China can be a great place to work, but there are soooo many factors that influence your experience while there.
Teaching ESL in China was such a rewarding experience, but you can become burnt out if you do not have a good job. Chinese work culture is a bit different than American work culture, so keep that in mind.
Below, Are the requirements for teaching English in China, plus things to consider when choosing a job.
Can You Teach English In China Without A Bachelor’s Degree?
Technically no, but it does happen..illegally. In order to legally teach in china, you must have an authenticated bachelor’s degree for the Z visa.
Some foreigners will come to China on a tourist visa and teach illegally. This is very dangerous and you can end up in jail or deported if caught.
There is however another way to teach but it is unpaid. You can teach English in China without a degree as an intern or volunteer, but will not be able to receive payment.
What Are The Requirements For Teaching English In China?
The minimal requirements to teach English in China are to have a:
1. Bachelor’s Degree In Any Subject
In order to legally work in China and receive a work permit/ Z visa, you must have a Bachelor’s degree. The bachelor’s degree can be in any subject as long as it’s from a 4-year accredited school. If you have a degree in education that is a huge plus for you. You will be able to work in an international school or receive higher pay.
2. A TEFL Certificate
A TEFL( Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certificate is the main certification required for future ESL teachers. Chinese education system requires applicants to have a 120-hour TEFL certificate.
There are a lot of different TEFL programs and some are expensive while others are not. You can obtain your TEFL either in-class or online. I chose the latter because I wanted to work at my own pace.
The cool thing about the different TEFL programs is if you chose an in-person you can choose to learn in different countries such as Thailand. Also, when considering a program, if I could do it all over again, I would choose a program with a lot of alumni support and job placement.
3. Native English Speaker
Currently, the government requires an ESL teacher to be a native English speaker. The preferred countries that ESL teachers are from are U.S.A, U.K, Canada, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, or New Zealand citizens.
4. Work Experience
Two years of work experience postgraduate is required to teach English in China.
Although, this is kind of glossed over in most cases. I had only one year of experience but was able to obtain a Z visa and work permit.
Although this was reflected in my pay, my salary was entry-level since I was inexperienced. So, it is best to have as much experience as possible for negotiating power.
The work experience can come from anything involving children, such as babysitting, nanny, camp counselor, volunteering, etc.
5. Background Check
An FBI background check is needed for teaching children in China.
If you have experience teaching in the USA you already are aware that background checks and fingerprints are required to work in the school systems. This is the same for teaching English abroad.
The FBI background check last for 6 months.
Below, Are Unofficial Requirements For Teaching English In China
When moving abroad to teach, the start-up process can cost a bit. So, it’s best to have a saving reserve for authentication of documents, visa fee, flight, hotel, and rent.
Authentication of documents and visa fees is an expense that isn’t really talked about since some schools promise to reimburse you for it but in order to do so you have to pay for it upfront first.
You have to get your bachelor’s degree, TEFL, background check, and passport authenticated from the Chinese consulate. You can find the cost of it from your local China Visa Consulate office.
In China, rent is paid every three months.
If your employer is providing housing then you will not have to worry about this but if they aren’t and just providing a stipend then this is a cost you will have to pay initially. Most stipends are 2-4k RMB, so try to find an apartment within that range. Then, multiply that cost by three months plus a deposit. I wrote more about this process here.
Lastly, Don’t forget to save for your one-way ticket to China and the hotel when you arrive. You will need a hotel until you find your apartment so I suggest a week at minimum stay but if your employer has housing for you then don’t have to worry about this step.
What To Look For When Searching For An ESL Position.
When looking for an ESL position in China, please consider these aspects. Location, cost of living, salary, and in-country assistants.
For me, Location was/is extremely important. Location as in the city, province, neighborhood, and how far of a commute I would have to take to work.
China is massive and some areas are more developed than others.
It is very possible to find an excellent job but your placement is in rural China ( unless that’s what you want ) or you can choose the city but receive horrible work benefits. You have to be clear and assertive about your wants. This is the key to having a good experience in China.
For example, After I decided on teaching in China, I narrowed my search down to the city. I was deciding between Shanghai or Suzhou. After explaining to the recruiter, I am only interested in these locations she sent my application to those areas. Well, I was contacted by a training center in Suzhou who only had availability in Hangzhou. I research Hangzhou and actually preferred it more than both Suzhou and Shanghai. I talk a little bit more about Hangzhou here.
It is best to learn about your area, such as the climate, foreign community, things to do, and how international it is or isn’t. That’s why you should have a good idea about what your future location will be like, before going to live there.
Cost Of Living In China
This is a big one that most people don’t take into consideration.
China is inexpensive compared to the U.S.A but you have to remember you are being paid in yuan/RMB. So there are different cities in China you can get more bang for your buck.
Shanghai and Beijing are expensive cities, with the apartments being in the high range with less space. Compared to Hangzhou you can get a 2000-4000rmb apartment that’s spacious but in Shanghai, you may only receive a room and would need roommates.
Below, is a review of my partner and I apartment in Hangzhou for only 4,000 RMB. Prior to moving to China, I wrote down what I was looking for in a space and this exceeded my standards. The only con was, I was a 45-minute train ride away from my School.
Teaching In China Salary
Now, your salary is extremely important.
You have to decide what is most important to you. Why are you coming to China? Are you coming to help pay off student loans and save? Are you here just for the experience?
If you are here to save and pay off debt then do not settle for anything under 12k RMB plus a 2,000 RMB housing stipend. Ideally, you want to strive for 15k+ housing as a new teacher. If you are experienced then of course way more.
My first job in Hangzhou, I was low balled and only made 12,000 RMB with housing included. So my profit was only 10,000 RMB. This was still fine and way more than what my Chinese co-teachers were receiving but after speaking with other foreigners who were making 19k plus housing, I realized I was getting the short end of the stick.
Get as much as you can and don’t be afraid to negotiate.
I know it uncommon in American culture but this is a different place and it is acceptable. These training centers and schools to the core, are just businesses. They are truly looking out for the best interest in their business, and if they can save they will.
If a recruiter is saying your salary expectation is too much money then move along, there are other schools in China. If you are truly interested in that one specific position then make it work for YOU, by negotiating.
Only do things in your best interest when working in China.
Honestly, You’re the product. They can not run their business without your English skills, so please keep that in mind.
Teaching In China In-Country Assistants
You are traveling to a new land that is different from your home country.
You will need assistance, especially if you do not know Chinese/Mandarin. Make sure you are receiving visa help, that your future school/training center agrees to pick you up from the airport, you will have assistance finding an apartment, setting up a bank account, basically acclamation to the country.
Different ESL Teaching Positions In China
There are different teaching ESL positions you can do in China.
I won’t make this post longer than it already is, I created a different post detailing each one. You can find it herebut I briefly listed them below.
Certified teacher at international school
Public or primary teacher
Each position has its pros and cons. They are all teaching conversational English but the difference is in grade level, class size, benefits, time off, salary, hours of operation, and other key things makes each position.
I chose to teach at a Kindergarten for the small class size and the ability to have quality time to get to know each student personally.
There’s more personal involvement in a kindergarten. I didn’t like the morning hours but everything else was fine and I was happy with it. So, that just something to consider when applying for job positions.