How to Teach English in China

There are thousands overseas teaching opportunities and many can be found in China as an ESL teacher.

Finding Work

You can look for work in China from home and receive a job offer before departing for China. You can visit an international education job fair and speak directly to employers while you tour the fair. Some of these employers will also interview candidates on site, which means you can speed up the job search.

You can also find job opportunities on your college career center site, or by looking on a site such as Dave's ESL Cafe, The International Educator or Transitions Abroad. Based on these postings, you can begin sending out resumes immediately, and even conduct interviews from your home, via chat, email, Skype or phone.

The drawback to applying online is that it is sometimes difficult to determine if the job poster is a legitimate school or recruiter, or if you will be placed in a desirable location. It is in your best interests to ask questions or read posts on online teacher forum boards, such as those found on Dave's ESL Cafe, to determine the legitimacy or desirability of a posting. You should also do some research on the regions of China, using the CIA Factbook or by reading books such as Susan Griffith's Teaching English Abroad.


Prior to the Olympics in 2008, there were huge numbers of opportunities for English teachers, especially in Beijing, and the demand currently remains strong, though not as high as that period.

Depending on your level of education and experience, you can find opportunities in elementary, high schools, private schools and in universities, as well as private, freelance tutoring English opportunities. If you are a native English speaker with no college education, you may be able to find job opportunities, but most schools will want a native English speaker who has at least an undergraduate degree in any field. If you have a graduate degree, a masters or PhD, you may be able to find positions at a Chinese university.

Many students like to have teachers who have experience as Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or with the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) since they need to pass at least one of these exams to attend a post-secondary institution in North America. Based on your education and experience, you can also offer classes in English conversation or in business English.

English as a Second Language Teacher Certification

Depending on your experience as a teacher, you may decide to pursue ESL teacher certification. A diploma or degree in teaching English as a Second Language is certainly an asset, but you can look for shorter certification programs with Oxford Seminars or CELTA. It is not necessary to pursue certification to find a position but certification can help you with salary negotiation, or to find a more desirable position at a later date.


Many people go abroad as tourists and look for employment while they are exploring the country. However, if you receive a job offer you can begin to apply for the Z-visa, the visa most international teachers use, prior to departing the country. Once you have supplied all of the required documentation, the turnaround time to receive this visa is quite quick. For more information, consult your local Chinese consulate or embassy, either online or in-person, for more information.