Some tips for those looking to work in China

  • I complied the Q & A for those who are looking to work in China. Many of them are common sense. But experience tells us that it¡¯s often the ignorance or neglect of the common sense that gets people into trouble and remorse. Many negative things have been written about the downside of working overseas and I will focus on the sunny side. If you have anything to add to the list, please drop me a line at [email removed]

    Best luck,


    Q: What are the advantages of teaching and learning in China?
    A: It is an excellent way to learn about the Chinese culture, customs, and behavior. You can teach English to the Chinese and share your culture with them, but also can learn Mandarin Chinese from them. Besides, you will make many friends with both the locals and other foreign teachers and build useful network. It is especially helpful if you want to pursue an international career in the future, as China is a rapidly developing country and is playing a bigger role in the world economy and politics. Besides, you will be offered free accommodation, a salary, and in some cases, free meals, airfare reimbursement, and free excursions!

    Q: What are the requirements of teaching in China?
    A: In many cases, you just need to be a native speaker of English, have a college degree, have a passion for teaching and are healthy. In some cases, a native speaker with a high school education and TESOL/TEFL certificate are accepted to teach oral English to younger kids.

    Q: I'm not a native English speaker. Can I teach English in China ?
    A: Native English speakers are preferred but not required as long as you have a good command of the English language and do not have much of a foreign accent. There are many ESL/EFL teachers in China who were not educated in English speaking countries but teach very well.

    Q: Am I able to teach in China without any prior teaching experience?
    A: Many teachers who come to China to teach have no prior teaching experience, especially for shorter term programs. It is fine as long as you have the motivation and patience to teach. If you do not have any prior teaching experience and have never been in China before, we suggest that you participate in a TEFL training and orientation program before the start of your teaching program.

    Q: How about the teaching time in China ?
    A: Teaching time in China varies from school to school, but often is between 12 and 19 hours a week. Each teaching period lasts from 40 minutes in primary school to one hour in an university.

    Q: May I choose a teaching-position freely?
    A: Yes. You may choose whatever ESL Job is on any website and wherever the job is. But make sure that the school is registered with the government and authorized to hire foreign nationals. Teachers who are hired by an organization without proper authorizations may find themselves in financial and legal trouble.

    Q: How do I know if a recruiting school is authorized to hire foreign nationals?
    A: One simply way is to ask the school. If you are not sure whether you get a true answer, use an agent. Most agents do a background check of their clients and have good knowledge of relevant laws and regulations. We make sure that all our client schools meet the conditions to hire foreign nationals and have a good reputation.

    Q: How can I tell a reputable agent from one that is not?
    A: First of all, you want to make sure that the agent is a professional company in this business. Check the database of the Administration of Industry and Commerce of the location where the agent is based to find out if the agent is registered with the government authority and in good legal standing. Use common sense. If the promises sound too good to be true, then they are not true. To find out information about the companies in Beijing, log onto

    Q: Is it legal for the school or agent to ask for my personal information?
    A: It¡¯s a standard practice in this business to solicit personal information. The employer will ask to see the applicant¡¯s ID card or passport before handing out the offer. BUT no one except the government agency has the right to keep your ID card, passport or other official documents.

    Q: Will there be opportunities to learn or improve my Chinese during my contract?
    A: Yes, many schools in China offer Chinese language courses for foreigners that you can take at your spare time. Some schools may offer you lessons or tutoring services at a discounted price. You can also find a private tutor or share one with other foreign teachers. A private tutor may ask for between RMB 30-40 an hour. We find the best way to learn Mandarin and the Chinese culture is to find a local Chinese student or teacher as a language exchange partner. Many Chinese students and teachers are eager to teach you Mandarin in exchange for your help in English.

    Q: What about the compensation?
    A: For your work at a public school, college or university, you will likely be paid between 3,000 and 5,000RMB/month (roughly US$400-$620) in addition to free housing and health care. If you commit to one year of teaching, most host schools will reimburse at least a one-way ticket and many schools will reimburse a round-trip ticket. Some schools will also provide a traveling allowance equivalent to half of a month's salary. 2,000-3,000RMB a month is little money by Western standards but it is far greater than what Chinese professors get paid. In any case, things are cheap in China and 2,000-3,000RMB is enough to cover your expenses. However people come to teach in China mainly for the experience with the culture and the people; there are also people who use the opportunity as an investment for their future career.

    Private institutes, mostly under Western management, generally pay more than state colleges and universities. The pay ranges from $500-$800 per month. All of them reimburse a round-trip ticket to China if you commit to one year of teaching at least.

    Q: How much should I be paid? How much do I need to spend in China ?
    A: Yes, indeed you are higher paid than many local workers and teachers in China . Normal wages in Beijing and Shanghai (the richest cities) are between RMB 1500-2000, and less in rural/inner China. Since you do not have to pay for accommodation, your main expenses will be on food (some schools also provide free meals to teachers), transportation, and entertainment. Food is generally cheap in China. Single dish meals at the cafeteria on campus cost as little as RMB 3 (USD 0.40). Chinese restaurants on campus in the school area offer meals (including a main dish and soup) for RMB 10 - 20 (USD 1.25 - 3) per person. Western restaurants cost between RMB 30-100 (USD 4-12) per person per meal. Transportation options include public buses (which cost about RMB 1 per ride) and subway (RMB 2-3 per ride), and taxi costs about RMB 10 (USD 1.25) for short distances. Internet Cafe is very cheap for about RMB 3-6 (USD 0.4 - 0.75) an hour. Entertainment in general is also inexpensive. Of course, there are places that can easily cost you a whole month¡¯s salary and those are not the places people frequent.

    Q: Can I have another part time job or teach at my spare time to earn extra income?
    A: Yes, as long as you fulfill your contracted teaching hours and responsibilities, most schools will allow you to earn some extra money through another job or more teaching at your spare time.

    Q: Do I need to pay tax to the Chinese government?
    A: Salaries are tax free to the Chinese government if you earn less than RMB 4,000 a month. Tax free income for Chinese people is 1200 RMB in Shanghai and Beijing and 800 RMB in other cities. If you earn more than that, you will have to pay some tax, but the rate is quite low. Some schools may pay the tax for you, and it will depend on your teaching contract with the school.

    Q: Can my partner go with me to China?
    A: You can usually take your wife or husband with you if you have been offered a legal job with visa and working permit. However, she or he may not be allowed to work and you may find it difficult to support a dependant on a teacher's income. If, however, your partner is also an EFL teacher, you could probably both find work in the same school or town..

    Q: What about taking children to China ?
    A: With a legal job you can usually obtain a resident's visa for your children, though again you may have difficulty in supporting them on a teacher's income. There would also be the question of their education, which in some cases would prove exorbitantly expensive, especially in major cities.

    Q: Should I find a job before going to China?
    A: If you like adventure, and have a good TEFL certificate and perhaps a degree for working permit purposes you might get off with the reasonable confidence of finding work when you land. If you are a little more staid, or nervous, or cash-strapped, you might do better to fix it all up before leaving.

    Q: Can you help me find a job in China?
    A: Kindly send to [email removed] your CV/Resume (as Word attachment), a copy of your academic degree/diploma/certificate/or college transcript, the data page of valid passport, recent color photo, a letter of recommendation or a letter of release from your previous Chinese school (Only if you worked in China). Soon after receiving the above documents, we will process your application and find a suitable placement for you.

    Q: How do I get a work visa?
    A: When working in China , you are required to have a "Z" or "F" visa. The easiest way is to get an "F" visa with an invitation letter or you can go to Hong Kong without any visa and apply for a 30 day tourist visa at the Hong Kong airport. As soon as you arrive at the working location, give your school your passport and two passport photos and they will help to obtain the work visa within a month. Always remember to renew your visa at least two weeks before it expires.

    The second way of getting a work visa is: First, prepare a copy of your passport, four passport photos, application letter, recommendation letter and health check report (you must get the form from the local China embassy). Then your school will mail an invitation paper to you that you will bring to a Chinese Embassy to obtain a "Z" work visa. It takes at least 20 days for the school to mail the invitation paper to you. You will get a work visa from the Chinese embassy directly. Usually this way is troublesome, we highly recommend the first way.


    14 Apr 2008, 04:28 Jeff
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  • wow

    a lot of usefull information, thanks a lot jeff! happy

    Craig 14 Apr 2008, 04:28 - Report
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