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Teach English in China

China is among the brightest beacons for foreign English teachers in the world. Over 400 million people are currently studying English in China, hundreds of thousands of foreign teachers, and there are literally thousands of jobs on offer at any given time. In point, if you’re a native English speaker, have a university degree, have [...]

China is among the brightest beacons for foreign English teachers in the world. Over 400 million people are currently studying English in China, hundreds of thousands of foreign teachers, and there are literally thousands of jobs on offer at any given time. In point, if you’re a native English speaker, have a university degree, have a year or two to spare, and the desire to come to China, taking a gig as an English teacher could be a pretty good option.

Foreign teachers in China will generally apply for a type X work visa which will then be changed to a temporary residence permit upon arrival in the country. Though there are many examples to the contrary, in order to obtain this immigration status for the purpose of teaching English the applicant needs to be a native of the USA, Canada, South Africa, the UK, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, and possess a 4 year university degree from one of these countries. Although it’s still possible to teach continuously on a tourist visa, making visa runs every three months, the authorities have begun to crack down on this in some parts of the country.

Foreign English teachers generally will make between 5000 and 12000 RMB per month, depending on the part of the country they’re working in. Employers in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou will generally pay more, but the cost of living in these areas are also higher. Pay is usually dolled out as a salary, but some of the better companies pay more for overtime.

Contracts are usually signed for six or twelve months. Breaking this contract often carries penalties, a withholding of pay, and, potentially, a fine. If you arrive at a school that just isn’t working for you talk with the management about cancelling your contract in a legit fashion. It’s usually possible if you provide at  least a month’s advance notice.

A “full time” English teaching job often entails 20 to 30 hours of work per week, depending on the type of school you’re working for. Your projected work hours should be included in your contract, as well as provisions for how much pay you receive for working overtime. If this is not clearly stated in your contract, request having it added. Also, if you find out that you’re working more than what you’re suppose to be, demand overtime pay in addition to your salary.

When teaching in China a free apartment is usually always a part of the deal. If a school says that you need to pay for your own apartment, don’t sign with them. The included apartment is standard for English teachers in China. Though keep in mind that utilities are often the responsibility of the tenant.

There are various types of schools that hire English teachers in China: public schools, universities, and private academies. The private academies tend to pay more lucratively, but don’t offer the same vacation time as the public teaching institutes do. Typically, if you’re working for the private English schools don’t expect much time off to explore China, as you’re only given the national holidays free, which is the worst time to travel in this country. Unless your hamstrung into teaching summer classes, the  middle/ high schools and public universities often give their foreign English teachers vacations in the summer. If you want a couple of months off during this period to travel around China be sure that this is specified in your contract.

Be aware that teaching English is not the best way to travel and experience China. Typically, English teachers rarely have much time for traveling around the country during their periods of their work contracts. Many know only the city they live in and little else beyond it. So if you want the time to travel, work that out with your school in advance.

In all, teaching English in China can be a clutch way to earn some travel funds and to make progress in a profession that has become popular all around the world. The work load is generally not too strenuous, and there is often a lot of free time for socializing/ recreation. But if you do take one of these jobs, be aware that it is “real work,” and requires the same amount of dedication as any other job.

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About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3571 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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  • wade January 30, 2010, 2:08 am

    Teaching English in China is a good way for a native English speaker to make a decent wage. You can get a formal job and sign a contract and make between $12 and $20 an hour, or, if you have a visa which allows for you to stay in China beyond the time of a tourist visa you can work under the table and make a little less money.

    To get a job apply through websites like Daves ESL Cafe or Craigs List. If you are already in China you can just drop off your resume at private Englosh schools.

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  • the candy trail ... | Michael Robert Powell July 5, 2012, 6:25 pm

    Wish I’d approached a “private Englosh school” ( just teasing ) cos I really need to improve my pick-up lines as a reclusive loser that chicks still want to f*ck but i still speak limited englids 😉

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    • Vagabond Journey Guides July 7, 2012, 5:06 am

      It’s a good thing that I specialize in teaching such all so useful vocab as “blowing chunks” and “threesome.” It sounds as if you’d be a perfect candidate for our “how to hook up with white chicks” English course 🙂

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