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.