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Dec 14th, 2020 by David O Connor

Can I teach English in China with no experience?

Teaching in China with no experience

Yes, you can! You do not need the experience to teach in China. Once you have the visa requirements such a having a bachelor’s degree, 120 hour TEFL Certificate and clear criminal background check, you are eligible to teach in China. Many schools offer entry-level teaching positions with competitive salaries.

At any given time, countless foreigners are teaching English in China with no experience whatsoever. Learning and gaining experience on the job is not only possible here but, in some circumstances, it’s also desirable.

Many schools provide training for newbie teachers. Of course, having the right qualification AND plenty of teaching experience will greatly help you get a better-paying teaching job with a more prominent school. Yet you can still find a well-paying teaching job with qualifications but no experience.

What are the qualifications to teach English in China with no experience?

Whilst you can teach English in China with no formal experience, you must hold the following required teaching qualifications:

  • A Bachelor Degree (in any subject)
  • Accredited & Recognized TEFL Course

In order to be allowed to work in China, you must also:

  • Be from one of 7 recognized, English speaking countries
  • Have a clear Criminal Background Check
  • Have a Working Visa for China
  • Pass a Medical Examination as per Chinese government regulations

There’s also a (not too restrictive) age limit and other side conditions that determine your eligibility to teach in China.

Why is formal teaching experience not always needed in China?

Generally speaking, Chinese schools and language centres understand that there are a few things that are even more important than teaching experience, such as:

  • Proficiency in the English language (you must be fluent and have a good grasp of the language)
  • Enthusiasm to teach
  • Your desire to live in China
  • Qualifications & eligibility (as stated above)

When it comes to any kind of teaching, the experience is something you can easily gain on the job, as long as you have the most pivotal basics. The right qualifications and language knowledge, however, are not things you can quickly gain on the job. These are things you should already have.

Plus, considering China is unique in every way (socially, culturally and even gastronomically) Chinese school administrators want to know their foreign teachers are bursting with the desire to live and teach in their country. Enthusiasm is something else you just can’t fake.

But experience? That’s the one thing you WILL accumulate with time.

Do remember that although you can easily find a job here without experience it is (almost) impossible to find a job without the right qualifications.

Is China a good place to teach English with no experience?

Indeed, it is, due to the overwhelming demand for English-speaking foreign teachers. This is especially true this year, a trying time when so many foreigners had to leave the country due to the pandemic and then struggled (or decided not) to return.

This isn’t to say that Chinese schools have gotten ‘desperate enough’ to accept foreign teachers with no experience. It simply means there are even more teaching opportunities in China than ever before, for those with no experience.

If you’ve just finished your TEFL course or newly graduated with your Bachelor Degree, China can be an outstanding springboard to a long, adventurous and [a prosperous career as a foreign ESL teacher.

China has always been welcoming towards inexperienced but qualified English teachers

Schools and language centres have traditionally accepted teachers with no prior teaching experience and, in some cases, have even preferred it.  Many teaching institutions run their own curriculum and prefer certain teaching styles so training foreign teachers is something they automatically do. Some even offer TEFL courses to potential candidates who have plenty of enthusiasm to learn.

If teaching English in China is something you’ve been thinking of doing for a while, now really is the time to give it a shot.

Besides, China is one of the most lucrative teaching destinations in the world, right now. You can head here with no experience and still take home USD 2,000 a month as a squeaky-clean, brand-new teacher.

That’s not a bad start now, is it?

Get creative with your skill set!​

Just because you have no prior experience teaching English to foreigners, it doesn’t mean you don’t have experience using similar skills.

Counsellors make fantastic teachers, as do babysitters (for kindergarten teaching jobs) and anyone who’s worked in the service and even tourism industries. If you’ve ever trained or guided anyone, for whatever job or task, then you do have teaching experience.

  • Maybe you’ve coached Little League or your young cousin’s football team?
  • Ever organized anything? An event or team-building outing with work?
  • Have any expertise in music, art, history, math etc? – show your strengths and specialized knowledge and find ways to prove you’re a natural born leader.

These are all things that will help you become a great teacher!

When creating your resume, it’s important you:

  • Detail all your previous jobs and even hobbies
  • Think outside the box
  • Highlight the skills you do have
  • Find that link to teaching, no matter how hidden it may seem

How to impress Chinese employers if you have NO experience

If you lack experience, there are other ways to increase your chances of finding a great teaching job in China. Impressing a prospective employer is definitely the main priority. And FYI: even those with plenty of experience need to suitably impress their prospective employers.

  • Let your enthusiasm shine through

Can’t impress with your X amount of teaching years? Then dazzle them with your enthusiasm! Schools looking for (or happy to accept) newbie teachers will want some kind of compensation for lack of experience. A high energy applicant with oodles of personality who bursts through the PC screen with eagerness is what they want to see.

  • Look the part

China places a huge emphasis on appearances in the workplace so, in this regard, you need to think ‘old school’ charm. This means your hair is tidy, your piercings are removed for your intro video and interview and your tattoos are covered up. Interestingly enough, individualistic displays of appearance are rising in popularity in China yet you need to see where you end up first, before letting wild ol’ you shine through a little too much.

  • Prepare for your interview and sound keen

Know how you’re talking to and find out as much as you can about the school to which you’re applying for a job. Come across as knowledgeable and keen in your interview and you will impress!

  • Nail that intro video

Before applying for any teaching job, you ought to prepare an intro video. This is the very FIRST time employers will ‘see’ you. Take all the above and display them gracefully in front of a camera.

  • Prove that you are a team player

Showing your experience with a multi-cultural work team or any ‘group’ experience is a smart way to show your employer that you can work within a close-knit team. Success in team-work will also highlight your ability to get along with different people. Multi-cultural groups? Even better! It’ll show you are culturally aware and able to accommodate various mindsets.

Do remember that NO employer will ever be keen if you somehow appear to be a nuisance or a little too headstrong. They would rather wait for a more agreeable applicant rather than risk being stuck with someone they perceive (rightly or not) to be a troublemaker.

You don't need experience to teach in China

Where can you teach English in China with no experience?

Some teaching jobs in China naturally lend themselves better to inexperienced classroom teachers.

Let’s take a look at all your options:

  • Kindergartens Teaching young children in China is rewarding well-paid. Since children learn best by playing, teaching them when they’re small tots is also loads of fun. Unfortunately, these are not the easiest jobs to get if you have no experience at all. It isn’t unheard of but it’s not very common. If you’re interested in teaching at kindergartens, your best bet is to look for a job in a smaller, provincial town. Employers there are keener to give inexperienced teachers a go. As centers are usually smaller and more familial, they are wonderful places to gain experience.
  • Public Schools – Definitely among the best options. Chinese public schools follow a set curriculum so classes and teaching material will be (quite literally) dictated to you. Plus, you’ll just be there to provide the oral part of English lessons, whilst a local teacher will cover the written tasks. Public school jobs in China are perfect for newbie teachers with no experience: the less ‘unique teaching flair’ you have, the better you’ll fit in. All of this comes with a modest pay check but the benefits are awesome, overall.
  • Private Schools – Renowned for placing high expectations on all teachers, let along foreign ones, private schools are a tough nut to crack for inexperienced teachers. Even some experienced teachers feel the pressure from both sides (employer and parents) is enormous so if you have no experience, this is an option you should consider carefully.
  • International Schools – If you are highly qualified but simply lack practical experience, you may just have a chance. It won’t be easy, as you’ll be up against the best foreign teachers out there, given that international schools pay among the highest teaching salaries in China. Yet the current teacher shortage in the country is making this a real possibility right now. Sure, it won’t be the most prestigious school, nor the one that pays the most, but getting a teaching job in an international school, without experience, is an incredible scoop.
  • Training centers – By far your best bet, language centers train new recruits anyway so this is a fantastic option for newbies. Moreover, your teaching schedule will be more akin to a part-time job (but with GREAT pay) so it’s a superb way to test the waters and see if you do like teaching.
  • Universities – Teaching in Chinese universities is amazing. Students are finally starting to think independently, question and converse and the whole experience is simply fantastic. But for all these reasons, you may want to have a bit of experience under your belt to tackle this rewarding challenge.

Keep your expectations in check!

If you want to teach English in China with no experience, you will obviously not bag the best-paid teaching job with the most prestigious school in the country. This is quite a logical assumption and you’ve probably already realized this. Just because you’ve read somewhere that ESL teachers in China can make USD 4,000 a month, please don’t assume you can earn anywhere near this amount if you’re just starting out and have no teaching experience.

Give a stellar performance in your intro video and interview, choose the right location and get lucky, however, and you can still find a well-paying job which offers plenty of perks.

Our top tips? Know your worth, leverage your concrete experiences and personality and DON’T fall for common teaching scams in China

Accepting a lower-paid teaching job in China is still a fantastic way to get a foot in the door. If you have no experience teaching English, this can be your springboard to bigger and better opportunities. You’ll still be earning a great salary and enjoy bucketloads of perks.

Our Complete Guide to Teaching in China covers the most important topics related to your job search.

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David O Connor

David O Connor

David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is a lover of craft beers, book clubs and super long road trips.

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