Teach English in China: programs, jobs and salary

Gert Svaiko

Planning to move and teach English in China from the UK? It seems like China has something to offer to everyone. Whether it’s the cultural and natural treasures, delicious food or modern technologies, living there is nothing short of exciting.

With hundreds of millions of people learning English, China might be one of the best places for educators. If you’re wondering what it takes to be an English teacher there, how big the salaries are and what the requirements are, you’re in the right place.

We’ll also point out a cost-effective way to manage your finances while in China. With the Wise account, from the money services provider Wise, you can send money between the UK and China for low fees and mid-market exchange rates. You can also rely on the Wise debit card to help you handle all of your expenses.


Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

Table of contents

Why teach English in China in the first place?

So, why teach English in China? First and foremost, the number of inhabitants alone ensures many opportunities. With a population of over 1.4 billion, China is a huge job market for English teachers

The market is even expected to grow in the future, since more international schools are opening in China. Students need to demonstrate a certain level of English in order to enrol, so the need for English teachers and tutors will likely grow bigger.²

Also, China is one of the top countries for English teachers salary-wise. Since the cost of living is rather low, you’ll probably be able to live comfortably and save a lot of money.³

📚 Read more: How to open a bank account in China from the UK

Can you get a visa sponsorship for teaching English in China?

The visa you need in order to teach English in China is the Z-Visa. Two important required documents for the application are the Foreigners Employment Permit and Invitation Letter. This means you need to already have a job offer when you’re applying for a visa. So, your future employer can be your visa sponsor.⁴

Are English teachers in demand in China?

China has hundreds of millions of English learners. Although the Chinese have English in school, there’s still a demand for English teachers, especially native speakers.⁵

Requirements for teaching English in China

If you want to be an English teacher in China, you need to obtain a working visa called the Z-Visa. There are some requirements you must meet in order to apply for it and even be considered.⁶

All Z-Visa applicants need to have a bachelor’s degree. It doesn’t have to be a degree in English language, but if you do have it, it can definitely help you get a better job. Some higher positions, such as those in universities, can require a master’s degree.⁶

The next step is a background check, which is a normal part of moving to China. The Chinese government needs to make sure that you don’t have a criminal history before you become a teacher there. You need to request this check yourself, get it notarised and then authenticated by the Chinese embassy.⁶

It’s also important to get TEFL certification. The industry standard is 120 hours of training. However, coming from an English-speaking country might be enough for your employer.⁶

Do you need to speak Chinese to teach English in China?

Not only is speaking Mandarin or Cantonese while teaching not necessary, it’s also discouraged. Instead, it’s considered best to speak only English with your students. Knowing the local language can help you in everyday situations, though.

Can you teach English in China without a degree?

If you want to teach English in China full-time, you can’t do so without a university degree. However, you can temporarily teach on a student visa, known as the X visa. The majority of people who do this are on some type of a teaching internship in China. It may not be enough to repay your student loans, but it can help.⁶


English teaching programs in China

In a country as big as China, there are teaching programs that suit most people’s needs. Here are some that stand out.

Ambright Year in China (AYC)

AYC is a one-year program for university graduates that allows them to be Educational Ambassadors. Since China is really focusing on intercultural immersion, programs like this one include many perks.⁷

For example, AYC provides teachers with 8,000 to 10,000 CNY per month (roughly £890 – £1,110), free TEFL training and accommodation, as well as health insurance. In return, you teach in schools across China and participate in the cultural exchange.⁷

CIEE Teach in China Program

This CIEE program is made for native English speakers with a university degree. It guarantees an 8,000 CNY (roughly £890) salary minimum plus free accommodation.⁸

There are many positions to choose from. You can work in both public and private schools, with primary and secondary school students and younger children.⁸

The Teach in China program lasts for 2 semesters, but you can choose whether you’ll start in February/March or August/September.⁸

English teaching jobs in China

The most common types of English teaching jobs in China are in public schools and private language academies. A smaller number of teachers manage to get jobs at universities, but those require more experience and qualifications.⁹

If you pick a public school job, you can expect to teach a large class. They usually range from 30 to 50 students. These jobs pay less than the ones in private academies, but they come with some perks. For example, teachers have the opportunity to live on campus and save money they would normally spend on rent.⁹

Students in private language academies can be both children and adults. The salaries are usually bigger here, but the working hours are often during the weekend or in the evenings.⁹

Can you teach English in China online?

After the pandemic, the Chinese government has regulated and pretty much banned private English tutoring. Although the restrictions still haven’t come into effect fully, this has brought many changes.¹⁰

Today, if a Chinese company offers private tutoring, it has to be registered as a nonprofit organisation. Working freelance seems like a better option when it comes to online classes, but you’ll need to get a visa some other way. Make sure you follow any updates on this topic.¹⁰

What’s the average salary for English teachers and tutors in China?

Your salary will depend on a number of factors, such as your experience and type of job. However, salaries are generally good. Along with the low costs of living, this makes China a fairly affordable country.

English teachers in China earn from 9,000 to 30,000 CNY (roughly £1,000 – £3,330). On average, teachers earn 13,000 CNY (roughly £1,440) per month.⁵

📚 Read more: Can you keep your UK bank account when moving abroad?

Volunteering to teach English in China

If earning money is not your primary motive for teaching, you could consider volunteering to teach English in China. This is not a long-term solution, since you need a full-time job for a work visa.

One example of a volunteering option is the Omeida English College program which would take up a couple of hours of your day. In exchange for helping students with English, you get free food and accommodation, as well as discounted Mandarin lessons.¹¹

And there you have it - your complete guide to teaching English in China. After reading this, you should have a better idea of how it all works, and be ready to start planning your move.

And, if you need a transparent, low-cost way to handle your finances while abroad, check out the Wise account. It’s not a bank account but offers many similar features.

You can manage your money in 40+ currencies, including CNY. You can also make international payments for low fees and mid-market exchange rates. And, you can get a Wise debit card and spend like a local from the moment you arrive in China.

Sign up with Wise today 💰

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

Sources used for this article:

  1. Worldometers - China population (2023)
  2. Yahoo Finance - “English language training (ELT) market size in China to grow by USD 70.81 billion between 2021 and 2026; Growth driven by rise in the number of international schools”
  3. Go Overseas - highest salaries for teaching abroad
  4. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China - about Chinese visas
  5. TEFL Org - teach English in China
  6. TEFL Org - requirements to teach English in China
  7. AYC - Ambassador Year in China
  8. CIEE - Teach in China Program
  9. Go Overseas - teach English in China
  10. Premier TEFL - China’s ban on private ESL tutoring
  11. Go Overseas - volunteer + learn Chinese in China

Sources last checked on: 13-Nov-2023

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We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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