Teach Abroad

The Ultimate Guide to Teaching English in China (2024)

China is one of the most popular destinations for English teachers, drawing thousands every year to work with very young children, adults, and everyone else in between. Dig into our ultimate guide for everything you need to know about teaching abroad in China.

From working with motivated students who want to learn from you, to living and working among major historical sights, there are many awesome reasons to teach in China!

The demand for English teachers is high in China, with a wide variety of TEFL jobs scattered across the country. Whether you want to learn about the types of English teaching jobs in China, teaching requirements, salaries and benefits, and more, here is our ultimate guide to teaching English in China!

Why teach English in China

Teachers in China can benefit from a high salary and benefits, an excellent quality of life, and valuable work experience. As a country with an enormous international business presence, gaining work experience in China will impress future employers.

Outside of the classroom, teachers will have a wide range of cultural and personal activities to fill their time. From navigating ancient temples, strolling through neon streets, and admiring Jurassic landscapes, China is an enormous country that offers endless excursions and activities for foreigners.

Types of English teaching jobs in China

A lit up street in China on a rainy day

The TEFL market in China is booming, and schools are always looking to hire foreign English teachers. Different school types in China vary in requirements, salaries, and responsibilities, so it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with each type of job to know which one is best for you!

  • Public school TEFL jobs in China: Foreign teachers at public schools in China often focus on developing conversational English, as students already learn grammar points with a local school teacher. Chinese public schools typically have very large class sizes and follow a traditional schedule from 8 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday.
  • Training center TEFL jobs in China: At a training center, you'll commonly teach basic oral English to a wide demographic. You may teach English to kindergarten students, debating skills to teenagers, or business English to adults. Classes take place after school in the late afternoons, evenings, and weekends, offering a less traditional working schedule for teachers, but class sizes tend to be much smaller.
  • International school TEFL jobs in China: International schools are suitable for CELTA-qualified and licensed teachers. Here, you’ll teach a range of subjects in English to children of foreign residents, or Chinese students seeking international education. While job requirements are higher, the benefits and salary are better, too!
  • University jobs in China: Teaching English at a university in China requires higher qualifications and thorough lesson planning. However, the students’ level of English will be higher and professors will have fewer contact hours than at other schools.
  • Tutoring jobs in China: The academic and professional environment is competitive in China, and parents want their students to learn English outside of school hours with a tutor on a 1-1 basis.

Requirements to teach in China

Teaching English jobs are competitive in China, and to teach legally in China, you'll have to meet a few qualifications:

  • English proficiency: Passport from one of seven "native speaker" countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa). If you aren’t a native speaker, you’ll need to be a certified teacher in your home country with proof of your English proficiency (e.g. IELTS or TOEFL).
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Criminal background check
  • Teaching certificate: TEFL, CELTA, or teaching license from your home country.
  • Authenticated documents: Bachelor's degrees, criminal background checks, and teaching certificates will need to be legalized and authenticated. This helps international employers recognize their authenticity.
  • Be under the Chinese retirement age of 55 (women) or 60 (men) years old

The qualifications for teaching abroad in China are strict, and teaching in China on a tourist or business visa is illegal and can lead to fines or deportation.

If you meet the qualifications, you'll need to apply for a Z Work Visa (NOT a Business Visa), in your home country or Hong Kong. Your company should provide an invitation letter and other relevant documents like a foreign expert permit. Then, you'll need to go online and fill out all of the appropriate visa forms.

Once you have the paperwork, grab some passport photos and head to your local consulate to apply for your visa, which should only take a few days. Although some consulates will let you expedite your visa for an extra fee, you should apply a few weeks in advance - or as soon as you can.

Read more: How to Get a Work Visa for Teaching English Abroad

Average salaries for teaching English in China

A man stands on a raft on a river with a yellow sunset and mountains in the background.

Teaching English in China is a strong-paying opportunity for TEFL teachers, but salaries vary according to experience, qualification, location, and school type.

Here are the average monthly salaries for English teaching jobs in China:

  • Public schools: English teachers in Chinese public schools can expect to earn around $1,250 to $3,000 USD per month teaching around 20 hours per week, not including admin duties.
  • Training centers: English teachers working at a training center can earn $1,250 to $3,500 USD per month depending on how many hours they spend teaching.
  • International schools: International school teachers in China can earn from around $3,000 to $5,000 USD per month. The salary is high, as are the requirements. International school teachers in China will work longer hours and have more admin duties than at other schools.
  • Universities: Despite high requirements, the monthly salary for a professor at a Chinese university ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 USD per month. But, they will have far fewer contact hours compared to other school types.
  • Tutoring: English tutors can set competitive rates from around $10 to $36 USD per hour depending on their experience, and qualifications. For example, a teacher who specializes in Business English or IELTS preparation can charge more than general English teachers.

Benefits for teachers in China

Alongside a handsome salary, English teachers are offered many benefits in China. Here are some of the benefits you can expect to have as an ESL teacher in China:

  • Free housing or stipend: English teachers in China are often provided apartments or a hefty housing stipend to negate rent costs.
  • Reimbursed airfare to & from China: Most schools will offer you free airfare to and from China at the beginning and end of your contract. These flights are typically reimbursed, which means that you will pay for the flight and they’ll pay you back.
  • Health insurance: Legally, your school should provide you with health insurance. Most schools choose comprehensive health insurance plans that cover expensive medical fees, but you’ll likely have to pay for inexpensive treatment. Note that this doesn’t cover travel-related issues like travel insurance does.
  • Holidays & vacation days: As a teacher in China, you are entitled to all school or public holidays depending on where you work. Your school may offer paid vacation in addition to this. That said, if you work at a training center, you should at least have the option to take an unpaid vacation.
  • Visa help & reimbursement: Your school or recruiter should help you obtain a work permit and provide you with a visa invitation letter. They should also help you understand how to apply for your criminal background check and degree authentication.

Best cities to teach in China

Aerial view of Shanghai, China

As the third largest country in the world by area, China is teeming with fascinating locations to choose from. With around 17 megacities in China, selecting a location can be difficult, especially when committing to a long-term contract.

Here are some of the best locations in China for teaching English:

  • North China: Beijing
  • East China: Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Ningbo
  • South Central China: Hong Kong
  • Southwest China: Chengdu
  • Southeast China: Shenzhen
  • Northwest China: Xi'an

How to apply for teaching jobs in China

With many locations to choose from and school types to consider, applying to teach English in China becomes easier when you break the process down into actionable steps.

  1. Research a destination: China is vast, and the climate and lifestyle will vary from place to place. Remember, you’ll have a life outside the classroom! While Beijing is a cultural hub, Shanghai and Hong Kong are coastal cities with strong expat communities. These are only a few examples of many amazing places in China.
  2. Decide where you want to teach: Consider whether you want to work in a public school, training center, international school, or university.
  3. Understand your options: You can apply to teach English in China directly, with a recruiter, or with a TEFL program. Applying directly grants you more freedom, choice, and negotiation power, but requires more research and prep. A recruiter will help you find and apply for teaching jobs. Teach-abroad programs can offer TEFL training as well as job placements, but you’ll have less to choose from.
  4. Gather your documents: Allow yourself enough time to gather documents such as academic transcripts, degree certificates, teaching qualifications, and letters of recommendation. Once you have these ready, apply and prepare for ensuing interviews!
  5. Prepare your visa! Congratulations, you’ve secured your teaching English job in China! Now, you’ll need to apply for your visa and book your flights. Your school, recruiter, or TEFL program will assist with obtaining your Work Visa.

Teaching opportunities in China

The great wall of China in autumn

With so many routes and opportunities to choose from in China, it can be easier to find already established and reputable TEFL programs. Here at Go Overseas, we’ve compiled a few amazing opportunities for you to have a look at.

Even if you plan on searching independently for jobs, forum listings, or recruiter websites, these five jobs are a great place to start!

1. Teaching Nomad

Teaching Nomad is one of the most-reviewed teaching opportunities on Go Overseas for China, and for good reason. They work to place teachers in over 40 cities across China, and you can teach English and other subjects too! They also have a variety of different teaching jobs and can work with teachers from complete beginners to experienced professionals.

Read all reviews of Teaching Nomad →

I had a great recruitment experience with Teaching Nomad. There are a wide range of roles and locations on offer. I love that you are assigned a personal recruiter.” - John

2. Impact Teaching

Impact Teaching offers teaching jobs with students of all ages, from children to adults in public or private schools or training centers. Placements are available in Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai.

Read all reviews of Impact Teaching →

I was determined to move to China, but due to the pandemic and ever-changing regulations, I had no idea where to even begin. [Impact Teaching] makes the process so much easier.” - Brooke

3. TravelGrad

TravelGrad is designed for new graduates who want to step into 10 months of teaching in China. If you're nervous about teaching abroad, TravelGrab has your back! Work in public or private schools in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Foshan, Shenzhen, and more.

Read all reviews of TravelGrad →

Given how complex the process of getting a job and a visa in China is, I highly doubt that I would’ve had such a great time in China if it wasn't for the efforts and help of the TravelGrad team.” - Daniel

4. The Fewer Things

Consecutively winning Go’s Community Choice Awards for best teach-abroad provider, The Fewer Things places teachers across China, from megacities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanjing, to less-common spots like Foshan and Jinan. You can expect to have flights to and from China and visa costs reimbursed. Past participants rave about the unparalleled support.

Read all reviews of The Fewer Things →

While I anticipated Shanghai to be exciting, I was not prepared for how enjoyable the work-life balance would be. This is only enhanced by the support I receive from TFT in any issues I face.” - Patrick

5. CIEE Teach Abroad & TEFL

With guaranteed job placement and a Premium 150-hour online TEFL course included, CIEE is a popular program among aspiring teachers and travelers. CIEE offers personalized visa guidance, pre-departure and in-country support, and job placement in thriving locations across China.

Read all reviews for CIEE Teach Abroad→

Overall, I think this program has been one of the best ways to experience a foreign country while also getting to do something impactful and rewarding.” - Matt

Things to do before you go

You may have secured your dream TEFL job in China, but there’s still more to do!

  • Budget for start-up costs: Cultural excursions and socializing can be expensive when you’re meeting new people and getting to know your new home in China. Having a safety net is a must, especially when you won’t be paid until your second month of teaching.
  • Pack well: Consider the climate of your new location and pack appropriately. Make sure that you take any prescription medication or doctor’s note, and bring personal items that can minimize homesickness and make your new house a home in China.
  • Download useful apps: Before you head to China there are a few apps you'll want to download. Firstly, WeChat will become essential in your everyday life in China. Not only does everyone use WeChat to text, but it's also the most prominent social media platform.

Prepare for your big adventure in China!

Teaching abroad in China is an incredible adventure, and it requires thorough preparation to make sure you have the best experience. Now that you know about the teaching requirements, school types, salary and benefits, popular locations, and more, you can teach English in China like a pro!

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