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The Complete Guide to Teaching in China


The Complete Guide to Teaching in China

Despite the sheer mass of media attention in the West, China is quite a misunderstood nation. Teachers who have previously made the jump abroad often find China to be one of the best, most lucrative of opportunities. 

As many Chinese families now consider English a precondition for the global success of their children, there are innumerable chances for foreign educators to land a reputable, well-paid language-teaching position.

However, the country’s recent dedication to improving education means they’re looking towards teachers of other subjects, too.

Teaching in China is an inspiring, admirable career leap and a chance to get closer to a rising market, set to dominate the global space.

While teachers can earn incredible salaries off the back of this booming economy, the cost of living remains low, so the money earned truly is money saved. 

What is the Education System Like in China?

Chinese education is broken into three chunks: basic, higher and adult. As part of huge education reform in 1986, 9 years of education were made mandatory.

Fortunately for prospective foreign teachers, those nine years coincide with basic education at the primary and secondary levels, so there are plenty of jobs available.

(Data provided by Macro Trends)

Historically quite an uneducated country, the recent changes have led to rapid improvement in the availability and standards of learning.

According to the 2002 statistics, “the net enrollment rate of primary-school-age children attained 98.58%, and the proportion of primary school graduates continuing their study… reached 97.02%.

For educators wanting to teach in China, there are countless opportunities across thousands of schools. 

The Yale-New Haven Teacher’s Institute considers that “China’s new educational system is very much like the American system in its organization. It consists of the following levels: preschool, elementary… secondary… and higher education.

Therefore, teachers specialised in a specific level, for instance, upper-primary, will surely be able to transition smoothly to the comparable level in the Chinese education system. 

What are the Requirements to Teach in China?

Although there are many types of visa in China, foreign teachers need only worry about one.

Foreigners planning to live and work are required to apply for a work visa or Z visa. There are specific requirements for this document, so it’s best to be aware of the exact requirements. For the teaching of subjects outside of English:

  • A minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in any subject, accredited by a trusted institution
  • A clear criminal background check provided by your home country
  • Two medical checks: one at a certified facility in your home country and another after you arrive in China
  • Men must be aged between 18 and 60; women must be 18 to 55

If you are interested in teaching English in China, there are additional requirements:

  • A national from one of seven approved countries: UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa
  • Accredited TEFL/TESOL qualifications: this can be provided by a general TEFL course or specialised programs like Cambridge University’s CELTA. Schools usually prioritise 120-hour+ courses, with practical modules 

In certain cases, exemptions might be made to those who lack TEFL certification but have substantial teaching experience, which is usually two or more years.

If you are interested in teaching the English language anywhere in the world, go to tefluk.com and use discount code 06F1540C for 10% off ALL COURSES!!

As far as the additional paperwork needed, expect to have to present all of your legalised and notarised documentation, most obviously your degree and TEFL certificates. 

For additional guidance on Chinese regulations on working in China, go here

Where Can I Get a Job Teaching in China?

As with most countries overseas, the majority of available positions are either in a school or language centre. However, there are additional options:


For the purists who simply enjoy being around children without the endless paperwork, a kindergarten job may be the best fit. Many teachers begin here, but do not integrate well. Therefore, a spectacular kindergarten teacher can anticipate a surprisingly high wage, especially at private institutions

Public School

Though these schools are often the lowest-paid, they offer a decent starting point for the lesser experienced, or those not interested in doing many additional hours outside of school-time

International School

These institutions have countless applicants, so they pick from the best. If you’ve got proven skill and are prepared to work to exceptionally high standards, you can get the best compensation from these positions


These higher-education facilities provide teachers with great creative output and interesting discussion, as students are mature and dedicated. However, the salaries to be found here are actually quite low, in relation to university positions in home countries

Language Centre

As institutions that are offering extra-curricular language learning, teachers will work in the evenings and on weekends. Teaching hours can be low or high, but the hourly rates are usually quite competitive

Private Tutoring

Tutors set their own rates and are responsible for finding adequate amounts of work to support themselves. It is not a lifestyle for everyone, but it does offer great freedom when done right. 

Another factor to appreciate is that there are sub-types of schools. As the Yale-New Haven, Teacher’s Institute explains, “schools [in China] are run in two ways: by the state or by the commune… [and that] the main difference between the two is that the system of leadership is not the same and financial support comes from different places.

State-run schools are financially supported by the Bureau of Education, whereas communes often have limited government funding.

Foreign teachers can find work in both kinds of institution, but those looking for the highest salaries should look for schools with the best sponsorship. 

What Will my Teaching Schedule be Like in China?

Whether it’s a public or international institution, working in a traditional school setting means teachers will begin around 7:30 AM until 6:00 PM, with a 2-3 hour lunch break.

A considerable amount of schools run self-study sessions immediately after school, all the way up to 9:00 PM, but foreign teachers will not usually be required to run these. 

The school week goes from Monday to Friday, but institutions can run half-days on Saturdays. After years of recruitment, employers are aware that many foreigners insist on 2 days rest period, so it’s more likely you’ll work 5 days a week. 

University schedules are notably more relaxed, offering anywhere from 5-15 hours a week, but they still run in the daytime.

On the contrary, language centres operate entirely in the evenings and weekends, anywhere from 15-30 hours a week, depending on your individual desire and centre expectations. 

What Kind of Teachers Does China Want?

As long as you have a degree, in any subject, you’re almost there; a little subsequent experience or TEFL certificate will make you instantly desirable for Chinese institutions.   

The famous carmaker Henry Ford, when asked by about his Model-T, said that customers could order “any colour so long as it’s black.”

Likewise, China now says to foreign teachers, “any person as long as they’re qualified.”

As a result of years and years of unqualified foreigners and dodgy practices from schools and centres alike, the government is really just interested in certified educators.

There does remain, however, the possibility of teaching without a degree in many Asian countries, but it’s illegal in China so pursue this at your own risk.

If you’re discovered to be illegally working, you will be deported, and potentially blacklisted from future travel to the country. 

How Much Money Can I Earn Teaching in China?

InstitutionLocal – RMB (¥)USD ($)GBP (£)
Public School7,600 – 15,3001,200 – 2,400 850 – 1,700
International School15,300 – 27,0002,400 – 4,200 1,700 – 3,000
University9,600 – 12,8001,500 – 2,0001,050 – 1,400
Language Centre9,000 – 16,6001,400 – 2,6001,000 – 1,850

Depending on your specific role, level of experience and the region you teach in, your salary will vary. Approximate monthly salary ranges for a 1st tier city, such as Beijing, are as follows:

The cost of living in China is relatively cheap, with the largest monthly expense being rent, around 2,500 – 4,500¥, which is $400 – 700 or £275 – 500.

Additional services, such as public transportation, are usually cheap.

Food is significantly cheaper than in the Western world, so expatriates are able to eat out most nights a week if they eat a combination of local and Western cuisine. A local dish could cost 10¥, while a three-course meal might be 80¥, which is $12.50 or £9.

What is the Curriculum Like in China?

As with Western schooling, the Chinese curriculum prioritises language, mathematics and sciences.

As stated by Open Learn:

The primary school curriculum consists of Chinese, mathematics, physical education, music, basic science, history and geography… [but] over a third of the curriculum in a junior secondary school is devoted to Chinese and mathematics, whilst at a senior secondary level over half of the teaching is concerned with science and mathematics.” 

Therefore, for teachers interested in Maths or Science, there might be golden opportunities to be found at international or private schools, where lessons in these subjects can be taught in English.

Otherwise, most teaching positions for foreigners will be English language teaching, which is “often introduced in grade four.”

How are the Students in China?

Parents will place immense pressure on students to enact further practice and study at home, as well as place them in various extra-curricular classes and activities. Consequently, the Chinese students appreciate a teacher who also proves hard-working. 

Students in China are expected to study thoroughly and intensively, hence their famous work ethic.

In the traditional Confucian view, says Week in China, “the family is the main place for children to learn.

The core of much collaborative work is mutual respect, and the Chinese classroom is no different.

Teachers are not expected to diminish their students, but rather encourage them. Once a connection is formed, Chinese students will be highly grateful to their foreign teachers, eager to learn and have fun.

Chinese society, generally, sees education as the vital pathway to becoming a considerate, mature adult, which is instilled in the students from an early age. 

Is China Dangerous?

Living in China carries risks and dangers, as with any location:

Crime in China

As far as Chinese statistics go, most experts take them with a pinch of salt.

As Dr Xu Jianhua, a crime expert at the University of Macau, suggests, “crime statistics are very important for the performance of local police and government… and various local governments manipulate the data.”

In reality, though, it is rare for expatriates to fall victim to serious, violent crimes

Water and Air Quality in China

Sanitation of services is not uniform across the country, so it’s advised that visitors don’t drink tap water, but purchase bottled products instead.

As for air quality, the US Embassy reports that “the People’s Republic of China is the world’s leading annual emitter of greenhouse gases since 2006,” meaning larger cities can pose a significant health risk.

According to a 2017 study, “the majority (81.1%) of the population still lives in areas exceeding the least stringent WHO air quality interim target.” 

Chinese Politics

China is a one-party state. Criticism of the government is met with heavy punishment, so foreigners need to be respectful.

It is recommended to avoid any political discussion, whether it is private or public, with people whom you don’t wholly trust.  

Chinese Attitude to Drugs

China has some of the world’s strictest drug policies, which have seen previous foreign nationals given the death penalty.

Random drug testing and raids are increasingly common. If found to have taken drugs, the punishments are severe

For further advice about local laws and customs, go here.

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If you are interested in teaching the English language anywhere in the world, go to tefluk.com and use discount code 06F1540C for 10% off ALL COURSES!!

Why Should I Teach in China?

Aside from the competitive salary, against comparable Asian countries (e.g. Vietnam), China offers a real chance for career development and further training.

The experience gained from teaching abroad has no equivalent on home turf, and China is a brilliant starting point for such an adventure. 

Well-established in the market, educational institutions in China are serious about hiring qualified, dedicated professionals.

The benefits of taking such a position are numerable. Foreign teachers get to engage students with a wholly unique ideology, in a new, fascinating classroom context. 

As well as the valuable knowledge to be gained with a teaching position in China, expatriates that take home a decent payslip can afford to taste the local cuisine, travel around the marvellous landscapes, and save up at the same time. 

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Teaching in China FAQs

What is the cost of rent in China?

The cost of living in China is relatively cheap, with the largest monthly expense being rent, around 2,500 – 4,500¥, which is $400 – 700 or £275 – 500.

What are the requirements for a Chinese working visa?

A minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in any subject, accredited by a trusted institution
A clear criminal background check provided by your home country
Two medical checks: one at a certified facility in your home country and another after you arrive in China
Men must be aged between 18 and 60; women must be 18 to 55

Paul Fulbrookhttps://teacherofsci.com
Paul Fulbrook (TeacherOfSci) is a Science teacher, writer and education blogger based in Brighton, England. He started teacherofsci.com to help support teachers everywhere with the everyday struggles that they are all faced with, both in the classroom and at home.

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