China has been an attractive place to teach English abroad for decades. The country’s huge population and emphasis on education have primed it to host the greatest demand for English in the world.
That means that ESL teachers in China have access to countless job opportunities, low competition, as well as fantastic monthly salaries and benefits. That, combined with China’s relatively low cost of living and incredible travel opportunities, makes it a dream destination where teachers can thrive and enjoy a high quality of life.
This ultimate guide shares all you need to embark on your adventure teaching English in China.
Snapshot of Teaching English in China
Avg. Salary: $1,300-$2,900+/month
Teaching Hours: 18-30 hours
Duration of contract: 6 or 12 months
Peak hiring season: February and July
School term: September - July
Visa requirements: Z Visa
Why teach English in China?
Ultimately, teaching English in China offers some of the highest ESL salaries in the world coupled with significant savings potential. ESL teachers in China also have a lot of choice not only in where they can teach but the type of teaching job as well.
Not to mention, living in China is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience one of the world’s most ancient civilizations. From the delicious food, traditional culture, and diverse landscapes, there’s so much to see and do in China. Plus, you don’t even need to speak the language to teach there!
Read More: Is Teaching Abroad Alone Safe for Women?
What are the requirements to teach English in China?
To teach English in China, you must first confirm your eligibility. The main requirements are:
- Native English speaker from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, or the U.K.
- Bachelor’s degree in any field
- Reputable TEFL certificate or a degree in education plus two years of professional teaching experience
- Aged 55 years or younger
The requirements for China’s Z Visa, or work permit for teachers, are strict, and the application process can take seven to eight months to complete. That means it’s very important for prospective teachers to plan ahead if they wish to teach in China.
China’s Z Visa requires applicants to fall into the right age range, have a reputable TEFL certification, and produce two recommendation letters, amongst other important documents.
How much can you earn teaching in China?
English teachers in China earn on average between 8,500-18,000+ RMB ($1,300-$2,900+) per month. On top of the impressive monthly salary, many teachers earn exceptional benefits such as rent-free housing, flight reimbursement, and contract bonuses.
These incredible benefits make China one of the best countries to teach English and save money. It’s not uncommon for English teachers to save as much as $600-$1,500 per month.
Cost of Living in China
The cost of living in China is quite affordable compared to many western destinations. And since English teachers often receive rent-free housing, it’s possible to save hundreds each month.
China is a pretty big and diverse country where your cost of living can vary drastically. But on average, an expat’s cost of living can fall between $450-$800+ per month, excluding rent. If your teaching job does not include an apartment, you can expect to pay an additional 2,000-4,000 RMB ($290-$580) per month in rent. This figure can vary dramatically if you live in or out of the city and what tier city it is.
Types of Teaching Jobs in China
There are many different teaching jobs in China, which dictate how much you can earn. And thankfully, China’s high demand for English teachers means that so long as you meet the key visa requirements listed above, it’s generally possible to secure any of these job types.
Here’s a breakdown of the various teaching opportunities found in China.
1. Public Schools and Universities
Public school and university teachers in China are paid lower salaries than other job opportunities and often work with larger class sizes. However, these positions usually include free housing and have a more laid-back work-life with nights, weekends, and national holidays off.
Additionally, public school teachers work regular school hours. China’s public schools typically pay between $1,000-$1,600+ per month.
2. Language Training Centers
English is considered so important in China that many students attend a training center for additional English instruction after school. That means that training center teachers work nights and weekends. However, these centers allow teachers to work with students of all ages, including professional adults. Class sizes at these centers are typically smaller, resources may be better, and the workload is generally lighter.
Training schools usually pay between $1,300-$1,800 per month. While some centers provide a housing stipend, teachers often must find their own accommodation.
Teaching at a Kindergarten in China is a popular and lucrative opportunity. However, Chinese Kindergartens are not like what you may be used to at home! In China, kindergarten students have a full day of school from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm and are taught traditional subjects like math, English, general knowledge, and more.
Kindergartens in China are known to pay pretty high salaries that can range between $2,000-$2,500+ per month. But kindergarten teachers have a heavier workload and are expected to work more hours per week. Kindergartens may also prefer teachers with previous classroom experience.
Where to Find Teaching Jobs in China
CIEE Teach Abroad in China
CIEE Teach Abroad has been connecting ESL teachers with reputable teaching positions in China since 1997. CIEE places teachers at partner schools which include kindergartens, universities, and private training centers. As a CIEE Teach in China program participant, you receive fantastic benefits such as free housing and placement in top destinations like Chongqing and Shanghai.
The program also includes enrollment in CIEE TEFL’s reputable 150-hour TEFL course. If you’re already TEFL certified, the CIEE Teach in China Basics is for you.
Learn more about the CIEE Teach Abroad Program in China.
Many hiring schools and academies in China rely on recruiters to find teachers. Two popular recruitment agencies are First Leap China and Opportunity China. These agencies are third parties that schools pay to assist in finding and vetting prospective teachers.
Recruiters work with all types of schools in China, and can help ESL teachers secure teaching jobs in public schools, language centers, Kindergartens, and more. They often have connections all around the country and can be a great way to secure a job for teachers new to China.
It’s also possible to find teaching opportunities listed on popular online job boards like Dave’sESL and eChinaCareers. Additionally, many schools and recruiters actively seek qualified teachers on LinkedIn.
Be sure to properly research and vet all positions found online before sharing your personal information.
Best Places to Teach English in China
China is a unique teach abroad destination because it offers the most diverse choice for where to teach. Here's a shortlist of some of China's best places to teach.
Beijing is China’s capital and offers English teachers world-class city living and easy access to historical landmarks like The Great Wall and The Forbidden City. It’s also where you’ll find some of the best paying jobs as well as the highest cost of living.
Shanghai is another popular choice and is regarded as China’s economic hub. The city has a population of over 26 million and is brimming with job opportunities, plenty to do, and a large expat community.
Guilin is a mid-sized city by China’s standards and is surrounded by striking limestone peaks and lush rice fields. Teachers in Guilin enjoy easy access to stunning nature and a vibrant city center.
These destinations are just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to high job opportunities, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Xi'an are also considered top places to teach in China.
What’s it like to teach English in China?
These helpful guides share personal experiences and useful tips that shed light on what it's like to teach in China.
- Diversity in Shanghai by CIEE
- Top Phrases for Making Friends in China by Jennifer R.
- How Teaching English in China Can Go Beyond Education by CIEE
Which TEFL certificate is best for teaching in China?
One of the most important requirements for securing a job teaching in China is to have a TEFL certificate. Hiring schools want teachers to have a TEFL of at least 120-hours and from a reputable provider.
CIEE TEFL’s 150-Hour TEFL Certification
CIEE TEFL is one of the best options for those dreaming of teaching abroad in China. As an internationally recognized and trusted brand, CIEE has a proven track record of helping graduates successfully secure jobs teaching English in China’s kindergartens, universities, and private language centers.
Additionally, CIEE TEFL's 150-hour certification makes it easy to complete your TEFL training online in just three months. This comprehensive course includes:
- 130 hours of ACCET accredited coursework
- 20 hour TEFL practicum
- Instruction by highly qualified TEFL tutors
- Job search assistance