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Teach English in China An Introduction & Guide

Land of the orient, the world's biggest population and a TEFL industry to match.

Thinking of teaching English in China? Hopefully this country profile will help clear up most of your questions.

You can navigate each country section with the left hand menu. When you select a section the contents will automatically open.

Looking for the jobs?
If you're just looking for the jobs, then you can view all jobs in China here..

We'll go over everything from how much you can earn and where you can work, to how to get a visa and find a house. (China isn't always the most straight forward country, things like visa requirements can change from city to city!)

So lets take a quick look at what's inside the Chinese country pages:

  1. The basics
  2. Where can you teach in China?
  3. What do you need to know about housing in China?
  4. What kind of qualifications do you need to work in China and how do you go about getting the right visa?
  5. How do taxes and social security work in China?

  6. Extras

Looking for a quick summary before you dive in?

There are English teaching jobs in China available all across the country, although the more remote positions are less likely to appear on online and there jobs available for teaching any age. The average salary for someone teaching in English is between 8,000-14,000 CNY and tax will typically fall between 2.5 - 10% of your salary. By and large the private language schools typically pay better, see our pages on how much can you earn teaching in China and Chinese cost of living budget for more information.

The requirements for teaching English in China are typically: a bachelors degree, English as a first language (i.e. usually native English speaker) and 2 years teaching experience. However if you're a graduate looking for a gap year or longer term position then you you can often work in one of the tier 2 & 3 cities or with a large companies using a TEFL certificate instead of experience (for more details see our china requirements and visa information section).

A Short Introduction

The more people you have, the bigger the job market and no country has more people than China.

When it comes to teaching English, China has a bigger market and more jobs than pretty much anywhere else (although Korea has plenty!).

The Largest Market
The sheer size and population of China makes it the largest market for English language teaching in the world.

It's not just the number of people of course, cultural factors also play a large role in the size of China's English teaching market. Parents want their kids to be successful and being able to speak English is seen as an important part of that, especially as China forms more global links.

Overseas education is another factor, it still has a large appeal to Chinese parents and there are large differences in the education systems between China and the West. Studying abroad usually requires a high level of English and so this too drives the market.

This really large demand means the teaching industry in China will take in anyone and that gives it part of its reputation. Although the Chinese government is getting stricter on who it lets in, there are still plenty of people who will continue to teach under the table.

China's English teaching industry covers the whole spectrum from bad language schools and illegally employed teachers, to top quality English institutions.

Why choose China?

There are plenty of reasons people choose to teach in China:

  1. A great place to learn Mandarin
  2. An incredibly varied and beautiful country to travel
  3. A culture completely different to western cultures
  4. Plenty of teaching positions

One of the best (and most obvious) is learning the language. There’s no better way to learn a language than immersing yourself in it and for Mandarin, China is pretty much the best place to do it (check out Taiwan as well though). Many English schools offer Mandarin lessons either free or discounted as a benefit, which also gives a nice way to get started.

If you're excited by travelling and exploring a country, China has a lot going for it; places like Yellow Mountain, The Great Wall and The Dragonbone Rice Terraces take your breath away. There's a huge amount to see in China and teaching gives you a chance to visit these places as well as earning money to support it.

As any expat will tell you, travelling around a place is not the same as living there and being an English teacher in China gives you a chance to experience a culture which is wildly different to western culture.
Book recommendation: Although old, the book Myself a Mandarin is a fascinating look into some of the cultural differences. It shows them through 12 different court cases told by a Magistrate living in Hong Kong in the 60s. It reads like a modern book and is a fascinating and funny read (it's also short).

In terms of pay and benefits China also does pretty well and although they tend not to be as comprehensive as you might find in somewhere like Korea, the cost of living is cheaper and you can save a lot on a year out. Compared to places like Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia, you’re far more likely to find positions with shorter weekly hours - jobs which offer 20 hours a week or in that area. Positions are also less likely to have full day office hours as is the norm in a lot of countries.

What should you be aware of?

China is very different, the things you would put up with while travelling can be more frustrating when you’re actually living there.

The big two for most people tend to be pollution & hygiene.

First off, as you’ve probably seen the pollution is pretty terrible. Not everywhere and not all the time, but it’s going to be far worse than you’re used to back home. Big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou tend to be the worst.

Hygiene standards are also very different (i.e. they’re a lot lower), again not such an issue when you’re travelling, but if you’re bothered by those things, living there means you can't get away from it.

A third smaller point, traffic is also different. A lot like Vietnam it’s not for the faint of heart, most of the time it’s every man and woman for themselves.

Going to live in China is going to take an open mind and a lot of willingness to adapt, but if you can then it can be an incredible experience, either for a year out or the start of a career in ELT.

Image Attribution:

"Tianjin Skyline" by Francisco Anzola is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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