Teach English in China

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Teach English in China

Guide to teaching English in China

As one of the world’s oldest civilizations, China has no shortage of iconic landmarks and historical sites to experience alongside a range of culinary, cultural, and linguistic traditions. China's landscape is vast and diverse, ranging from the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts in the arid north to subtropical forests in the colorful south.

Interested in teaching English in China? We’ve got you covered! Keep reading to learn more about the types of teaching jobs, average salaries and benefits, and how to get a teaching job in China!

Types of teaching jobs in China

China is one of the most popular destinations for English teachers. The large availability of jobs and their benefits makes it a great option for first-time teachers and seasoned educators alike.

Here are some of the most common types of teaching jobs in China.

Public Schools

Public schools in China may pay less than private language academies, however, the workload is likely to be less. Most teachers will live on campus or near the school, and will involve themselves in activities beyond English such as talent shows and sports day. Class sizes will be large, with around 30 to 50 students per class.

Private language academies

At a private language academy, you will teach smaller classes from about 5-20 students, mainly in the evenings and on the weekend. Some organizations teach only adults, while others teach only young children. You are likely to teach a wide range of ages and English abilities at most private academies, though.

Universities

Teaching English at Chinese universities is more competitive, typically requiring teaching licenses and prior teaching experience. It can provide teachers with a very high salary and exceptional international experience. English teachers at a university in China will be able to personalize and tailor their lessons in order to facilitate discussion among smaller classes and seminars.

Average salary and benefits for teaching English in China

The typical salary for a first-year ESL teacher in China is $1,200 USD a month with free housing. Your teaching salary in China will depend on the type of school and your experience. If your salary is above $1,600 USD as a first-time teacher, housing is unlikely to be included.

  • Public school: Although public schools tend to pay less in other countries, teaching English in Chinese public schools is an excellent way to earn a good salary and save up. The average salary for teaching English at a public school in China is around $1,250 to $3,000 USD per month (8,400 RMB to 20000 RMB) and the hours can vary from around 20 to 30 hours per week.
  • Private school: If you land a job teaching English in a private and international school, your monthly salary will be around $2,800 to $4,300 USD per month. However, you may be required to complete more administrative tasks than teachers at public schools.
  • International school: English teachers in China can earn from around $3,000 to $5,000 USD per month at international schools, in addition to other benefits such as airfare reimbursement, housing, and so on. However, jobs are more competitive and teachers may need to work more hours than those at public or private schools.
  • Universities: The salary for teaching English at a university in China varies between $1,500 to $2,500 USD per month. While professors at universities in China will need to thoroughly plan their lectures and seminars, they will have fewer contact hours with their students when compared to international schools.

Common benefits for teachers

As an English teacher in China, you can expect to receive the following benefits:

  • Housing
  • Flight reimbursement
  • Chinese languages lessons
  • TEFL certification training
  • Completion bonus or one-time payment for successfully renewing your contract

These benefits are included alongside your monthly salary so your expenses will typically only consist of food, entertainment, and clothing and personal items.

Cost of living in China

By Western standards, China is an affordable country. Larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai are pricier but with the perks available to English teachers, living a comfortable lifestyle while saving a bit of cash is within your reach.

The following costs are estimates and actual numbers will depend on your teaching location and lifestyle choices:

  • Housing: $200-$650 USD for a room in shared accommodation depending on city
  • Food: $150-$250 USD per month
  • Transportation: $10-$50 USD per month
  • Entertainment: $50-$100 USD per month

Source: Numbeo

Where to teach English in China

As with starting a job in any new country, it's important to do your research before coming to China. China is a vast country with a range of unique locations to offer teachers. Whether you want to work in bustling Beijing or cosmopolitan Shanghai, you will have no shortage of choice.

Start by exploring these major teaching cities in China:

Beijing

China’s vibrant capital Beijing isn’t only packed full of jobs for English teachers but it’s rich in culture, food, and sights to behold. Teachers can enjoy the many historic sites such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City while simultaneously taking in modern Chinese culture and heritage.

Shanghai

As China’s largest city and one of the overall largest in the world, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful chaos in Shanghai. Shanghai is a cosmopolitan and international city steeped in technological advances. It’s also extremely well-connected by subway so you’ll never have to worry about how to get around.

Guangzhou

Located in southeast China near Hong Kong, Guangzhou is an industrial city with a high number of jobs available for English teachers. It’s smaller than Beijing and Shanghai making it a more intimate and affordable destination for future teachers.

Hong Kong

Teaching English in Hong Kong offers a unique insight into Chinese, Cantonese, and British culture, making it a melting pot of a destination. Teachers in Hong Kong can expect to earn a handsome salary and spend their free time wandering through country parks or bustling streets illuminated by neon signs in this iconic city.

How to get a job teaching English in China

While requirements may be different depending on the school or location, these are generally the steps you’ll need to follow to teach English in China.

1. Meet the basic requirements. To legally work in China you will need a bachelor’s degree and a criminal background check.

2. Submit your application. You will need to submit your degree, teaching qualification or TEFL, background check, and your resume to the employer in China. necessary documents to the employer in China. It is best to apply for a number of roles in order to maximize your dream job in China.

3. Ace your interview! While applying for a job teaching English in China, you should thoroughly research the job responsibilities and the destination.

4. Apply for your visa! To teach English in China, you’ll need to apply for China’s work visa (Z visa), which your school will sponsor.

Classroom culture in China

China’s etiquette and classroom culture is likely to be vastly different from what you’re used to at home. English teachers in China should be respectful and understanding while adapting to a new environment inside and outside the classroom.

  • For the most part, students in China view foreign English teachers as a fun departure from their normal classes. They may expect you to be more casual and friendly than their other teachers, so don’t put too much pressure on them!
  • There is an expectation that foreign teachers will bring “new and creative Western learning methods” to the classroom. This means you’ll be tasked with creating new games, exploring new teaching styles, and adding diversity to a test-driven learning environment.
  • In China, things tend to be done last minute. You may encounter some communication issues when it comes to scheduling, although every school is different. Flexibility is key to transitioning seamlessly into your new role.
  • Never write a student (or anyone’s) name in red. For obvious reasons, the color is synonymous with blood, and it is considered a bad omen. Many new teachers make this mistake when grading students' homework.
  • Loud conversations, even to the point of yelling at each other, will probably be one of the first things you'll notice in China. Don't assume that your students are angry or upset, it is just how they converse.

Ready to find your dream teaching program in China?

Start researching and comparing teaching programs here at Go Overseas, in the Teaching Programs in China section below.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • When is the best hiring season for teaching jobs in China?

    China is great because they hire all year round and don't really have as varied hiring seasons as countries like Korea or Japan. For example, if a person applies to China and is accepted they can be in China inside a month any time of the year. Generally, the best hiring month is November for a February start date for teaching in China.

  • What’s the normal workload for teachers in China?

    The workload will depend on the type of school you're teaching at: Public vs. Private. Usually, working hours at a private language center are higher than a public school (pay accompanies that, meaning the more you work, the more you will get paid!). You should plan to be in the classroom about 16-22 hours per week with a public school, and 20-30 hours per week in a private school, with the remaining hours (to make a 40 hour work week) being dedicated to lesson planning, grading, meeting with students etc. Many public/private schools will want you at your desk from 8-4 if you're not teaching, while other schools don't care too much. Also if you work at an academy, you might have to work nights and weekends.

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  • How much do you make teaching English in China?

    Depending on your experience and the institution you work at, you can earn anywhere from 10,000-30,000 RMB (~1,400 - 4,300 USD) per month teaching English in China. Programs often include airfare, housing, and other perks as well.

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  • Do you need to know Chinese to teach English in China?

    You don't need to have any knowledge of Chinese to teach English in China. In fact, many of the teaching programs offer free Chinese lessons for teachers.

  • Can you save money teaching English in China?

    Yes. A lot of the teach abroad programs in China offer a competitive salary, and pay almost all of your expenses including airfare, medical insurance, and housing.

  • What documents do I need to teach in China?

    The only visa you are legally allowed to work under in China is the Z visa. To get your visa you will have to provide your passport, a work permit from your employer, and a health document that shows you're clear of HIV, TB, and drugs. In addition to the visa, you will need to apply for a residency permit.

  • Can you teach English in China without a degree?

    You are not legally allowed to teach English as a full-time teacher in China without a bachelor's degree.

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  • What qualifications do I need to teach English in China?

    It's necessary to have a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate or teaching experience (2 years) to teach English in China.

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