China Guide Intro

Teaching in China is an incredibly rewarding experience. One that’s ideal for those looking to break out of their comfort zone. Enjoy a year (or three) living and working in an exciting country. In this piece we have outlined all you’ll ever need to know to take that first step.

China offers fantastic teaching salaries, a wide range of benefits and a huge choice of locations . This has helped it become one of the most desired teaching destinations in the world. Over one-third of the Chinese population takes English classes (that’s over 300 million people!). The country simply can’t recruit ESL teachers fast enough. There’s never been a better and easier time to secure a great teaching job with a reputable school.

So is it really all that easy? Not quite! Finding a teaching job in China may be easy enough. Yet finding a GREAT teaching job, with a reputable school, is a whole other matter.

That’s where this Complete Guide to Teaching in China comes in!

Why teach English in China?

China is one of the most sought-after teaching destinations for those who with relevant TEFL qualifications. China offers a wealth of cultural experiences, a wide range of teaching destinations and varied choice of teaching jobs. It’s attractive salaries are attracting experienced teachers all over the world.

It will boost your teaching career

Teaching abroad is a great career move for anyone with TEFL qualifications. Teaching in China, specifically, is considered a huge plus. That’s because ESL teaching in such a different culture shows you to be proactive, flexible, culturally-aware and ambitious. It also shows employers how easily you teach and live outside your comfort zone. Showing how adaptable you are and how well you can overcome cultural challenges. A stint of TEFL-teaching in China will certainly do that.

Moreover, teaching in such an exciting and constantly-evolving country means you’ll make many connections. And who knows where those will lead you?

Why would I want to teach English in China?

You will have Asia on your doorstep

Even COVID-19 can’t go on forever? Well, it won’t. So in that case China is strategically placed for travel. In the centre of Asia, China makes for a fantastic base from which to discover the entire continent. If travel is BIG on your agenda then you may want to choose your Chinese teaching destination wisely. Stick to eastern and southern provinces to have Asian gems like Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia at your fingertips. 

While we wait for the pandemic to pass, don’t forget about China itself. China is, in and of itself, a magnificent travel destination. It boasts a wealth of natural and historical treasures and offers inexpensive domestic flights. If you wanted to spend a year or two solely exploring China, you’d still barely scratch the surface.

You’ll enjoy an envious lifestyle

The top teaching jobs in China offer outstanding salaries. Coupled with affordable living costs, translates to an enviable standard of living.

Highly-qualified TEFL teachers will earn more here than anywhere else in the world. That makes the biggest difference is the relatively affordable cost of day-to-day living. Don’t be mistaken, you can certainly live an expensive life in China if you wish. Purchasing imported goods and dining on foreign food will eat into your disposable income for sure.

Yet China can also be an amazing place to save much of your hard-earned teaching salary. Share a flat, eat local, hold back on imported food and you’ll come away with some hefty savings.

You’ll enjoy and outstanding cultural experience

China is home to one of the oldest and most refined cultures the world has ever known. It created the world’s first dynasty and, even in its modern versions, still offers a ton of unique experiences. For culture-vultures, the country is hard to bear. As a live-in teacher, you get to experience it deeply.

From the exquisite cuisine to the ancient wonders, the music, art, traditions and rituals. China is a Pandora’s Box of incredible surprises to foreigners. You’ll find yourself learning something new every single day of your stay. It’s lack of familiarity that lures in curious and adventurous foreign teachers.

You’ll soon be part of an international social network

Given the unfamiliarity of Chinese culture for Westerners, it’s not surprising to learn that expats tend to stick together in China. 

Although you may not want to get stuck in an expat-bubble during your entire stay, it is comforting to know that China’s expat-communities are among the largest and most diverse in all of Asia.

Chinese people are incredibly hospitable, curious and friendly. Any new local friend you’ll make will be your key to unlocking all the secrets of the local culture. 

It will improve your teaching skills

As long as you keep teaching the same type of students, in the same type of environment, your teaching skills aren’t likely to improve. But when you bust out of your teaching comfort zone and teach in China, you’ll swiftly improve your communications skills and your teaching creativity.

China will make you a better teacher and prime your skills for working just about anywhere else in the world.

You’ll feast on one for the most delectable cuisines

Everyone thinks they know real Chinese food…until they move to China. Real Chinese food, the kind that isn’t drenched in soy or sweet & sour sauce is one of the country’s best highlights. If you’re not an avid foodie by the time you arrive, you sure will be by the time you leave.

The love of good food is an inherent part of Chinese culture and you’ll soon learn that sharing delicious meals with ‘new’ friends is one of their biggest joys.

Teach English in China

Looking to teach in China?

Submit your CV and we will be in touch with the latest job offers.

What will you earn, teaching in China?

Generally speaking, China is a high-payer when it comes to teaching salaries for foreigners. However, the bottom line is that YOUR pay will be dependent on WHERE you will teach. Both in terms of the city AND school.

China’s pay-packet scale ranges between USD1,500 and USD 4,000 per month. Your qualifications, experience and ability to dazzle at job interviews will dictate your position along that salary-scale.

Job perks can account for a lot. Even if your salary doesn’t sound all that fab, generous benefits can make all the difference. It might be if your employer pays you for school-holidays, buys a ticket home or has a rental allowance. 

All those things will cost you thousands over the course of the year. Usually, these are things that are paid ‘above and beyond’ your salary. So you’d be wise to look at the whole package before deciding the job’s value.

What are the salaries & extra perks for ESL teachers in China?

These are the four main aspects that determine teacher salaries in China:


The teaching job type

International school and international kindergarten teaching jobs in China are usually the best-paid positions. 

Universities and public schools tend to pay the least. However, you are more likely to get paid accommodation.

Online and training centre teaching jobs can really vary wildly as far as salaries are concerned. 


The specific school

By and large, teaching salaries reflect the school’s prominence and reputation. The bottom line is that the very best schools in China pay the highest salaries

These highly-coveted, well-paid jobs do come with a catch. They are among the most demanding. Your employer will ask for a big commitment if to pay you the big bucks.



Your Location

Usually, you’ll find China’s best schools in its most prominent cities like Beijing and Shanghai. In Tier 1 cities, your ‘average’ salary will be about USD 3,000 a month. Although you can earn as much as USD 4,000.

In slightly smaller Tier 2/3 cities (still big by Western standards), you can earn between USD 2,000 – 2,500. per month.


Your qualifications & overall teaching experience. 

When it comes to teaching in China, you can never have too much experience or qualifications. Even at the best schools, more qualified and experienced teachers get paid more.   

Yes, your attitude, presentation and overall ‘dazzle-effect’ can nab you a higher salary, but better to back it up with those skills and experience. 

What are the salaries & extra perks for ESL teachers in China?

Here are some salary-related points to keep in mind:

The salary offered is the monthly pay, in RMB

As a teacher, you’ll be paid once a month and this is the amount that is shown on job offers. The job offers will more than likely be in the local currency, RMB. At time of writing, you can divide the Chinese Yuan by 7 to get the USD equivalent. 

Check a currency converter to know exactly what your salary translates to into.

Usually, the monthly pay is shown AFTER tax

Generally speaking pay advertised will be the amount you’ll receive every month, before taxes are taken out. For this reason it you need to get confrimation as to what your salary will be after tax.

 When comparing jobs or budgets, the only thing that matters is how much money you’ll be bringing home every month.

There’s more to good living, in China, than a good salary

The general cost of living in China is lower than developed countries. The majority of teachers find working here to be financially beneficial. This being said: living costs can differ greatly depending on where you are. 

The best-paying cities are also the most expensive cities in which to live. Megacities in China also offer the highest range of Western luxuries. So, if you want to inadvertently blow your entire salary every month, be careful where you live!

Negotiate for a good housing stipend

Some jobs will offer free accommodation which is fine if you like the place. Better still are housings stipends, which is an allowance paid on top of your salary and is tax-free. A substantial housing stipend will cover the single biggest expense of your life in China: rent!

Given accommodation can be expensive in tier 1 cities, either negotiate for a high allowance or a super-high salary instead. The difference in rent of a two-bedroom apartment in Beijing (7,000 RMB) compared to Guilin (2,100 RMB) can be considerable.

Reimbursement of flight & general moving costs

Schools will typically reimburse teachers for their flight expense. This means you’ll pay for your flight ticket up front and then get that money back. Sometimes, that money is paid back to you as soon as you arrive or added to your first or second paycheck. Many schools, however, will reimburse you at the end of your contract. Most employers will also pay for you to fly home at the end of your teaching stint. So make sure this is stated in your contract. 

If you are lucky to work for a prominent or international school, you will be given recreational flight money that is used for your vacation. Many schools offer reimbursement of their initial visa and medical check fees.

Health insurance and holiday pay

Your employer is also legally required to cover the expense of your health insurance although what this covers can vary. The best schools provide comprehensive health insurance that covers most of your doctor and medication fees and all your hospital fees. 

Others, on the other hand, cover you for accidents and extreme emergencies only. Taking out your own separate insurance is not uncommon, especially if you are not happy with the cover you’re being offered. Whatever the case: make sure what is offered in your contract is exactly what you have been promised. Same goes for paid vacation and time off.

Consider your teaching location when negotiating your salary

You can’t expect super high salaries in smaller or more remote cities, but this doesn’t mean you’re bound to suffer, financially. Outside Tier 1 and 1.5 cities, life becomes ridiculously affordable and. They’ll offer fewer imported luxuries on which to splurge, which can make for a pretty sweet lifestyle. Put simply: you can potentially save more when living in a less-expensive city, even if you’re earning less. Consider this when negotiating your salary.

Am I eligible to teach English in China?

Ah, the million-dollar question! Wondering if you have all the qualifications needed to teach English in China?

Let’s find out…

What are the requirements for teaching English in China?

To teach in China legally, you must:

You must be a native English speaker form 1 of 7 countries – but there are exceptions

‘For the most part China wants its English teachers to be from one of seven, English-speaking countries: the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the USA.  However, there are exceptions in some provinces where countries in the Caribbean are excepted. If you are from the Caribbean you need to ask for further info.

if China is anything, it’s a land of exceptions. In some cases, if you are a qualified teacher and  have at least 2 years’ experience of a specialised subject, you won’t be able to teach English, but you may be eligible to teach that subject.

Be between the ages of 18 and 55 (female) or 60 (male)

The upper end of the age-limits are the retirement ages in China and, unfortunately, the government isn’t too keen on exemptions. 

Hold a Bachelor’s Degree, in any subject

Luckily, your bachelor’s degree does NOT need to be teaching or English-specific. As long as you have a bachelors degree from a recognised tertiary education, you’re eligible to teach ESL in China. You will need to have your degree authenticated, along with other documents. We’ll guide you through this process in the visa application section below.

Have recognised and accredited TEFL qualifications

A 120hr-TEFL certificate is enough to make you eligible to teach in China. Alternatively, you can have 2 years’ worth of teaching experience. The University of Cambridge’s CELTA course is among the most respected but is also one of the most expensive. 

There are plenty of affordable online options if you don’t yet have TEFL qualification. If you wish to teach English, having this will increase your chances of getting a well-paid job. Whatever course you choose, make sure your chosen course is accredited and accepted in China.

Have at least 2 years’ teaching experience, if you don’t have TEFL qualifications

As mentioned above, you’ll need to have 2 years’ teaching experience if you don’t have TEFL qualification. Naturally, having both the qualifications and the experience will up your chances of nabbing that great teaching job.

Learn more about teaching requirements for China, on our Am I Eligible? page.

Teach English in China

Looking to teach in China?

Submit your CV and we will be in touch with the latest job offers.

How do I apply for a visa to teach in China?

Of all the visas offered by China, there’s only one option that allows you to teach in the country. A Working Z Visa.

You can only apply for this visa once you have a job secured. So make sure your teaching contract is signed and delivered so you can start your visa application. Your employer will provide all the documentation needed on their end (marked with an *). You must collate all your personal documents on your end.

This is your must-have list:

Valid passport

Authenticated copies of your Bachelor Degree and TEFL qualifications

Clear Criminal Background Check** notarized and authenticated

Filled-in Z Visa application Form

Job Invitation Letter*

Work Permit Notice*

All your documents must be notarized by their country of origin and authenticated by the Chinese Embassy in the country where they were issued. We’ll guide you through this process, step by step.

Here are a few important points to know about the teaching Z Visa:

  • You must apply and hold a valid Z Visa before travelling to China. You can enter the country on any other visa, but you can’t work here, legally.
  • Before applying for the visa, you’ll need to apply for your Work Permit Notice. Your employer will help you with this step.
  • China is very particular about the requirements for passport photos (isn’t every country?). So make sure you confirm this before having them done.
  • In most countries, you cannot apply for a visa directly with a Chinese Embassy. Instead, you must go through a China Visa Application Service Centre, by making an online appointment. In some cases, it can take weeks to secure a suitable time. So it’s worth booking this as soon as you’ve secured a job. Make sure you have all the paperwork ready in the meantime.
  • You’ll need to present a Criminal Background Check from your home country. And potentially from every country in which you have resided for more than 6 months, in the last 5 years. If you have lived in various countries, it’s worth getting ahead of this step and acquiring all the needed police checks. In most cases, they are valid for 6 months so it’s something you can do with time to spare.
  • Once you receive your visa, check it. Sometimes, mistakes are made and you are either given the wrong visa or the right visa with the wrong details. If this happens, ask for it to be corrected asap.
  • Your documents may need to be notarized and/or apostilled by your country. They will always need to be authenticated by the Chinese Government. This will be stated in your Z Visa application form and here’s what they mean:
    • Notarized: Have the document reviewed by a Notary Public (or solicitor, depending on your country’s laws). They will issue a certificate that states the document is legit.
    • Apostilled: In some countries, like the USA, the signature of the Notary Public needs to be legalised. This is usually done by the Department of State/Foreign Office etc.
    • Authenticated: At the very end, the Chinese Government needs to authenticate all the docs and signatures. This is usually done at the Chinese Embassy in the State/Province/County where the said document was issued.

This is a given step for your Criminal Background Check. See the country-specific links below for more details of your home country’s laws.

Only once you have completed these steps, can you present the documents in your visa application.

Overview of Teaching Destinations in China

Here’s a brief summary of what you need to do to apply for your Z Visa and teach in China:

Before travelling to China

Step 1

After you have negotiated a contract and secured a teaching job, your employer will issue you with an invitation letter to go and teach in China. With this, you can apply for a Work Permit Notice. Your employer will do this on your behalf and, when received, will pass this document on to you. At this stage, you will need to supply your employer with your clear Criminal Background Check.

**Here are some useful blogs for obtaining a criminal background in your country/countries of residence: Getting a Criminal Background check-in

New Zealand
South Africa

Step 2

Once you have all your documents together, it’s time to apply for your Working Z Visa. Make sure your qualifications and criminal background check have been authenticated by a Chinese Embassy. 

How you apply for the Z Visa will depend on where you’re from. Most of the time, you’ll need to make an online appointment with your nearest China Visa Application Service Centre. Bring all your documentation to the appointment, together with a correctly filled-in application form.

Step 3

Once you receive your visa, you will need to check all the details carefully. Mistakes have known to be made that can cause problems further down the line. It doesn’t happen often but if it does, it’s up to you to get it fixed!

As soon as you arrive in China

Step 4

Once you have your visa approved, you can finally fly over to China! Most schools will have a staff member meet you at the airport. They will likely appoint a liaison officer to help with your visa application. There’ll be no wasting of time now. You have 30 days to turn that Z Visa into a Residency Permit.

Step 5

From the moment you land your designated city, you’ll have 24hr to register with the local police station. Here you will provide details of your accommodation. Usually, the employer will organise temporary housing for you and register on your behalf. Once more permanent accommodation is found, you can simply notify the police of your new address.

Step 6

Now it’s time for your thorough medical exam. The medical check for your residency permit is notoriously time-consuming, but it’s actually quite easy. Especially as you’ll have someone from the school to help you out. It usually takes half a day to have your medical check done. It’s completed in a designated facility. The test involves blood tests, chest x-rays, urine samples and a general check-up. It is meant to ensure you have no serious health issues. Your employer will receive your results in just a few days.

Step 7

Once the results of your medical check are in, it’s time to apply for a work permit. Basically turn that ‘notice’ you applied for, into a bonafide permit.

Step 8

As the last step of this process, you will turn your Z Visa into a Residency Permit. You’ll need to be doing this a maximum of 3 weeks after you’ve arrived. You can do this by visiting your local branch of the PSB (Public Security Bureau) in person. 

Once your Residency Permit has been approved and released, you are finally free to teach in China.

How to Get a Working Z Visa for China outlines the above process for getting a Z Visa, more comprehensively. We list all the docs you need for every step and explain how everything works.

What type of teaching jobs are there in China?

The education system in China is not as uniform as you may imagine. Everything from the curriculum to the teaching method, workload etc can vary. A lot can depend on the type of school you choose to teach in. Public schools comply with a standardised curriculum and offer similar experiences for teachers. Private language centres, international schools and even universities can differ quite a bit. This means that there are several types of teaching jobs up for grabs here – each with its own pros and cons.

Not every ESL teaching job is created equal!

Here’s a lowdown of the different teaching jobs types in China. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks will help you decide which one is best for you:

What type of teaching jobs are there in China?

Kindergarten jobs

If you love teaching and being with children, kindergarten jobs in China can be awesome. It also helps they are among the best-paid jobs of all. 

Kindie positions require you to be creative whilst offering great working conditions. No weekend work and plenty of time off if you are lucky to work in an international setting

Usually, you’ll be teaching Monday to Friday only, with both morning and afternoon sessions.  Naptime during the day allows you time to plan for lessons and/or an extended lunch break.

Your desire and skill for teaching little kids will determine whether this is your dream job or the most exhausting one you’ll ever take on.

Insider info: What’s it Like to Work in a Kindergarten in China?

Public school jobs

Often overlooked, public schools, are among the lowest-paid teaching jobs in China. Public schools can actually be great if you’re just starting as an ESL teacher. You’ll follow a set curriculum, won’t need to work outside of teaching hours. You will also get every weekend and school holidays off. Overall, this is a great gig to get a foot in the door.

You’ll usually be required to teach 10-15 hours per week. Your job will be to supplement regular English-language classes (which are held in Chinese by Chinese teachers) with some oral practice.

 You may find public school teaching in China to be challenging due to their large class sizes (up to 50 students!). But the addition of a  teaching assistant will help greatly. 

Insider info: What’s it Like to Work in a Public School in China?


International schools

Most ESL teachers who head to China want to work in an international school. These are among the best-paid and most prestigious jobs.

These jobs are hard to get for first-timers but, if you’re lucky enough to get a job with an international school, you can expect excellent pay and a huge boost to your CV. You will find it easier to get the same job type, in another country.

In return for the excellent pay, you will be expected to put in the hard yards. The best international schools are also very strict with requirements. They usually only consider the most qualified and highly-experienced applicants.

Renowned for holding up to the highest standards, international schools hold classes in English so you can find a teaching job in a myriad of subjects.

Insider info: Working at an International School in China.

University jobs

By the time Chinese students get to university, they’ll be expected to be a lot more open-minded and curious so teachers find these to be among the most rewarding (but also lowest paid) teaching jobs of all. 

You’ll have a lot more teaching freedom at university in China and will teach fewer hours than in traditional schools. You could consider this a part-time teaching gig. Your salary, however, won’t be all that great but that should be fine if you’re not moving to China solely for the financial.

Insider info: What’s It Like to Work at a University in China?

Training centres and private language schools

These schools offer extra-curricular English lessons to young and old alike. This means you’ll be teaching in the evenings and on weekends. In return, you’ll have free time every weekday (until 4 pm, usually) and will have two full days off during the week. 

If you’re not usually a morning person or loathe the standard Monday-to-Friday schedule, this type of job will suit you well. Classes are typically small (5-10 students). Private language centres salaries and working hours vary great. If you are working 40 total work hours, make sure you get paid well for it.

Insider info: What’s it like to work in training centres in China?

Online teaching jobs

Teaching English online to Chinese students from a remote location (your home country or any other country, for that matter) has been the fastest-growing ESL teaching options in the last few years. In 2021, because of COVID it’s set to break all records. So why not take advantage of this growing trend and become a remote English teacher?

The best part about this specific teaching job is that given you will not be in the country; you will avoid having to satisfy the eligibility requirements for a Chinese working visa.

As an online English teacher, you’ll reach students from all over China, can dictate how many (or how few) hours you work and have an array of online teaching agencies from which to choose. 

Which teaching destination in China would suit me best?

Choosing the right teaching destination will be as crucial to your overall Chinese experience. The right Chinese city, for you, will make the difference between you enjoying a fantastic and unforgettable teaching-abroad experience and the kind of teaching stint you’d soon rather forget.

So, what are your options?

In China, cities are unofficially classified into tiers. With Tier 1 cities being the biggest, most prominent and most affluent. Tier 3 & 4 being the smallest and most remote. Although this Chinese City-Tier System is not endorsed by the government, it does help teachers understand what to expect.

Which teaching destination in China would suit me best?

The most talked-about teaching destinations in China range between Tier 1 and Tier 3:

  • Tier 1 – 15 million+ inhabitants
  • Tier 2 – Between 3 and 15 million inhabitants
  • Tier 3 – Between 150,000 and 3 million inhabitants

Aside from size and population, here’s what sets them all apart:

Tier 1 & Tier 1.5 Cities

China’s most populated and prominent cities are home to the very best schools, universities and teaching centres. Although, by ‘best’ we mean the most prestigious and the ones that pay the highest salaries. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the ones you’re guaranteed to enjoy most.

These megacities can be overwhelming at first and, even in the long run, won’t suit everyone. Yet they do feel international and familiar. Somehow they’re home to western-style restaurant chains and their supermarkets are filled with imported products. 

Ironically enough, Tier 1 and Tier 1.5 cities can make the culture shock of moving to China both easier and harder. This depends on how well you deal with crowds and a hectic pace of life. These cities also boast the largest number of ex-pats although, when you’re talking 15 million + people, you may need to work harder at meeting them.

Tier 2 Cities

Slightly smaller and less chaotic, Tier 2 cities are usually located close to Tier 1 and. Many teachers maintain they offer the best of both worlds. You can enjoy the craziness of a mega-city on weekends. And enjoy a slower pace of work-life, in a slightly more laid-back environment.

Nowadays, it’s becoming easier to find imported good in Tier 2 cities. Although they still don’t feel as cosmopolitan as their more prominent. Usually, they also boast smaller ex-pat communities. Given there are (slightly) fewer people, you may find it easier to connect with them here.

Tier 3 & 4 Cities

Culture-vultures, in particular, love living and teaching in Tier 3 cities in China. These cities are still buzzy and exciting, with amazing tourist attractions, great infrastructure and a fantastic array of nearby destinations to explore. 

When it comes to the language, you will be thrown in the deep end. Bilingual speakers will be light on the ground. This is of course mean you will need to learn Chinese, and quickly.

Yet they offer a deeper insight into traditional Chinese culture. This suits any teacher who doesn’t want to get stuck in an expat bubble.

Most importantly, Tier 3 & 4 cities are incredibly affordable. Yes, teaching jobs pay less here but everyday living costs are just a fraction of what they are in bigger cities. Trade-in 20% of your pay-check for a 50% reduction of all your running costs. Your standard of living can be excellent.

Teach English in China

Looking to teach in China?

Submit your CV and we will be in touch with the latest job offers.

The best places to live and teach in China

The best places to live and teach in China

At China by Teaching, we field job offers from schools, universities and training centres all over China. If there’s a particular province or city you’d love to explore further, simply let us know and we can show you to the closest teaching position available.

These are the most popular and best teaching destinations in the country:

Tier 1 Cities in China


The political and cultural hub of China. Beijing is that mega capital most teachers dream of working and living in at least once in their life. This truly international hub is like an exotic version of New York. Complete with maddening traffic, a multi-cultural vibe, an exciting nightlife and the most famous tourist attractions of all.


A fast-paced city that never sleeps. Shanghai is China’s largest and most populated hub, home to the largest ex-pat community to boot. Ideally located and offering an affordable and impressive standard of living, Shanghai is ideal for those seeking a big-city teaching experience and endless chances to travel through Asia.


Renowned as a shopping mecca and situated on the southern coast, right by Hong Kong. Shenzhen is perfect if you’d love a teaching stint in an exciting city but want great beaches and stunning wilderness at your doorstep.


Another coastal beauty that’s also surrounded by wilderness, Guangzhou is a Tier 1 city on the rise. Its milder climate and European feel attracting plenty of ex-pats.


China’s Panda capital is a laid-back and super green city. Coupled with a mild climate, it makes for excellent outdoor living. Like all up-and-coming Tier 1.5 cities, Chengdu offers a more immersive cultural teaching experience whilst offering all the benefits of much bigger cities.

Tier 1 teaching cities usually grab all the attention. Yet countless other destinations offer opportunities for a rewarding, exciting and unique teaching and living experience . We call these destinations: The Best of the Rest.

Tier 1.5 (or New Tier 1) Cities in China


This historical city is a fascinating place to live in. And thanks to the famous Terracotta Army, Xi’an also offers great tourist infrastructure. The cuisine of this central Chinese city sets itself apart. Nearby mountains make for gorgeous getaways. Overall, a delightful place to teach and live.


One of the most affordable and enjoyable top-tiered cities in China. Qingdao is all about coastal living, fantastic food, multi-ethnic communities and an abundance of outdoor pursuits. This is one of China’s most liveable cities, for both nationals and ex-pats.


Just 200km from Shanghai but boasting a more relaxing lifestyle. Hangzhou is a riverside splendour that seems to mix ancient traditions and modernity with flair. The city’s bay is dotted with islands filled with old temples and charming gardens. An artist hub for over 1,000 years, Hangzhou is one of the most popular getaway destinations in China.


Sprawled across the banks of the Yangtze River and close to both Xi’an and Chengdu, Chongqing is one of China’s quietest high-achievers. The city itself doesn’t boast any major tourist attractions but being so close to so many highlights means you can still have the best of China at your doorstep. Plus, your backyard will be far more relaxing.


Traversed by a multitude of canals and dubbed the Venice of China. Suzhou is ridiculously picturesque and offers a laid-back lifestyle. All the luxuries you’ll ever need and an inexpensive yet excellent standard of living. All of this, an hour’s drive out of Shanghai!


Unknown outside dedicated circles but beloved among ex-pat teachers. Ningbo is south of Shanghai and sits on an idyllic stretch of coast. Much like Suzhou, it offers enviable living and affordability 

Tier 2 Cities in China


Xiamen’s subtropical climate means winters here are short and mild. That suits anyone who’s a little put off by the at-times harsh Chinese winters. Located right across from Taiwan, the city offers idyllic coastal living with active pursuits galore.


This young and vibrant city would be incessantly bustling if it wasn’t for the fact it’s sprawled along the banks of a stupendous lake. Kunming has a concentration of parks and reserves. This has a diluting effect on traffic and makes the city seem much quieter. The year-round mild temps help you take advantage of all those glorious outdoor spaces and activities. This makes life here quite idyllic


Tier 3 Cities in China


If this were a competition for drop-dead gorgeous looks, then Guiling would surely win first-prize. Surrounded by a spine of karst mountains and laid-out between two amazing lakes. This medieval-era gem is a stunner by all accounts. With its traditional culture located on the south-eastern province of Guanxi, Guilin is perfect if you’re after a more laid-back lifestyle and be surrounded by wilderness. This is also the perfect Tier 3 city if you’re planning lots of travel through Southeast Asia. 


Another beautiful northern coastal city that’s blessed with mild, year-round temps. Quinghaodao is home to a fortified historic core, great beaches and an outstanding cuisine that entices seafood lovers.


The Sichuan Province is a great region to explore at length and even better place in which to live. Revered for is spicy and tasty cuisine. Mianyang has an abundance of historical and natural highlights. in fact, the whole province makes for fascinating discoveries. . In many ways, the city boasts the very best Sichuan has to offer.

Find out even more about the Best Places to Teach English in China

Should I use a recruiter to teach in China?

Many people feel daunted by the prospect of applying for a teaching job directly with the school in question. We understand this…and so do most schools. That’s why they work with recruiters and agencies. Not only does having a middle-person help breach the communication gap among people of vastly different cultures, but it can save a lot of time, for everyone involved.

Teaching recruiters weed through both job offers and applicants which means schools find the right teacher (and teachers find the right job) much faster. Recruiters essentially play match-maker: they see who fits in what role best, based on the applicant’s qualifications, experiences and desires.

Recruiters can:

Help you navigate a job board

and identify the positions/locations that would suit you best

Help you polish your application

to fit a specific job offer and give you loads of advice about your interview

Help you find similar jobs elsewhere

if your first try is unsuccessful (they learn about what you’re looking for)

Help you navigate the visa application process

The benefits for teachers are many, least of all the fact that recruiter services are free of charge for teachers.

Teachers don’t pay to apply for jobs. Schools pay a fee when the right teacher is found. Why would schools pay for this service when they could recruit teachers directly? Because it saves them a ton of time and the hassle of going through multiple applications from teachers that aren’t suitable for them. 

Recruiting a teacher from abroad is an expensive endeavour for schools in terms of time, visa fees, reimbursement of flights and medical checks. So they also want to know they’re interviewing only those who are serious about moving to China to teach. Time is money in this fast-paced world and using recruiters helps schools fill their job in no time at all. They basically want teachers to be vetted before they even meet them. That’s the primary role of the recruiter.

Recruiters aim to work with the best teachers and, in turn, the best schools. Plus, they only pay recruiters once the teacher is actually in China, working for them.

It’s a win-win!

But there can be pitfalls:

  • Never work with a recruiter that pressures you into applying for a job or school you’re not interested in
  • Never work with a recruiter that seems to have only the interest of the school in mind – yes, they may be paid by them but they are there to make both sides happy
  • Don’t work with a recruiter that asks for any kind of payment from you
  • Don’t work with a recruiter who pressures you to sign a contract you’re not happy with
  • Never work with a recruiter that doesn’t have a proven track record of making teachers/schools happy. Find reviews!
  • Don’t work with a recruiter who has no online presence, no verifiable address or contact details, who doesn’t respond promptly to enquiries and who seems a bit vague about who or where they are
  • Never work with a recruiter who doesn’t want to help you with the visa or job application process and seems stingy with advice

What are some insider tips that’ll help me?

We’ve collated a bevy of insider tips for living and teaching in China and, in this section, we aim to cover a whole range of topics. From nabbing that perfect teaching job to improving your ESL-teaching game once you’re in China and even how to quit your job early (if you need to).

Here are the best tips from the experts:

What are some insider tips that’ll help me?

Looking for a teaching job in China

Before you even start searching for a teaching job, here are 8 Tips Before Moving to China you should know

Wondering just how much a move abroad costs a prospective ESL teacher? Here’s What Teaching in China I Going to Cost You

Every teaching job offer in China follows a Skype interview and this is your first chance to ascertain whether the position and the school are just right for you – here are 11 Questions to Ask in Your ESL Teacher Interview

Once the interview is over, you will hopefully receive a formal job offer and a contract which you must sign and send back – these are the 8 Common Red Flags You Need to Know About

Living and Teaching in China

It can be challenging trying to consistently find new and exciting ways to add some oomph to your ESL classes, but here are some tips that could help:

3 Fun Icebreakers for Kids and Adults in the Classroom

Need to quit your teaching job before your contract expires? Sometimes, stuff happens! Here are the most important things to know if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to quit your teaching job early:

Teaching in China – Can I Quit My Job Early

What is a release letter and why is it important?

All About China by Teaching

At China by Teaching, we’re in the business of helping teachers turn the world into their classroom. Our agency comprises a bunch of likeminded expat teachers who have made China their home. Combined, we have many years of experience living and working in the country and our hope is that our past can help you secure your future.

We know, from personal experience, about the most common pitfalls of finding a teaching job in China. Living in China and making mistakes has taught us a lot. We use this experience to ensure you end up working in the right role, for the right school, in the right teaching destination.