Answering Your FAQ’s About Teaching (ESL) English in CHINA!

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Last month I wrote a little guide answering your most frequently asked questions about teaching in Korea, however, some of you had a few questions about what it would be like to teach ESL in China! 

Since I have no experience on that front, I got one of my blogging friends to share her wisdom with you instead.

Bennett signed up for 6 months of teaching English in China and left 2 years later, work that one out!

Here, she answers frequently asked questions about making the move to China to teach English in order to inform and encourage others to do the same.

Answering Your FAQ's About Teaching ESL in CHINA! Yangshuo - one of places where you could be teaching in China

FAQs: Teaching in China

Do I need a degree to teach in China?

The general answer is yes as in order to get a work visa in China you need to produce the certificate. I do, however, know of many people who did not have a degree who worked as English teachers in China.

What if English is not my first language?

Whilst native English speakers are the most attractive prospects in regards to satisfying Chinese parents as well as governmental demands, those with English as a second language should not be deterred.

If you’ve studied in an English speaking country, this is looked upon well. However, you might have to go through a pre-interview Skype call to check your accent.

Teaching English in China to children
Teaching English in China to children

Do I need to have teaching experience or a TESL/TEFL certificate?

Just like the degree, this is desirable but not essential. What you need to show, especially in your interview is your willingness to learn and adapt as quickly as possible.

Should I teach at a public school or an English training school? 

The main difference is the working days. Do you want to teach Monday to Friday and have the weekends off? Then go for a public school teaching job.

Want to work mainly weekends and maybe have some adult students too? Then work at an English training school.

It’s your choice! 

Teaching English to a Kindergarten class in China
Teaching English to a Kindergarten class in China

Where should I start looking for a job?

There are plenty of ways to find a job online, through Dave’s ESL Café or just searching for English training schools in China.

One other way to find a job is through a recruiter, such as NewLifeESL, who will place you in a school.

Will I be the only foreigner at my school? 

If it’s important to you that you aren’t the only foreigner at the school, you need to let employers know and the same vice versa. Most people are placed to their requirements, but be prepared to have something not in your expectations either!

Traveling while teaching English in China - Zhangzhou
Traveling while teaching English in China – Zhangzhou

What will my school cover?

Every school will offer different remuneration packages: some may include return flights, contract bonuses or medical insurance. The main one I would look for, however, is rent-free living, as that takes a huge weight off your mind each month. 

What if I don’t like China – can I leave early? 

Just like any job, there are consequences (usually monetary) if you leave your teaching job in China early.

There are some 6-month contract opportunities out there, so if you think it might be difficult, start with one of those and if you like it, then renew it!

Dinner with adult English language students in China
Dinner with adult English language students in China

Do I need to speak Chinese to teach in China? 

No way! I didn’t know a word of Chinese before I left and managed to absorb enough to live safe, happily and comfortably (but then again I am a language geek). 

I want to move to China but I’m scared!

Everyone is in the same boat at some point in their life.

Remember starting university for the first time?

Or any new job?

Everyone gets scared and it’s okay to get scared but until you push boundaries, you’re not living. 

Travelling in Beijing while teaching ESL in China: A friend from the UK visiting me in Beijing
Travelling in Beijing while teaching ESL in China: A friend from the UK visiting me in Beijing

If you have any further questions about teaching in China you can get in touch with Bennett. She also recently wrote new eBook Add Your Brick To The Great Wall – Experience-based Advice From Expats which answers many more questions about living, teaching and travelling in the fabulous Middle Kingdom!

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Sam

    I heard that recently China has changed the list of citizens it will grant working visas to for the purposes of teaching English and that now if you have a South African passport and are a native English speaker, China no longer considers you one; this seems a little crazy! Is it true?

    1. Hi Sam, I’m not sure about that actually, as I had a lot of South African colleagues when I was in China… doesn’t mean they haven’t changed it though as just before I left there were some changes in a few of the visas, and Chinese bureaucracy can be very contrary. Recruiters would know more info that myself – sorry I can’t be more helpful!

  2. says: Gail

    This looks like a fantastic experience and it is something that seems so daunting and scary so these FAQ answers are great and i think this will give a lot of people the push they need to take the leap and go for it.

    1. says: Ian Leahy

      I have been to HK many times on visa runs while living in Taiwan and in China. I was over there once looking for a job teaching ESL. It’s possible, but there is just not many options. Most natives can speak English.

  3. says: Jenny Scott

    I’d also add be careful of scam recruiters! In fact, the majority of agents in China are either illegal or dishonest. There are just 329 registered with the Ministry of Education but thousands who aren’t!

    Here’s a useful article about this problem: if you’re thinking of using an agent to find you work in China.

  4. says: William

    Love how receptive you are to experience new things! I also went on a gap year to south east Asia where I taught in Thailand, Cambodia and Burma and it opened my eyes wider than I thought possible. I 100% recommend it, especially when you’re young and have nothing to lose. Great writing too.

    Publisher of NomadHead – Your Guide to Gap Year Travel

    PS that amazing statue of the two entwined students sums up just how crazy Asia can be! At one point on my travels I was posing with some locals within a giant sunflower. Just unreal!

  5. says: John

    Hey, thanks for the inspiring post! I have been teaching in China for the last 4 years. I can say that it really is a great place to teach English. As you are here longer you can also earn a lot more money than you originally get offered for your first teaching contract. Because teaching hours are usually only 20-25 hours per week, this gives you a lot of free to time for tutoring on the side.

    Often you can get students via word of mouth, as you are in contact with a lot of parents and students you already teach.

    If you want to find students outside your school is a good site you can promote yourself with. I have found a few students through there.

    You can also try your luck on Chinese classifieds ( if you can speak Chinese) and some English classifieds pages depending what city in China you are in. For example is a good place to look for students in Beijing.

    Good luck !

  6. says: Chris

    Hi all!
    Chris here. I’m working in China for a private centre and we’re looking for teachers. It’s actually my previous role. If you’re looking for a chance to teach in China, feel free to message me directly. We reimburse flights, visa and provide you with accomm. Good luck with your search! Email:

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