A GTU English teacher in action
A Top Notch ESL English teacher in action

In order to be hired by a school to teach in China, you will usually need to meet several basic qualifications. Some schools require that you can obtain a Z work visa. The basic requirements for a Z work visa are that you have 2 years of work experience and a college degree. On top of that, the school you want to work with may require that you have several years of English teaching experience, a degree in education and/or a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate.

A TEFL is relatively easy to get if you do not already have one. A nearby school in your city most likely offers certification after 100+ classroom hours or you can take an online TEFL course. Having a TEFL greatly increases the number of schools in China which might be interested in hiring you. If you don’t want to bother with getting a TEFL, you should still be able to find a school to hire you, but you may need to accept a lower salary than you would get a TEFL. Some schools in China will offer a free TEFL or free Mandarin lessons as a perk if you teach with them. 

If you meet all the basic qualifications for obtaining a China visa, the next step towards your goal of becoming an English teacher in China is to choose a school. While you are searching for schools online you will encounter two types of companies. Some of the people you contact may be agents or brokers and not the schools directly. Due to the language difficulty, many Chinese schools find it easier to hire a broker to handle all of the logistics of getting a foreigner over to China. If you do connect with a school or training center directly, they most likely have several years of experience hiring foreigners directly and are probably a private school with higher cash flow.

After talking with several schools, narrow the list down to your top three and ask to speak with current or past teachers to get an honest review of the school. You are travelling to a new place; there is nothing wrong with being extra careful. If you like what you hear, check to see what benefits are offered. Many schools offer flight reimbursement after completing a one-year contract, free housing and even free lunch. Negotiate a contract that works best for you and confirm your weekly teaching hours requirement.

The entire process of becoming an English teacher can take a few weeks or a few months depending on how much research you do. It can be scary to take that first step into the unknown, but you will learn a lot during your time in China and come back home with memories that will last a lifetime.

If you don’t have a college degree or two years of teaching experience, don’t worry. Many schools that teach young kids don’t require their teachers to have those qualifications. The only requirements for teaching small kids are usually that you have a lot of patience and energy! If you have any questions about how to become an English teacher in China, feel free to contact us at Top Notch ESL!