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Jun 30th, 2023 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. 

Why is China such a coveted destination? Firstly, because it is the world’s best-paid teaching destination, and we know that money is pivotal for various reasons. Yet above and beyond that, China offers an unrivalled cultural experience. With its fascinating history, multi-faceted culture, insanely superb cuisine, abundant travel, and saving potential, the Middle Kingdom is impossible to resist for anyone who wishes to teach abroad.

As the country enjoys the spoils of its newly reopened market and borders, foreign teachers are again wondering how to find a teaching job in China.

We’re here to help you figure it out.

Our guide consists of two parts, which we think are equally important:

  • Part One: 10 Ways to Get a GREAT Teaching Job in China
  • Part Two: How to Apply for a Teaching Job in China


Before diving in, though, we answer the most common question about teaching English in China

Why Get a Teaching Job in China?

China is an exciting and enriching teaching destination. It’s renowned for offering high teaching salaries and an excellent standard of living. Part of the appeal right now is that demand for foreign English teachers is sky-high, which puts applicants in an enviable position.

If you’re serious about a teaching job in China and hold the right qualifications, your search will be successful, and you can land a fantastic job here with a reputable school.

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.

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 specific 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 the country.

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

  • A Bachelor’s Degree in any subject (i.e., it does not need to be teaching-related)
  • 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 *read below!
  • 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 have been born in one of the 7 approved countries, but maybe you moved there and are a native English speaker. You might just get lucky and find a prospective employer who thinks that’s good enough. The high surge in demand for teachers means schools are being ever-more flexible, considering applicants who may be from other countries but can prove they are native English speakers nonetheless.

This high demand also means that a particular school needing a teacher may not insist on extensive prior teaching experience. This is especially true if 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 positive, start on the right foot. Unscrupulous schools take advantage of foreigners desperate to move to China and occasionally offer teaching positions to those holding only tourist visas.

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

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

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 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, 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. 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 landing a great job. Once there, this can also help you get an even better teaching job once your contract has been fulfilled. Many foreigners remain in China for years teaching in different schools and 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 essential to discount teaching jobs you’re not interested in!

Competition is fierce in Tier 1 cities like Beijing and Shanghai. When 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.

Be patient, grasshopper. Your teaching time in China will come, and when it does, you’ll be grateful for 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 dream of teaching in Beijing or Shanghai. Ask them again after a few years in the country, and they may answer differently.

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
  • A quieter and more relaxed place to live
  • Better air quality
  • Less manic traffic
  • More chances for time out in nature

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 your search to include lesser-known options is particularly useful to first-time ESL teachers. While everyone scrambles to bag that one job 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. Remember that schools prefer to hire at the beginning of the school year (Fall Semester). The Spring Semester is actually the halfway point of the scholastic year. Exceptions do happen, 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 negotiate a teaching contract in China without stress.

8. Take your time studying your teaching contract

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

You’ll want to ensure that the contract contains everything that was promised to you during your initial 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 mainly 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 are you committing to?
  • How much non-teaching work you’ll have (i.e. 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. A lesser-paid teaching job in a smaller city sometimes translates to an exceptional 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 your wants. If you wish to save to travel lots, you can spend less by eating local food and sharing an apartment. If you want the best the country offers, including fancy dinners in world-class international restaurants every night, you have that option too.

The main point is that the offered salary should not dictate your job search. Inclusions like travel reimbursement, flights home on vacation and housing stipend can also significantly impact the financial picture. 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 top of the crop.

For their part, recruiters have the hard job of matching the right teacher with the right school. It’s in their best interest to always make the right match, resulting 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 cultural and linguistic 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 through the maze of agents can be daunting. Choose a recruitment agent, like China by Teaching, with a healthy online presence and fast and friendly communication.

Unfortunately, scams and unscrupulous agents exist, 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 keep this in mind.

Finding a teaching job in China is a service we offer to youfree 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 matching the right teacher with the right school, so no time is wasted. Rather than applying for a teaching job directly with the school, you’ll be sending your CV to your recruiter.

On your CV, make sure to emphasise all previous teaching, other experience, and 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 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 we really do need to see all your qualification proof. Ensure your docs are notarised and authenticated per your country’s requirements. Remember that documents MUST be authenticated/notarised in the country where they were initially issued!

Here’s how to do that:

Guide to Authenticating Documents for Your China Visa

5. Submit your introduction video

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

When getting a teaching job in China, remember that appearance, accent and enthusiasm are everything. More so than you might even imagine. Your introduction video will be a real dealbreaker. It will have a massive impact on whether or not you’ll be offered a job.

6. Have a Skype interview with your prospective employer

Once you’ve dazzled your prospective employer in writing, you must do the same face-to-virtual-face. We’ll set up a Skype interview so you can seal the deal.

As with your introduction video, ensure you are well dressed, professional, yet enthusiastic. We can help you prepare!

A word of caution – Just like no teacher wants to feel like ‘just another interviewee’, no school wants to feel like they are the 27th you’ve spoken to on that day. Give your interview your full attention and respect: treat your employer how you want to be treated. Only by doing this will you guarantee an excellent, professional match. Moreover, that enthusiasm we’ve mentioned is vital. Don’t take a job interview with a laid-back ‘take it or leave it’ approach. The employer will see right through that, and it’ll be a lousy reflection on you and us.

At China By Teaching , we’ll gather all your wishes, swiftly sort out available jobs, and present you with a choice of suitable positions in just a fraction of the time it would take you to do the same on your own. Plus, we only work with reputable schools in China with a track record of treating foreign teachers fairly and professionally.

Reputable recruiters like us will only ever be paid for their services by the school. And only once the teacher is already working for them in the country.

Teaching English in China is exciting, and we have many more tips to share with suitable candidates. We also prefer to personalise our advice, so feel free to contact us and tell us your story. At China by Teaching, we can help you find the right teaching job in the right destination so you can start planning the next chapter of your teaching life.

Contact us today to know more.

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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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