Teaching English in China probably represents the single biggest job market for TEFL teachers. It has a vast population and a growing middle-class, and that adds up to a need for a whole lot of teachers. Every country has its share of bureaucracy and red-tape regarding who is allowed to come and work within its borders, and China is no exception.
Below, we have broken down the potential requirements into categories, and within those categories, we have tried to include as much relevant detail as possible. Sometimes the law varies a little, province to province, and we have attempted to pick this out where necessary.
You will need to get TEFL certified. This is good general advice for all teachers, as even a basic rundown of TEFL techniques will improve your performances in the classroom no end. It is also a requirement if you wish to work legally on a Working ‘Z’ Visa.The national requirement is for 100 hours of TEFL training, but some provinces will need 120, so that is the safer option.
The other vital qualification is a Bachelor’s Degree.This doesn’t need to be in TESOL, English, or even Teaching. Any subject is acceptable.
The official guidelines for obtaining a Working ‘Z’ Visa state that candidates should have at least two year’s teaching experience. The word should is important here. Some cities and provinces will give more leeway than others.In first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai, you will probably need the two years, whereas in third-tier cities like Hangzhou or Chongqing, you may be able to get a visa without any experience. These regulations change all the time, so be sure to check online for up to date information.
Although you don’t necessarily need teaching experience to obtain the ‘Z’ visa, you will need to have two years work experience.These must have taken place after your graduation, and can be in any position, in any field.
Passports, Age Restrictions, and Appearance
These are factors which are largely outside of your control. Fortunately, they are none of them deal-breakers, but they can make the whole process of looking for work in China either much easier or much harder.
Holding a passport from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland (and to some degree, South Africa) will make job-hunting much easier. Applying for a visa with other passports is perfectly possible; the difficulty lies in finding a school that will sponsor you.
The age bracket to apply for the Working ‘Z’ Visa is 22-55.
Chinese school administrators often have preconceived ideas of what a foreign English teacher should look like. Blond hair and blue eyes can go a long way. Teachers of Chinese or other East Asian extraction can have a hard time finding work, as they don’t look ‘foreign’ enough. Generally speaking, the students themselves don’t really mind, but it can make it difficult to get your foot in the door.
The bigger and more globally renowned the location of the school is, the more of these requirements you’ll have to meet.Schools in smaller cities and in poorer provinces have a harder time attracting teachers, and therefore have to be a little more accommodating of candidates who don’t quite tick all the boxes.
This is no bad thing! Shanghai is a wonderful city, but it’s hardly representative of China. Get off the beaten track and see what this vast and varied country has to offer!