How to Get a Job Teaching English in China 2019 Guide

    How to Teach English in China

    Why should I teach English in China?

    China, or the People’s Republic of China as it is officially known, is the most populous country in the world. It is also among the top five countries according to the area. It has one of the world’s fastest growing economies and has proved its mettle in the international market. To ensure its progress knows no bounds, the country is taking special measures to teach the younger generations the global language, English, so they can compete for the best jobs, universities, and opportunities at the international level.

    This has opened a huge market for native-English teachers who are welcomed in the country to take up English teaching jobs with different schools and other language learning institutions.

    Other major reasons for choosing China to teach English include:

    • A new market for English teachers – After being shrouded in mystery and myth for centuries, China is opening its doors to the outside world, including Western countries. This has led to a demand for learning the English language for the purpose of communication. The reason is the global status of English, which is currently the official language of 55 sovereigns and 27 non-sovereign states. This has provided a great opportunity for native English speakers as their mother tongue is in high demand. The demand is not just at school, college and university level but many companies and firms also seek English teachers for their employees.
    • Job hunting made easy – With new avenues insight many recruitment companies and job portals have come into existence that help you find jobs according to your experience and education. This has made the stressful task of seeking employment in an unfamiliar country less arduous.
    • Decent salary packages – The country may not have the highest paid teaching jobs but the salary package is quite good considering the cost of living. Normally the monthly salary of English teachers is between 10,000 to 22,000 RMB which allows them to live in comfort and also save money on the side.
    • A lot of national holidays – This is one of the best things about teaching in China. The country has around 7 public holidays in a year, some of which can be a week long. This can give you a lot of off days and time to relax and focus on other things.
    • International experience – Becoming an English teacher in China will give you invaluable internationally recognized experience, which will be vital if you plan to build your teaching career. It will help you get better and more highly paid jobs not only in your native country but in other countries as well.
    • Low-cost living – If you plan to lead a comfortable life in China it can be done at a very affordable cost. The country is full of low-cost restaurants, accommodation, transportation, health care, and shopping facilities etc.. This will allow you to save some money and still maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Many hiring institutions may even give you added benefits of free accommodation and a fixed traveling budget; however, such jobs may not be available that easily.
    • Diverse culture – China is a diverse country which offers a unique amalgam of the antique and modern. Traveling to China is bound to be a once in a lifetime chance and will allow you to gain insight into the Chinese perspective regarding different issues, be they political or social. This exposure to such a diverse culture will help you gain more knowledge and experience that will play a vital role in your growth as both as an individual and a teacher.

    What do I need to get an English teaching job in China?

    The criteria for ESL jobs is very clearly and precisely laid out by the Chinese State Administration for Foreign Expert Affairs. Procedures can and do vary for different nationalities and locales in China.

    The basic requirements are:

    • A Bachelor’s degree – The degree can be in any subject as long as it is from a recognized institution.
    • Two years of post-graduate work experience – Unlike a few other countries where experience may not be mandatory, the Chinese education system prefers some degree of work experience. However, there are many hiring companies and institutions that may require less experience or none at all if you have a valid teaching certification.
    • A TEFL certification of 120+ hours – It may not be mandatory but is can be very important if you do not have enough experience. Moreover, a TEFL certification will help you get more and better-paid teaching job opportunities. Some schools accept a 100-hour certificate, but for 1st-tier cities (e.g. Beijing and Shanghai) at least 120 hours of TEFL training are mandatory. The 120 TEFL hours have to be listed on the same certificate as the Chinese government rejects multiple certificates from various courses.
    • No criminal record – You must have a clean sheet; any type of criminal charges or record will disqualify you for any type of teaching jobs.
    • A clean bill of health from a doctor in your native country – You need to have proof of being physically and mentally healthy. A second medical examination is also carried out when you reach China.
    • Proper and valid travel documentation – After being offered a teaching post you will need a passport that is valid for at least the next 12 months. Acting as your sponsor, your employer will send you a letter of the invite that will be processed by the government. This procedure can take two to six weeks and will provide you with a Z visa or a work visa. It is highly recommended that you travel to China on a Z visa as opposed to a tourist visa unless you are willing to deal with the hassle of getting a work visa later on.

    Your Z visa will be valid only for 30 days from the time of your arrival. Teachers generally pay their own visa fees. It will be converted to a Residency Permit with the help of your employer.

    • You will be required to register with the local police.

    Which cities are the best option for becoming an English teacher?

    The country has a tier system and each tier has different living standards, job opportunities, and salary packages. According to this system, here are a few cities that can be a good option for English teachers.

    • First-tier cities – First-tier cities usually have the best paying jobs and also offer a better living standard and conditions. These cities are Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, also known as the Big Four. The cost of living in these cities is much higher as compared to other cities.
        • Beijing – Beijing with its colorful history has the charisma of authentic Chinese lifestyle to offer side by side with modern comforts. Main attractions are the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace. These historical gems blend harmoniously with current-day landscape and the result is an electrifying 21st-century city.
          • Requirements for Teaching in Beijing:
            • A four-year university degree.
            • At least 24 years of age.
            • A TEFL certification of 120+ hours or more.
            • Two years of post-graduate teaching experience.
    • Second-tier cities – Second-tier cities are the capital cities of each province.
        • Chengdu – The capital of the Sichuan province, Chengdu is ranked as China’s fourth top city. The city is an economic hub while the area around it is famous for fertile plains. Most popular sights and places include the Chunxi Road shopping area with its stores and boutiques, a 1500-year-old museum known as the Wuhou Shrine and the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary. Approximately 30% of the world’s endangered giant pandas, snow leopards and red pandas live in this sanctuary which includes seven nature reserves and nine scenic parks.
          • Requirements for teaching in Chengdu:
            • A Bachelor’s degree.
            • Two years of postgraduate work experience (not necessarily teaching).
            • 100-120 hour TEFL certificate.
    • Third-tier cities – Third-tier cities are generally the mid-sized cities of each province.
      • Taizhou – A beautiful coastal city looking over the East China Sea, it has a massive coastline. Its combination of mountains and sea is breathtaking and is famous for its thriving fishing industry. It is also known the world over for its pomelos and oranges. People of this city are peace loving and very keen on education and technological advancements. With economic growth, the transportation in the city has improved manifold.

    Where to look for a job in China?

    • Schools – Not only is there a demand for English language teachers in public schools, but there is a host of private languages schools and international schools throughout the country; this increases your chances of securing a challenging and economically beneficial job manifold.
    • Public Schools – As a public school teacher, you must be ready to face a class of 25-45 students. Your main aim will be to enhance their communication skills and improve their fluency and pronunciation. You will be provided with a set curriculum and will need to engage and motivate students. You will have a local teaching assistant to help you with conveying instructions, carrying out activities and, in rare cases, translating into the students’ native tongue.
    • Private language schools – They very rarely offer accommodation so be prepared for commuting to and from your workplace. The advantage of these schools is that you get students of various ages in a single class which makes teaching more interesting and challenging. These schools may also require you to work evenings and weekends. Be very careful in applying to these schools and thoroughly check them out to make sure they are legitimate.
    • International schools – They can be further subdivided into foreign international schools and Chinese international programmes. Foreign international schools have trained native English speakers as teachers. The biggest advantages are the high pay scale and smaller class sizes.

    Chinese international programmes are mainly for Chinese students who want to study in UK or USA. The pay scale of teachers here is higher than public school teachers but they have to devise their own curriculum.

    These are perhaps one of the best paying English teaching jobs. Your salary can range from $2,520 to $3,000 per month.

    • Universities – As a university teacher, you can enjoy eleven public holidays as well as summer and winter breaks. Some of the universities offering courses in English are:
      • University in Shijiazhuang
      • University in Hangzhou
      • University in Changsha

    Surprisingly the salary package of a university teacher may not be as handsome as those offered by public and private schools and other language learning institutions. Your salary may range from $740 to $1,186 per month.

    • Private Tutors – Becoming a private tutor is one of the best ways to make a decent living as an English teacher in China. These jobs can help you earn anywhere between $$30 to $62 per hour. Even though it is a private job but you still need the Visa Z to be able to work as a private tutor. You can join the different university, schools or other language learning institution forums and advertise yourself. Moreover, you can search through local newspapers and online job forums to look for tutoring jobs.
    • Training centers – Training centers in China offer language improvement courses to students outside of schools. These centers are mostly privately owned and looking to hire native-English speakers. The classes are usually smaller in size, which makes it easier for you to teach. You may have to rely on the student admission commission the centers offer, which means, your salary will depend on the commission on each new student.

    Some of the big names include:

        • New Oriental Education & Technology Group
        • Liyang Crazy English
        • New Dynamic English
        • Web International English
        • Zhuo Yue English College
        • Thames English
    • Teaching programmes and companies – Teaching programmes or companies hire you as a teacher and then deploy you to different schools and language learning institutions. The best-known programmes and companies are:
    • The Explore Programme – With competitive salary packages and other perks like flight expenditures, accommodation, and bonuses, this programme is hugely popular among people seeking ESL teaching jobs.
    • Disney English – Along with providing healthy and wholesome family entertainment, the Walt Disney company has developed several educational programmes for young learners the world over. Disney offers salary packages ranging from $1,482 – $1,928 per month. You are eligible for promotion after six months of employment. You will be paid even in the initial two weeks of training and will receive a training bonus of $1,000. A monthly travel allowance of over $62 and accommodation allowance between $400 – $650 is also paid to employees. Along with the 11 national holidays, you will also receive a 10-day vacation. Health insurance that includes dental coverage is also a special benefit; 50% health insurance of your spouse and dependents is also covered by Disney. As a cherry on top, you will also receive Mandarin lessons.
    • First Leap – Starting in 2009, First Leap has over 100 centers in 30 cities across China. Working at First Leap will give you a chance to work with international as well as local teachers. Salary will depend on your qualification and experience. However, you will be given a settling-in allowance of $1500, medical insurance, and airfare of $1100 when you complete your contract. Along with all public holidays, you will be eligible for paid sick leave and a ten days’ paid professional training in Beijing.
    • Bright Scholar Education Group – With more than 20 years of experience, this is one of the oldest international schools in China. The salary it offers ranges from $2,372 to $2,965 per month. It also offers around $15 per teaching hour as overtime allowance. It does not provide any accommodation. As for vacations, you will be eligible for 11 days paid vacation besides the Chinese public holidays and 3 days paid sick leave. It will also provide you with health and accident insurance and annual bonus depending on you your performance. You will be given $1,186 as flight allowance and a maximum of $177 as a hotel allowance on arrival. They will also offer you a training allowance of around $150 for TEFL/TESOL certificates.

    Can I work as a language director?

    A Language Director is responsible for ensuring that high-quality education is provided to students. He is responsible for the recruitment and management of staff and deals with any issues raised by his team members. He is the main liaison point and works as a bridge between students and teachers. His job is to peruse the curriculum and suggest changes and developments it might require. He is also responsible for arranging teacher training workshops. This job is for you if you have exceptional management and organizational skills and are well versed with teaching methodologies. Disney has language directors while First Leap offers jobs for academic directors.

    What is the best time to look for jobs in China?

    Generally, there are two terms each year i.e. March and September. It is best advised to apply 12 weeks in advance as the institutions would have a clear picture of vacancies they have to offer and your visa should be processed during this time as well.

    What is the salary in China?

    Generally, the salary of an English teacher is between $1500-$2000 per month and that of language learning director $2700 per month. Salaries are comparatively high in T1 cities and universities pay more than schools.

    Is China safe for living?

    China is a very safe country to travel to and work in. The people are very respectful towards teachers. The crime rate is quite low and your only worry need be pickpockets.

    Do I need to know Chinese to teach in China?

    Knowledgeable of Mandarin or Cantonese is not mandatory for teaching English in China. In fact, surprising as it may sound, if you do not know any Mandarin, it will be taken as a point in your favor. Your Chinese employer would want your students to communicate only in English with you and vice versa. However, it would help if you would familiarise yourself with some basic words and everyday phrases and sentences. The rest you will pick up during your stay and will be a learning experience for you as well.

    Can I teach English in China online?

    If for some reason, you cannot travel to China in person, there is always the option of teaching English online to Chinese students. One of the best ways to teach online is to get hired by a renowned online English language school and one of the biggest online language schools is VIPKID.

    How does VIPKID work?

    It provides one-to-one English learning experience to Chinese children aged 4-12 years. Here are a few things you need to know about VIPKID:

    • You have to have a Bachelor’s degree in order to apply for a teaching post.
    • Firstly, send your resume so basic screening can be done.
    • At the second stage, you will have a 30-minute session which a recruiter or send a recorded demo for evaluation.  
    • The website offers a wide selection of videos on teaching methods, VIPKiD curriculum, and technologies.
    • You can also avail the opportunity to teach a mock classroom in order to sharpen your skills.
    • After providing the required documents, you can add the time slot in which you will be available and you are good to go.

    What is the salary package on VIPKID

    The salary ranges from $7 to $22 depending on the time duration of your class and your reputation as a teacher.

    Benefits of teaching on VIPKID

    The working hours are flexible and of your own choice. Due to this very reason, you can use VIPKID as a second source of income as well. You can teach from the comfort of your own home and it wouldn’t matter if it rains or shines outside. This way, you can gain invaluable international teaching experience without spending a penny.

    Major benefits include the following:

    A huge number of students – VIPKID has around 500,000 students on its platform, which is a huge number by any standards. The size of the student pool translates into more job opportunities for you as a teacher.

    A great salary – VIPKID is not only the biggest online language school, it also offers the best salary range to its teachers.

    VIPKID provides its own teaching material – This is a great advantage especially for the teachers who have day jobs. Looking for teaching material is one of the biggest time consumers for teachers. VIPKID saves this trouble and gives the teacher its own material.


    A whole new world is waiting for you and beckoning you to exciting and invigorating experiences. The teaching opportunities for ESL teachers in China seem limitless, however, make your decision with care and after thorough research. China and its education sector is a thriving market at the moment but the move to the other side of the world should be justified by proper remuneration and other incentives.