Teach English in China: your full guide

Gabriela Peratello

Wondering how to teach English in China? This guide has you covered.

From the qualifications and visa you’ll need, to the types of jobs and schools to look out for, we’ll walk through the step by step process of getting a job teaching English in China.

📑 Table of Contents

We’ll also introduce Wiseand the Wise Multi-currency Account as smart ways to manage your money when you live abroad. Currency conversion with less hassle and lower fees, with Wise.

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Requirements for teaching English in China

Let’s start with the most important bits — what’s required to teach English in China?

It’s important to note that requirements vary depending on the type of teaching you’re planning on doing. There’s pretty much something for everyone, as long as you can qualify for a work visa in China — but here are a few of the things which are important to most employers.


There are no specific rules which require you to be a native English speaker, or come from a certain set of countries to be an English teacher in China. However, native speakers may be preferred, so citizens of key English speaking countries like the US, UK, Australia and Canada may have a head start when it comes to job applications.

Non-native speakers may be expected to have higher levels of qualification or more teaching experience to be considered for positions.

Different institutions will have their own eligibility requirements, which may also vary by location, so if you’re not a native English speaker you may still find the right role for you.

Qualifications and experience

You’ll almost always need a bachelor’s degree to teach English in China. In fact, if it’s going to be your full time job it’s probably a requirement to get your visa.

Most schools and language centres will also need to see a TEF or CELTA qualification, or at least 2 years of teaching experience. Some institutions prefer CELTA certificates as they can be more rigorous than some TEFL courses — if you’re TEFL qualified, courses of at least 100 hours are usually requested.

Visa and entry checks

Finally you’ll need to make sure you fulfil all the requirements to get a visa for teaching English in China. This includes passing a background check, having a clear bill of health, and having a job already lined up before you travel.

Are there any exceptions for the requirements above?

Don’t lose hope if you don’t fulfil all of the requirements above. Schools, learning centres and private tuition agencies all set their own eligibility requirements.

So as long as you fit the criteria to get a visa to work in China, it’s still worth connecting with recruiters to see if there are any positions which may suit you.


Average salary
    1,400 USD to 4,000 USD+/month
Working hours
  • 16-20 classroom hours a week in a public school
  • 20-30 classroom hours in private institutions
  • 40 hour overall working week
  • Some learning centres may require evening and weekend working
  • Private institutions may have 2 weeks paid vacation + 11 days of public holidays
  • Public schools have 3 or 4 weeks break at Chinese New Year, and up to 2 months in the summer — vacation time may not be paid
Health insurance
    Often provided by employer
    Vary by employer but can include accommodation, airfare and some food
    Often provided by employer
Planning on moving to China? Check everything you need to know about the Chinese healthcare system here

Quick facts about China

  • Renminbi (Yuan)
  • Currency symbol: CNY
    Different religions are practised including Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Taoism
    Mandarin is the official language
    Dialects are also spoken in some areas
    Very varied by region and topography:
  • The north has harsh winters and very hot summers
  • The central regions tend to have 4 more distinct seasons
  • The south is generally hot with a short cool winter — typhoons can hit from July to September
Wondering how much CNY your USD is worth? Check with this handy conversion calculator.

What type of job can you get when teaching English in China?

English is taught in China from very early in elementary school, with students continuing to learn throughout their school careers. After school learning centres and intensive courses over vacations are also popular — and adult classes for basic and business English are available in all the cities.

That means that there’s an extremely broad range of different job types to look for.

If you’re not sure about your long term plans, you could consider a short term placement at a summer school, an internship or even a volunteer opportunity.

If you want to balance teaching English with having time to explore, part time positions are available in English language centres for both kids and adults. These may require evening and weekend working, but they do leave plenty of time for you to do your own thing during the day.

Finally, there are full time positions in both public and private schools, which typically have a full time 40 hour work week, with a varied level of classroom time. When you’re not in a classroom you’re likely to be at your desk marking or preparing lessons.

What type of schools can you work in?

Jobs come up in all sorts of settings — keep a lookout for positions in:

  • Private and public schools at all age levels
  • International schools
  • Kindergartens
  • Training and enrichment centers
  • Specialist language schools
  • Vacation and intensive courses
  • Business English schools for adults
  • Private tuition companies

Positions in public schools may well be working as a spoken English teacher with large class sizes of 50 or 60 students at a time. These classes are usually expected to be more fun than students’ regular lessons, which will mean coming up with games and activities, and keeping kids on track if they start getting too excited.

Private school jobs vary in terms of class sizes and teacher expectations. You’ll often be paid more compared to a public school, but you’ll also likely need to work more hours, and stay on the premises when you’re not actually in front of a class.

Many positions teaching English in China are in private centres, based around enrichment for kids, tuition support for older students, or professional and business English for adult learners. These roles are usually out of hours, so will mean you cover shifts at evenings and weekends. They’re also sometimes a handy supplementary income if you’re working in a public school during the day time and want to pull in a little extra cash.

What are the initial costs you’ll have to kickstart your TEFL job in China?

Let’s assume you’ve already forked out for your TEFL or CELTA course, and you’re now planning your move. There are a few key costs you’ll need to consider — but the good news is that many employers do cover some of these to make life a little easier. Here are some to think about:

  • Visa and health check costs
  • Flight — often covered by employer
  • Additional baggage allowance
  • Housing — often covered by employer
  • Utilities and services — local cell phone, internet and TV for example
  • Living costs before receiving your first paycheck
  • Insurance and healthcare — may be covered by employer

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Step by step of teaching English in China

Let’s walk through the key things you’ll need to do to make your dream of teaching English in China a reality.

Pick the city you’d like to live and work in

China is huge, so there’s no shortage of options when it comes to picking where to live. Many English teachers in China head for major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

If you’re looking for an experience in a vibrant, busy city, these could be good options for you. There’s plenty to do, with history and culture all around you, as well as a relatively cosmopolitan vibe. Downsides can include the travel time to get around, and the general constant buzz which makes downtime harder to find.

Alternatively you might consider a smaller city which is still well connected — like Yangzhou which is an easy train ride away from Shanghai. This can help you to get immersed in the lifestyle without quite such a frenetic pace.

Other popular picks include beautiful tourist cities like Guilin and Chengdu — see the sights and tour locally while earning a living teaching.

Apply and interview for the role

You’ll probably start out your search for a position teaching English in China online. There are plenty of umbrella sites which offer opportunities across a range of institution types, all around the country.

💡 Try some of these as a starting point

Another good way to find a role is to contact specialist English teacher recruitment agencies in the city you’re hoping to move to. This has a couple of advantages — recruiters can connect you with employers who may not advertise widely, and may also have advance notice of jobs not yet advertised. Choose a reliable, well reputed recruiter and don’t hand over any money — if you’re asked for a fee during the recruitment process it’s probably a scam.

Once you’re ready to go, polish off your resume — tailor it to ESL positions so it stands out — start applying, and get ready to interview.

Interviews for positions will usually be held remotely by video call. Some institutions will have several interview stages, so check the process before you get started.

Get a visa

Once you have a job, you’ll need to get a visa. You’ll need a Z type visa in most cases, and can apply at your nearest Chinese Embassy or Consular service. Different processes and wait times may apply in different locations, so do check with your closest Consulate before you get started. You can expect to require¹:

  • Your passport
  • Photocopy of your passport
  • A recent passport type photo
  • Completed application form
  • Work permit — provided by your employer
  • Proof of legal status if you’re not a US citizen
⚠ It’s worth noting that this is the only visa that lets you legally work as a teacher in China. Some fraudulent recruiters may try to bring people into the country on a tourist or student visa — this is not legal and can land you in serious trouble down the line.

Plan your relocation

You’re almost there — but you’ll still need to plan the details of your relocation. How easy or difficult this is will depend in part on how much support your employer is able to give you. It’s common for schools to offer airfares and accommodation to their teachers, which will make the process far more straightforward.

If you don’t have accommodation which is supplied by your work, it’s worth asking your employer for ideas of short term accommodation near to the school so you can book a place in advance for the first few weeks. This buys you time to explore, choose where you want to live longer term, and find a more permanent home.

Check your school’s dress policy before you pack your bags. Often teachers are able to dress casually in the classroom, making formal clothing somewhat redundant. Save the space in your suitcase for a winter coat — depending on where you’re headed, winter can be really harsh — and even in the sunny south there are a few chilly weeks a year. Don’t pack anything valuable and take sensible precautions like copying all your paperwork and documents, just in case.

Once you arrive you’ll need to get set up with essentials like utilities, internet and a local phone — ask your school to help with this process to make it more manageable.

💡 Tips for getting a job teaching English in China
  • Get TEFL or CELTA qualified
  • Research different school and institution types to find the best fit for you
  • Use a reputable recruiter to help connect you with employers in China
  • Look at lots of different cities to help decide which you’ll enjoy most
  • Talk to other teachers before you arrive, and connect to the expat network once you’re there
  • Once you’re offered a position, check the contract carefully and clarify anything you’re unsure of
  • If you’re offered accommodation check the quality and standards of the place being provided to make sure you’re happy
  • Expect culture shock — it’s part of the journey
  • Take the opportunity to travel as much as you can when you arrive
  • Watch out for job scams — if it seems too good to be true, it probably is

Common questions about teaching English in China

Thinking about teaching English in China? Here are some answers to common questions you may have.

How much money can you make when teaching English in China?

English teacher salaries do vary depending on the type of institution you’re working at, the number of hours you teach a week, and what other perks and benefits are part of the package. At a public school for example, you’ll often be provided with accommodation, flights and food in the school canteen. Salaries here are among the lowest, at around 1,400 USD/month and up.

English language centres may offer teaching contracts on a part time basis, in which case the pay will depend on how many classes you take on. Hourly rates are usually fairly decent to reflect the antisocial hours often demanded.

Finally, the best paid opportunities are often at private international schools. Experienced teachers are the preferred candidates here and can pull in 4,000 USD/month or more, as well as all the regular benefits like flights home and healthcare.

Is there a demand for English teachers in China?

China is the largest market in the world for learners of English as a second language. There’s high demand for native speakers to teach English across public, private and specialist schools.

Is it safe to teach English in China?

China is a safe country. You’ll need to keep your wits about you as you would in a new city anywhere, but with normal precautions and common sense it can be a safe and enjoyable place to live.

Hopefully this guide has got you excited about the prospect of becoming an English teacher in China. Use the pointers here to help you plan out your next steps — and don’t forget to check out Wiseand the Wise Multi-currency Account to make life a little easier — and cheaper — when you land in China.

Read further: Teach English Abroad


  1. MFA - China visa

Source checked on 11.30.2021

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