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Options for teaching in China

Licensed and ESL educators, thinking about teaching English in China? Your timing couldn’t be better! With around 300 million English language students, China is, without a doubt, a job-seeking teacher’s market. Estimates show that China is currently experiencing a shortfall of around 100,000 English teachers and this figure set to increase over the coming years as the country’s enthusiasm for learning English continues unabated.

Home to the largest education system in the world, China places a huge emphasis on the central role of education in its economic and cultural development, as well as the personal advancement of its citizens. Rest assured that there’s no shortage of options available for new grads and licensed teachers looking to teach English abroad, including teaching jobs in private language schools and international schools across the country.

As the biggest ESL hotspot in the world right now, ESL teachers in China can earn a competitive salary and receive additional perks that may include free housing, airfare, medical insurance, and bonuses.

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Private language schools in China

Private language schools are some of the most popular options for ESL teachers, as well as licensed educators, looking to teach English in China.

The number of students enrolled at private schools in China increased from 29 million in 2011 to 40 million as of 2016 and is expected to reach a whopping 51 million by 2021. English language learners in China are also getting younger and younger, particularly in bigger cities, as parents in China increasingly attach great importance to English language learning for their children.

The exponential increase in younger English learners, combined with a growing number of adults enrolling in business English classes to advance their career, means that the demand for native-English speaking ESL teachers in China is poised to explode over the next number of years.

Private language school teaching jobs are most commonly found in larger cities, where demand tends to be higher than in rural parts of the country. Some of the most prominent and reputable language school groups actively hiring overseas teachers for teaching jobs in China include English First, Disney English, Maple Bear Global Schools and First Leap English.

Private language schools in China will usually employ a combination of expat English teachers and local Chinese teachers. Class sizes usually run on the smaller side (usually 15 students). More and more, technology plays a bigger role in the ESL classroom, with most language schools in China using interactive whiteboards and computers.

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International schools in China

Over the past year, China has experienced more international school growth than any other country in the world. The growing popularity of international schools in China reflects not only the country's economic rise but also the fact that Chinese have long been passionate about learning English, which is regarded as an important key to success.

Currently, more than 150,000 Chinese students are currently enrolled in international schools. The increased demand for international education in China has, in large part, been fueled by a growing number of middle-class Chinese families seeking to provide their children with a western-style English-medium education, with the aim of gaining entry into globally-recognized universities overseas.

International schools in China are typically characterized by world-class school facilities, smaller than average class sizes and varied curriculum offerings. Chinese international schools, for the most part, tend to follow one of the following international curricula:

  • International Baccalaureate (IB) Program
  • Cambridge International Examinations (CIE)
  • The College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) Program

Currently, Teach Away is seeking licensed teachers across a wide range of subjects and grade levels for English teaching positions at international schools in China, including Maple Leaf International Schools.

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Requirements to teach in China

Teaching English in China - Private language schools

Typically, the minimum requirements to land a job in a private language school in China include a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate. Teaching experience, while preferred by certain employers, is not strictly required.

Teaching English in China - International schools

For teachers looking to teach at an international school in China, qualified candidates should hold a Bachelor’s degree, a teaching license issued by the applicant's home country and at least two years of full-time teaching experience.

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Salary and benefits while teaching in China

Most private language schools in China offer a lucrative benefits package on top of your monthly salary as well as free flights and housing. Many jobs teaching English in China include additional perks such as contract completion bonuses, health insurance, ongoing professional development opportunities and free Mandarin lessons - meaning teachers in China have the unique opportunity grow their global skills by learning one of the world’s most in-demand languages.

Salary ranges for teachers in China vary depending on qualifications and experience. Teacher salaries are also adjusted to account for the significantly lower cost of living in certain locations in China.

Monthly Salary Salary ranges for teachers in China vary depending on qualifications and experience. Teacher salaries are also adjusted to account for the significantly lower cost of living in certain locations in China.
Accommodation Furnished apartment/housing allowance often included
Airfare Return airfare often included
Working Hours Up to 40 hours/week, 5 days a week
Vacation 10 vacation days; all national holidays
Health Insurance Provided
Extra Benefits Paid orientation and training, completion bonus, free Mandarin language lessons

Visas for teachers in China

To teach English in China you will need to secure a Z Visa. This requires sponsorship from an employer. To be granted a Z Visa, you should meet the following requirements as a “foreign expert” in order to work as an ESL teacher in China:

  • Hold a minimum of a Bachelor's degree in any field.
  • Be in possession of a passport from one of the following native English speaking countries - UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland.
  • Have two years of prior teaching experience.
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Living in China

The People’s Republic of China - home to more than 1.35 billion people, boasting an ancient history, rich culture and diverse cuisine. But don’t worry, that’s not all China has to offer teachers abroad. One of the world’s oldest civilizations, China is also now one of its economic superpowers and home to some of the world’s most high-tech cities. Expat teachers are increasingly attracted to living in China due to the economic opportunities the country has to offer, as well as its varied cultural experiences.

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Cost of living in China

The cost of living in China is substantially cheaper than what most teachers in China experience in their home country. Although your monthly salary may be lower than in your home country in some instances, it is likely to stretch much further living in China, leaving aside plenty of disposable income for weekend activities, travel and savings. Even in bigger cities like Shanghai and Beijing that tend to be popular with expat teachers, the cost of living still runs cheaper than western countries.

Food & Drinks Restaurant lunch/dinner: 20 - 80 yuan ($3 - 12 USD) Drinks 2 - 10 yuan ($0.30 - $1.50 USD)
Activities 30-minute massage: 40 yuan ($6 USD) Monthly fitness membership: 150 yuan ($22 USD)
Transport One-way metro fare: 3 yuan ($0.45 USD) 20-minute taxi fare: 25 yuan ($3.70 USD)
Utilities 200 yuan ($30 USD)
Phone and Internet 300 yuan ($44 USD)

Top teaching locations in China

China at a Glance

Country Information

Capital - Beijing

Language - Standard Chinese

Population - 1,387,720,133

Currency - Renminbi (yuan) (¥)

Major Religion - Buddhism, Taoism

Climate - Varied: wet/dry seasons

Size - Land area - 3.7 million sq. miles (9.6 million sq. km)

Quick Facts
  • China shares borders with the following countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, India, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Vietnam.
  • China has the second highest number of UNESCO world heritage sites - 50 in total to date.
  • Every five days, a new skyscraper is built in China. In fact, last year, a property developer in China built a 57-story skyscraper in just 19 days!
  • China has four megacities of over 10 million people, the highest number of any country in the world.
  • Only 7% of the Chinese population categorize themselves as religious, making China the least religious country in the world.
  • Pork is a huge staple of the Chinese diet - in fact, one out of every two pigs are located in China.
  • As China has a single time zone, people in parts of the country experience sunset at midnight during the summer and sunrise at 10 am in the winter.

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