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Teach English in China

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Teach English In China

Why Teach English in China?

As many as 400 million Chinese are learning English, making China by far the largest ESL job market. A blend of ultra-modern cities and scenic landscapes, ESL teachers have an abundance of opportunities to explore this fascinating country and culture while earning a respectable income.


Teach English in China: Fact Sheet

Header ColumnData Column
Education RequirementsBachelor Degree
TEFL CertificationRequired
Citizenship RequirementsUSA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa
Typical Contract Length12 months
Peak Hiring SeasonsMarch, September
Hiring ProcessOnline audio/video interviews, face-to-face for teachers already in China
Visa RequirementsZ Visa required before entering China
Typical StudentsChildren, Business Professionals
Average Monthly Salary$1,100 - $2,800
Average Monthly Cost of Living$1,000 - $1,800
Types of JobsKindergartens, Public Schools, International Schools, Universities, Training Centers
Teaching Hours Per Week20 - 30 hours
Other BenefitsHousing Allowance, Flight Reimbursement

Top 5 Reasons to Teach English in China

1. China is a Modern and Innovative Economy

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China is the second largest economy in the world, and an innovative one at that. The country is highly competitive in manufacturing, logistics, and technology. It is certainly paving the path in online English language education, contributing to employment of thousands of ESL teachers around the world.

Teaching English in China’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, you will be living a modern, urban lifestyle with excellent infrastructure. China has a highly-developed digital economy, with a highly-educated and skilled workforce.

2. Education and Academic Success is a High Priority for Chinese Families

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In China, academic success is of such high importance that Chinese families make significant financial sacrifices for their children’s education. The after-school education market in China is enormous; Chinese students don’t just go to school during the day. In the evenings and weekends, it’s typical for them to have Math, English, Chinese, and other tutoring lessons. Coupled with having the world’s largest population, this makes China by far the most lucrative ESL job market.

In China, ESL teachers to work in language centers, public schools, and universities, where they can be rewarded with hardworking, disciplined students.

3. ESL Teachers in China can Earn Excellent Incomes and Benefits

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ESL teachers working in China have the potential to earn a very attractive salary. The highest salaries are in Tier 1 cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but these cities also have a higher cost of living. The opportunity to save a good amount of money as an ESL teacher in China is high, because schools generally provide teachers with housing and utilities, or provide a housing allowance. In many cases, they also offer meals. But that’s not all. Your airfare costs will usually be reimbursed, too. Not to mention that public school and university teachers can expect up to 3 months vacation, while language center teachers usually get two weeks of vacation. When your biggest living expenses are covered, it’s hard not to save money.

4. China is a Haven for Foodies

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China has an amazing food culture, and thus, no end to culinary delights to choose from. Due to its cultural and geographic diversity, you will find a wide variety of Chinese cuisine around the country, from local street food to world-class restaurants. And, if you’re a fan of Chinese buffets, where else could be better than China itself?

You can whet your appetite inexpensively, or enjoy a night out on the town in one of China’s many fine-dining experiences.

If you love food, China has got it.

5. China's Iconic Scenery Makes it Ideal for Travel

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Not only is China rich in culture, it also offers so many opportunities to explore the country through travel. This vast country boast modern cities, cultural attractions, and natural wonders. If there is a place to explore, China is it.

Due to the country’s massive investment in infrastructure, China has the largest high-speed train network in the world, which means you can explore this wondrous country from top to bottom by hopping on a train.

Traveling through China is inexpensive as well, and the people in China might just  surprise you with their warmth and hospitality.

Requirements to Teach English in China

Recommended TEFL Certification to Teach English in China

The TEFL Academy

168 Hour Level 5 Online TEFL Certification
Accredited by Qualifi UK and DEAC U.S.A.

Opportunities to Teach English in China

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Due to its large population and emphasis on improving English language fluency across the nation, opportunities to teach English in China are vast. If you meet the requirements to obtain a working visa for China, then securing a job as an ESL teacher should not be too difficult. The ESL job market can be broadly categorized into the following types of institutions:


Chinese children start their English language education as early in life as 3 years old. There is a high demand for ESL teachers in kindergartens, and this segment is very lucrative as parents invest considerably in their children’s education from an early stage.

Public Schools

Public schools currently have the highest demand for ESL teachers. English is a compulsory subject in the national curriculum, and schools across the country employ ESL teachers to provide English language education.

International Schools

International schools offer the best packages for teachers, but jobs at international schools are harder to get, and you will most likely need to have higher qualifications than just a bachelor degree and a TEFL certificate. Besides the monetary rewards of teaching in an international school, teachers are also rewarded with excellent school and classroom facilities and a mixture of both Chinese and non-Chinese students.

Many international schools in China are in fact, not international schools. The word international is a buzz word in China as well as other parts of Asia, so just because a school calls itself an international school, that doesn’t mean it is. It’s important to carefully screen employers claiming to be international schools and verify that they are what they claim to be.


Teaching at a university is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to have a low number of teaching hours per week and free time to travel or focus on passion projects. University teaching salaries in China are lower than at public and private schools, but that is mainly due to the fewer hours taught, and there are often few to no mandatory office hours. Couple that with longer holidays during the winter and summer breaks, and you have ample time for yourself. If you have qualifications outside of teaching English, some universities may invite you to lecture or teach other subjects from time to time, with the possibility to earn more.

Training Centers

Language Schools, commonly referred to in China as Training Centers, typically operate during evenings and weekends. Training Centers tend to require more teaching and office hours than other institutions, and offer shorter vacations, but they can pay well, and they offer the best opportunities to get to know locals and learn about the local customs.

Teaching Hours in Chinese Schools

Typically, teachers teach an average of 20 teaching hours per week. Teaching hours are not actually 60 minutes, but most often 30 – 45 minutes, depending on the school type and student age group. The number of contract teaching hours varies by type of school, and these are typical ranges:

School TypeTeaching Hours Per WeekOffice Hours Per Week
Kindergarten10 - 1515 - 25
Public School15 - 2010 - 20
International School15 - 2015 - 20
University12 - 200 - 20
Language Center20 - 2515 - 20

Typical Salaries to Teach English in China

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When considering salaries in China, it’s important to understand that China is a large country, both geographically as well as in terms of population. The wages and cost of living in China varies vastly from one place to another, and ESL teacher salaries are not an  exception.

ESL teacher salaries are typically influenced by:

  • Which city you teach in
  • How much teaching experience you have
  • What type of school you work for


3-tier system is commonly used in China to define cities according to their economic development. Although there is no official list of cities by tier, referring to cities according to tiers is common in China as it is generally understood that China cannot simply be viewed as a singular economic market.

  • Tier 1: Cosmopolitan cities with high levels of affluence and standard of living
  • Tier 2: Modern cities with rapidly-growing economies, though not as internationally-known as Tier 1 cities
  • Tier 3: Less developed and having a more local atmosphere than Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities

Naturally, the highest paid teaching opportunities exist in Tier 1 cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. However, the cost of living in these cities can be several degrees of magnitude higher than that of other cities in China. Therefore, looking at the salary amount without considering the cost of living can be misleading about how much you will actually be able to save.

For example, ESL teachers earning salaries of 20,000 – 25,000 RMB in a city like Shanghai might find this to be a comfortable living wage, but may not save as much as ESL teachers living in Tier 2 cities earning half as much, due to the significantly lower cost of living. Indeed, the potential to save money can actually be higher in smaller cities where both salaries and living costs are lower, and where full housing costs are usually provided for. However, expect Tier 3 cities to be more traditional with a local vibe and fewer comforts and options that are commonly found in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities.

TierSalary/MonthCost of Living (USD)
Tier 1 City$2,100 - $2,800$1,000 - $1,500
New Tier 1 City$1,400 - $2,100$700 - $1,100
Tier 2 City$1,400 - $1,900$600 - $1,000
Tier 3 City$1,100 - $1,400$400 - $600

Teaching Experience

Chinese employers generally value teaching experience, and are often willing to pay more for experienced teachers. The difference in pay between a new ESL teacher and one who has several years of teaching experience can be as much as 20 – 30%.

Salary is also negotiable in China, especially if the school you work for values your relationship and is satisfied with your performance. Still, the current demand for ESL teachers in China means once you have some experience behind you, it is not too difficult to find new job opportunities offering higher pay.

Type of School

International school teaching positions tend to be the best paid, university positions usually the lowest, and other types of institutions in between these two. While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, generally speaking, the type of institution you work for will influence your salary amount.

Of course, it’s important to consider these factors together, as salaries will the determined by the combination of location, type of school, and your teaching experience.

TierSalary / Month (RMB)Salary / Month (USD)
Tier 1 City¥15,000 - ¥20,000$2,100 - $2,800
New Tier 1 City¥10,000 - ¥16,000$1,400 - $2,200
Tier 2 City¥9,000 - ¥15,000$1,300 - $2,100
Tier 3 City¥7,000 - ¥12,000$1,000 - $1,700
Public Schools
TierSalary / Month (RMB)Salary / Month (USD)
Tier 1 City¥14,000 - ¥18,000$2,000 - $2,500
New Tier 1 City¥11,000 - ¥16,000$1,500 - $2,200
Tier 2 City¥10,000 - ¥12,000$1,400 - $1,700
Tier 3 City¥5,000 - ¥10,000$700 - $1,400
International Schools
TierSalary / Month (RMB)Salary / Month (USD)
Tier 1 City¥20,000 - ¥30,000$2,800 - $4,200
New Tier 1 City¥15,000 - ¥26,000$2,100 - $3,700
Tier 2 City¥13,000 - ¥25,000$1,800 - $3,500
Tier 3 City¥10,000 - ¥20,000$1,400 - $2,800
TierSalary / Month (RMB)Salary / Month (USD)
Tier 1 City¥10,000 - ¥15,000$1,400 - $2,100
New Tier 1 City¥8,000 - ¥12,000$1,100 - $1,700
Tier 2 City¥7,000 - ¥9,000$1,000 - $1,300
Tier 3 City¥5,000 - ¥8,000$700 - $1,100
Training Centers
TierSalary / Month (RMB)Salary / Month (USD)
Tier 1 City¥15,000 - ¥20,000$2,100 - $2,800
New Tier 1 City¥12,000 - ¥16,000$1,700 - $2,200
Tier 2 City¥10,000 - ¥12,000$1,400 - $1,700
Tier 3 City¥5,000 - ¥10,000$700 - $1,400

How Much Can You Save as an ESL Teacher in China?

Where you live in China, how much you get paid, how much of your expenses are covered by your employer, and how well you manage your money will all influence the amount of money you can save. It’s not uncommon for ESL teachers to save $800 – $1,000 per month, and there are plenty of ESL teachers who save more than that. Needless to say, if you choose to work with a reputable employer that pays well, and you budget wisely, saving these amounts of money each month should be relatively easy.

Other Benefits


Chinese schools pay most or all of the cost of housing for their ESL teachers. In Tier 1 cities like Beijing or Shanghai, the housing cost will usually be subsidized but not fully covered, whereas in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, housing is almost always provided or fully covered. In many cases, utilities and Internet expenses will also be covered. This represents a significant savings in cost of living for teachers.


Chinese schools typically pay for the cost of economy class return airfare between your home and the Chinese city you will work in. Usually, airfare costs are reimbursed rather than paid for upfront, and many employers will fully reimburse the cost of airfare on completion of the contract. This is, yet again, a significant savings for ESL teachers, as your travel costs to China as well as back to your home country will be paid for by the employer.

Popular Cities to Teach English in China

China is a large country with numerous cities where ESL teachers are needed and can find job opportunities. From ultra-modern cities to breathtaking mountains, China offers something unique for almost anyone willing to make the decision to come out and experience life in this magnificent country. With so many places to live and work in China, we’ll share 5 cities that are popular with ESL teachers:

Teach English in Beijing

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Beijing is the capital of China, blending modern and traditional to create one of the most picturesque cities on the planet. It is the political, cultural, and technological heart of China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse on the world stage. With an illustrious history spanning as far back as 3,000 years, Beijing should be on the map of any newcomer to China. It is home to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and The Great Wall. Beijing is also flowing in the arts, theater, culinary delights, and nightlife.

Getting around, as well as in and out of Beijing is very convenient. The city’s vast subway network lets you move through the city with ease, high-speed trains connect you to the rest of China at lightning speed, and its airports are world-class, connecting you to the world.

Cold during winters, and hot during summers, Beijing is a great starting point for first-time ESL teachers arriving to China.

Teach English in Shenzhen

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Shenzhen has blossomed into one of China’s most bustling and developed cities. It’s hard to fathom that before the turn of the millennium, Shenzhen was quietly shedding its small fishing town character and emerging into a modern, vibrant city. Shenzhen is located along the southern coast of the South China Sea, connecting Hong Kong with the Mainland. Based in Shenzhen, you can get away to Hong Kong for the day or the weekend. Blessed with a pleasant climate that’s hot during summer and mild in the winter months, Shenzhen is hard to top. Plus, there is no shortage of jobs for ESL teachers here. Shenzhen is the place to be if you want to live in a cosmopolitan city with an entrepreneurial spirit, excellent dining, and an incredible nightlife and entertainment scene.

Teach English in Shanghai

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Shanghai is China’s financial and commercial center. What New York City is to the United States, Shanghai is to China.

You’ll never run out of things to do in this world-class city. Shanghai is the ultimate city to experience the perfect fusion of Chinese and Western influences. You can take a stroll in one of many of Shanghai’s gorgeous parks, or along the city’s iconic Bund. Or, you can enjoy the very best of Chinese and Western cuisine – the choice is yours. This city has a magnificent arts and entertainment scene, fashion district, and to top it off, if there’s one place ESL teachers can progress their careers in China, it’s right here, the Pearl of the Orient.

Teach English in Chengdu

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Located in Sichuan province, Chengdu is a symbolic city for China. Though it is now one of China’s largest, most populated cities, it is both modern and distinct in its culture and laid-back atmosphere. Chengdu is famous for its cuisine (arguably the most famous in China), friendly and hospitable people, and tourist attractions. Filled to the brim with parks, monuments, and museums, not to mention plenty of expat-friendly eateries and pubs, you’ll absolutely fall in love with Chengdu. And, if you have a thing for pandas, Chengdu is it.

Teach English in Xi'an

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Located in the province of Shaanxi, Xi’an is one of China’s oldest cities, and was the original capital of China. Famous for its Terracotta Army, a collection of ancient statues, the City Wall, built during the Ming dynasty, its pagodas, and its rich, ethnic diversity, Xi’an is a name that rolls off the lips of almost any person in China for embodying China’s long and rich history. This place is magical, and is a magnet for both local and foreign tourists. If you’ve chosen Xi’an to be your destination to teach English in China, you’ve chosen wisely.

Teach English in Guilin

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Guilin is truly a magical place with lush, verdant mountains , karst hills, and the Li River carving its path through this landscape. One visit here will leave you enchanted with this glorious paradise on Earth. Situated in Guanxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China, Guilin is also a cultural center with history dating back more than 2,000 years. Here you will find the Sun and Moon Pagodas, caves, and much more.

Guilin also has a need for English teachers, who can earn a decent income while taking advantage of its beauty. If you are a nature lover, wanderlust, and have an itch to experience living off the beaten path, Guilin is right up your valley.

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