With so many locals keen to learn English, there are plenty of jobs in China for English speakers. Although working at a private language centre or a public school is the most popular kind of work for TEFL teachers in China, there are lots of other teaching opportunities around. Private international schools generally offer a great working environment and a high salary for those with prior teaching experience and relevant qualifications. Working at a university is another good option for those who would like a different kind of teaching experience and fewer working hours. And a couple of other teaching opportunities are teaching Business English to adults and private tutoring for kids.
Work Visa (Z visa) in advance - convert to work permit within 30 days
Cost of Living
Business Professionals, Children
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What Kind of Teaching Jobs Are There In China?
There are around 1.4 billion people in China, many of whom are either required to learn English at school or encouraged to learn English by their employers. The most popular teaching jobs in China are at private language academies and public schools. However, there are a considerable number of jobs in private international schools, universities, Business English schools, and teaching General English to workers who may encounter foreigners from time-to-time – from nurses to customer service staff.
Teaching at private language centres in China
Working at a private language centre, or ‘language academy’, is a popular option for both TEFL teachers and licensed teachers. The need for native-level English speakers is growing rapidly at centres, with the number of learners enrolling increasing by over a million every year. Depending on your qualifications, you may find slightly different teaching posts and benefits. But in general, language centres offer steady work with fair pay and great benefits.
Finding a job
Most English teaching jobs in China tend to be found in larger, metropolitan cities, especially when it comes to language centres. Jobs at these centres are usually posted online and can be applied to from overseas. Applying online is especially common if you’d like to work for a large, well-known company, such as Disney English, English First or Maple Bear Global Schools. But you can also find work just as easily on the ground if you’d prefer to visit schools in person to get a feel for them.
One thing to note is that to legally teach in China – no matter what kind of school you work at – you’ll need a working visa. Also known as the ‘Z’ visa, the working visa needs to be sponsored by your employer, and without one you can be arrested and deported!
When to apply
With such a high demand for TEFL teachers, especially native-level English speakers, you can find jobs at pretty much any time of year at language centres. Though peak time for job hunting is about 12 weeks before September – when the new school year starts.
Teaching hours & Class sizes
Most language centre jobs in China require you to work on weekends and evenings, and usually offer up to 40 hours per week. And there tend to be around 15 students in a class – though there can sometimes be more.
Salary & Bonuses
You can earn between $850-2,300 per month, depending on the centre, your hours, qualifications and responsibilities.
You may also receive a completion bonus for finishing the full term in your contract. And with many TEFL jobs in China, you’ll be offered free accommodation, health insurance, and even flights to and from your home country.
You’ll be given all Chinese national holidays off work as well as around 10 extra days of holiday.
- Free accommodation, completion bonus and health insurance
- Comfortable wage and a fair number of vacation days
- Smaller class sizes than at public schools
- Lots of other foreign TEFL teachers working at the same centre
- Potentially more lesson planning than at a public school
- Often no teaching assistant to help manage classes
Teaching at public schools in China
Public school jobs in China for foreigners range from teaching at primary school level up to high school level. There’s a significant difference between teaching at primary, middle and high school, from the level of English spoken by the students to the teaching style you’ll use. Though you’ll generally find yourself teaching every element of English, including reading, writing, speaking and listening.
Finding a job
You can find work at public schools online or in person, with most first-time teachers in China applying online in advance.
Just like teaching at a private language school, you’ll still need to secure a ‘Z’ visa to legally get a job at a public school.
When to apply
The public school year starts in early September, so May or June is a good time to start looking for work. It’s tempting to start searching earlier, but bear in mind that lots of schools won’t start looking at applications until 12 weeks before terms starts.
Teaching hours & Class sizes
You’ll usually teach Monday to Friday, from about 8am until 6pm, with a long lunch break. There are usually between 30 and 50 students per class, but there can be as many as 70. Yes – you read that right, 70!
As mentioned, the demand for English teachers is high in China, which can often result in large class sizes. This may sound a little overwhelming at first, but it’s worth remembering that teachers are well-respected in Chinese culture, so you can expect well-behaved, attentive students.
Salary & Bonuses
You’ll earn between $1,150-3,050 per month, depending on your qualifications, the hours you work, and where you work in China. You may also be offered a completion bonus or performance-based bonuses. Other perks include health insurance, free accommodation and a flight allowance.
You’ll get all the Chinese national holidays off work as well as vacation time in-between terms – so you’ll have plenty of time to explore China!
- Free accommodation, completion bonus and health insurance
- Comfortable wage and a lots of vacation days
- School books and a curriculum to follow
- A teaching assistant to help manage classes
- Weekends off to explore China
- Long breaks during the summer and winter holidays
- Larger class sizes than at private language centres
- Less opportunity to play games or do activities
- Usually only two or three other foreign TEFL teachers working at the same place
Other types of ESL jobs in China
Am I eligible to teach in China?
As of 2017, to teach TEFL in China, you must hold a Bachelor’s degree, a TEFL certificate, and preferably have prior teaching experience too. In general, employers are looking for candidates with a 120 Hour TEFL Certificate, but the 140 Hour TEFL Certificate may be worth looking into if you don’t have any teaching experience.
How can I get a visa?
To work legally in China, you will need a ‘Z’ visa – a working visa required for all foreigners working in the country. To get this, you’ll need a Bachelor’s degree in any subject and a TEFL certificate or at least two years of teaching experience. This combination makes you a ‘foreign expert’ in the eyes of the Chinese government.
You also need to be a passport holder of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK or the US. And the application process includes a police check, a medical check, providing a reference, and notarisation of your certificates of education.
Before you can apply for a ‘Z’ visa, you need an offer of employment and a contract from your school. Unfortunately, you can’t apply for a visa in advance and then go hunting for any teaching job you like!
If you don’t have a Bachelor’s degree, you won’t be able to get the ‘Z’ visa, and therefore legal teaching work. But with a shortfall of around 100,000 English teachers, many TEFL teachers do find work without a degree or a working visa. Though, it’s not uncommon to hear of teachers being arrested and deported for working illegally on a tourist visa.
Where can I teach English in China?
Three of the most popular and competitive places to teach English in China are: Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. These cities are busy metropolises with plenty of entertainment, restaurants and shopping centres. Shenzhen is one of China’s newer cities, offering warm weather and a quick ferry ride to Hong Kong. Located in East China, Hangzhou is a peaceful and serene city but also only one hour away from Shanghai by high-speed rail. Other places you might enjoy teaching English in China include Chengdu, Guilin, Nanjing, Ningbo, Qingdao and Xi’an.
What are the challenges of teaching English in China?
A common difficulty teachers have in China is assimilating to the local culture. You might find that people ask you more direct questions or make somewhat blunt comments about your appearance, along with plenty of other things that seem strange by Western standards. This can take a little while to get used to, but rest assured, you’ll quickly find lots to love about Chinese culture too!
The language can prove difficult for new people too. Chinese Mandarin is China’s official language but there are actually hundreds of other dialects used around the country. Mandarin is a tonal language and uses Chinese characters that will take some practice to recognise. But learning the language is incredibly useful, considering it’s the most widely spoken language on the planet!
Cost of living in China
Although the wage in China is less than many TEFL teachers may earn at home, the lower cost of living means that you’ll be able to live comfortably. You can rent a one-bedroom apartment outside the city centre of Shanghai for $500, have dinner at a restaurant for anywhere between $4-25, and get a one-way ticket on the metro for about 50¢!
China has an extraordinary combination of history stretching back over thousands of years along with modern technology and development steaming ahead into the future. There are both cities filled with towering skyscrapers and crowds of people and villages surrounded by paddy fields and simple houses. More than anything, China is a hugely diverse and sprawling country that shares a history longer than any other in the world. But despite its diversity, the country seems intent on moving forward together, using only one time zone across the entire country – which is incredible considering the same area in the US has eight different time zones – and connecting the country with more miles of train lines than the rest of the world has combined.
The culture can be one of the most shocking parts of China for most foreigners. Although day-to-day life is pretty similar to most of the West, there are lots of small differences that can often be surprising. For example, it’s not unusual to see people spitting in public, and lots of locals like to grow their nails (or just one nail) extremely long, supposedly as a sign of wealth. It’s also common to speak incredibly loud, and burping is seen as a compliment after a good meal. On the other hand, pointing is considered rude and there’s a whole list of things that you shouldn’t do with your chopsticks. So although you may find yourself shocked – and often confused – by the culture in China, you’ll certainly never be bored!
Eating is a huge part of Chinese culture, with everything from the way you hold your chopsticks to how meals are shared with others meaning more than it seems. Chinese cuisine is also completely different to what most of us know as ‘Chinese food’. There are a variety of flavours and ingredients not found in your bog-standard sweet and sour pork at home along with hundreds of dishes you’ve probably never heard of. A few must-try dishes are xiao long bao (soup dumplings), yu xiang rou si (shredded pork and vegetables in garlic sauce), classic Peking duck, and unique hairy crab!
Accommodation in China
As a TEFL teacher in China, you can expect to have free accommodation included in your contract. Many schools will have accommodation specifically for teachers, where you can expect to share a flat or dormitory with other teachers working for the same school or company.
If you would prefer to find your own place, you may be offered a housing allowance instead. You should be able to afford a spacious one-bedroom apartment in the city on a public school wage, and you can afford considerably more as a university teacher.
Weather in China
China is the fourth largest country in the world by area so, as you can imagine, the weather varies a lot from region to region. It’s home to a range of landscapes, including desert, grassland, and around 9,000 miles of coastline. Heilongjiang Province in northeast China can drop well below zero degrees in the winter – think -30°C! – whereas Xinjiang in northwest China can reach temperatures above 30°C in summer.
In an effort to simplify this hugely diverse country, it would be fair to say that China is generally hot and rainy in summer, and cold and dry in winter. Below, we’ve highlighted the weather in the three most popular places to teach in China, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
China’s gigantic capital, Beijing, is at its coolest in January averaging -4°C and at it warmest in July averaging a temperature of 26°C. During the summer, it’s extremely humid and rainy, especially in June and July.
On the east coast of China, Shanghai is slightly warmer than Beijing, enjoying mild winters and subtropical summers. Temperatures drop to an average of 5°C in the coldest month of January and rise to 28°C in the hottest months of July and August. The city also gets heavy rainfall during the summer, especially in June and August, and is extremely humid year-round.
Not far from Hong Kong, Guangzhou is pretty warm and humid all year round. From June to August, the city averages 28°C, and in January, the temperature is around 14°C. With a subtropical monsoon climate, rainfall is heavy in Guangzhou from April to September, peaking in May, and humidity is high throughout the year.
Please note: The information in this guide is accurate as of the time of writing. However, the laws and requirements to teach abroad can often change. Make sure to check the latest advice from the local authority of the country you plan to work in.