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 and enjoy a year (or three) living and working in an exciting and innovative 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 and 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!) and 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 that pays well, is a whole other matter.

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

Why would I want to teach English in China?

Many teachers gain TEFL qualifications specifically to teach abroad and China is the one international destination that offers the widest range of choice. Not only in terms of teaching job type and location but also in terms of cultural experiences.

It’s a great career move

The future opportunities that’ll come your way when you live and work in China are numerous. Not only will you make great contacts that could lead you down interesting paths but your teaching stint will highlight your ability to work outside your comfort zone. Prove that you can live and work in a different culture and environment, and that you can overcome teaching challenges no matter where you are, and employers will take note. A stint of English-teaching in China will look impressive on your résumé and is bound to open doors for your professional future, no matter where else, in the world, you wish to go.

Why would I want to teach English in China?

It will make you a better teacher

Yes, teaching in China will teach you communication skills you never knew you needed. As we often say: if you can teach in China, as a foreigner, you can teach anywhere! China teaches you to think laterally and work creatively and these are all valuable skills you’ll cherish in the long run.

Your life will be full of cultural surprises

Even those who’ve lived and worked in China for years will attest to learning something new about the local culture, every single day. Life here is certainly never dull for the expat teacher! Nothing about life in China feels, looks, smells or sounds familiar and that’s a massive draw for those who crave a unique cultural experience.

You’ll make friends from all over the world

Expat communities in China are tightly knit and, no matter where you move, you’re bound to make many new international and local friends in no time. Expats do tend to stick together and that’s true no matter where they come from or what kind of work they do. You’ll undoubtedly find yourself in a cosmopolitan and eclectic social group.

You’ll enjoy a fantastic standard of living

The best teaching jobs in China pay exceptionally well and, coupled with modest living costs, result in an amazing standard of living for ESL teachers. The financial benefits of working here for a few years can be great, especially if you can keep your living costs low. With reasonable accommodation costs (perhaps subsidised by your employer) and a competitive salary, you can save a decent amount of money teaching in China.

The cuisine is outstanding

China may seem like a long way to go for fantastic food but, foodies beware: real Chinese food is nothing like you’ve ever tried before and yes, it’s reason enough to come live here! Regional differences abound and we bet you’ll soon become a food snob like every.single.expat.ever. Even if you don’t think the local cuisine will become a huge reason why you’ll love teaching in China, it will be!

You can travel easily and affordably through Asia

China is a fantastic springboard for extensive travels through all of Asia and this is a huge enticement for teachers bitten by the travel bug. Mind you, China hides enough highlights of its own accord, with every province boasting fantastic wilderness and a host of traditional villages you’ll love discovering. If you’re travel-mad and love exploring new and exciting places, you’ll love the opportunities China will offer.

Teach English in China

Looking to teach in China?

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

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

China is renowned as a high-pay teaching destination although the bottom line is that it very much depends on the specific school and destination you choose.

In China, you can earn between USD 1,5000 and USD 4,000 per month as an ESL teacher yet your chosen destination and your spending habits will determine how far that will stretch. As is the case in every country on earth: where and how you choose to live will ultimately determine just how much of your salary you’ll get to save up.

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

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


The type of teaching job

Traditionally, the best-paid teaching jobs in China are in kindergartens and international schools whilst public schools and universities tend to offer the lowest pay.


The school

Prominent and reputable schools entice the best ESL teachers with high salaries and a list of perks. Usually, these schools demand the highest qualifications but if you can dazzle them in your application, you can look forward to earning big. The best international schools in the most prominent locations pay the highest salaries of all – it’s here that you can expect to earn between 3,000 and 4,000 USD per month.


The city

The most popular teaching destinations (like Beijing and Shanghai) are home to the best schools, resulting in the highest teaching salaries in all of China. In these Tier 1 cities, as they’re known, you can expect to take home between 2,500 and 4,000 USD at a high-level teaching job in a very good school. In Tier 2 and 3 cities, however, that salary comes in between 2,000 and 2,500 USD.


Your experience & qualifications

When it comes to teaching experience and qualifications, the more the merrier! The best salaries are paid to teachers who have up-to-date qualifications and years of teaching experience under their belt: this is the best ammo you’ll have to negotiate higher pay.

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, in the local currency. 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 the salary translates to in your currency.

Usually, the monthly pay is shown AFTER tax

The pay advertised should be the full amount you’ll receive every month, after taxes have been taken out. If, for some reason, a job offer displays the pre-tax pay, you’ll want to ask your employer to verify your full post-tax pay. 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 in most other developed countries and 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 are bonuses that are paid on top of your salary and are tax-free. If you manage to negotiate a substantial housing stipend, you will cover the single biggest expense of your life in China: rent! Given accommodation can be expensive here (especially in Tier 1 cities) either negotiate for a high stipend and an ‘average’ salary or push for 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 which means that although you pay for your flight ticket, initially, you will 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 enough to work for a prominent or international school, you will be given recreational flight money that is used for your vacation flights. Most teachers also manage to negotiate for a 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, should you incur any. 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: if you’ve negotiated paid holidays, make sure it’s included in the contract.

Consider your teaching location when negotiating your salary

You can’t expect super high salaries in smaller or more remote towns but this doesn’t mean you’re bound to suffer, financially. Outside Tier 1 and 1.5 cities, life becomes ridiculously affordable and, given they’ll offer fewer imported luxuries on which to splurge, it 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, so consider this when negotiating your salary.

What are the requirements for teaching English in China?

The general guidelines for eligibility to teach in China are quite straightforward.

What are the requirements for teaching English in China?

To teach in China legally, you must:

Be a native English speaker from one of seven recognised countries

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. Yes, of course you can be a native English speaker and be from another country, but China only recognises citizens of these countries for English-teaching positions.

But here’s the great catch: if you have at least 2 years’ teaching experience in your home country, you can still apply for teaching jobs in China! You won’t be able to teach English BUT can pick from several other subjects, including maths, music, science, art, etc.

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. If you are close to the maximum age (say, by a year) and really want to teach in China, it may still be worth applying for a job that you think you’d be perfectly suited to. Should the employer agree and be willing to sponsor your teaching contract, you may be in luck. This exemption is rare but not impossible.

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 this tertiary education, you’re eligible to teach ESL (or anything else) in China. You will need to have this doc authenticated, along with other documents, and 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 or, alternatively, 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 and, 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 but remember that you’ll be able to teach subjects other than English. Naturally, having both the qualifications and the experience will up your chances of nabbing that great teaching job.

You can learn more about the intricacies of teaching requirements for China, on our Eligibility page.

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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 live and teach in the country – a Z Visa.

You can only apply for this visa once you have a job lined up so make sure your teaching contract is in, signed and delivered and then you can start your visa application. Your employer will provide all the documentation needed on their end (marked with an *) and 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 (ie. you cannot enter the country on any other visa and expect to 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 but must go through a China Visa Application Service Centre by making an online appointment. In some cases, it can take up to a month 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 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 ahead of time. In most cases, they are valid for 6-12 months so it’s something you can do with time to spare.
  • Once you receive your visa, check it thoroughly. 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.
  • Depending on your country of origin, your documents may need to be notarized and/or apostilled by your country and they will always need to be authenticate 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 said document was issued.

Since 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:

How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in Ireland?
How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in the USA?
How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in the UK?
How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in Australia?
How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in New Zealand?
How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in South Africa?
How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in Canada?

Step 2

Once you have all your documents together, it’s time to apply for your 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 and request changes if they’ve managed to stuff something up. 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! You will meet your employer as soon as you arrive and they will likely appoint a liaison officer to help you complete the following steps. There’ll be no wasting of time now: you have just 30 days to turn that Z Visa into a Residency Permit.

Step 5

From the moment you land in China, you’ll have 24hr to register with the local police station and 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 and seems difficult 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 or more to have your medical check done in a designated facility – this involves blood tests, chest x-rays, urine samples and a general check-up – and 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 China Work Permit – basically turn that ‘notice’ you applied for in Step 1, into a bonafide permit.

Step 8

As the last step of this process, you will turn your Z Visa into a Residency Permit and you’ll 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, bringing along your police registration certificate, work permit, passport, 1 x passport photo and a residency permit application form, which your employer will give you.

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

How to Get a 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 depending on the type of school you choose to teach in. Whilst 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. Among the best-paid jobs of all, kindie positions require you to be creative and laid-back whilst offering great working conditions, fantastic pay and plenty of time off.

Usually, you’ll be teaching Monday to Friday only, with both morning and afternoon sessions. 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 for being among the lowest paid teaching jobs in China, public schools can actually be great if you’re just starting out as an ESL teacher. You’ll follow a set curriculum, won’t need to work outside of teaching hours and will 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 but it could be a lot less – your job will be to supplement regular English-language classes (which are held in Chinese by Chinese teachers) with some oral practice with the students. They’ll learn grammar in their regular classes and will simply need you to help them with pronunciation. In some schools, you’ll barely be required to give a couple of classes a week! You may find public school teaching in China to be challenging due to their large class sizes (up to 50 students!) but you’ll also be appointed a teaching assistant, which helps greatly.

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


International schools

Every ESL teacher who heads to China wants to work in an international school: these are among the best-paid jobs, certainly the most prestigious and, in many ways, the most familiar too. The curriculum of established schools is standardised, all over the world. 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, a huge boost to your CV for future roles and will find it easier to get the same job, with the same school branch, 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 and usually only consider the most qualified and highly-experienced applicants. Renowned for holding up to the highest standards, international schools hold all classes in English so you can potentially find a teaching job in a myriad of subjects.

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

Training centres and private language schools

These private institutions offer extra-curricular English lessons to young and old alike, which means you’ll be teaching in the evenings and on weekends. In return, you’ll have free time every weekday (until 4pm, usually) and will have two full days off during the week – you’ll potentially teach fewer hours than in any other teaching job listed here.

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) and can range greatly in age ranges so you can teach both kids and adults, which will help you polish your teaching skills. On top of all that, private language centres also pay quite well!

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

Online teaching jobs

Broadcasting ESL lessons to thousands of students all over China, online teachers enjoy the most freedom and independence. As an online ESL teacher in China (mostly, in Beijing) you can do most of your prep work at home and come into your ‘studio’ to record and/or broadcast just a few lessons a week.

Want your ESL teaching to be something you do ‘on the side’ when in China? This is the way to go.

Insider info: Is Online Teaching in China Right for You?

Which teaching destination in China would suit me best?

Choosing the right teaching destination will be as crucial to your overall experience as choosing the right type of teaching job. 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 and Tier 20+ 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 in the whole country. Although, by ‘best’ we mean the most prestigious and the ones that pay the highest salaries (but 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, depending on how well you deal with crowds and a hectic pace of life. These cities also boast the largest number of expats 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, some teachers say, offer the best of both worlds. You can enjoy the craziness of a mega-city on weekends if you wish but will 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 counterparts. Usually, they also boast smaller expat communities but, given there are (slightly) fewer people, you may find it easier to connect with them here.

Tier 3 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. Yet they offer a deeper insight into traditional Chinese culture and this suits any teacher who doesn’t want to get stuck in an expat bubble – which can sometimes happen in Tier 1 cities.

Most importantly, Tier 3 cities are incredibly affordable. Yes, teaching jobs pay less here but everyday living costs are just a fraction of what they are in the above-mentioned tiered cities. When you 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 expat 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 expats.


China’s Panda capital is a laid-back and super green city and, 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 may 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 and, thanks to the famous Terracotta Army, Xi’an also offers great tourist infrastructure. The cuisine of this central Chinese city sets itself apart and nearby mountains make for gorgeous getaways. Overall, a delightful place to teach and live.


Due to its eclectic history, Dalian boasts one of the most multi-cultural and close-knit communities in China and is located right along the Liaodong Peninsula, just across from South Korea. It’s also renowned for being an environmental success story and boasts an abundance of green spaces and clean air. If you love the great outdoors yet want all the benefits of teaching in a top-tiered city (like higher pay) then Dalian is a great option.


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 expats.


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 destination for those living in Shanghai.


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, just an hour’s drive out of Shanghai!


Unknown outside dedicated circles but beloved among expat teachers, Ningbo is south of Shanghai and sits on an idyllic stretch of coast. Much like Suzhou, it offers enviable living, affordability and a relaxing pace of life.

Tier 2 Cities in China


Xiamen’s subtropical climate means winters here are short and mild and 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 and an enticing local culture.


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. The concentration of parks and reserves in Kunming has a diluting effect on traffic and make the city seem much quieter than it ought to be. The year-round mild temps help you take advantage of all those glorious outdoor spaces and activities, making 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 and idyllic location – 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. Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand are right nearby.


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 from all over the world.


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 and its abundance of historical and natural highlights, the whole province makes for fascinating discoveries. Mianyang is considered China’s answer to Silicon Valley and this makes it young and enthusiastic, offering a wealth of exciting opportunities. 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 (time, visa fees, reimbursement of flights and medical checks etc.) 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
  • Never work with a recruiter that asks for any kind of payment from you
  • Never 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!
  • Never 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

It’s never too early to start Preparing to Teach in China

Ready to start your search? 5 Tips to Increase Your Chances of Getting a Teaching Job in China

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

Being a newcomer in a foreign country is never easy – here are 10 Things You Must Know Before Moving to China

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 and the best way to ensure you end up working in the right role, for the right school, in the right teaching destination.