6 Unique Benefits of TEFL Jobs in China

by Emma Power

With the largest population in the entire world, and a truly ancient civilisation dating back thousands of years, China is a massive, diverse country with unrivalled history and depth of culture.

As China’s economy continues to grow exponentially, and trade with the U.S. and UK market increases year-on-year, the demand for Chinese people to learn the working language of the world shows no sign of slowing. Therefore, for TEFL qualified teachers, there are plenty of TEFL job opportunities across China in a variety of educational settings, from public schools to universities.

While there are countless advantages of taking on a TEFL adventure in China, we’ve outlined the top unique benefits you can expect from this journey below:

1. Fascinating Culture

Outside of the classroom, you’ll be able to explore China’s rich culture and traditions. Whether you wish to see the impressive wooden pagodas or mystical ancient monasteries, admire the imperial architecture, sample the aromatic cuisine, meet the friendly locals or become acquainted with some giant pandas (which are considered symbols of might and bravery), you’ll have ample free time to enjoy all that China has to offer.

Teaching English in China means immersing yourself in a place unlike any other; it stands culturally alone, completely inimitable, and with minimal Western influences. As such, the everyday Chinese culture, etiquette, and social norms are likely to be very different to what you’re used to, and you’ll experience a significant culture shock, but that’s what makes it all so exciting!

Architecture in China

China is famous for its beautiful architecture.

2. Demand & Respect for Western Teachers

Due to constant demand, schools interview and hire new teachers year-round; China has the largest job market in the world for teaching English abroad! Youth are brought up appreciating the importance of learning English, with Chinese parents understanding that being able to speak fluent English gives their children a greater chance of earning a higher salary and more employment opportunities abroad.

There is an ingrained preference for Western English teachers in Chinese culture, and a deep-rooted respect for the profession. TEFL teachers should expect to be treated formally, both by their students and their colleagues; there is a strict classroom etiquette in China, where teachers are seen to be very authoritative figures, and there is great respect for hierarchical structures.

This is best explained as the phenomenon guanxi: guanxi largely originates from the Chinese philosophy of Confucianism, which emphasises the importance of associating with others according to rank, in order to maintain social and economic order. Western teachers are also seen as being more creative, so you’ll have some leeway for introducing “fun” into your lesson plans, and you’ll enjoy being seen as the entertaining teacher!

Foreign teacher with students in China

Western teacher teaching young Chinese students about food

3. Teaching Salaries on the Rise

Salaries for English teachers in China are increasing rapidly; plus, as the cost of living in China is still quite low in comparison to Western countries, your wages will go a lot further! Entry-level teachers, with minimal or no teaching experience, can reasonably expect to make anywhere from $900 to $1500 per month, which has nearly three times the local purchasing power that it would have in the U.S. Higher paying TEFL jobs may offer successful candidates somewhere in the region of $2000 to $2400 per month, including benefits!

Teaching salaries in China allow you to live comfortably and travel at the weekends or during holidays; as for savings, it all depends on the location, the employer, and individual lifestyle choices. While bigger cities will of course incur more living costs, smaller cities are far more affordable. Day-to-day living expenses are very manageable and travel in China is cheap, with regular, high-speed rail services and inexpensive domestic flights available nationwide. Dining out in restaurants and trying street food is extremely affordable, and getting your groceries from local markets is the best way to save a little bit extra money.

Fish market in China

A busy fish market

4. Diverse Locations

Due to China’s size, there’s no shortage of destinations for budding EFL teachers. The most popular places for teaching jobs in China include Beijing, Shanghai, Hunan, Chengdu, and Guangdong.

Each province and municipality offers something completely different, but equally enriching, whether you find yourself in the sultry south or subarctic north.

Two of China’s biggest, bustling megacities are Beijing and Shanghai. Shanghai is the largest, most cosmopolitan city on the coast of China and one of the leading TEFL hubs for foreign teachers. There’s no lack of teaching jobs in Shanghai, with a particular emphasis on university students and adult learners. Beijing, meanwhile, is China’s historical centre, acting as the political, educational, and entrepreneurial heart of the country and potentially the largest city for TEFL courses in China, and the world.

For an entirely different TEFL adventure in China, why not try small rural farming towns in the east? Provinces such as Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, or Hunan are home to some of the country’s most awe-inspiring scenery. Attracted to year-round balmy weather? Guangdong could be the perfect choice for you! With over 9 million inhabitants, Hangzhou holds a pivotal role in Chinese history, as the capital of the Song Dynasty and a vibrant foreign community of Arab sea traders. Xi’an, with over 8 million residents, is located inland, where the Lantian Man was found dating back nearly 500,000 years. Zhuhai is closer to Hong Kong and Macao, which means it is on the coastline and within reach of beautiful scenery.

Wherever you decide to find a teaching job in China, you’re sure to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Motorway in Shanghai, China

Shanghai motorway

5. Varied Teaching Opportunities

As there is a widespread onus on learning English for personal, academic, and professional purposes in China, there are several different routes and options you can take for teaching English in China, depending on your own preferences and salary expectations.

  • Private schools are the most popular choice of employer for foreign ESL teachers in China. Private school teaching jobs are some of the most competitive positions in all of China as they tend to pay well and look after their teachers. As well as being TEFL qualified, interested candidates will also need teaching experience.
  • Private language institutes hold a good reputation in China. As ESL schools, they provide a network of support and set curriculum for foreign teachers and students are varied, with every level of English and every age bracket. Language training centres also place an emphasis on teaching Business English and have flexible working hours, involving everything from weekends to evenings, as they are a popular choice for adult learners who fit business English lessons around their work.
  • Public schools are the most common option for TEFL teachers who wish to teach abroad in China. While they offer slightly lower pay than private schools and private language institutes, there are also fewer working hours and longer (and more frequent) holidays.
  • Tutoring is a great way to supplement your earnings during your time in China with private, one-on-one oral language practice for wealthy families, businesses, adults and high school students.
  • Kindergartens offer some of the most lucrative TEFL jobs in China, with positions in larger cities paying up to RMB 150 per hour.
  • International schools in China tend cater to children of expats and affluent Chinese families. These ESL jobs are highly coveted, and often reserved for qualified teachers with education degrees and teaching experience.
  • University teaching positions are a great option if you are educated to an advanced level; a master’s degree will often qualify you as a foreign expert, and allow you to teach a variety of different courses in English, such as science, business, or economics.
Chinese students smiling in a classroom

All smiles in this class!

6. Generous Perks

On top of a yearly salary, many teaching positions will provide their teachers with great benefits. TEFL jobs in China typically include perks like flight reimbursement or airfare allowance, rent-free furnished local apartments or generous housing concession, contract completion bonus, paid holidays and sick leaves, legal “Z” work visas, medical insurance to cover the majority of expenses (after a mandatory medical check), health care, meals on workdays, and free Mandarin Chinese lessons! English teachers in China often report being treated to meals by both their colleagues and students, receiving invitations to visit homes as a special guest, and even being presented with token gifts, what’s not to love?

Teaching English in China involves being part of a local Chinese community, sharing your own knowledge with eager students, and getting to experience first-hand an enchanting culture in one of the world’s most captivating destinations!

Are you ready to say “nǐ hǎo” to this one-of-a-kind oriental adventure?

This article was contributed by Premier TEFL. With 25 years of TEFL adventures, we specialize in creating flexible, immersive, and organized teaching experiences that shape impactful English teachers the world over.