Teaching English in China: What You Need to Know

18 Jun 2024

This guide provides comprehensive information on everything you need to know about teaching English in China, from qualifications and job search to cultural insights and legal requirements.
China is a vibrant and dynamic country that offers a plethora of opportunities for English teachers. With a rich cultural heritage and rapidly growing economy, the demand for English language education has skyrocketed.

Qualifications and Requirements

Educational Background

To teach English in China, the minimum qualification is typically a bachelor’s degree in any field. However, degrees in education, English, or linguistics can be advantageous.

TEFL/TESOL Certification

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification is usually required.
Most employers prefer candidates with at least 120 hours of certification. This credential demonstrates your understanding of teaching methodologies and classroom management.

Native English Speaker

Being a native English speaker from countries like the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, or South Africa is often a prerequisite.
Some schools may accept speakers from the Philippines with excellent proficiency and strong qualifications.


While teaching experience is not always mandatory, it can significantly enhance your job prospects.
Experienced teachers can often negotiate higher salaries and better benefits.

Finding a Job in China

Types of Schools

There are several types of institutions where you can teach English in China:

  • Public Schools: Offer stable jobs with regular hours and national holidays.
  • Private Language Centers: Often provide higher salaries and flexible schedules.
  • International Schools: Offer competitive packages but usually require extensive experience and qualifications.
  • Universities: Provide lighter workloads and ample vacation time, ideal for those interested in academia.

Job Search Platforms

Numerous online platforms can help you find teaching jobs in China:

Recruitment Agencies

Engaging with a recruitment agency can simplify the job search process.
Reputable agencies like Teach Away and Gold Star TEFL Recruitment can connect you with schools and assist with the application process.

Visa and Legal Requirements

Z Visa (Work Visa)

The Z visa is the only legal visa for teaching English in China. To obtain it, you will need:

  • A valid passport
  • A signed employment contract
  • A work permit notification
  • A medical examination report
  • A clean criminal background check

Residence Permit

Once in China, you must convert your Z visa to a residence permit within 30 days. This permit allows you to stay and work in China legally for the duration of your contract.

Cultural Insights and Classroom Etiquette

Cultural Sensitivity

Understanding and respecting Chinese culture is crucial for a successful teaching experience. Here are a few key points:

  • Hierarchy and Respect: Chinese culture values hierarchy and respect for authority. Always address colleagues and students with appropriate titles.
  • Face-Saving: Maintaining face, or one’s reputation, is very important. Avoid direct confrontation or criticism.
  • Gift Giving: Small gifts are appreciated, especially during holidays or after significant help or support.

Classroom Management

Effective classroom management techniques are vital for maintaining discipline and fostering a conducive learning environment:

  • Clear Instructions: Provide clear and concise instructions.
  • Interactive Methods: Use interactive methods like group work and games to engage students.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Use praise and rewards to motivate students.

Living in China


Most teaching contracts include accommodation or a housing allowance. Options include:

  • School-provided housing: Convenient but may have shared facilities.
  • Private apartments: Offer more privacy and independence.

Cost of Living

China’s cost of living varies greatly between cities. Major cities like Beijing and Shanghai are more expensive, while smaller cities offer a more affordable lifestyle.


China has a mix of public and private healthcare. Private hospitals offer better facilities and English-speaking staff, but they are more expensive. Ensure you have comprehensive health insurance.


China boasts an extensive and efficient public transportation network. Subways, buses, and high-speed trains make commuting easy and affordable.

Salary and Benefits


Salaries for English teachers in China range from 8,000 to 30,000 RMB per month depending on the type of institution, location, and your qualifications.


Typical benefits include:

  • Housing allowance or free accommodation
  • Flight reimbursement
  • Paid holidays
  • Health insurance
  • Contract completion bonuses

Challenges and Rewards


Teaching in China can be challenging due to:

  • Language barrier: Learning basic Mandarin can help.
  • Cultural differences: Adapting to new customs and traditions requires patience.
  • Workload: Managing large classes and extra-curricular activities can be demanding.


Despite the challenges, teaching in China is highly rewarding:

  • Cultural immersion: Experience a rich and diverse culture.
  • Professional development: Gain valuable international teaching experience.
  • Personal growth: Develop adaptability and resilience.


Teaching English in China offers a unique opportunity to explore a fascinating country while making a meaningful impact.
By understanding the requirements, preparing thoroughly, and embracing the cultural experience, you can enjoy a fulfilling and successful teaching career in China.

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