 120-hour TEFL or similar certificate
  • Teaching experience (at least 2 years)

Most schools in China have an age requirement for applicants. This will vary between schools and institutes

Educating Abroad Quick Tip: Not all schools in China accept an online TEFL certification. It is important to research whether your TEFL certification will be recognized by the school/visa authorities.

What Type Of Visa Do You Need To Start Teaching English In China

Expat teachers are eligible to apply for a Z-category visa.

The first step in the process to get a Z-category visa is the issue of your employment permit by the government. The application and documentation for the permit will be filed by your employer. You must submit the following documents to the school management:

This is the Z-Visa you will be issued once you follow all the steps below
  • Original passport
  • Resume
  • Degree certificate notarized in your home country
  • Letters/references from previous employers proving you have 2-years full time experience (minimum)
  • Police clearance certificate from the relevant authority in your country.
  • Photographs

Once your employment permit is issued, you can apply for the Z-visa. Documents required include:

  1. Valid passport with at least 6 months duration
  2. Completed application form
  3. Passport-sized photo
  4. Employment permit 

Submit the documents at the nearest Chinese consulate in your home country. Your passport will be stamped with the visa once your application is approved.

Educating Abroad Quick Tip: The Z visa is basically an entry visa. It is important to convert it to a resident permit as soon as possible.

After you have entered China on your Z-visa, you must apply for a temporary resident permit. You will have to visit the local police station to register as a resident of the area. Other steps towards getting a resident permit include a medical examination at the designated local hospital, proof of accommodation and specific documents from your employer. The documents must be submitted to the visa authorities. If the paperwork is in order, your resident permit will be issued within two weeks.

Educating Abroad Quick Tip: It is not advisable to work on any other kind of visa in China. Do not accept any offer to join work on a tourist visa.

What's It Like To Work Whilst Teaching English In China

One of the disadvantages of teaching in public schools is that the class sizes are extremely large. Classrooms are jampacked with as many as 40-odd students. However, the work environment is stress free. Public schools normally work from 8.30 am-4.30 pm. Weekends are off, and you are expected to work up to 20 hours a week. However, expat teachers are only expected to come in to supplement classes taken by the local English teachers.

In addition, there are no lesson plans or other administrative tasks that you are expected to do. You may end up working much less than 20 hours per week.

Public school classrooms are quite large compared to other institutions

Of course, public schools pay a much lower salary than private schools or language academies. Depending on your experience, you can expect a salary of $1000-$1800 per month. Perks like air fare, paid leave and accommodation are part of the package.

The biggest advantage of working in public schools is the laid-back work environment. If you are teaching English in China’s public-school system, you can rest assured that you will get plenty of time to explore this fascinating country!

In private schools, the work hours are longer. The environment is more stressful too. To make a simple comparison, most public-school teachers work only 50 percent of the year. However, private school teachers have to work up to 70 percent of the year. The advantage is that the class strength is much more manageable with only 20-25 students per class. Salaries range from $1,800 to $2,200 depending on experience and qualifications.

Some Quick FAQ's On Teaching English In China

What qualifications do I need to teach English in China?

The qualifications you need to teach in China are:

  • A Bachelors degree (This can be in any subject)
  • A 120 hour TEFL Certificate (Online TEFL certificates maybe rejected)
  • If you are a non-native English speaker, then a degree from a native English speaking country

How much do English teachers make in China?

English teachers can earn up to $4000USD teaching English in China if you are working for an International school. However the majority of English teachers aim to earn between $1500 to $2500 depending on experience, age, gender etc.


Can you teach English in China without a degree?

No you can not teach English in China legally without a degree as you will not be able to obtain a z visa.

You can however do an internship as a student under the x visa scheme to gain experience living and teaching in China.

What documents do I need to teach in China?

The documents you need to teach in China are to satisfy your z visa and work permit are:

  • Valid Passport from an English-Speaking Country.
  • If you are a non-native English speaker you will need a Bachelor's degree from a native English speaking country.
  • Bachelor's Degree.
  • Clean Criminal Record.
  • TEFL Certificate.
  • Medical Check.
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV) / Resume
  • Passport-sized Photos.

Is teaching English in China easy?

Teaching English in China can be seen as being easy. You generally get a lot of support when relocating. A lot of teachers have also commented that the teaching is easier than teaching English in their home countries as the students are very  focussed on their education.

Is it safe to teach English in China?

China has large and growing expat teacher community with the majority saying It is very safe to teach English in ChinaChina also boasts some of the lowest crime statistics in the world making it a safe place to visit and to teach English.

Language schools normally pay teachers between $1,400-$2,200. Teaching hours are between 18-25 hours per week. You are expected to be involved in lesson planning, attend administrative meetings, conduct tests and grade papers. These responsibilities add up to 10-15 hours a week. Classes are often interactive and fun. However, there are several instances where language school teachers have been short charged by the management, both financially and legally. It is best to be wary and do a complete background check before taking the plunge and accepting any offer. The academies normally operate in the morning or evening. Be prepared to work on Saturdays and Sundays! However, you will get two off-days in a week.

Language centres come in all shapes and sizes and have a corporate feel to them

Working at international schools in China can be a professionally rewarding experience. The facilities are excellent. Your salary can be as high as $4,300 depending on your professional qualifications and experience. With perks like housing and air fare, a job in an international school has immense saving potential. But the competition is extremely tough. Since most schools have their own internal recruitment agents and processes, it is often difficult to break into this sector.

Salary & Benefits Overview - Teaching English In China

Educating Abroad Quick Tip: Your resident permit will automatically expire as soon as your contract period ends. So do make your plans well before the end of your tenure.

The Cost Of Living Whilst Teaching English In China

Given its vast size as well as disparities in the economic prosperity of different provinces, it is not surprising that the cost of living in China varies widely. On an average, the cost of living is low as compared to developed countries. Teaching English in China for a year will, therefore, leave you with a more substantial nest egg.

Most schools offer housing or a housing allowance. The utilities bill is also paid by the school. This reduces your income outflow by at least 30 percent per month, which is quite a substantial amount! The most expensive cities in China are Shanghai, Wuhan and Beijing.

Chinese food can be quite an adventure. If you would like to explore eating joints, a meal in an inexpensive restaurant will be around $3. A three-course dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant will be $21. Eating out is cheap and if you develop a liking for Chinese food, there are plenty of options to meet varying budgets and tastes.

Travelling and exploring the country will be part of your agenda while teaching English in China. Intercity travel is reasonably priced. A monthly pass in the local public transport system will be $20. The base fare for taxis is $1.5, with an additional $0.35 per kilometer of travel.

Most grocery products are easily available in big international supermarket chains and neighborhood stores. You will get all the familiar brands that you used in your home country. There are also open-air markets where fresh produce is sold. The prices here are even lower. Your total grocery bill for a month will be between $150-200.

Internet access in China may be limited with certain websites and apps banned. However, access to data is not very expensive. Your monthly phone and internet usage could total $15 per month, depending on the plan

Educating Abroad Quick Tip: Aside from the mega-cities like Shanghai or Beijing, it is possible to have a comfortable lifestyle teaching English in China for as little as $1000 per month.

Places To See And Things To Do Whilst Teaching English In China

Teaching English in China gives you the chance to explore this fascinating country. From the Forbidden City dating back to the Ming dynasty to the towering glass façade of Shanghai’s imposing skyscrapers, China is a charming mix of the old and the new. From the meandering Great Wall of China that took 2000 years to complete to the snaking expressways crisscrossing Chinese cities which are built in a matter of months, the country has the ability to surprise and stun the world.

If you get the chance to teach English in China and explore, here are 8 of the best places to see and things to do…

1. Climb The Great Wall Of China
2. Explore The Forbidden City
3. Hike Through The Tiger Leaping Gorge
4. Visit the big cities like Shanghai & Beijing
5. Travel through the rice fields in rural China
6. Say hello to the giant pandas at Chengdu
7. Stare down the Terracotta Army at the Xi’an museum
8. Have a dip in the hot springs of the Yellow Mountain

What Are The Teachers Saying About Teaching English In China?

Teaching English In China: Our Final Thoughts

If you are keen to explore a teaching assignment in China, it might be a good idea to contact reputed recruiters. If you prefer to do it on your own, please research the school and location thoroughly before accepting any job in the country. The Chinese government is authoritarian in nature and you should be prepared to have some freedoms curtailed. There are bans on popular internet sites and freedom of expression may also be curtailed.

But teaching English in China can be satisfying professionally and personally too. The low cost of living and comparatively well-paid jobs ensure that you can build a nest egg during your stint here. Personally, you get to explore a country with an ancient culture, fascinating landscapes and breathtaking economic development. With a bit of caution, your China journey can be a memorable experience.

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