Everything you need to know about teaching English in China
The Chinese economy is booming, with huge demand for qualified teachers of English. This article covers five of the more popular cities that teachers tend to choose to work in and what to expect if you do decide to teach English abroad in China.
Where is China?
The People’s Republic of China is the most populous country in the world, with a population of almost 1.5 billion. It is a huge country located in East Asia and has grown over the last 10 years to become one of the top destinations for people teaching English abroad. Come to China to taste the legendary cuisine, visit the imperial sites, hike the Great Wall of China, see the Terracotta Warriors at Xi’an and to get your ultimate shopping fix. It is a country with so much to offer and see, and it is a fantastic location to teach English.
China is one of the countries where a Bachelor’s Degree (in any subject) is mandatory for the work visa process. It is also necessary to have a TEFL certificate from a reputable online or onsite TEFL company or two years of teaching experience, and to be a passport holder from Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, UK or USA. In addition, you also need to obtain a clear background check.
Non-native speakers can find teaching English positions but because of the strict work visa rules here, you won’t qualify for the work visa. Some schools get round this by hosting non-native speakers on a business visa. It is sometimes recommended online to teach in China on a tourist visa, but this is illegal and you could wind up in serious hot water if discovered doing so.
An average teacher’s starting salary comes in at US$2,500 and it is possible to begin earning much more than this figure once you become established – as much as $4,000 per month, with accommodation and medical insurance as part of the package. China is also an attractive location because of its low cost of living, meaning this is a great location to save.
The five most common types of teaching location in China are teaching at a public school, language school, university, international school and teaching as a private tutor. While it is typical for teachers starting out in China to find themselves teaching children, there are also lots of opportunities for teaching adults in the larger cities – of which there are no shortage of in China.
Teaching in Beijing
The capital, Beijing, officially ranks (as Shanghai does) as one of the most expensive cities in the world, but much of the data is based on property prices and day-to-day costs are very reasonable and allow for a comfortable lifestyle. Beijing is the most popular city for teachers to teach in and is a fast-paced, incredibly modern metropolis. It also has a superb public transport system and many possibilities of escaping the frenetic city buzz, and definitely reminds us of the similar energy found in New York or Tokyo.
An important point to note is that some schools say that they will guarantee you at least 20 teaching hours a week, which is generally accepted as making up a standard teacher’s working week, but in reality you might find yourself starting off on between 10-15 hours per week. While this is still absolutely fine to allow you to live comfortably, many teachers who find themselves in this situation do often opt to find additional teaching hours to beef up their schedule.
Teaching in Shanghai
Salaries and costs in Shanghai – on China’s central coast – are on par with Beijing, but where Shanghai differs is the overwhelming sense that it is here where traditions from the east and west fuse. Some describe Shanghai as being the skyscraper capital of the world, and taking the elevator to the 100 Floor Observation Deck of the Shanghai World Financial Centre will definitely convince you that it’s a tall city. It’s super clean too and as with all cities in China, the cuisine is to die for.
Anyone teaching English in China who has ever taught in the UK or US, will know and love that English teachers in China are often treated with as much respect as doctors. Students are also extremely well-behaved and this is one reason why China is considered to be one of the best places in the world to teach English.
It’s also becoming more frequent for schools to cover your accommodation costs and even to fund your airfare over and some schools are now offering a bonus for new teachers, to help them get settled into their new city.
We would like to take this opportunity to expound a little on the topic of airfares and provide a tip for you regarding choosing which airline to take if you have not been lucky enough to land a free flight over, compliments of your school. If you can, try and choose Hainan Airlines. Hainan Airlines is China’s only 5-star airline and lightyears ahead of their other national carriers. Their airfares aren’t usually that much more than China Eastern Airlines (to mention an example) and given the long flight time, your future self will definitely thank you for it.
Teaching in Chengdu
Chengdu is the temperate climate capital of Sichuan Province and it offers a unique perspective on life in China, with perhaps the first notable difference being the strong, local Chengdu/Sichuan dialect which seems to loudly permeate all walks of life here. It is located within the plains of the country, surrounded by various stunning mountain ranges. What we particularly like about Chengdu is that despite being a major city, costs seem lower here and if there was one destination in China we had to pick, it would be here.
Unlike the other countries featured so far on our newly updated blog pages, applying for teaching work in China is usually carried out from abroad and this is mainly due to the work (Z) visa requirements.
The Z Visa can be issued to an applicant between the ages of 18 to 60 and can be applied for at a Chinese embassy or consulate. It isn’t possible to mail your application in – you must apply in person – but embassy and consulate guidelines do permit a friend, travel agency or visa agency, acting on your behalf, to submit your application instead of you needing to.
It is important to note that the Z Visa just permits a 30-day duration of stay in China, from the date of arrival in the country. During this 30-day period, you and your employer must obtain a Temporary Residence Permit which will cover the entire length of your teaching contract. Your Temporary Residence Permit will be valid for a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of five years, depending on how long your teaching contract has been arranged for.
As previously mentioned, a college degree (in any subject) and an international TEFL certificate or two years of teaching experience are mandatory for this work (Z) visa.
Teaching in Hangzhou
As one of China’s most frequented holiday spots, subtropical Hangzhou – sat majestically on the Qiantang River – is just a 100km stone’s throw from Shanghai and a spectacular town with wonderful scenery. Its position on the coast with a number of natural beaches is one of its many draws, just as the West Lake is – apparently celebrated by artists and poets since the 9th century. We found Hangzhou to be more expensive than Chengdu and while you can still save money here, the higher costs are definitely a negative of the region.
Unlike the other teaching locations featured so far on our updated blog pages, we do – in certain cases – recommend going through a recruiter when searching for work in China. These certain cases are when you are wanting to teach specifically at a public school, where benefits, salaries and working conditions can vary considerably. Just by going online, you can find examples of teachers who hadn’t done their homework and who travelled out to China to begin their teaching abroad adventure at a public school; only to discover when they had landed that the school was poorly equipped and literally out in the middle of nowhere.
At tefl online pro we assist all of our graduates with finding the right teaching position after they have graduated and if you are one of our graduates and are requiring help with your choice of public school in China, then please feel free to reach out to us and we will be there to guide you through the whole process if you like. This assistance is complimentary for all tefl online pro graduates.
It is also useful to note here that when applying for other types of teaching work in China, we don’t recommend going through a recruiter as positions are advertised online and there is absolutely no need to go through a recruiter if wanting to teach for an international school, language school or university.
Again, please feel free to contact us if you are a tefl online pro graduate and needing assistance with this process.
Teaching in Guilin
Guilin is another well-developed tourist city and the landscape – salt and peppered with bamboo forested hills and karsts reflecting onto crystal clear waters – is one of the natural wonders of China. Guilin is above all a historic city and has served as the cultural, economic and political hub of the Guangxi region since the 960-117 Northern Song Dynasty. One of the major benefits of living in Guilin, which became apparent when we visited schools in the region earlier this year, is its relative close proximity to Hong Kong and Vietnam.
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