Teach in CHINA

Everything you need to know - and do - to get started with teaching English

in China this year!

Is teaching abroad the right move for me?

OK, we don’t know a whole lot about you personally, but if you’ve got:

A degree (✅)

Can speak English fluently (✅✅)

We feel pretty confident you’re a good candidate for the job. The best part about teaching English abroad is that almost anyone with a degree of any kind can do it - so long as you can speak and write English fluently.

Fresh out of college and not sure what to do next? Whether you're looking to move into teaching long term, or just keen to travel the world, learn something new and earn some cash in the process, it's well worth considering teaching English abroad. That’s why new grads, career changers - even newly retired teachers - all look to teaching English abroad every year as their personal ticket to international travel and adventure.

While you do need a degree to teach English abroad (for the most part), you don’t have to major in English, education, or linguistics to qualify for teaching jobs abroad. Yes, that quirky astrobiology degree has a little-known second purpose. It also qualifies you to teach English abroad! There are literally thousands of great jobs open for bachelor’s degree holders of all types, all around the world.

You also don’t have to have a teaching degree to teach English abroad - take it from the hundreds of thousands of English teachers currently living and working abroad who don’t have one, either! And you don’t need to have teaching experience (although there are some incredible teaching jobs for those of you who do have experience and/or a degree in education.)

So, really, it's not so much a question of whether you can get a job, but which job, in which country, is the best fit for you. More on this topic to come.

Why should I teach abroad?

If you want to make any (or even all) of the following goals a reality, then teaching English abroad could be the right move for you:

  • Get paid to travel
  • Immerse yourself in a different culture
  • Gain international work experience
  • Learn a new language
  • Make a difference in the lives of people around the world

OK, so just how big is the market for English teachers abroad?

demand for english teachers abroad

It’s pretty ginormous, actually.

By 2020, there will be 2 billion (!) English language learners in the world, meaning English as a second language (ESL) teachers are very much in high demand.

In China alone, for example, over 300 million people are learning English as we speak. That’s the equivalent of the entire US population. And the number of people learning English in China is set to grow by around 15% every year:

projected english language learners in china

Right now, they’re short about 100,000 English teachers. One. Hundred. Thousand. Teachers.

That’s where you come into the picture. But how do you know whether it’s really the right move for you?

What do I need to teach abroad?

✋ Slow down for just a second! Before you get too excited and pack your bags, it’s important to assess the costs and education/work experience requirements first.

This will ensure you’re not left financially hanging once you arrive and that you’ve prepared for what is sure to be a culturally different yet memorable experience.

1. Am I qualified to teach English abroad?

Takeaway: A TEFL and bachelor's degree (any major!) is usually all you need to qualify for English teaching jobs abroad.

Answer: While the exact job specifications may vary from one school to another, most of the employers look for pretty similar qualifications and skills when hiring English teachers from overseas.

For most English teaching jobs abroad, the qualifications you need can be broken up into two main categories:

Must have Nice to have
  • Bachelor’s degree (any major)
  • English fluency
  • ESL certificate (like a TEFL) with a minimum of 100 hours of study


2.Do I need to have teaching experience to teach English abroad?

Answer: No need to fret on that front. You can totally teach abroad in the majority of private language and ESL schools overseas without any experience - all you need is your degree and TEFL certification. As always, we advise you to check the country’s visa requirements as well as the job description for the schools or teach abroad programs you want to apply to teach in. But for the most part, you don’t need to have experience to teach in most countries, especially in Asia, Europe or Central and South America.

While you don’t need to have a teaching license, you probably won’t be able to apply to teach at international K-12 schools, department of defense schools or in public school systems/government-run teaching programs in regions like the Middle East and Asia. These jobs are highly competitive and will usually go to experienced educators with a teaching credential.

Of course, if you do have a background working as a teacher, then you’re well positioned to qualify for some of the most lucrative, perk-filled teaching jobs overseas in the Middle East and Asia.


3.Don’t I need to speak the local language to be able to, y’know, communicate with my students?

Answer: Some people mistakenly assume they can’t teach English abroad without knowing their students’ mother tongue. In fact, most overseas schools prefer if you don’t speak the native language. Total immersion in a new language is the proven best way to pick it up faster, after all.

And you don’t need to bilingual to be an English teacher abroad, either. With that caveat out of the way, if you’ve learned a foreign language yourself you will, of course, be well attuned to the specific learning needs of English language learners. And, consequently, a more empathetic, effective teacher.


4.Am I too old (or too young) to teach abroad?

Answer: While there is a perception out there that teaching English abroad is only for starry-eyed graduates or people in their early or mid-twenties, that’s simply not true. You absolutely can teach overseas in your thirties, forties, fifties - heck, even in your sixties. Take that, Millennials and Gen Zers!

That said, certain countries do set either minimum or maximum age restrictions for teaching English overseas. Some Asian countries, for instance, set an official maximum age of 60 for visa applicants. Eastern Europe and Latin America, on the other hand, are great picks for more mature teach abroad candidates - especially if you’re already an experienced educator.

On the flipside, if you’re under the age of 21, you might also find it difficult to land a job teaching overseas. Your best bet would be to research volunteer or gap-year teach abroad programs and apply to those instead.


5. How much money can I make teaching English abroad?

Answer: Salaries when teaching English abroad vary depending on the country and area in which you are working. A candidate’s experience level and qualifications will also play a role in determining teaching salary.

Countries in Asia, especially ChinaJapan and South Korea, are known for offering highly-competitive compensation packages and a high standard of living to new teacher arrivals.


6. What are the basic start-up costs I need to save for?

Answer: Whoever said “the best things in life are free” clearly never moved abroad!

Relocating to a brand new place is as exciting an adventure as it gets, but it costs money. If you’re taking the plunge and moving abroad to teach, you’re going to need to do some planning and budgeting for your move.

Let’s start with the absolute basics:

a) Getting qualified

A reputable TEFL certificate will usually set you back anything from $1,000 USD for an online, self-paced, TEFL course, to upwards of $2,000 for a four-week, full-time, in-person TEFL course. While there are some cheaper, shorter TEFL courses out there on the market priced as low as $200, these don’t meet the minimum requirement set by employers globally (100 hours or more).

You’ll also need to pay for any fees incurred during your job and work visa application. And quick heads up, you might need to supply apostilled documents at an additional expense. Most hiring schools happily interview candidates in advance, by phone and/or Skype, so that should help keep your start-up costs to a minimum.

Note: If you opt for an in-person TEFL course, then you’ll also need to factor in travel and food expenses. TEFL courses taken abroad cost around the $1,700 mark, not including flights, daily living and accommodation costs.

b) Getting there  

Many hiring schools and teach abroad programs, especially throughout Asia and the Middle East, will cover free airfare for successful applicants. If your budget is tight, consider teaching in countries like South Korea and China. Or, choose a country with a low cost of living, so your money stretches really far, like Thailand or Vietnam.

However, if you’re set on teaching English in places like Europe and Central and South America, you’ll more than likely need to spring for your own flights to and from your new country of residence. So don’t say we didn’t warn you - it’s time to start saving!

c) Getting settled in

Keep a close eye on the exchange rate in advance of the big move. If you’re looking to intend to transfer your savings to a bank account in the currency of your destination, you’ll want to try and do this at the optimum time.

You’ll also need to cover bills and daily living expenses (around six weeks’ worth is a pretty safe bet) while you’re waiting for your first paycheck. These typically include:

    • Internet
    • Utilities
    • Transportation costs
  • Groceries

Of course, if your school doesn’t provide these as part of your package, there’s also rent and your local health insurance plan to think about. Before you go, it’s a good idea to do a cost of living comparison so you can figure out exactly how far your money will go in your new home country. We love sites like Numbeo and Expatistan to compare cost-of-living rates around the world.

You may also want a contingency fund set aside in case of any emergencies when you first move.

Where can I teach abroad?

Teaching English abroad is a unique and wonderful experience. It provides insights into a country that isn’t your own. It exposes you to a different culture. And it allows you to learn a new language, meet new people and get a new perspective on the world. It’s an experience not many people get a chance to have.

There’s a whole wide world out there, so how do you choose the best places to teach English abroad?

First off, do you want to work in a place that’s a little culturally familiar (think Europe, if you’re from a western country) or somewhere totally different to home?

Do you want to teach in a foreign country to learn a new language or do you prefer somewhere where many of the locals speak English?

What about work visas - are you eligible to apply for one in your dream country?

Many factors come into play when picking the right destination. Do you love the hustle and bustle of a big city or are you more of a country person? Do you prefer hot climates with beaches or do you love mountain hikes and more moderate temperatures?

How far do you want to travel? Maybe you’d prefer to stay closer to home so you can go back for visits, or maybe you want a real adventure far, far away. All these personal preferences will help you determine your perfect destination.

It’s also important to think about what you want to achieve from your time teaching abroad. For instance:

    • Do you want to make lots of money (to save up a nest egg for your future, travel, pay off loans, etc.)?


    • Are you happy with funding a new life adventure abroad and breaking even at the end?


  • Do you want to learn a new language?

If teaching abroad is a stepping stone into a long-term career teaching internationally or back home, you might decide to head to Asia first, where the job market is particularly strong right now, and head to Europe or the Middle East afterward.

Where are English teachers most in demand?

How can I find a job teaching abroad?

What if you could make money while traveling the world? What if you could call a village in Southern Italy or a beachside town in Thailand home and build your resume while you lived there?

Rather than just spending a weekend somewhere checking out the sights, you get to immerse yourself fully in life in a brand-new country. It’s a dream come true for people interested in long-term travel.

And a job teaching English abroad is how you can turn that dream into a reality.

What kinds of English teaching jobs are out there?

While there are a wide range of English teaching jobs abroad, including internships and volunteer and summer camp teaching jobs, the vast majority of teaching positions overseas fall into one of the two categories below:

ESL teaching jobs Licensed teaching jobs

Teaching English in either private or public schools as well as language schools abroad.

Teaching your subject area of expertise in private, public or international schools abroad.

There are also a few other, less common, categories that overseas teaching jobs can fall into, including college teaching and school administrator positions.

Teaching jobs will on offer will vary depending on the country and your qualifications and experience.

For example, as a graduate with a TEFL certificate in Japan, you could work as any one of the following:

  • Assistant language teacher (ALT) in a public school
  • Native English Teacher (NET) in a private language school
  • Business English teacher

However, if you have a degree in education and have classroom teaching experience, you could also teach at an international school, kindergarten or even at a Japanese university.

What types of education institutions hire for English teachers abroad?

You can find jobs teaching English abroad in a variety of institutions, including


  • Private ESL/language schools
  • Public schools
  • International/IB schools
  • Department of defense overseas schools
  • English language camps
  • Universities
  • Volunteer organizations
  • Business English classes

There are also lots of opportunities for one-on-one tutoring with private families or individuals, the list goes on! The type of teaching job you take will depend on how long you can commit to a contract, your experience teaching and your own interests and goals as a teacher.

What kinds of ESL teaching contracts are out there?

Your contract will vary depending on where you end up working. If you’re looking to build a career as an ESL teacher, definitely look for full time, long-term contracts. If you want some more flexibility and the ability to move from country to country, look for freelance, shorter-term contracts or jobs as an ESL tutor.

If money isn’t your be-all-end-all and you’re looking for a way to make a summer abroad or sabbatical more meaningful, it could be an idea to check out volunteer teaching opportunities in developing countries.

What are the typical hiring seasons for English teaching jobs abroad?

Peak hiring times will vary from region to region and country to country, as well as the type of educational institution hiring. While it’s possible to find a job teaching English year round, in general, interviews tend to coincide with the end of winter and summer vacations and the beginning of a new school semester.

It’s worth doing some planning and research on the countries you’re most interested in teaching in, to ensure you don't miss out on any upcoming recruitment drives.

In countries with a major ESL market, such as China, South Korea and Thailand, thousands of jobs teaching English at private language schools are open year round. If you’re looking to teach English abroad this year, applications to teach English in China are currently being accepted from candidates interested in teaching English in China through the Explore Program.

I landed a job teaching abroad: Now what?

For this info, we’ll direct you to the following posts and resources!

teach overseas


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                                                           Teach English abroad and get paid to see the world.

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Teach in China

Requirements to teach English in China

Teach English in China - Private language schools
Typically, the minimum requirements to land a job in a private language school in China include a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate. Teaching experience, while preferred by certain employers, is not strictly required.

Teach English in China - International schools
For teachers looking to teach at an international school in China, qualified candidates should hold a Bachelor’s degree, a teaching license issued by the applicant's home country, and at least two years of full-time teaching experience.

Options to teach English in China

Seeking to teach English in China? With around 300 million English language students and growing, China is, without a doubt, a job-seeking teacher's market. Estimates show that China is currently experiencing a shortage of around 100,000 English teachers and this figure is set to increase over the coming years, as the country’s enthusiasm for learning English continues to grow.

Home to the largest education system in the world, China places a huge emphasis on the central role of education in its economic and cultural development, as well as the personal advancement of its citizens. Rest assured that there’s no shortage of options available for new grads and licensed teachers looking to teach English in China, including teaching jobs in private language schools and international schools across the country.

As the biggest ESL hotspot in the world right now, ESL teachers in China can earn a competitive salary and receive additional perks that may include free housing, airfare, medical insurance, and bonuses. 

teach English in China

Teach English in Private language schools in China

Private language schools are some of the most popular options for ESL teachers, as well as licensed educators, looking to teach English in China.

The number of students enrolled at private schools in China increased from 29 million in 2011 to 40 million as of 2016 and is expected to reach a whopping 51 million by 2021. English language learners in China are also getting younger and younger, particularly in bigger cities, as parents in China increasingly attach great importance to English language learning for their children.

The exponential increase in younger English learners, combined with a growing number of adults enrolling in business English classes to advance their career, means that the demand for native-English speaking ESL teachers in China is poised to explode over the next number of years.

Private language school teaching jobs are most commonly found in larger cities, where demand tends to be higher than in rural parts of the country. Some of the most prominent and reputable language schools across China, include English First, Better English and First Leap English.

Private language schools in China will usually employ a combination of expat English teachers and local Chinese teachers. Class sizes usually run on the smaller side (usually 15 students). More and more, technology plays a bigger role in the ESL classroom, with most language schools in China using interactive whiteboards and computers.

great wall of china - teach English in China

Teach English in international schools in China

The growing popularity of international schools in China reflects not only the country's economic rise but also the fact that Chinese have long been passionate about learning English, which is regarded as an important key to success.

Currently, more than 150,000 Chinese students are currently enrolled in international schools. The increased demand for international education in China has, in large part, been fueled by a growing number of middle-class Chinese families seeking to provide their children with a western-style English-medium education, with the aim of gaining entry into globally-recognized universities overseas.

International schools in China are typically characterized by world-class school facilities, smaller than average class sizes and varied curriculum offerings. Chinese international schools, for the most part, tend to follow one of the following

Salary and benefits while teaching in China

Most private language schools in China offer a lucrative benefits package on top of your monthly salary, as well as free flights and housing. Many jobs teaching English in China include additional perks like contract completion bonuses, health insurance, ongoing professional development opportunities and free Mandarin lessons. Learning Mandarin gives teachers in China the unique opportunity to grow their global skills by learning one of the world’s most in-demand languages.

Teaching Benefit Type Teaching Benefit Details
Monthly Salary Salary ranges for teachers in China vary depending on qualifications and experience. Teacher salaries are also adjusted to account for the significantly lower cost of living in certain locations in China.
Accommodation Furnished apartment/housing allowance often included
Airfare Return airfare often included
Working Hours Up to 40 hours/week, 5 days a week
Vacation 10 vacation days; all national holidays
Health Insurance Provided
Extra Benefits Paid orientation and training, completion bonus, free Mandarin language lessons

Visas for teachers in China

To teach English in China, you will need to secure a Z Visa. This requires sponsorship from an employer, who will guide you through the visa application process. To be granted a Z Visa, you should have the following in order to verify that you are a “foreign expert” in English education: 

  • A Bachelor's degree in any field
  • A passport from one of the following native English-speaking countries: UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or Ireland
  • Preferably a TEFL certificate and some teaching experience

Living in China

The People’s Republic of China - home to more than 1.35 billion people, boasting an ancient history, rich culture and diverse cuisine. But don’t worry, that’s not all China has to offer teachers abroad. One of the world’s oldest civilizations, China is also now one of its economic superpowers and home to some of the world’s most high-tech cities. Expat teachers are increasingly attracted to living in China due to the economic opportunteach English in China living in Chinaities the country has to offer, as well as its varied cultural experiences.


Cost of living in China

Most teachers are thrilled to find out that the cost of living in China is substantially cheaper than in their home country. Despite a lower monthly salary, your income is likely to stretch much further living in China. You'll be able to leave aside plenty of disposable income for weekend activities, travel and savings. Even in bigger cities like Shanghai and Beijing, which tend to be popular with ex-pat teachers, the cost of living is still cheaper compared to western countries.

Living Expense Average Cost
Food & Drinks Restaurant lunch/dinner: 25 - 80 yuan ($3 - 12 USD) Drinks 2 - 10 yuan ($0.30 - $1.50 USD)
Activities 30-minute massage: 40 yuan ($6 USD) Monthly fitness membership: 150 yuan ($22 USD)
Transport One-way metro fare: 3 yuan ($0.45 USD) 20-minute taxi fare: 25 yuan ($3.70 USD)
Utilities 200 yuan ($30 USD)
Phone and Internet 300 yuan ($44 USD)

China at a Glance

teach English in China visa requirements

Country Information

Capital - Beijing, China

Language - Standard Mandarin

Population - 1,387,720,133

Currency - Renminbi (yuan) (¥)

Major Religion - Buddhism, Taoism

Climate - Varied: wet/dry seasons

Size - Land area - 3.7 million sq. miles (9.6 million sq. km)


Quick Facts
  • China shares borders with the following countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, India, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Vietnam.
  • China has the second highest number of UNESCO world heritage sites - 50 in total to date.
  • Every five days, a new skyscraper is built in China. In fact, last year, a property developer in China built a 57-story skyscraper in just 19 days!
  • China has four megacities of over 10 million people, the highest number of any country in the world.
  • Only 7% of the Chinese population categorize themselves as religious, making China the least religious country in the world.
  • Pork is a huge staple of the Chinese diet - in fact, one out of every two pigs are located in China.
  • As China has a single time zone, people in parts of the country experience sunset at midnight during the summer and sunrise at 10 am in the winter.



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