How to teach English in China

Teaching English in China

(c) Thomas Galvez

Blog post sponsored by EF English First

I often get questions on how to teach English in China. To help answer these questions I have recently had the chance to contact EF English First, one of China’s largest English language training schools who has been recruiting in China for over 20 years. The following is almost everything you need to know before you start teaching English in China.

What are the requirements to teach English in China? 

Maybe it is best to start with the second part of the question first. In the past, the term “native speaker” was used as one of the requirements for being an English teacher in China. Some companies still may use this term. However, it’s not 100% correct. EF hires teachers on legal working Z visas. One of the guidelines that we follow is passport status. If you are a passport holder from the USA, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, then you will be eligible to teach English in China. It doesn’t matter if you were born in this country or not, you just need to be a passport holder from one of these countries. For South Africans and people with dual citizenship, this could be subject to change, so it is advisable to contact your hiring company. (But it can vary from province to province)

The other requirements can be as follows:

1.    You will need to have a bachelor’s degree in any field. The degree must have bachelors on the certificate, either in English or the Latin equivalent. Recently it has become common for candidates to be required to provide an original hard copy or a certificate of authentication from a notary.

2.    TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certificate. TEFL certificates can be found online, but sponsorship is available through EF English First, and the full cost will be covered if you meet visa requirements. If you are taking an online course, make sure that you take the option for 120 hours. A 120 hours TEFL certificate is now the minimum requirement for a legal working Visa. However, in most cases, you can complete the course in much less time than this.

3.    The ability to obtain a clear criminal background check. Your company will provide more information on where you can get your background check, but you need to have no prior criminal offences. If you have any minor infractions, then it’s important to consult your recruiter or company.

4.    Experience. The amount of experience needed often depends on company or province. Some companies offer more training and can help hire less experienced people. However, some provinces have different visa rules which may require a minimum of 2 years teaching experience.

5.    Finally, you must be able to live in China for at least one year. For some internships, this may be less, but many companies will prefer a longer term commitment.

How long is the visa process and what should I expect?

The visa process can seem daunting; especially if you are going through this alone. If you work for a company like EF, full support is often provided. An experienced company can take you through the process step by step, which often makes things smoother. All being well, the visa process takes around 2 to 3 months.

Where in China can I teach English?

Almost anywhere! Many cities and provinces across China are looking for English teachers. You just need to assess your options and do some research on the city. Make sure that you can live there comfortably, and you are eligible for a visa in the city. You will be a long way from home, so make sure you have checked the surrounding area and you think you will be happy there.

What salary and benefits package should I expect?

Salary and benefits can vary depending on company and city. In the smaller cities, it I common to be paid less than in the larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai. However, this doesn’t mean you will have less money in your pocket. You can still live comfortably in China, and most teacher salaries are very comfortable. Your benefits package can influence your salary. It is common for public schools to provide accommodation and pay less. Some companies can offer up front flights or more vacation time. The important thing is, you need to take into account your experience.

Things to Remember

If this is your first time in China, make sure you choose your company wisely. Choose a reputable company like EF who can provide you with a legal working visa. If you teach on the wrong visa or break the rules, this could stop you from getting other visas in the future. Make sure that you will be happy in China and you have chosen your city wisely.

Finally make sure you can meet the following criteria.

•    Have a Bachelor’s degree

•    Have a 120 hour TEFL Certification

•    The ability to obtain a clear background check

•    The ability to live abroad for at least one year

•    Applicants must be citizens/passport holders from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand to meet China’s visa regulations.

  • Lawrence Robinson

    Besides EF First, what would you recommend as to getting an online TEFL certificate? I will be returning to China in the near future and think it’d be a good idea… Thanks!


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Hi Lawrence, I don’t have a certificate my self, but my friend Linda does and have written about it on her blog, you can find out more here:


  • This is very interesting.
    I’ve been an English teacher in Japan for 7 years and the requirements etc. seem very similar.
    Btw. I’m German, so I’m not a native speaker of English nor am I holder of a passport of a country where English is the official language.
    It’s true that it was hard to get a work visa in Japan that way. In fact, many say it’s impossible, so I just wanted to make people hope, that there might be a chance.

    However, I first went to Japan on a working holiday visa, so bringing your own visa certainly gives you more options and once you gain experience and are already in the country, there are more chances to grab a better job or get a work visa later on.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you for telling us how it is in Japan, that’s totally new information for me. Thank you for sharing!