What to Know to be an English Teacher in China

Dan Agar
Career China Digital Marketing Manager
Jul 17, 2017

A vibrant country full of bustling cities, serene river towns, a fascinatingly complex language and a booming economy, it is both a rewarding and popular to be an English teacher in China.  With a high demand for English teachers in China, most qualified people have no problem finding a job -- but there are some tips and tricks you simply won't learn from Google searches. Which is why after being an English teacher in China for 3 years now, I want to share with you a few insider tips from my personal experience which will help you make the most of your time teaching in China, as well as making sure you are well prepared for the adventure.

Use a Recruiter You Can Trust

You can take the first step toward your future by searching for jobs in China online. But you may quickly be overwhelmed with job opportunities to teach in China.  Even as you refine your search and browse a variety of categories and locations, it can be really difficult to know what jobs in China are best for you.  Due to the popularity of people wanting to be an English teacher in China, there can be some dubious companies and recruiters out there.  So for those interested in becoming an English teacher in China, knowing how to find a job in China with a trusted recruiter and company is most important.

One of the top education brands in China, TAL Education Group, is the parent company of Career China. As a result, candidates who want to be an English teacher in China can rest assured because the recruiters are backed by a strong, stable, and trustworthy company that has a great reputation in China and with the government.

When you use the Career China online search platform to find jobs in China as an English teacher, you have the ability to search a variety of reputable schools and opportunities throughout the country.  In addition, you can apply for multiple jobs online and track your results easily.  Our team of career consultants and talent specialists will assist you with moving through the interview process and getting an offer.

Obtain a Legal China Work Visa to be an English Teacher in China

A major area of concern for people who want to be an English teacher in China is getting the proper visa for China to work legally. Beyond simply helping you get a job offer to be an English teacher in China, reputable and trustworth recruiters will help you obtain your legal China work visa.  To qualify for a legal Z working visa in China, you will need to provide several documents, including a copy of your passport, recent photo, medical examination, and your authenticated college diploma, etc. 

As a partner with the Chinese government, Career China can provide full service China work visa services that our candidates can trust.  So after receiving these documents, Career China will work with the Chinese Government to obtain a Work Permit and an Invitation Letter, which you can use to request a legal Z working visa in China from your local Chinese Embassy/Consulate.

Candidates who work with Career China recruiters can rest assured that the China visa process is done in a compliant and legitimate manner.

Get TEFL Certified

To work as a full-time teacher in China and attain a legal working visa in China and an officient resident permit, you must have a university diploma and either a TEFL certificate or two years of professional teaching experience. While some English teachers in China circumvent this law by teaching as a side job, you’ll need to go the legal route if you want a work visa and residence permit.  

Career China offers a global recognized TEFL program – TDI (Teacher Development Interactive) for the preparation of working to China. By completing this program created by renowned authors and experienced educators, you not only gain a TEFL certificate, but an endorsement for gaining a legal work visa to be an English teacher in China.

 You Can Survive Without Speaking Chinese

Even though learning a new language will help you immensely with integrating and getting around while living anywhere abroad, you may know a word of Chinese -- and that's OK! You can definitely survive in China those first few weeks even months without speaking Chinese.

Mandarin Chinese is a valuable skill that you may want to bring back home, and there are plenty of Chinese language schools in every major Chinese city. However, the Chinese language is very difficult to learn, and arriving in China without speaking any Chinese can be intimidating. Even if you choose to learn Chinese, you may still be intimidated about those first few weeks or months.

In order to survive your first few weeks, here are a few tips:

In all honesty, it’s possible to live and travel in China without speaking the language. However, you’ll definitely want to pick up as many phrases as you can in the first few weeks. Despite years of English classes, many Chinese people are unable to communicate effectively in English. Learning a few basic phrases will make your life easier, and it will bring a smile to the face of Chinese locals.

Smaller Chinese Cities Offer a More Immersive Experience

There are so many cities in China to choose from, it's hard to know which cities are the best for you. Most people have heard of Beijing and Shanghai, maybe even Shenzhen, but have you considered working in one of China’s second-tier cities?

Places like Hangzhou, Nanjing, Xi’an and Chengdu may appear quiet and scary if you know nothing about them, but these are really great places to be an English teacher in China.  Living in a second-tier city, you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in Chinese culture, while also staying connected to a vibrant expatriate community.  Further, your students will be more excited to have you!

How to Travel China Cheaper as a Teacher

As an Englsih teacher in China, you’ll be able to travel around China during your breaks. You can hike the Great Wall, watch the sunset over the Bund, or hold a panda in Chengdu. But what is the best way to travel around China without spending all of your hard earned salary?

There is one surefire way to save an incredible amount of money while traveling in China: ditch the plane and take the train!

There are two simple reasons why this is a mantra you should whole-heartedly adopt during your travels in China:

Think about that: if a plane from Beijing to Xi’an costs 800RMB while a soft-sleeper train ticket only costs 300RMB, you’re savings equal 500RMB plus an extra 100-200RMB saved by not booking an extra hotel night. That’s almost a $100 saved!

What to Pack When Coming to China as an English Teacher

As you are packing your bags for for your big move to China, you should consider bringing extra supplies of items that are difficult to get in China. Even though Beijing has many Western stores and supermarkets, there are some items that are a bit harder to find. In some cases, only a few brands are available and/or the price is twice as high as back home.

So what should you bring when you are moving to China? The answer depends a bit on where in China you will be living. The top cities like Beijing and Shanghai have easier access to western items. Second tier and smaller cities its harder to find.

Definitely DO Pack:

Prepare for a Different Work Culture as an English Teacher in China

China has a much different workplace culture than most Western countries. For example, employees don't question the leadership and always do as they’re told -- even if the instructions don't make much sense.

Also, you can expect to rarely know the exact dates of your vacation until a few days before, and you may also experience frequent schedule changes with little warning. While this can be frustrating, it’s just a part of Chinese business culture that every foreigner needs to get used to. 

My advice, just take it all in as a part of the experience.  Learn to relax, go with the flow, and never make plans too far in advance.

Being a Teacher in China is an Experience You’ll Never Forget

Overall, China is a great place to live abroad for a year or more. Connect with excitable and passionate students, explore a vastly different culture and learn the world’s most in-demand language all while supporting yourself with a great job than can give you quite a good lifestyle due to the low cost of living in China.

From my personal experience being an English teacher in China, I really hope these insider tips have made you a bit more comfortable with the idea of moving to China. While moving across the world can be a bit of an adjustment, I can attest that even just a year teaching in China will be an experience you'll never forget!

Dan Agar is a Global Talent Acquisition Specialist for Career China.  He's happy to answer questions from those who are looking for a new adventure in China, and guide candidates along the process of finding the right job and becoming an English teacher in China.



For more information about living and traveling in China, check out The Ultimate Guide for Moving to China

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