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Qualifications and Certifications Needed for Teaching English in China



English in China

Deciding to pursue your teaching dreams to head abroad and teach English in China doesn’t have to be daunting. While it’s true that there are a lot of rules that are constantly updated, rest assured that the bulk of bureaucracy is usually handled by employers. A company that teaches English in China will expect this, so you’ll have support through the process.

Being as informed as possible is a good start, though. In this article, you’ll learn exactly what you need to qualify for a teaching gig, and the steps you’ll need to take to get there. 


To obtain a Z visa, which you’ll need to legally teach English in China, a bachelor’s degree is a must. What you studied is irrelevant, but higher education is a requirement that unfortunately will not be overlooked when you are applying for positions.

In addition to this, regardless of whether you hold a bachelor’s degree, native speakers are generally preferred. Since 2019 It has become increasingly difficult for non-native speakers to land English teaching roles. This isn’t to say it’s impossible, but do bear it in mind. 

While these rules may seem excessive, don’t forget the various transferable skills you can learn from undertaking a degree. Not only can some creative degrees help you develop better communication skills, but you’ll also get better at time management and self-discipline, irrespective of the subject you study. 

In a school setting, these skills translate to being able to balance the hours a week you spend lesson planning with your teaching hours, as well as ensuring that you’re able to hit the objectives of your lessons without running out of time. Don’t worry if your timing isn’t perfect when you first start out as a teacher though – practice makes perfect. 

TEFL Certification 

Alongside a bachelor’s degree, Chinese employers will need you to have a TEFL certification too to get the ball rolling on your visa application. The industry standard for this is the 120-hour course, which can be taken either in person or online, depending on where you’re based. 

During the course, you will study grammar, and teaching methods, and have the opportunity to pick the brain of an experienced tutor for industry insight and any other teaching tips, such as managing young learners or language barriers. Moreover, they may have even had experience teaching abroad, so don’t be shy about asking for advice. 

Completing your TEFL course will take you to your final hoop to jump through before you can start applying for jobs: getting at least 100 hours of teaching experience under your belt. The bar is set high for teachers wanting to pursue a career in China, so try to get qualified and teach well in advance of applying there. 

If you’d like to get as much experience as possible in a variety of niches, then look into additional courses you can take after your TEFL certification. There are loads of short courses out there from teaching online to teaching large classes. For more information on what to expect while teaching in China, check out 

The Z Visa

You’ll be able to start your application for your Z visa once you’ve received your job offer. After that has been issued by your employer, there will be a fair few documents that you’ll need to get in order. These include notarised copies of your Bachelor’s degree and your TEFL qualification. 

Alongside these documents, you’ll need to have a clear criminal background check, 10 passport photos, and your passport should be valid for at least 6 months, though aim for more to be on the safe side. Most importantly, be certain that you have correctly filled in your Z visa application form, avoiding these common mistakes.

Fees for your visa application can differ and you should expect to pay anything between $90 to $140. Upon arrival in China, don’t forget to apply for your residency permit. This must be done within the first 30 days of your stay and it will convert your visa into a long-term permit, according to the length of stay indicated in your work contract. 

One last thing to remember is that you will also be expected to undergo a medical check and undertake various tests for infectious diseases. This is standard practice and your employer should both arrange the visit and ensure there is someone there to accompany you. 

What to expect

You’ve got qualified and made your way through the red tape, but what does a typical day teaching in China look like? Before we get school-specific, expect some locals to be excited to meet you and want to discuss cultural differences. If you’d like to be ready to engage in some neighbourly small talk, consider taking some language classes before you arrive. 

School-wise, there are some differences between public and private schools to be aware of. Semesters will typically run from September to January and then from March to July. With this in mind, double-check the length of your contract with your employer before signing anything to ensure that your holidays are paid.

In public schools, you’ll benefit from a set curriculum that will save you time on planning. You’ll also be assigned a TA to help you out throughout the year. Brace yourself, however, for the fact that class sizes can get quite large, with some reaching up to 60 students. 

In private schools, be prepared for high expectations from parents. The price tag means that they will want to see results. Your working hours may differ at private institutions too. While you usually get good holidays and other perks such as flight reimbursements, you may be expected to work some weekends. 

Overall, while landing an English teaching job in China has become more difficult over the years, it’s by no means impossible. By utilising the information in this article, and the expertise of your tutors and peers, achieving your dream of teaching English in China is simply a matter of a little more attention to detail, and some planning in advance. 

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