Teach English in China without a degree

Teach English in China without a Degree

Is a degree really needed to get a teaching job in China? This is a question we get asked every day without fail. On paper the answer seems quite straight forward – you can not teach English in China without a degree according to the government, however in practice things seem to be quite a bit more ambiguous, as is so often the case. There certainly are plenty of teachers currently teaching in China without a degree, with a valid work visa and residence permit, so it is possible.


In my experience dealing with various schools from all over China the policy, and how it is enforced, varies from province to province as well as over time. It seems like official line is open to a certain amount of interpretation by the provincial governments. Back in 2007 / 2008 in parts of Zhejiang province, for example, one could secure a work visa for a new teacher who had 2 years teaching experience in place of a degree. I am not sure if this holds true now but at the time it was possible.


I have also seen over the past few years policies getting stricter and stricter with regards to teaching English in China without a degree. Areas that previously could accept teachers without one are now demanding not only a degree but one or two years teaching experience where before they didn’t. Having said that it seems like the relationship the school has with the local labour bureau does make quite a difference to who they can process a work visa for. In some cases the person in charge of visa applications for the school will actually time their visit to the visa office based on when their favourite person is on duty.


The degree subject studied doesn’t actually matter, which does seem a little strange, I know, meaning someone looking for an ESL teaching job in China who holds a diploma in Early Childhood Development and Education would be less qualified than another candidate with a Bachelor’s degree in Golf Course Management. The logic behinds this one, I can only assume, is that the Chinese government would limit the supply of teachers too much if they demanded a degree in Education or English from every teacher, so they thought if they let those with a degree in they would attract a smarter bunch.


It is also no secret that there are schools and teachers out there who are prepared to fake degree certificates in order to obtain a work visa.


For a more detailed article on this situation I highly suggest this article.



  1. wayne says:

    Can anyone point me in the right direction in regards to finding a ESL job without a degree??

    if you have any ideas or useful info please contact me.

    Thankyou very much.

  2. Michael says:

    I was in china for a year teaching and i loved it. I want to go to college as a mature student and get a degree.
    will any degree suffice? I want to do a BA in English, is this ok or will i need a degree in teaching instead?
    Ill be staying in China for the long term.

  3. John Smith says:

    Hi Jim,

    I did a TEFL degree 140 hours is that ok?


    • Jim says:

      Hi John – most schools in China these days require a Bachelor’s degree in any subject as well as a TEFL certificate in order to apply for the work visa. For major cities like Shanghai and Beijing they often also look for some teaching experience. Most other cities can hire teachers without any previous teaching experience though. I would like to invite you to submit an application here and we will do our best to assist you –

  4. Paul says:

    If I don’t have a 4 year degree, although I was only 12 credit hours short but I do have a 250 hour / Diploma of Educational Management Studies in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (250 hrs.). Is that suitable for getting a work visa? Also, I did work and teach in Shanghai for 3.5 years at many schools. I am contemplating going back and while I didn’t do it on a work visa last time, would prefer to do it on a work visa this time

    • Jim says:

      Hi Paul – for most areas in China they require a Bachelor’s degree for the work visa and anything less than that is not accepted. There are some areas in China that can issue a work visa without a degree (taking teaching experience for example, instead) although unfortunately there is no clear information on which areas and when as we have found it can often change over time.

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