the people square

a community serious about adventuring

How to: Teach English in China Today

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You are in demand. If you’ve never taught or you’re already a teacher, China is a great place to be. China is screaming for teachers. Other than the Middle East, China offers the most employment opportunities. Life is cheap, entertainment is vast and life is easy, so here’s what you need to know about teaching English in China.


1. English Speaker – to teach English in China you really only need to speak it. Many schools prefer native speakers (English First, Wall Street English), but there are others that don’t mind second language speakers. More qualifications regulations have been enforced recently to avoid backpackers looking to fill up the bank account for more travel. Such people have given true teachers a bad reputation in the field, but schools are just that desperate that the cycle continues.

2. A Degree – you need to be in possession of degree to get the working visa in China although many people teaching don’t have one. If you have one, you simply need to make photocopies (not needing to show the original copy). Many people have a faux degree made and some schools even do this in office for you.

3. Experience – the more reputable and higher paying schools require previous teaching experience, although you can still find a teaching job without it. Note – the schools and agencies that offer these jobs must be considered cautiously as they tend to operate illegally, pay late and more inconsistently than the reputable schools and may close down any moment.

4. Certification – TESOL, CELTA, TEFL and other English as a Second Language lingo that ultimately means the same thing, is not compulsory to teach English in China; however, it does help in asking for a higher wage and providing you with a sense of comfort in knowing what you’re doing in the classroom.

5. Age: You must be over 19

6. Commitment: Able to commit to one-year abroad.


How to Find Work:

There are two ways to get a teaching job in China.

Option A – you can apply from overseas. If you’re the cautious type, this option is for you. It’s the safe route and requires less work on your part.

Option B – you can arrive in China on a tourist visa and find work upon arrival.  A more adventurous route if you’re unsure what school is best for you. You will find many more opportunities once you arrive and many teachers wish they had chosen this option.

What do you need:

1. Resume: Do provide the following on your resume: a recent profile photo of you (a face shot), your nationality, native language, education, teaching related experience, age and availability start time.

2. Interview: If you are applying for a job overseas then your interview will happen over Skype. If you are applying in China, the school will most likely want to see a teaching demo where you mock teach a life class.

3. Documentation: You will need to provide the school/agency with the following: a photocopy/scan of your passport cover and picture page, a photocopy/scan of your degree and or ESL certification.

4. The Process: Once you have been offered a job verbally there is about a one-month process that takes place. In this time, the school is organizing your documentation for employment such as an invitation of employment letter, visa application forms and your contract.

5. Benefits Package and Wages: Most private English language schools offer around 10,000 – 12,000 Chinese Yuan per month to teach kids. Wages tend to be higher for teaching adults 12,000 – 15,000 Yuan. Public schools pay better, but you require Teachers Certification from your home country. Payment occurs once per month. Many schools also offer half-year completion and full-term completion bonuses.

6. Contracts: Almost all teaching contracts for full-time work require a one-year commitment.

7. Hours: Most schools require full-time foreign teachers to work 40-hour weeks. This is usually broken up into about 20-25 hours of teaching time and the rest is office work. Some schools offer roughly the same pay for fewer hours. Part-time work is possible although a visa is usually not available to part-timers.

8. Tax: All full-time English Teachers pay taxes. Based on a teacher’s salary of 12,000 per month, the tax is roughly 600 RMB per month.

9. Vacation Time: There are many holidays in China including a week in January for Chinese New Year and again in October for the Mid-Autumn Festival. There are also many one day holidays throughout the year.

(NOTE: Asking for time off is generally not a problem, however, do make sure how many hours of time off impinges upon your half-term and full-term contract hours of completion for you to qualify for your bonus. This should also be laid out in your contract.

Visa Information

Visa costs vary depending on your nationality (link to visa info).

Tourist Visa (L Visa): This is the first step in any visa obtaining process. Depending where you process your visa and whether  you apply for multiple entry, this visa may be 30 days to six months long. Prices will vary.

Working Visa (Z Visa): Once you arrive in China, your L Visa will be changed into a Z Visa. This process requires that you leave China and have it processed. Hong Kong is a where most people are directed as most global citizen are allowed a non-visa entry into Hong Kong.

Legally you cannot work in China unless you have a Z visa. Once your school has given you an invitation letter and

Arrival – Registration, Health Check, Work Permit and Costs:

Registration: When you arrive on your tourist visa the first thing you will have to do is register with your neighbourhood police station to attain for “residence permit”. (NOTE: Anytime you make any changes to your visa, like extend your tourist visa or change your tourist visa into a Z visa you must re-register/update yourself at the police station).

After you register your place of employment, if you arrive with a job, they will provide you with information to have a health check evaluation. This is mandatory to apply for a residence permit and working permit>>>check for updated visa information <<<< Stay up to date on registration information  here although a good/safe school should know this information already.

Health Check/Work Permit: In order to obtain your work permit you must have a health check conducted. Your school of employment should help direct to where this is done and the process. It is a basic physical check and blood test that must be completed before the work permit. NOTE: This process must now be done in China before you make your trip to Hong Kong to finalize your Z Visa.

Costs: Many schools will provide you with a start-up allowance once you arrive to help pay for your arrival related expenses, including the visa. Tourist Visa prices are typically $30 US. Medical Exam: Roughly 700 RMB. Schools should pay for this. Residence Permit: About 400 RMB. Most schools do not pay for this and it is expected of the employee to pay for residence permit related expenses. Please check helpful websites at the bottom of this page for a link on costs.

What to Expect

Work expectations are very different from western working ethics. Expect changes to your schedule and job duties constantly, fellow staff to be eating lunch at your desk and a squatter toiled in your “staff washroom” shared by the school children, their parents, and you. Work offices can be quite small, which means you might be sharing your personal space and personal items. Culturally, sharing food with others is typical so expect lots of Chinese treats.

Simply, don’t have any expectations. Be open. Remember this is why you decided to do this in the first place – to have an adventure – to try something different.

Helpful Websites

English Abroad: How to Avoid a Scam

Teaching Locations in China

Life in China

Chinese Embassies

Chinese Consulates in Canada and the U.S.A.

Dave’s ESL Café – International Job Board and Information, International English Teaching Certification Information, Forums, Job Postings, Resume Posting Page, Teacher’s Resources and Materials.

Teach Away – Great website for teaching abroad information

Tourist Visa Costs

Currency Converter

ESL Teacher’s Board – International Job Information, Job postings, Teaching Resources and Materials.

Transitions Abroad – Travel Information, International Job Catalogue, International Volunteer Programs.

Joy Jobs – Excellent aid for making your resume teacher-focused.

5 comments on “How to: Teach English in China Today

  1. elmer
    December 3, 2011

    You know when I first stepped in Beijing, I thought I wanted to stay/work there. Helpful infos you got here. Makes me really really think now.

    • Lindsay Anne Williams
      December 4, 2011

      Did you end up working in Beijing? Thank you for your comment.

      • elmer
        December 5, 2011

        No I was on a special studies back then

  2. Hello to every one, the contents present at this
    site are in fact remarkable for people experience, well, keep up the nice
    work fellows.

    • the people square
      May 2, 2013

      Hi and thank you for your comment. Lots more fun and adventuresome posts to come.

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