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Nov 30th, 2020 by David O Connor

How to Find a Teaching Job in China

How to Find a Teaching Job in China

If you’re wondering how to find a great teaching job in China, you’ve landed on the right guide. China is one of the best places to teach English abroad. Although you can also teach other subjects if you’re qualified to do so. 

In the last 6+ months, the number of foreigners entering China has been reduced to a trickle, making finding a job here a lot more difficult.  Luckily, we’ve partnered up with a reputable agency that’s providing PU Letters and Visas. Check it out here!

Our guide consists of a two-part approach:

  • Part One: the top 10 tactics that’ll help you find a teaching job in China.
  • Part Two: the intricate details of how to apply for a teaching job in China.

Firstly, though, we answer the single most common question about teaching English in China

Why Get a Teaching Job in China?

China is an exciting and very rewarding teaching destination. It’s renowned for offering high teaching salaries and a great standard of living. Part of the appeal, right now, is that demand for foreign English teachers is sky high so that puts applicants in an enviable position. If you’re serious about teaching job in China, and hold the right qualifications, your search will be successful.

Scoring a teaching job in China is not all that difficult. However, scoring the right job may well be, especially if you’re aiming for the best teaching positions of all. Want high pay and a great place to live in China? Then you best do all the right things!


1. Have the right qualifications

China demands a certain set of requirements from foreign teachers. All schools and teaching institutions in the country adhere to these demands, for the most part. There are a few exceptions and we’ll explain what these are below.

The primary requirement to teach English in China is a Z Working Visa. This is the only visa type that allows you to legally teach in China.

The main requirements of a Z Visa application to teach English in China are the following:

  • A Bachelor’s Degree, in any subject
  • Recognised ESL Qualifications
  • 2 year’s teaching experience
  • You’ll also need to be from one of 7 approved countries. They are the USA, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa
  • You should be between 18 and 55 years old (women) and 60 years old (men)
  • A Clear Criminal Background Check 
  • You’ll also need to pass a medical exam but that’s no biggie if you’re fit and healthy.

Exceptions to the Z visa requirements are occasionally made. For example you may not be born in one of the 7 approved countries, but maybe you moved there and are a native English speaker nonetheless. You might just get lucky and find a prospective employer who thinks that’s good enough.

Also, high demand means that a particular school, in dire needs of a teacher, may not insist on extensive prior teaching experience. This is especially true is the school runs a set curriculum which you’d have to learn anyway. See our Am I eligible? page for more on exemptions and detailed info about the requirements to teach English in China.

Exemptions notwithstanding, having the right qualifications will increase your chances of getting a great teaching job in China. The more boxes you can tick, the better the teaching job you’ll find.

2. Only ever accept legal teaching positions

Working illegally is never smart anywhere but especially not in China. If you want your English teaching job experience to be a positive one, start on the right foot. Unscrupulous schools take advantage of foreigners who are desperate to move to China and will occasionally offer teaching positions to those holding only tourist visas.

This is a huge no-no with potentially terrible consequences.

If you get caught, you may be deported from the country and that’s not even the worst that can happen! So, do yourself a favour, and only ever accept legal teaching contracts in China.

Is It Safe to Teach in China in 2021? covers this and more critical topics in regards to job safety.

3. Know which teaching job in China would suits you – do this first!

There’s no point wasting a month looking through kindergarten teaching jobs in China, only to realise you don’t want to teach small kids. Right?

Choosing the right ESL Teaching Jobs in China for you should be your priority, before doing anything else. This way, you can dedicate all your job searching time to the right job.

Here are your options for teaching jobs in China. Click on each link to find out more about the job descriptions, pros and cons and expected salaries:

All that said, nothing is forever. Getting a less desirable teaching job to get a foot in the door is not exactly a silly move. In fact, this is what many first-time teachers do!

4. Be flexible and realistic with your teaching job search

There’s a lot of variety within the teaching scene in China. Yes, you can teach English, of course, but you can also teach Maths, Geography or PE in English in an international school. You can play games with 2-year-olds in kindergarten, teach 60 students in a university lecture hall or give one-on-one lessons in private language centres.

Given you’ve unlikely done all of these before…how do you know what will suit you best?

There’s a lot of room to manoeuvre your teaching career in China so don’t limit your chances of getting a job by only considering one kind of option. By thinking laterally, you can widen your search and increase your chances of getting a teaching job in China. Once there, this can also help you get an even better job once your contract has been fulfilled.

Many foreigners remain in China for years teaching in different schools and different cities. They find the change to be invigorating!

Every potential ESL teacher that comes to China has a ‘dream job’ in mind but that doesn’t mean the only way there is direct.

Make a pit stop, if you have to.

Looking for a teaching Job in China

5. Be persistent, committed and patient – it’ll pay off in the long run

Navigating through teaching job boards can be confusing and overwhelming at the start. That’s why it’s important to discount teaching job you’re not interested in!

Competition is fierce in Tier 1 cities like Beijing and Shanghai. By the time you’ve compiled a list, checked it twice and finally settled on a job you’d like to apply to, it’s most likely already been filled. It’s important not to lose focus, however: don’t get discouraged and trust that the right teaching job will come along.

Be patient, grasshopper. Your teaching time in China will come and, when it does, you’ll be grateful of the time and commitment you’ve poured into your search.

6. Think outside the (teaching destination) box

Ask any prospective ESL teacher who wants to come to China and they’ll likely say they’re dreaming of teaching in Beijing or Shanghai. Ask them again after a couple of years in the country and they may just give a different answer.

There’s more to teaching English in China than big name cities. In many ways, teaching in smaller and lesser known cities can be even more rewarding. Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities offer an array of great experiences, including

  • Greater cultural immersion
  • Lower cost of living
  • Quieter and more relaxed place to live
  • Better air quality
  • Less manic traffic

And the list goes on and on!

Thinking outside the box isn’t just reserved for teaching job types. It also helps when it comes to choosing the right destination. Widening yoru search to include lesser-known options is particularly useful to first-time ESL teachers. While everyone scrambles to bag that one job offered in Beijing, you’ll have less competition for the many jobs offered elsewhere.

Find out more about The Best Destinations to Teach in China and you might just discover your brand new favourite teaching destination.

7. Get your job searching timing right

There’s more to finding a great teaching job in China than simple requirements. You also need to time your job search just right.

The schooling system in China runs on two semesters:

  • The Fall Semester – starting in early September (sometimes late August)
  • The Spring Semester – which runs from February onwards

The key is to start your applications about 5 months before the start of each term. Keep in mind that schools prefer to hire at the beginning of the school year (Fall Semester). The Spring Semester is actually the half-way point of the scholastic year. Exceptions do happen, of course, especially with private institutions, some of which can hire at any time of year, depending on their needs.

This early approach doesn’t just increase your chances of finding a job in China, but of finding a good job. With plenty of time, you can shop around for the right job and can negotiate a teaching contract in China without any stress.

8. Take your time studying your teaching contract

It’s always exciting to receive an offer for a teaching job in China but it’s important to not get carried away. Read the contract first and study it, thoroughly, before signing on the dotted line. You’ll likely be committing 12 months of your life to the school so you want to make sure the contract is solid and as good as you think it should be.

You’ll want to ensure that the contract contains everything that was promised to your during your initial Skype interview. We’ve compiled a list of 11 Questions to Ask in Your ESL Teacher Interview and you should be familiar with all the topics listed as these are the most important.

They mostly relate to:

  • Housing assistance (do they provide an extra stipend to help you with rent?)
  • Visa & travel cost reimbursement (are they paying you back for your flight ticket and visa costs?)
  • When and how you will get paid (you’ll want specifics here)
  • How many teaching hours you’re committing to?
  • How many non-teaching work you’ll have (ie. administration/recruitment etc)
  • The kind of curriculum you’ll be teaching (are they providing class material or will you?)

Your China teaching contract should be detailed and must include everything you’ve discussed on the phone. If it doesn’t, ask for it to be edited and do not sign on the dotted line until you are 100% happy.

Remember that, when it comes to teaching in China, if it’s not in the contract, you will not be getting it. Plain and simple.

9. Don’t get hung up solely on the salary on offer

It’s tempting to compare teaching jobs in China based solely on salaries but there’s a lot more to ‘a good life in the Middle Kingdom’ than your base income. The daily cost of living, in reality, will play a much bigger role in determining your standard of living.

Yes, you will likely be paid more teaching in Shanghai BUT you will also pay top-notch rent rates and everything will be much more expensive. Sometimes, a lesser-paid teaching job in a smaller city translates to an amazing living standard. The pay may only be slightly less but your daily expenses could be 50% cheaper and that’s bound to make a huge difference.  

What we love about China is that you can live like a king and spend like a pauper, depending on what it is you want. If you wish to save so you can travel lots, you have the option to spend less by eating local food and sharing an apartment. If you want the best the country has to offer, including fancy dinners in world-class international restaurants every night, you have that option too.

The main point to take home is that the offered salary should not dictate your job search. Inclusions like travel reimbursement, flights home on vacation and housing stipend can also make a huge impact. As will your choice of destination. Consider the whole financial picture and you’ll be better placed to choose the right teaching job in China.

10. Work with the right recruiter

The best schools in China work with trusted recruiters to find foreign teachers. They simply don’t have the time to recruit directly and they know that reputable recruiters weed out teaching applicants and only offer the best of the crop.

Recruiters, for their part, have the hard job of matching up the right teacher with the right school. It’s in their best interest to always make the right match, as this will result in a good reputation and return business (on both sides). Besides, schools understand that many foreigners feel uneasy dealing with them directly, without a middle-person to breach the gap. One that has their interest at heart too.

China teaching Job search


Here’s your step-by-step guide on how to apply for a teaching job in China:

1. Find a reputable recruitment agency

Nowadays, teaching job applications are made online although navigating your way through the maze of agents can be daunting. Choose a recruitment agent, like China by Teaching, with a healthy online presence, as well as fast and friendly communication.

Scams and unscrupulous agents exist, unfortunately, and they give the whole industry a terrible name. Know who you’re going into business with and remember: never ever pay a recruiter to find you a job. Reputable recruiters are paid by the school, only once the teacher has started their job, so do keep this in mind. Finding a teaching job in China is a service we offer to you, free of charge.

2. Submit your CV

All the top schools in China work with recruiters because it streamlines their search. Recruiters do a great job of matching the right teacher with the right school so no time is wasted, on either side. Rather than applying for a teaching job directly with the school, therefore, you’ll be sending your CV to your recruiter.

On your CV, make sure to emphasise all previous teaching an all other experience, as well as your stellar qualifications. Be enthusiastic and specific: want to teach in a kindergarten in China? Then tell us how much you look forward to teaching with kids!

3. Wait for a reply. Patience, grasshopper!

Once we receive your CV, simply wait for our reply. We’ll scrutinise your application closely and will set up an interview if you meet all of China’s eligibility requirements.

4. Submit all your documents, when asked

It’s not that we don’t believe you but, alas, we really do need to see all your qualification proof. Make sure your docs are notarised and authenticated as per your country’s requirements. Do remember that documents MUST be authenticated/notarise dint he country where they were originally issued!

Here’s how to do that:

Guide to Authenticating Documents for Your China Visa

5. Submit your introduction video

Introduction video are becoming a real ‘thing’ the world over this year yet in China they have been crucial for many years. Given you’ll be applying for a job remotely, this is an important step to get right.

When it comes to getting a teaching job in China, remember that appearance, accent and enthusiasm are everything. Perhaps more so than you might even imagine. Your introduction video, therefore, is going to be a real dealbreaker and will have a huge impact on whether or not you’ll be offered a job.

6. Have a Skype interview with your prospective employer

You’ll find that protocols will be different in regards to:

  • Your one-time entry visa.

Chinese embassies and consulates have devised their own requirements for the visa application. The best thing to do is to contact your nearest one and find out what you need to do. Many are requesting an PU letter from the Chinese Foreign Affairs Office. If you have a teaching job lined up, your employer can help you get this letter.

  • Quarantine type

Every province in China has also set up its own rules. Most arrivals must do 14 days centralized quarantine. Some returning teachers have been allowed to do 7 days controlled quarantine and 7 days at home. The only real given here is that a 14-day quarantine is mandatory, one way or another.

  • Quarantine Facility

Be warned, quarantine hotels vary massively. Some has reported being settled in 4-star hotels with access to outside delivery while others have been placed at a vacated youth detention center in Beijing. The best chance of getting a good hotel is in Xiamen, due to it being a seaside resort and popular with tourists. 

  • Quarantine fee

Quarantine is not free. The cost per night ranges from 300-600 RMB for a 14-day hotel stay. Some include food, others just Bed and breakfast. Ask at reception when ‘checking in’.

Worried about centralized quarantine? Don’t be! We’ll tell you How to Survive Quarantine in China.

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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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