Teaching English in China: Getting Started FAQ’s

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Being an English teacher is a great way to see the world and teaching English in China is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have. There are a lot of resources online but first, you need to answer some basic questions.

Can I teach English in China without a degree? Can I choose where to teach? How do you find a reputable school? Which cities in China are the best to teach in? How many students will I teach? Do I need TEFL or CELTA to teach English in China? How do I get a work visa?

These are all questions that we asked before moving to China and will now answer in this article to help make your move to China easier.

teaching english in china frequently asked questions

Can I teach English in China without a university degree?

You must have a degree to teach English in China, this is now the law. Given the fact that the degree doesn’t need to be in an education-related field, we think this is a bit bizarre, but, it’s the law.

Not sure if you want to pack up your life and move to China? There’s another option – you can Teach English online from home, or anywhere in the world! Check out our article for details:

Teach English Online: Get Paid With These Top Companies

What is TEFL/TESOL/CELTA? Do I need one to teach English in China?

There are many different forms of these certificates all with different acronyms.

TEFL stands for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language”,

TESOL stands for “Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages“,

CELTA stands for “Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults.” Basically they are all the same. They give you the credentials to teach English as a second language.

TESOL CELTA TEFL ESL for Teaching English In China
TESOL Is Useful, But Not Obligatory For Teaching English In China

CELTA is definitely the most recognized as it is a Cambridge university administered course. But all of these certificates are internationally accepted. It is recommended that you have such a certificate to teach English because the course will teach you the basics of classroom management, lesson planning and new language introduction.

By law, you need to have one of these certificates in order to teach. It will also help your odds of getting a job. Have a look at this list of affordable, reputable TEFL courses you can take online.

How do I find a job teaching English in China?

Dave's ESL Cafe For Teaching English In China

There are a lot of resources for finding jobs teaching English in China. If you get your TEFL certificate through MyTefl, they will help you with job placement. use promo code GOATS50 for 50% off.

If not, you can check out Dave’s ESL Cafe, GoAbroad, or TransitionsAbroad.com. Here you will find hundreds of job postings for places all over the world, but because you are looking for a job teaching English in China, you will want to click on the appropriate job board.

Have your resume ready (preferably with some kind of previous teaching experience) and send it off to as many schools you wish. Keep in mind that there are a lot of bad contracts out there, so be diligent in choosing your employer.

What is a recruiter? Are they free? Should I use one?

Recruiters Can Be Useful When Starting Teaching English In China
Recruiters Can Be Useful

A recruiter is an agent hired by the school to help them hire new teachers. Because the demand for foreign teachers is so high (and constantly rising) schools have had to resort to employing recruiters to help bring teachers in from abroad.

The recruiter will be paid 100% by the school and this will in no way be reflected in your contract (If the recruiter expects payment by you, look elsewhere).

There is no harm in using a recruiter and if you find your job on ESL Dave, then you will likely be in contact with many.

 

How do I make sure that the school is reputable and legitimate?

Teaching English In China

The biggest concern for teachers finding jobs in China is the reputation of their school. The web is full of horror stories about teachers signing horrible contracts that inevitably have them working too much for too little.

Despite the gory details of such claims, keep in mind that you are signing a legal document that requires you to teach, you are not signing away your soul.

The best way to check the legitimacy of a school and its contract is to ask for the contact details of other foreign teachers who work there. Send them an email or give them a call, chances are they will be very honest with you and they can help you with your decisions (this is common practice).

Remember, if you don’t like the job, you can always quit and find another. You will have to forfeit any bonuses, but there are so many jobs in China that once you move here, you will probably be offered new jobs on a monthly basis.

How do I get a working visa to teach English in China?

Getting a working visa in China is not as straightforward as you may think. You first need a Z-VISA. This visa is transferable into a Foreign Expert’s Certificate (Working Visa) once you arrive in China.

To obtain the Z-Visa you will need to complete a series of medical tests in your home country (see below for details) or a country besides China (they can be done in Hong Kong).

You will need to present the filled out medical forms, visa application forms, signed invitation letter (sent by your school), 2 passport photos, your passport and the appropriate funds to the Chinese embassy at which you apply.

Once you have obtained the Z-visa, you will be able to enter China for 30 days.

During these 30 days you should head to the school that has employed you and they will help you complete another series of medical tests with a Chinese doctor (mandatory), as well apply for your Foreign Experts Certificate.

This can all be completed within a week with help from the Chinese staff at your school. After that, you’re ready to work in China!

Example Of A Chinese Z-Visa Needed for teaching english in china
Example Of A Chinese Z-Visa

What sort of medical tests do I need to complete to teach English in China?

Medical Tests Required for teaching english in china
Medical Tests Required

Everyone needs to complete 2 sets of medical exams in order to obtain a working visa for China. The first MUST be done in your home country or in another country besides China. The second series of exams will have to be completed once you are in China.

You will need these forms completed by your doctor at home. The tests include: ECG,  chest X-rays, blood tests, urine samples, HIV and hepatitis tests and a few others. Blood test results can take a long time so if your start date is sudden, get on these right away and tell your doctor you need them back ASAP.

The medical forms can be a bit of a hassle to complete but they ARE required.

How do I know if I’ve been offered a good teaching contract in China?

Signing Contracts For Teaching English In China
Signing Contracts

Teaching English in China is a great job … if you sign a great contract. New teachers definitely have to be wary of misleading and poorly written contracts.

The best types of contracts will be written in both Chinese and English on the same pages (so you don’t sign a Chinese version and English version separately). They should be written in proper English and they should clearly outline all hours, bonuses and salary. There should be no points where the contract leaves “possibilities for more hours”.

It should clearly state the maximum required working hours and the minimum salary as well as any bonuses and living allowances you are entitled to. Stay away from contracts that sound vague, require too many hours or leave too much up to the discretion of the employer. (ie: more hours required by teacher if needed).

Typical contracts will be for 1 year minimum, require 15-30 hours/week, offer a living allowance, flight reimbursement, completion bonuses, medical insurance, retention bonuses, free Chinese lessons and a competitive salary (see below).

If you have a bad feeling about a contract, or you are unable to contact a foreign teacher associated with the school, look elsewhere. There are plenty of other contracts waiting for you to sign.

Typical Contract For Teaching English In China (A Good One)
Typical Contract For Teaching English In China (A Good One)

How many hours will I work when teaching English in China?

Hours Teaching English In China

Typically, teachers in China are required to work between 15-30 hours per week in total. Many schools require minimal teaching hours, while the rest is made up with “office time”. A contract that includes office hours is not a bad option because it often gives teachers time to write lesson plans and mark tests (time usually unpaid in other contracts).

How much do English teachers make in China?

Salaries can vary greatly in China depending on where you work, how many hours you work, which levels you teach and which school employs you. The lower end of the spectrum is around 5000RMB/month. This would be considered a poor salary.

Some teachers make as much as 20,000/month but these types of jobs are often full-time hours and can be very hard to find (as well as being reserved for experienced teachers with degrees).

A good wage that you should expect to find quite easily is around 8,000 – 10,000 RMB / month. Usually, teachers also receive a living allowance (500-2,000 RMB depending on location) on top of their wage.

The taxes in China are very low, so you can expect to take home as much as 98% of this after tax. We were able to save $21,000 after just a year of teaching English!

Teaching English In China Salary
Teachers Pay Really Isn’t That Bad!

What are the best cities to live in when teaching English in China?

Best Places For Teaching English In China

This of course depends on what sort of experiences you want to have and the type of lifestyle you hope to live.

If you like city life, then eastern China is definitely for you. You can live in the modern, hectic cosmopolitan cities like Shanghai and Beijing, or you can live in a small Chinese city of 5,000,000 people like Yangzhou or Nanjing. Guangzhou is another popular spot.

Keep in mind that bigger cities usually pay more but this extra wage usually isn’t enough to cover inflated living expenses.

Northern cities can be beautiful but temperatures drop to -30 degrees celsius for months at a time, so if you’re used to tropical weather, beware! Have a look at our full list of the best cities to teach English in China.

How much do apartments cost in China? How do I find an apartment in China? What are they like?

Finding an apartment is usually pretty easy. The costs will vary greatly depending on where you live. Try to get a contract that includes a living allowance but not one that supplies living quarters (supplied apartments are often small and uncomfortable).

When you arrive in China, you should stay in a hotel for a few nights while looking for apartments. Your school should provide you with a ride and an agent who will help you pick the perfect place for you.

Don’t make the mistake of rushing into a place, find one you like and make sure you will be comfortable for the duration of your stay.

In big cities like Shanghai, small one bedroom places can be as much as 3000 RMB but outside of the major cities you should be able to find a nice apartment (around 80 square meters) for as little as 2000 RMB.

Your apartment should be clean, modern and fully furnished. Try to find one with an en suite washing machine (very common in China) and a comfortable bed (not common in China). Most modern apartments have a wall mounted LCD tv in the living room and A/C / heating units in every room.

Will the school help me get settled in China?

Wood Carving

This is an important question that you should ask your potential employer during the interview process. Ensure that there is a good welfare program (foreign teacher help) at the school.

Good schools will have designated welfare officers who are simply people who are employed to help the foreign staff. A school that is proud of their welfare program is often a good school to work for.

Our welfare assistant, Standy, helps us with everything from paying bills to translating menus, he is on call 24/7 and is always willing to drop what he’s doing to help the foreign teachers.

Not all schools will have this type of amazing aid, but ensure that your school offers you some sort of help, at least when you first arrive.

Your assistant will likely become a good friend as well. Standy has been there for us from the start!

You will need help finding a place, setting up utilities, buying a cell phone and getting to know your new city. There should be someone at the school to help you do these things once you arrive.

So you’ve read our article about getting started teaching English in China, and now you have questions about the job itself. Here you will find the answers to your teaching in China questions, but if you finish reading and you still have more questions, you can feel free to comment below and we will get back to you ASAP.

Note: Teaching English was one of the jobs included in our epic list of 101 Best Travel Jobs. Check it out for more amazing jobs that you can do while you’re travelling so that your trip never has to end!

There is no doubt that teaching English in China is a great job, but what makes it so great? What should you expect? What will you be expected to do? Here you will find the answer to those questions and many more.

teaching in china with shane english school
Cost of living in Yangzhou China vs. Philadelphia, USA

How many students are in a classroom?

The number of students in a classroom when you’re teaching in China will vary depending on what kind of school you work for.

Public schools have as many as 50 students, while many private schools limit class numbers to around 12. You should ask the school how many students are in a class before you sign the contract. Teaching English can be exhausting and if you are not used to controlling 50 students, you should probably search for a school with limited class sizes.

teaching in china a class of CL07 students
Nick with one of his primary level classes. Yangzhou, China

Not sure if you want to pack up your life and move to China? There’s another option – you can Teach English online from home, or anywhere in the world! If you’re from Canada or the United States, check out VIPKID and get paid to teach English online to Chinese students. If you’re not from North America, don’t worry, you can still teach online. Check out our article for details:

Teach English Online: Get Paid With These Top 5 Companies

Is there anyone else in the class with me? Do I get help while teaching in China?

teaching in china you will have help from your teaching assistant
T.A Helping With Class

Generally, there will be a TA (teaching assistant) with you in every class that you’re teaching in China. The T.A. is NOT there to translate to the students, although they sometimes do as a last resort teaching method.

The assistant is simply there to help you control the class, keep the kids in line and supply you with any teaching materials you may need before and during a lesson. The T.A’s are your best friends so treat them well and communicate with them to keep the class running smoothly.

How do I teach if I don’t speak Mandarin? Is there a translator?

If you are teaching English in China at a reputable school (such as Shane English School), there will likely be rules in place to ensure the students learn in a 100% English environment. You will not need to speak Mandarin or translate the language to the students if you present it in such a way that they can understand.

For this, proper planning and use of realia can be crucial. If worse comes to worst, the students often have a separate Chinese class, where they are able to catch up on any language they did not understand in your class. There are two words you will find yourself calling out to your students frequently: “NO CHINESE!”

What is a lesson plan and how do I write one?

Teaching In China Lesson Plan
A Typical Lesson Plan. Basically Shows A Timeline Of Games And Drilling

If you took a CELTA/TEFL/TESOL course, you should already have a firm grasp on writing lesson plans. Basically, a lesson plan is a detailed timeline of what you will teach in your lesson.

There will likely be a beginning or “entrance” to your class, a warmer to get your students interested, a review of the previously taught material, phonics practice (B = banana etc.), an introduction of new vocabulary and language or grammar points (sentences).

The photo below is a lesson plan written for a primary class and although it’s messy, it’s concise and it follows the class structure required by our school.

During your first week at your new school you will likely be offered a training schedule, where you will learn all of the basics of lesson planning, classroom management and the details of the curriculum that your school requires you to follow, as well as other helpful pointers that will aid you while teaching in China.

What other duties will I have besides teaching English?

This also depends on your school and contract, but if you’re teaching English in China, you’ll probably have to do more than just teach English. Many jobs will require you to do some promotion work, level checks, office hours and demos.

Promotion work is basically just going to a public place like a mall or a library (accompanied by your T.A) and using your foreign face as an ad campaign for the school. You will be expected to talk to kids, smile and maybe do some level checks for potential new students.

Level checks are basically just a series of questions that you will ask students before they start with your school, these questions are written down in such a way that you can discover what level a student should start at, depending on which questions they were able to answer.

teaching in china flashcards with my student

Office hours are basically just filler hours, if you’ve signed a contract to work 20 hours/week but there are only enough classes to have you teach for 15 hours then you will likely have to make up the extra time by hanging out in the office, doing level checks, writing lesson plans and doing demos.

Demos are classes created for parents to see what the lessons are like in your school before they pay the enrollment fee. It will generally just be a regular class with parents watching and if you’re good, they will sign up and enlist their child with the school. NO PRESSURE!

How many paid holidays will I receive each year?

Again, this depends entirely on your contract, but generally speaking, there are around 11 national holidays throughout the year, and most contracts will offer another 10 days on top of this.

So you will probably get 2 weeks of holidays (including the weekends) and 1 day/month on average paid holiday. If you work for a school that shuts down during the Spring Festival then you may have as much as 5 weeks off, but this time may or may not be paid, depending on your contract.

Are there tutoring jobs available for extra money?

teaching in china students in the classroom
Dariece With Her Students

Yes. Once you have started teaching in China at your school you will probably learn about multiple opportunities for tutoring and other ways to make some quick cash. If you live in a place with few foreigners, your face will stand out and ultimately land you some good opportunities.

Most teaching contracts will require you to inform your employer of any extra tutoring jobs you pick up and almost all will forbid you from tutoring your own students or students that go to your school. Tutors usually charge between 100-250 RMB / hour. A better option, however, is to teach English online with companies like Cambly or Preply from the comfort of your apartment!

Will I receive a bonus for completing my contract?

Most likely, yes. Almost all contracts signed for teaching in China will include some sort of end-of-contract bonus. There are often flight reimbursements that can be as much as $1500 as well as retention bonuses (for keeping your students) and attendance bonuses.

Will I be required to work at outside locations?

This will depend entirely on your contract, but many schools do contract out their teachers to other schools in the area. Especially if you are teaching in a rural part of China where foreign teachers are few and far between. We personally had to work once a week at a nearby school for an hour.

teaching in China at a Kindergarden Outside Location
Kindergarten Outside Location

Teaching in China – The Best Job!

We highly recommend this job to anyone who is looking to live and work abroad, while learning about a new culture.

These were the questions we found ourselves asking before coming to China. Of course, you probably have more!

If you have any questions you’d like answered, feel free to comment below and we’ll reply. China is an amazing place and if you have questions before coming, they’ll be answered when you get here and start experiencing your new life. 

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getting started FAQ'S

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Nick Wharton Author Bio Picture

Written by

Nick Wharton

Nick is the co-founder, editor and author of Goats On The Road. He contributes to numerous other media sites regularly and shares his expert knowledge of travel, online entrepreneurship and blogging with the world whenever he can. He has been travelling and working abroad since 2008 and has more than 10 years of experience in online business, finance, travel and entrepreneurship. Nick's advice has been featured on the Lonely Planet, CNN Money, Business Insider,  WiseBread and Forbes and he spoke at the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul about the business of travel blogging. Learn more about Nick Wharton on the Goats On The Road About Us Page.

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