Teaching English or another language in China is a great opportunity as well as an interesting experience for people who are well-prepared doing so. It can also turn out to be a nightmare for those who do not prepare or get cheated because they didn't know what scams are waiting for them in China.
This guide is suppose to help you figure out what you need to know about teaching English or another language in China.
Let's start right with the basic. The requirements for teaching in China
In order to become a teacher in China and obtain a legal work permit (highly recommended), you will need the following:
- Bachelors degree
- At least 2-years work experience in any field
- Native speaker of the language you apply to become a teacher for e.g. an English teacher need to be a native speaker from one of the following countries South Africa, England, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada
- TEFL, TOEFL or CELTA are preferable but not necessary
- be between the ages of 24 and 55 (some provinces accept younger as well as older teachers)
NOTE: For non-native speakers, it is a bit tougher and sometimes almost impossible. You need to have a Bachelors degree with a Major in English and teaching experience if you want to stand a chance to legally obtain a work permit for China.
What you need to know about teaching in China - Teaching in big cities versus small cities
Now, if you decided you want to become a teacher in China. You have to make decisions on where in China you want to go. It's a big country and the possibilities are sheer endless but chose carefully because it is a big decision. It can not just decide how much money you earn but also how your health will be affected, your free time will be spent or how hard it will be to find a job. Read about my opinion of the big cities versus small cities below and make your decision.
Big cities or Tier 1/2 cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, ..)
Living in a city like Beijing or Shanghai can be great for people who love the big city living. People who want bar streets, international restaurants, and huge foreign-communities as well as being able to get their favorite foreign products at any time. However, big cities in China are overcrowded, you can't compare New York City with Beijing just because you heard it's a big city. Beijing has three times the population of NYC and a huge pollution problem. Sure, you can find anything you could probably need in Beijing but at what cost? Housing in the city center can easily cost you 6000-10.000 RMB a month for a small apartment while it can cost you 2000 RMB in the 6th circle which is very far outside Beijing.
Consider moving to a bigger city if...
- you want an international community
- you need western food chains and brands everywhere
- living in overcrowded cities is something you enjoy
Smaller cities (Zhuhai, Yinchuan, ..)
Most people who come to China know of the big cities in China such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou but you rarely ever meet someone who knows of the lesser populated cities such as Zhuhai (a beautiful coastal city south of Guangzhou) and Yinchuan (a clean and modern city in the north of China). But these cities are a whole different experience, with fewer crowds, fewer foreigners and a better environment to practice your Chinese.
Consider moving to a smaller city in China if...
- you do not need too many foreigners around
- you wish to study Chinese
- you are looking for an affordable place to live
Now would you like to find a teaching position in China? Check our job board for ESL teaching jobs in China.
Scams that you should watch out if you want to teach English in China
Identity Theft - Be very careful when recruiter/schools are asking you to send them copies of your passport, degree and other private documents. Even worse, some people just send all their documents up front to an email address that they think belongs to a recruiter. It happens a lot that these people turn out to be scammers who just wanted your ID so they could create fake accounts on social media platforms or else in order to scam people for money.
Contract - Once a school showed interest in hiring you, it is time to negotiate the details of your contract. Make sure that you negotiate the details of your contract BEFORE you come to China. Sometimes a school or a recruiter might promise something that was never written in your contract. Once you arrive in China they might or might not remember that you had an agreement. It's better you have everything negotiated and written down in your contract just in case.
Visa - Not exactly a scam but certainly something you need to watch out. When a school offers you to come to China with a tourist visa first it might not be a good idea. Why? Because some schools might help you to change your visa once you arrive and others don't. Changing a tourist visa into a Z-Visa (which is the only visa to legally work in China) is possible if you leave China for a couple of days in order to get a new visa. Some schools will try to convince you that it is perfectly safe to work on a tourist or business visa while in China. Do not listen to that. It is not safe to work on any other visa except the Z-Visa.
What other scams do you know of or have you heard of? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments.