Teach Abroad

The Ultimate Guide to Teaching English in China

Photo of Richelle Gamlam
Richelle Gamlam
Topic Expert

Richelle has been living, working, and teaching in China for the last four years, from high school English teacher to college admissions consultant.

If you're looking to have an incredible teach abroad adventure, you really can't go wrong with China. Hike the Great Wall, learn Chinese, try new and exciting food, and work with students who are incredibly excited to have you. What's not to love?! The Chinese teach abroad industry is booming, and with more jobs than there are teachers, it's almost too easy to get an amazing job teaching abroad in China.

After five years of living and working in China, I've become a bit of an expert when it comes to teaching abroad in China. I spent a year teaching at a Chinese high schooler in "the middle of nowhere", China working with 1,000 crazy high schoolers! I spent two years working as a college counselor in Beijing, helping Chinese high school students apply for college in the USA. I've taught little kids at training centers, worked at a public primary school, taught business English to marketing directors at a local company, and even served as a glorified English babysitter to a few four-year-olds. No matter what job you're interested in, I've got you covered!

Whether you're passionate about finding a job in China, or just a bit curious to learn more, I've created the ultimate guide for teaching abroad in China! Here we'll go over what types of jobs you can apply to, the qualifications you need, how to go about applying, and typical salaries and benefits to expect. We'll also go over some of the best cities and teaching opportunities to consider when you apply.

No matter where you are in the teach abroad process, this ultimate guide is for you!

How to Get a Teaching Job in China

Teaching in China - Zoe, CIEE China
Photo credit: Zoe, CIEE China Alum

The Chinese teach abroad market is booming, and new schools are always looking for foreign English teachers. From large public schools to tiny training centers, high-energy kindergartens to serious business English classes, massive cities to "little" towns - You can find any teach abroad job imaginable in China!

Common Job Types in China

For the most part, China has three main types of schools where you might be working: public schools, training centers, and international schools. These types of schools are all very different from one another, so it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with each type of job so that you can know which one is best for you!

Chinese Public School Jobs

Many public schools in China hire oral English teachers to work with their students on speaking and listening comprehension.

While working at a public school, you'll most likely be a supplemental English teacher. Your students will typically have a Chinese English teacher that teaches grammar and prepares students for the test; however, these classes typically involve almost no spoken English. Your job will be to come in once a week (or once every two weeks!) and help your students get comfortable speaking English.

Chinese public schools typically have very large class sizes. You'll probably be teaching between 30-50 students in a class depending on their age range. You'll also be holding your classes very infrequently. For example, when I worked at a public school, I taught my classes once every two weeks and I was the only oral English teacher in the school.

Speaking of being the only foreign teacher in the school, many public schools in China hire few foreign teachers in comparison to training centers. It's not uncommon to only have 1-5 oral English teachers at a school.

Finally, if you work at a Public School, your classes will be M-F from around 8am-4pm with a big break for lunch. If you really want a consistent Monday-Friday schedule, teaching at a public school is probably the best fit for you.

Teaching in China
Chinese Training Center Jobs

Chinese training centers are another popular place to work in China. These private for-profit centers typically work with students in the late afternoons, evenings and on the weekends. While this works for some people (especially if you're not a morning person!), keep in mind that if you work at a training center, you will probably not have a typical Monday-Friday schedule.

At a training center, you'll most commonly be teaching basic oral English, however, there are also plenty of other jobs you might find. You can work as an SAT tutor, TOEFL teacher, college counselor, debate coach, public speaking coach, or anything else imaginable! While some of these jobs can be found at public schools, you'll typically find them at training centers.

Training centers also cater to a wider audience than public schools. You may be working at a kindergarten teaching English to 4-year-olds, or you could be teaching business English to adults. The world is your oyster!

Finally, training centers tend to have much smaller class sizes than public or private schools. Average class size at a training center is around 4-8 students per class. However, depending on your job, you might even be meeting with students one-on-one!

International Schools

If you're a qualified teacher in your home country with two-years of teaching experience, international schools are definitely the best place for you. Here you can teach a subject in English: whether its math, science, business, history, or... English!

These schools typically cater to the children of international residents, or Chinese students intent on going overseas for high school or college.

While the qualifications for this type of job are a bit higher than that of a public school or training center, the benefits and salary are better too!

Other Types of Teaching Jobs in China

These aren't the only jobs that are available in China. You can always find a job teaching at a university. While the pay is a bit low compared to other job types, you will also have tons of free time since you will only be teaching a few classes per week.

You'll also see jobs for private schools, which fall somewhere in between public and international schools in terms of their offerings and qualifications. Many private schools are run in exactly the same manner as public schools but with slightly smaller class sizes (maybe). While other private schools have a similar feel to an international school, and may even have an international curriculum program where some of the students study full or part-time in English.

Finally, you might want to also look into specialized pre-university schools catering to students who have already graduated high school but want to go to college abroad. Maybe they didn't do as well as they'd hoped on the Gaokao (Chinese university admissions test), or maybe they just didn't have enough time to prepare for Western university applications. Either way, here you can help students prepare for exams like the TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, ACT and more!

Applying for Teaching Jobs in China

Teaching in China - Jonathan M., LoPair China
Photo credit: Jonathan M., LoPair China Alum

Now that you know you want to teach in China, there are a few different ways you can apply for a job. You might end up applying directly to a school or training center, or you may end up working with a recruiter or teach abroad program.

Applying Directly to Teach Abroad

Many training centers, especially larger chain schools, have their own HR department and recruitment team. If you apply for a job directly through a school website or a job listing, and the person you are chatting with is a representative of that school, then you are applying directly!

When you apply to teach in China, you can definitely find a few good schools and apply directly through their site without the help of a recruiter or program. If you have a friend who is teaching in China, they can also help you apply directly to the school.

Using a Recruiter to Teach in China

However, if you want to teach abroad at a public school or non-chain training center, chances are that you will end up using a recruiter to teach abroad. Recruiters can help you apply to teach at many schools that seem like a good fit for you. The best part? Working with them is completely free!

Recruiters are actually paid by the school to help find qualified teachers, and only receive the money once you have arrived in China. Because of this, they'll be more than happy to help you apply to a few jobs, get your visa, or answer any questions you might have.

Just be aware that these recruiters work for the school and not for you, so definitely don't pay them any money, and do your own research before you sign any contracts or agree to anything. Any recruiter that pressures you into a school you're not interested in isn't a good recruiter.

Apply through Teach Abroad Programs

You might have seen a few teach abroad or TEFL programs in China as well. This is another common way that many teachers get their first start in China. I actually participated in a teach abroad program my first year!

The main difference between a teach abroad program and a recruiter is the application process, branding, and "perks." Typically you apply to a program directly and then are accepted. Later on, you will be assigned a school, which you may or may not have any say in.

The salaries at teach abroad programs tend to be a bit lower than what you might receive if you applied directly or used a recruiter. However, these programs often offer perks like a free TEFL, orientation, Facebook community, Chinese lessons, and more.

Qualifications You Need to Teach in China

Teach in China - Tereza Z., SetinChina Internship
Photo credit: Tereza Z., SetinChina Internship Alum

In order to teach legally in China, you'll have to meet a few qualifications:

  • Passport from one of seven "native speaker" countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa) OR be a certified teacher in your home country
  • Authenticated Bachelor's Degree
  • TEFL/TESOL/CELTA OR a teaching certificate
  • Clean criminal background check
  • Under 55 (women) or 60 (men) years old

Let's go through this a bit more in detail shall we?

1. You Must Be a "Native English Speaker"

In order to teach legally in China, you need to be from one of the seven "native speaker" countries: the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The reason why I always put "native speaker" in quotations is because there are plenty of native English speakers that are not from these countries (I'm thinking India, Singapore, the Philippines...) however, these are the only countries that are legally allowed to teach English as a second language (ESL) in China.

Now, if you're not from one of these seven countries, there are still legal ways for you to teach in China. If you are a certified teacher in your home country with 2+ years of teaching experience, you can actually legally teach in China. However, you'll have to teach something other than English. You can teach math, science, psychology, history, drama, music, business, economics, or anything else you want using English!

For example, I have a friend from Denmark who was a certified teacher back home. She ended up finding a great job teaching math to little kids at an international school in China! Many of my old students also had business, math, and economics teachers from India.

2. You Need a College Diploma

No matter what kind of job you want in China, you'll pretty much always need a Bachelor's degree, which should be 3-4 years depending on which country you're from. Unfortunately, Associates or 2-year degrees are not accepted in China.

China has recently instated a new policy where all Bachelor's degrees must be authenticated. This is probably due to the fact that many people were creating fake diplomas for use in China. While the authentication process can be a little bit confusing, your school or recruiter should walk you through the process once you've found a job in China.

3. You Need a TEFL Certificate

To teach in China, you will need a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certificate OR a teaching certification from your home country. While TESOLs are accepted in China, most schools tend to be more familiar with the TEFL, which is what I would recommend for most teachers.

While there are many different types of TEFLs available, you will need a 120-hour TEFL to teach in China. You can either do this online, in-person, or abroad! Just make sure your TEFL is accredited and accepted in China. Most reputable online TEFLs will cost you around $300 or more, and in-person TEFLs can range from around $1,500-$3,000 USD.

Out of all of the TEFL certifications, CELTAs are the most respected in China. CELTA is a brand of TEFL created by the University of Cambridge and is widely regarded to be the best and most prestigious TEFL certification. I highly suggest getting a CELTA if you really want the best teach abroad certification, however, CELTAs can be a bit pricey. That's why I usually suggest getting a CELTA after you've taught abroad for a year or two if you want to make teaching abroad a long-term career. Or, better yet, you could just become a certified teacher!

Teach in China - Angela H., That's Mandarin China
Photo credit: Angela H., That's Mandarin China Alum

4. You Need a Clean Criminal Background Check

Most jobs in China will need a local criminal background check from your home country, or your country of residence if you've been living abroad for a year or more. However, if you've been living in China, you will need to get one from your home country no matter how long you've been there.

While each country has a different criminal background check process, most only take a few weeks (unless you're from South Africa, then it should take a few months...). That said, some cities in China may demand an FBI background check if you're from the US. If this is the case, you'll want to get started early, because this process can take up to 2 months!

If you've had a few parking tickets in the past, don't be worried. They're mainly looking for people who have felonies, have done some jail time, or anything else that would prevent a school from wanting you to work with children.

5. You Must Be Under Chinese Retirement Age

Unfortunately, Chinese schools are not legally allowed to hire employees who are older than the Chinese retirement age (55 for women, 60 for men). This is one of the most unfortunate rules when it comes to teaching in China, especially since there are so many talented teachers that are a bit too old to qualify. If you're getting close to this age, I suggest applying ASAP so you can get your visa before you turn 55 or 60.

Can You Teach in China Illegally?

The qualifications for teaching abroad in China are very strict, and many people who don't qualify choose to teach in China on a tourist or business visa unofficially. This is extremely common in China, and I actually have many friends doing this.

If you decide to teach abroad in China without all the requirements, just know that you won't have the same legal protections and rights in China, and your salary might be a bit lower. Be careful not to advertise publicly that you're teaching illegally, and you should be fine!

China's teach abroad market is booming, and there are many more open job positions than there are legally recognized teachers in China. In addition, many schools don't meet the qualifications to be allowed to legally hire a foreign teacher (yes, this is a thing), or they just can't afford it. This leaves plenty of open positions for you!

Salary Expectations For Teaching Abroad in China

Teach in China - Halle, Gotoco China
Photo credit: Halle, Gotoco China Alum

Want to know if the job you're looking at has a good salary? Well, you've come to the right place! We'll go through each type of job and I'll give you the appropriate range of what a decent salary looks like. While you will find jobs paying less than this, I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't take a job that pays below average unless they offer crazy benefits or give you a ton of free time.

Understanding Chinese Salaries

Most jobs in China will display the monthly salary rate. So instead of telling you your salary for the entire year, they'll give you the salary you'll be making per month in RMB.

It's also pretty standard in China to tell you what your salary will be after tax. This means that the salary they give you is the actual salary that will be deposited in your bank account. Chinese taxes automatically come out of your salary each month, so you don't need to worry about paying them. If your job tells you that your salary is after tax, it means that this is the salary you'll actually be pocketing once the taxes are taken out.

If for some reason your job tells you your salary before tax, you will need to ask them what your salary will be once taxes are taken out. This is a little less common, but you want to keep your eye out. The last thing you want to do is compare apples to oranges! You should be comparing all of your salaries after tax to see how much you'll actually be taking home.

Housing Stipends

It is very common for many training centers (especially in Beijing and Shanghai) to give you a housing stipend rather than a provided apartment. A housing stipend is basically money that you can use to find yourself an ideal apartment. The reason why it's kept separate from your salary is that it's taxed at a much lower rate. Just keep in mind that your housing stipend may or may not be enough to cover rent in a studio or 1-bedroom apartment in your chosen city.

Salary Expectations in Beijing & Shanghai

Beijing and Shanghai are a bit more expensive than your average Chinese city, so if you decide to teach abroad in one of these two major hotspots, you should expect a higher salary to match!

The range for an ESL job in Beijing and Shanghai is 10,000-15,000 RMB per month after tax with housing included or a housing stipend. If you have some teaching experience, you can definitely demand a little bit more.

In order to be able to afford an apartment in Beijing or Shanghai, you will need at least 6,000 RMB in Beijing or 7,000-8,000 RMB in Shanghai. If you have a housing stipend, be sure to check and see how much your company will cover. 3,000-4,000 RMB will only get you a bedroom in a shared apartment.

Salary Expectations in Other Chinese Cities

Slightly smaller cities like Nanjing, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Harbin, Chengdu, Xi'an and more, will have a lower cost of living than Beijing and Shanghai. Therefore, you won't need quite as high of a salary to be able to live and save.

The range for an ESL job in smaller "second tier" cities in China is 8,000-12,000 RMB per month after tax with included housing. Again, if you have experience, you can always try to go for more!

In order to be able to afford a studio or 1-bedroom apartment in many smaller cities, you will need at least 3,000-4,000 RMB. Some cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou may be around 4,000-5,000 RMB per month. That said, most jobs in these cities will just provide an apartment for you.

Salary Expectations for High-Level Teaching Jobs

If you're working a more experienced job with extra qualifications you can definitely expect to be a paid a bit more. This includes college counselors, advanced reading and writing teachers, high-level debate or speech coaches and more!

The range for high-level jobs tends to be 14,000-20,000 RMB per month after tax with included housing or a housing stipend. Obviously, this depends on where you live. You can expect a bit more in Beijing and Shanghai than in slightly smaller cities.

For the most part, my friends working these jobs in Beijing tend to be making around 15,000-17,500 RMB per month after tax, but obviously, with a bit of experience you can expect more.

Salary Expectations for International Jobs

If you're working at an International School, congratulations, you have the highest-paying education job in China!

At an international school you can expect between 20,000-30,000 RMB per month after tax with included housing. You should also have great benefits and some vacation days too!

Salary Expectations for College Jobs

For some reason, teaching ESL to college students is one of the lowest-paying jobs in China. That said, you will have a lot of spare time. Many college teachers only teach a few classes per week with a few more office hours. For example, you'll probably teach 5-10 hours a week, and have around 5 office hours.

Because of this, the pay isn't very high. The standard rate for a college ESL teacher seems to be 5,000 RMB per month after tax with free housing.

This is definitely the job for you if you're not very worried about money, and you want to have a lot of free time to work on your blog, study for an exam, or explore China!

Part-Time Teach Abroad Salaries

If you're teaching English part-time at a training center or doing private tutoring, you'll typically be paid by the hour. Here are some typical rates for native and non-native English speakers:

  • Native Speaker: 200-400 RMB per hour
  • Non-Native Speaker: 150-300 RMB per hour

The going rate for native speakers in most cities in China tends to be 200 RMB per hour. Definitely do not accept anything lower than this! If you're in Beijing or Shanghai, the rate moves up to 300 RMB Per hour. Obviously, with more experience, you can demand a bit more.

The same goes for non-native speakers (anyone who is not from those seven approved countries). Do not accept anything lower than 150 per hour in smaller cities and 200-250 RMB per hour in Beijing and Shanghai.

Most part-time jobs don't seem to care much about your degree or TEFL since they're not getting you a legal work visa. Here, "native speaker" status and teaching experience are what gets you a higher salary. Obviously, benefits like housing, visa help, vacation days, insurance and more are not to be expected with these types of jobs.

Benefits Beyond Salary While Teaching in China

Teach in China - Camille, ITA China
Photo credit: Camille, ITA China Alum

Aside from free housing, there are a few other benefits you should expect, or at least look for, when you're applying to work in China. Teaching abroad in China has its perks, and you should definitely factor your benefits into the final decision when choosing which job you'll take!

Free Housing or a Housing Stipend

If you're teaching in China, you should definitely have either a provided apartment or a hefty housing stipend. If for some reason this is not included in your job, you should definitely have a super high salary to make up for this.

Provided Apartments

Most public, private and international school jobs will give you a provided apartment. The same goes for the majority of jobs in smaller, second-tier cities. This is an apartment that either belongs to the school or is rented for you. Typically it's right on campus in a teacher's dorm or teachers apartment, or it's off-campus near the school.

The industry standard is that you should have the apartment all to yourself. Your apartment should also come with basic furniture like a bed, a washing machine, refrigerator, and possibly a table or couch. Overall, most provided apartments are decently nice, so you shouldn't have any issues with horrible living conditions.

When it comes to your provided apartment, rent will definitely be covered but you may or may not have to pay for electricity, water, and internet. If your contract doesn't make this clear, you'll probably want to ask your school so that you know how much to budget before you arrive in China.

Housing Stipends

Some training center jobs, and most jobs in Beijing and Shanghai, will probably give you a housing stipend instead of a provided apartment. At its core, a housing stipend is basically money you can use for rent. However, this money is not factored in with your salary for tax reasons.

Your school should help you find an apartment and set you up with a local real estate agent. Ideally, your housing stipend should be enough to afford you rent in a one-bedroom or studio apartment.

Overall, there are two different types of housing stipends: some schools will pay your rent directly to your landlord, whereas other schools will give the money to you. Keep in mind that rent is typically paid three months at a time, and if your school is giving you money directly, they will probably only be giving you your stipend monthly, even though you pay your rent in three-month chunks.

However, the good thing about getting your housing stipend directly is that you can keep the extra housing stipend money if you find an apartment that is cheaper than the stipend. Many people prefer to live in shared apartments so they can pocket half the housing stipend money. This is something I did for 1.5 years!

Do You Need to Pay Five Months of Rent Upfront?

When you first get started with an apartment in China, keep in mind that you will have to pay Five months of rent upfront. This includes three months of rent, a refundable deposit, and a non-refundable agency fee to the real estate agent who helped you find the place. Unfortunately, it's impossible to get an apartment in China without hiring a real-estate agent unless you sublet a room in a shared apartment... trust me, I've tried.

Some schools will actually pay the agency fee for you, whereas others will not. If you work for a school that does require you to pay four or five months rent up front, while only giving you a housing stipend monthly, there is a very good chance that your school will offer a no-interest loan to you. There's absolutely no shame in taking this loan, and you can pay it back over the course of a few months.

Confused? If you have a housing stipend, just ask your school to clarify how all of this is going to work. They should be able to explain it to you!

Free Flight to & from China

Teach in China - Valentina, LoPair China
Photo credit: Valentina, LoPair China Alum

Most schools in China will offer you a free flight to and from China at the beginning and end of your contract. These flights are typically reimbursed, which means that you will pay for the fight and they will pay you back.

Your school should pay you back for your flight either right away, or with your first month's salary. My very first job in China took six months to pay me back, which is way too long. Try to get your school to commit to a date, and if they seem wishy-washy, ask them to put it into your contract in writing.

If you are paying for your own flight home, be sure your school also reimburses you before you leave China. The last thing you want to do is be chasing down money once you've already left the country!

Finally, if you are already in China, it's standard for your school to fly you from wherever you are in China to wherever your job is. If you need to switch visas, they should pay for your roundtrip flight to and from Hong Kong. It's only fair, considering they didn't have to fly you in from abroad!

No matter where they hire you from, your school should fly you back to your home country at the end of the contract, even if they hire you from within China. Be sure your contract makes this super clear so there are no frustrations or arguments about this at the end of your teaching year!

Related: Can I Really Get Free Airfare and Housing While Teaching Abroad?

Free Health Insurance

Legally, your school should also provide you health insurance. Most schools choose a catastrophic health insurance plan, which basically means that you will pay for all doctors and hospital visits up to the insurance limit, which tends to be $100-$200. After you have paid this amount, the insurance will then kick in and cover the rest.

Since Chinese healthcare is so affordable, it's actually hard to go over this amount in one doctor's visit. Catastrophic health insurance is designed to cover you in the event of a catastrophe (hence, the name). So it will be there for you if you break an arm, spend a few nights in the hospital, or if anything else really horrible happens.

While most jobs offer catastrophic health insurance, high-level teaching jobs, and international schools offer a bit more comprehensive insurance packages. For example, my college counseling job in China offered insurance that covered 80% of doctors visits and medications and 100% of hospital stays.

Holidays & Vacation Days

Teach in China - Oleg, ITTT China
Photo credit: Oleg, ITTT China Alum

As a teacher in China, you are entitled to all school or public holidays depending on where you work. Your school may or may NOT offer paid vacation in addition to this. That said, if you work at a training center, you should at least have the option to take unpaid vacation.

Public & International Schools: All School Holidays

If the students aren't in school, chances are, you're not working! As a teacher at a public, private, or international school, you should receive all school holidays. This will add up to be quite a bit more than all of your friends working at a training center or in an office.

The only downside to receiving school holidays is that many schools, especially public schools, do not decide on the school holidays until the absolute last second, making it difficult to plan ahead. Seriously, when I worked at a public school, we started the Chinese New Year Holiday without an exact date that we needed to be back at work!

Training Centers: All National Public Holidays

If you're working in a training center, you will receive all of the National Public Holidays. These are the holidays that every office worker in China receives. While you will have fewer days off than your friends at public schools, you can at least see the holiday calendar in advance.

Paid & Unpaid Vacation Time

Most jobs in China do not offer paid vacation days, with the exception of high-level jobs and international schools.

Typically if you're working at a public school you will receive many vacation days, along with a long summer holiday, so you won't be quite as desperate for vacation days. However, if you work at a training center, you will ideally try to find a job with at least 5 vacation days, or optional unpaid vacation time.

When it comes to unpaid vacation, this is most commonly found at training centers. Not only are training center teachers way more in need of vacation days, but it's also much easier to cover classes at a training center than it is at a public school where there may be only 1 or 2 foreign teachers.

Visa Help & Reimbursement

When it comes to visas, the standard agreement is that schools will pay for your residence permit and medical check (once you arrive in China), and whether or not they pay for your actual visa is up to you and the school.

Some jobs will offer to pay for your entire visa, others will pay for your visa, but not the visa service fees, degree authentication and criminal background check, and many schools will not cover any of it. Be sure to check your contract or get in touch with the school to see what they cover.

That said, if you are working legally in China, your school should definitely help you get a visa. They will need to procure a work permit and create a letter of acceptance for you so that you can apply for your work visa and arrive in China. They should also help you understand how to apply for your criminal background check and degree authentication. If you used a recruiter, they will typically help you with all of this instead of the school.

If you meet all of the legal requirements to teach in China, there is absolutely no reason you should not be teaching on a work visa and residence permit. Do not let any school try to convince you to come over on a business or tourist visa, even if they promise to change you to a legal visa later on. Chances are, you will never actually get that legal visa!

If you are teaching without all of the requirements, your job should still help you with the process of obtaining your tourist or business visa.

Best Cities To Teach in China

Teach in China - Hangzhou, China

China is a massive country full of diverse culture, unique dialects and varying teaching and living conditions. While most teachers typically gravitate towards Beijing and Shanghai, there are so many other cities to choose from.

The process of selecting a place to live can be a bit overwhelming, especially when agreeing to move for a year or more! To make your decision a bit easier, we at Go Overseas have come up with a list of the best cities in China to teach English.

Hangzhou

  • Population: 8 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Average Salary: 8,000-1,2000 RMB/month

Looking to live and work in a beautiful, serene city full of history and culture? Then Hangzhou is the place for you. An hour outside bustling Shanghai, Hangzhou is the perfect mix of old and new.

Spend your free time not teaching walking around Hangzhou Lake, stop by a traditional teahouse, or take your Chinese coworkers to KTV and spend the evening belting out pop songs.

Surrounded by other big cities like Shanghai, Suzhou, and Nanjing, you’ll be able to easily explore much of China on your weekend breaks. Famed as the most beautiful place in the world by Marco Polo, you’ll be the envy of many Chinese and foreign friends by calling this city home

Full of local schools, universities, and ESL academies, you’ll have no problem finding a job in this city either.

Chengdu

Teach in China - Chengdu, China
  • Population: 14 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, Sichuan dialect
  • Average Salary: 6,000-8,000 RMB/month

Do you have an intense love of spicy food? Are you a little obsessed with pandas? Consider teaching English in Sichuan’s capital city, Chengdu.

With an entire cuisine named after the province, Sichuan is home to some of the best food in China. It's also a small sleepy city with a vibrant expat community and an affordable quality of life. For English teachers who want to live in and explore Chinese culture away from the bustling east cost metropolis cities, Chengdu is an ideal spot.

Plus, it's home to Chengdu’s Panda Reserve, the only place in the world known for successfully breeding pandas every year, so get ready to show off some Pandas to visiting friends and family members!

Guilin

  • Population: 5 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese
  • Average Salary: 8,000-1,2000 RMB/month

Do you love to hike and enjoy the outdoors? Do you want to make sure you live and teach in a city where you can be active and explore nature on the weekends? Then Guilin, a city in Guangxi province, may be the match for you.

A beautiful city situated on the Li River, Guilin is a few hours from China’s famous rice terrace fields, as well as many mountains and scenic lookouts. Take an hour-long bus ride to Yangshuo where you can go mountain biking, swim in a mud cave, or party in the many expat bars.

As for jobs, you're sure to find one -- even if the choices aren't as numerous or varied as those in bigger cities. In the end, Guilin is the perfect mix of city and adventure; a city where you can spend your weekdays in the classroom and your weekends exploring the great outdoors.

Nanjing

Teach in China - Nanjing, China
  • Population: 7 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, Nanjing dialect
  • Average Salary: 8,000-1,2000 RMB/month

As China’s “Southern Capital”, Nanjing is packed with history and Chinese culture -- so much so that it's known as a city of culture. A beautiful, pleasant, and relatively small city just north of Shanghai, you're bound to fall in love with China while wandering around Xuanwu lake or exploring the Presidential Palace.

When not teaching, spend your afternoons studying Chinese or learning to play mahjong with the retired locals in one of Nanjing’s many parks.

Generally speaking, Nanjing has fewer jobs than Shanghai, but still enough demand for English teachers that you'll find a position quickly. A lower cost of living means you'll make that teacher salary go further as well.

For those who want to teach in a city, but without the bustle and crowds of Beijing and Shanghai, the old southern capital Nanjing may be the perfect place for you.

Harbin

  • Population: 10 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Average Salary: 5,000-8,000 RMB/month

Looking to live in an off-the-beaten-path city with a culture all its own? If you can brave the frigid winters, Harbin might be the perfect fit. Famed for its Snow and Ice Festival in the winter and its beer festival in the summer, there’s always something to do.

Once a part of Russia, Harbin is now home to a mix of Chinese and Russian culture and has a different feel than the rest of China. While teaching here, you can wander cobblestone streets and visit old cathedrals, then warm up with Russian sausage and a bowl of borscht.

With northeastern China serving as the standard for Mandarin Chinese, you’ll also have no problem learning the language here -- which is good considering locals speak little to no English.

With a small expat community, it will be easy to make foreign friends, and there are plenty of opportunities to find a job at an ESL academy (private language school) or as an oral English teacher at a local elementary school.

Beijing

Teach in China - Beijing, China
  • Population: 20 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Average Salary: 1,0000-1,6000 RMB/month

Do you love learning about international politics? Are you a huge history buff? Do you dream of learning Chinese? Then you belong in Beijing! A giant cosmopolitan city, and the seat of power in China, Beijing is a place no traveler in China can miss -- and an even more fascinating city to put your bags down in and live.

Beijing is also the standard for Mandarin Chinese, making it an ideal location to learn Chinese. Some schools in the area even offer Chinese classes as part of your teacher package, make sure to ask for that.

In your free time, spend your weekends hiking the Great Wall, wandering the Summer Palace, or riding a bike through Beijing’s hutong neighborhoods.

Oh, and the jobs? As one of China's largest cities, there are jobs of every variety. From large crams schools that will accept teachers with little to no experience, to smaller private academies, public schools, or language schools specializing in business English, you're sure to find a job that's a great fit for you and your qualifications.

Shenzhen

  • Population: 14 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese
  • Average Salary: 1,0000-1,4000 RMB/month

Do you have things to do, places to go and people to see? Do you dream of bright lights, a big city, and a busy schedule? Do the cold winters of Harbin make you cringe? Then Shenzhen, a city nestled between Guangzhou and Hong Kong, might be your match.

An extremely new city by Chinese standards, Shenzhen is a major economic center a short subway or ferry ride away from Hong Kong. Warm in the winter and hot in the summer, Shenzhen is ideal for those of you who shy away from the cold. Better yet, it's full of restaurants, bars, shopping, and KTV, so you’ll never run out of things to do.

.... Or opportunities for work. Shenzhen is home to numerous international schools, ESL academies, and kindergartens, so you'll have a great variety of options when you start your job hunt here. You'll also have no problem meeting other like-minded expats

Teach in China - Shanghai, China

Shanghai

  • Population: 23 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, Shanghainese
  • Average Salary: 10000 - 16000 RMB/month

A fast-paced cosmopolitan city with people from all over the world, Shanghai can be overwhelming for some, but just the right fit for others. After all, there's a reason why Shanghai, one of China's most international cities, is popular among expats and teachers alike.

In Shanghai, you can maintain an urban lifestyle. Grab a drink at a bar in the French Concession, or spend your evening wandering the Bund, admiring the view of the towering Financial Center sky rises. Have your fill of Chinese and Western cuisine, then commute home on one of the largest subway systems in the world (you know, once you get the hang of it!)

Naturally, with an internationally-minded population comes opportunities to teach English. Especially for teachers interested in teaching adults or business English, Shanghai is packed with teaching jobs and career opportunities.

Kunming

  • Population: 6 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, many local minority dialects
  • Average Salary: 5,000-8,000 RMB/month

Are you curious about China’s diversity and non-mainstream culture? Do you see yourself in a small city surrounded by China’s countryside? China’s “Spring City”, Kunming, is for you!

With near-perfect weather and little pollution, Kunming is the only city in Yunnan province. While teaching here, you can spend your weekends biking around Green Lake, hiking the Stone Forest, or slurping Over the Bridge noodles.

On breaks, head outside the city to hike Tiger Leaping Gorge, or watching a Lijiang minority culture performance. A year in Kunming will give you insight into aspects of Chinese culture and diversity unknown to teachers who choose to work in larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

Furthermore, there's a small, close-knit expat community, and tons of opportunities to immerse yourself in the local culture. Considering this, schools and students will be elated to have you -- a native speaking foreigner -- teaching English.

Which City is Right For You?

The first step in choosing where to teach in China is to decide what kind of setting you’re looking for.

Would you like a big city, small city or countryside location? Big cities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen are packed with teaching jobs, and you’ll be able to command a high salary. If you’re looking for a fast-paced environment, a large expat community and a wealth of jobs and opportunities, a big city might be for you.

Smaller cities like Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Chengdu have a slower-paced more immersive environment. With smaller, tight-knit expat communities, it’s easy to have friends from China and abroad. While there are fewer jobs to choose from, there’s also less competition. This can lead to a more relaxed and lenient work environment, as well as a closer bond between teachers and their host schools.

You may also want to consider getting off the beaten path, living in a city your friends back home have never heard of. Consider Kunming in Yunnan, or Harbin, up near Russia. You’ll have an incredible and unique experience, and you'll be able to have your first pick of the teaching jobs in those cities. Locals will also be extremely excited to have you, and will really take the time to introduce you to Chinese culture and the unique aspects of the area you’re in.

Finally, you can always find a job in the Chinese countryside, working for a local school. While your salary may not be high, you’ll have an extremely immersive experience. It may be more difficult to find a teaching job outside of the city, but there are plenty of programs like the Peace Corps and Teach for China that will place you in communities that really need your skills. Your school may not have ever had a foreign teacher before.

Enjoy China Wherever You Go!

A vast country full of bustling cities, serene mountains, and small villages, China is a fantastic place to teach abroad. Best yet, it has something for everyone -- whether you want the energy of Shanghai or a more laid back and serene town in the countryside.

No matter where you go, you'll explore a new and exciting culture, try exotic foods, and get a chance to learn one of the world’s most in-demand languages. From Harbin to Kunming, teaching in China will be the experience of a lifetime.

5 Great Teaching Opportunities in China

Teach in China - Teaching Nomad China
Photo credit: Teaching Nomad

Now that we've completely convinced you to teach abroad in China, I'm sure you're wondering: Where can I find the best jobs?

Well, we at Go Overseas have compiled a few amazing opportunities for you to have a look at. Even if you plan on spending days combing through job listings or recruiter websites, these five jobs are a great place to start!

1. Teaching Nomad

Teaching Nomad is one of the most-reviewed teaching opportunities on Go Overseas for China, and for good reason. They work to place teachers in over 40 cities across China, and you can teach English and other subjects too! They also have a variety of different teaching jobs and can work with teachers from complete beginners to experienced professionals.

Read all reviews of Teaching Nomad →

2. Reach to Teach

Reach to Teach offers teaching jobs with students of all ages, from children to adults. Additionally, Reach to Teach has teaching jobs in Beijing and Shanghai (but no other cities), so they offer good services if either of these two cities is at the top of your list.

Read all reviews of Reach to Teach →

3. Adventure Teaching

Teach in China - Adventure Teaching China
Photo credit: Adventure Teaching

Adventure Teaching works with teachers in both China and South Korea, and within China, they can help you find a teaching job in Shanghai or Beijing. Whether you want to work with pre-schoolers, elementary school-aged students, or even middle or high schoolers, they've got plenty of opportunities to choose from.

Read all reviews of Adventure Teaching →

4. New Life ESL

Teach in China - New Life ESL China
Photo credit: New Life ESL

New Life ESL works with teachers across China, including common cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanjing, as well as less-common spots like Xian, Tianjin, and Qingdao. This all-American agency prides itself on helping prospective teachers make a seamless transition to teaching in China, which will help you rest assured as you start the process.

Read all reviews of New Life ESL →

5. Opportunity China

Opportunity China is another teaching opportunity with strong reviews that will help you get a good sense for what teaching in China is really like. They help teachers find roles in 10 cities across China, working with students of every age -- from pre-school to university, and even business English students.

Read all reviews of Opportunity China →

Now that you've made it through the entire guide, you should have a much better idea of what to expect when it comes to teaching abroad in China. From salary and benefits expectations to how to find a job and where to live, we hope you now know which type of job is right for you!

Teaching abroad in China is an incredible adventure, and we know that preparing for this big step can be a bit daunting. It's our hope that this ultimate teach abroad guide will make your decision to embark on this experience of a lifetime just a little bit easier.

If you're ready to take the next step and start applying for jobs, be sure to check out the jobs above, and scan through our entire list of teach abroad jobs in China. Good luck, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

Recent Teaching Job Opportunities in China