5 things to check before accepting a teaching job in China

English Teaching Jobs in China

As tempting as it may be to just throw your laptop, flip flops and Chinese phrase book into a bag and hop on a plane it’s probably wiser to make sure that your proverbial ducks are all lined up and you’ve thought things through before accepting a teaching job in China. Teaching in China can be a richly rewarding and life changing experience but can also be a miserable, lonely disaster largely depending on the choices and preparations you make before you even taste that first noodle.

I’ve already covered how to prepare for the job interview, questions to expect and a list of what you might want to ask in this article, so below let’s look at 5 areas you should check before accepting the job.

1 – Location

As we all know China is a huge place so make sure you are clear about where you want to be located. You’ve probably had a look at where the school you are considering is on Google Maps but it’s also a good idea to check for local English magazines and websites to get a feel for what’s going on in terms of events, the expat community, places to visit nearby and these kind of things. The city of Hangzhou for example has a great magazine called More Hangzhou with all kinds of useful information. More Hangzhou

Check the size of the city too, a lot of Chinese cities are huge with well over 4 million people. Just because it is not Shanghai or Beijing doesn’t mean you will be stuck out in a fishing village. Other things to look into are the climate, which varies greatly depending on where you are in China, air pollution and also language. The main language down in Guangdong province is Cantonese whereas all other areas of China speak Mandarin as well as a local dialect unique to each city. If you are looking to learn Mandarin Chinese (the popular one) during your time teaching in China, make sure you’re not going to be the only person speaking it in your city! We have some good cities guides here that might help.

China street

2 – Teaching resources and support

A really important factor to take into account before taking a job is the teaching resources, materials and technology available. While it might make for some nice photos to send home teaching 50 kids with just a stick of chalk and a wheel-in blackboard the novelty will wear off after about 15 minutes. Make sure the school has a comprehensive range of teaching materials allowing you to plan varied and engaging lessons. Student and teacher books for each age group, flashcards, posters, puppets, songs, worksheets all help. These days a lot of schools also have computer labs and interactive touch screen whiteboards with content directly related to the units being studied. Modern ESL Classroom

Find out some details about the kind of training and support new teachers are given. Typically schools will have a week-long induction period and some opportunities to observe current teachers . The Director of Studies should also be running regular workshops and training sessions for the teachers every week or two. Ask what some of the recent topics have been and plans he/she has for future training sessions.

3 – Everything’s above board

Before accepting a teaching job in China it is very important to make sure the school is licensed to legally employ foreigners to work in China. They should be able to provide you with a legal “Z” work visa and give you information on the entire visa application process and when to expect the papers. The schools should cover these costs too. The only cost incurred to you should be the actual visa fee which you pay at your local Chinese embassy when you go there to have the visa stamped in your passport. Even then, some schools will ask you to keep the receipt and will refund you when you arrive in China. I’d advise you not to buy any plane tickets until the visa is safely stamped in your passport, just in case. Chinese work visa

You’ll also want to have a read through a sample contract and make sure it is clear about working hours (both teaching hours and admin hours), salary, when it is paid, over-time pay, holidays, health insurance (if provided), sick leave, disciplinary procedures, taxes. If a flight allowance is provided be clear on whether it is paid up front or reimbursed over time (most are reimbursed throughout your contract and are around 9,000 RMB in total). It is common practice for teachers to actually sign the employment contract once they physically arrive at the school. If housing is provided I’d ask about who you will be sharing with, what the house is furnished with, how far it is from the school and maybe even some sample pictures. Some general details about housing for teachers in China can be found here.

4 – Your future colleagues

It’s a good idea to ask to speak with, or at least email, one or two of the current teachers at the school. This is a fairly common request so schools are likely to have already asked a few of their teachers if they would mind hearing from potential new teachers. Not only is it nice to get to know a couple of your future colleagues before you arrive, you can find out a bit more about the day to day life of a teacher at the school, things going on in the city, the housing, course material and maybe a more “real” rundown of what the school is like.

Teaching Team

5 – Preparations

As for final preparations, be sure to find out if any medicine you take is available in China. Someone at the school should be able to find the Chinese name and check at a local clinic. If not, you can speak with your doctor about getting a large prescription and make sure to get a note from him to show at immigration just in case they ask.

If the school doesn’t provide health insurance, you’ll have to arrange cover for yourself while you are away. There might also be some products not available in China so stock up before you leave. Some of the useful suspects are: a decent selection of English novels, large size mens shoes, Western brand deodorant and a few other odds and ends.

Searching for a new job is a full time job in itself, I know. But as you are not only changing jobs but also country, house, friends and life it’s worth doing all the planning and preparation to ensure your time teaching in China is enjoyable. We’re here to help, we’ve placed hundreds of teachers all across China and work with only the best schools. Send us an application here to discuss things further, we offer a completely free service from start to finish.

Jim Althans packed up and flew to China to teach English in 2004. He has taught at kindergartens in remote villages, vice presidents in shiny offices and everything in between, enjoying every minute of it. He now works at Gold Star TEFL Recruitment helping teachers find their next job in China.


  1. Halo?i would really like to work in china as an English teacher but i do not have a degree,i have a diploma in IT,Also i don’t have a TELF certificate.I have the passion to work in your country at Wuhan,inaddition i do not want to use an agent to help me,(because they are expensive)please assist me.English wise i scored C+,and i can teach.I hope you shall hear my plea and assist me where necessary thank you.I hope to hear from you soon

    • Jim says:

      Thanks for the comment. There are some schools that can hire teachers without a degree but I would strongly recommend obtaining a TEFL course, even if it is a 100 hour online course as it will give you a good foundation in teaching and prepare you for the classroom.

  2. Sadie says:

    Hi, I’m a UK graduate with a BA in Early Primary Education and I’m qualified to teach. I currently work as a performing arts coach for young children. I’m looking for my first job in China as I’m only 24, keen to travel and have no ties in my home country. It would be a great opportunity for me. My problem is, I have no idea where to start looking for jobs, how the process of recruitment works, how to know if I’m choosing the rigjt job, what salary I should be aiming for… are there any agencies that help you through the process? I’d be terrified of making the wrong decision and landing myself in a bad situation!

    • Jim says:

      Hi Sadie – thanks for the message. With your qualifications and experience you should have plenty of options to teach in China. It would be our pleasure to assist you in finding a good match, please send us an email with the requested documents on this page – Once we receive it we will send you some brochures and job descriptions t look through. We can then arrange some interviews with schools you like the look of.

  3. Burcu says:

    I’m Turkish, I graduated from English Language and Literature department of Istanbul University and I have a CELTA certificate. Although I’m not a native speaker, I speak English fluently and without accent. Do you think I can teach English in China?

    • Jim says:

      Hi – a lot of schools in China that we work with do require teachers holding passports from USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand I’m afraid to say. However, there are still a good number of schools that can hire teachers from other countries, especially if they have good qualifications, like yourself, a clear accent and preferably some teaching experience. If you are flexible with regards to locations in China, that will also help. We would be pleased to do what we can to assist you, please feel free to submit an application here –

  4. Anna-Lee Vinson says:

    Hello! I haven’t seen any discussion on age limitations. I am a female of 61 years. If the rest of my qualifications measure up, will my age limit me from consideration?

    Thank You

    • Jim says:

      Hi Anna-Lee thanks for the message. Every school we work with in China can not hire teachers over the age of 60 (in some provinces it is 55). Some of them have tried only to have the work visa application rejected. There are teachers over 60 that do teach in China and do have work visas but I’m not sure exactly how they managed that.

  5. Barney says:

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say
    that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I
    hope you write again very soon!

  6. Star Alcorcon says:

    Hello Jim!

    I read most parts of this site and I am actually grateful because I learned a lot of new things about moving and teaching in China.

    I am very interested to work in Disney English. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in English, and I taught for almost four years as a Montessori and English teacher. However, I am just 23 years old but I will turn 24 by July (work visa requirements?) and I am not a Native Speaker of English but I can communicate and teach English well .

    Do you think I have the chance to work in Disney English?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Jim says:


      Thanks for the comment and I’m glad to hear you found the site useful. Disney English require candidates to have at least 18 months of post Bachelor degree graduation teaching experience. As you are nearly 24 I am not sure whether or not you have this?

      Disney can hire non native speakers but you will of course need to demonstrate in an interview that you have an absolutely fluent level of English and clear pronunciation.

      May I invite you to submit an application here and we can discuss things further –

      • Star Alcorcon says:


        Thank you for your immediate response with regard to my question.

        Yes, I have been teaching for almost four years already.

        Thank you for the invitation I submitted my application as well last night. I am currently waiting for a response with regard to my application. Hope to hear about it soon. ^_^

        Thank you very much for the time in answering my question..

  7. Iain says:

    I am currently an Early Years Teacher working in a large city primary school. We have 90 children in the unit and I’m fully qualified with QTS (Qualified Teacher Status).I have previous retail management experience working for UK high street stores and also have a BA Degree in Early Years. I would love to teach in China but need to know the dates and application process because teaching contracts (UK based) require notice to leave.
    If someone could get back to me I would really appreciate it.
    Thank you,

    • Jim says:

      Hi Iain

      Thanks for the message.There are start dates year round with peak times coinciding with the beginning of new terms, September, February, July. Please have a think about any location preferences in China, whether you want to teach adults, kids or both and then submit an application here –

      You will then be contacted with options and set up with Skype interviews with schools you like the look of. Once a job has been offered and accepted a further month is need for the work visa application. When that is done you can enter China and start work. Usually applications are made 2 or 3 three months before the intended start date.

  8. Star says:

    Hi Jim! Is Disney English still open for hiring?

  9. Star Alcorcon says:

    Hi Jim! How many interview does the Disney usually require? What happens after the skype interview?

    • Jim says:

      Hi – usually there is an initial interview to find out a bit more about you and your teaching, followed by an online questionnaire which covers your views on teaching and living in China and then a second, more in depth Skype interview.

      • Star Alcorcon says:

        Hi! Thank you very much Jim. I will be having my skype interview tonight and I am nervous about it because I really want to be part of Disney. I kept on reading your interview tips as well. Thanks.

  10. Raymond Nerbonne says:

    Hi! I’m 64 years old,have a BA in education,a certificate from Bridge International in TEFL(60hrs),a certificate in ESOL from Literacy Volunteers of Massachusetts, I taught in China in 2009 both at a private school and in my home and am now tutoring a Chinese adult here in the states. My question is at the tender age of 64 is there anyplace overseas,anyplace place that I can teach. It seems a waste to have all this experience,and a love of teaching and not be able to use it. Anywhere at all?

    • Jim says:

      Hi Raymond. Thanks for the comment. We focus mainly on recruiting for positions in China where they require teachers to be under the age of 60 (55 in some areas such as Guangdong) in order to apply for the work visa. I have heard of schools that have hired teachers older than 60 however this can often mean going through a lengthy and costly visa application process which can often get declined, so a lot of schools are unwilling to take this chance. In my experience, schools that teach adult and business English are more likely to hire older teachers as it is commonly believed, rightly or wrongly, that younger teachers are better suited to teaching kids.

      Best of luck


  11. Yesenia says:

    Im a recent grad. I have a BA in Sociology & Spanish, but thinking about teaching English. Would you recommend going through an agency or just applying for jobs. I want to make sure I’m making the correct moves. So far, footprints has interviewed me and asked for some scanned copies of things. I just want to know how did you did it? Ps. I know you posted this a few years ago and I hope you still respond 🙂

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