Make money teaching in China

Can You Really Make Money Teaching English in China? Enter the Dragon

Agness Walewinder Blog, China, Teaching English, Travel Job Interviews

Well that magical time has come yet again my favorite world traveling ponies to drop some knowledge of working overseas, making money while traveling, and  most importantly, meeting exotic natives in mystic lands. And yet again, as if right on cue, I must defer to someone who has a greater knowledge than myself on the subject – what a true Zen guru of complete understanding and awareness I must have – or maybe that is just last night’s drinks talking. So without further ado, let’s learn how you can actually make money teaching English in China. Prepare to Enter the Dragon.

Who are you and why should I listen to you about working overseas by teaching English in China?

My name is Agness and I originally come from Poland. Apart from being a budget travel blogger of eTramping and world explorer, I have been an English teacher in China for over 18 months. I firstly worked in Hunan province, a small town called Huayuan, where I was teaching in one of public high schools. Currently I am teaching in Dongguan, Guangdong province, in one of private Chinese kindergartens where I am having a lot of fun every day.

English Teacher in China

I came to China not only to do some sightseeing and support financially my travels, but also to get more teaching experience, find out whether teaching is what I really want to do for a living in the future or not, improve the English speaking capabilities of Chinese students, inspire them, stimulate their interest and motivate them to speak English.

teaching English in China
Agness high fives Chinese student who is future basketball star of China. Look at those hops.

What does teaching English in China entail?

Nowadays, China is in a great demand of foreigner teachers. Actually, I would say some schools are so desperate to get them that being a foreigner is the only one condition to be employed.

teaching in China
Teaching in China involves more than a little bit of fun

However, in most private and public schools, apart from having preferably light complexion, you need to fulfil other requirements such as:

  • Age – 24-60 (you don’t need to be a native speaker to work as a ESL teacher).
  • Sex – female teachers are more likely to get the job first as they are considered to be more friendly, patient and reliable.
  • Higher education diploma – masters, BA or PhD).
  • TEFL or TESOL certificate – it is compulsory to apply for Z- working visa, but you can start doing it online once you get a job. Most schools are even willing to pay for it.
  • Teaching experience- they say minimum of two years but if you are Caucasian and you have your diploma they don’t care about your experience, the training is provided most of the time anyway.

What if I do not fulfil some of the requirements? Impossible is nothing in China. All rules and requirements are flexible especially when the school is in a real need of a teacher. The schools can turn a blind eye on the lack of diploma or experience but you won’t be able to obtain a working Visa so it means you work illegally. If you work illegally, you are not insured and you cannot openly say that you teach (just in case police found out).

What does the teaching English in China actually look like?

Your working hours and way of teaching Chinese students depends a lot on their age, type of school you work in and teaching materials you are provided with.

teaching in chinese classroom
A typical Chinese classroom. Minimal. Very Feng Sui .

Chinese High Schools

While working in Chinese high school, your main job will be to teach the oral English to students, try to keep them involved in the lesson, stimulate their interest and keep them happy. Therefore, your work is limited to conducting the lesson and there is hardly any paper work, a minimum of bureaucracy. Chinese high schools are well known for having approximately 80 students in a classroom and that can make your teaching much harder. I can tell you now that it is not easy to practice the oral English with all of them. Moreover, Chinese students are afraid of speaking so it is an extra job for the teacher to encourage them to speak out and make sure they enjoy learning English. Classes last 45 minutes and most of the schools are well equipped with a projector, board, chalk and printer. You should not teach more than 5 different classes a day, which is around 20-25 teaching hours per week. Weekends are off and most of the classes start at 7 am and finish at 20 pm (there is a lunch break from 12pm till 3pm).

teaching english in China
…and this is what we call an Adorable bomb exploding

As for the teaching, the best idea is to follow TESOL course recommendations which is to start your class with some warm-up activities to get them involved in the lesson by playing various games (partner information share, sevens, memory games, word linking, filling in the gaps, anagrams), having discussions with them (what did you do last weekend? information research, finding out information) and sharing with them some interesting pictures and histories which makes them back on the track of using English again.

Chinese students class work
Chinese students are true artists

Chinese Learning Centers

When you work for private learning centers you can expect to work the weekends (all day long) from 9 am till 5 pm and have some evening classes 3 days a week which probably start at 5 pm and finish at 8 pm. The number of kids is much smaller than in high schools so you can easily handle everything. Foreigners working for learning centers often work more hours, between 20 and 35 hours, but they are paid much more. There are plenty of holidays during the first semester (September – February) so you can do a lot of traveling.

chinese students
I don’t think I have ever looked this happy. Maybe I should become a Chinese student

Chinese Kindergartens

Teaching English in Chinese in Kindergartens can suit you perfectly with your blogging and travelling schedule (if you are a blogger and a traveller). You can expect to have 4-6 x 30-minute classes every day from Monday to Friday and most of the afternoons are off. You will have to stay in the office till 17:00 from time to time though. You are entitled to have 10-minute break between your classes and there is an afternoon nap break which lasts 3 hours (12:00-15:00). Every class lasts 30 minutes for K1,2 and 3 students and 15 minutes for nursery students.

teaching in China
Chinese students are artists and comedians.

Your job as an English teacher in China will be to have a lot of fun with kids, play games with them, introduce new words to them by using colorful flashcards, sing songs and prize them with some stickers. Your lesson plan must be prepared in advance and then approved by the principal. You will be given plenty of CDs and DVDs .

How can you make money teaching English in China and what are the best teaching jobs?

The salary for English teachers in China vary a lot depending on your teaching experience, references, gender, nationality and location. Inexperience teachers can earn between RMB6.000 ($984) and RMB 15.000 ($2500) per month. RMB 6.000 is the absolute minimum for 16 x 45-minute classes so if you ever get offered less, you can start laughing (ironically). This amount of money can be offered in small towns and rural areas where you don’t need to spend much on food and transportation. If you are TESOL/TEFL certified teacher in a bigger city, your salary should be between RMB8.000 ($1300) –RMB20.000 ($3000) (again per 16 x 45-minute classes). The more hours you work, the more money you can get. For instance, an average salary of experienced foreign teacher working up to 35-40 hours (including office hours) would be RMB14.000 ($2300) or more.

How much money can you really make teaching in China? Who needs money when you have this happiness going on?
How much money can you really make teaching in China? Who needs money when you have this happiness going on?

Additionally, you can do some private teaching charging between RMB150 ($25)-RMB300 ($50). Let’s say you work 2 extra hours on Saturday and 3 extra hours on Sunday and you charge RMB150/h, you can earn up to RMB3.000 ($500) per month.

During the summer and winter you can also work as a teacher. There are summer and winter camps held in all provinces in China. You will be teaching for 14 days in a row, 4-5 classes a day and your salary can be between RMB8.000 and RMB12.000 (just for this period). These courses are very intensive, but you can earn more money in 2 weeks than usually in a month and still have another 2 weeks off.

Okay that sounds pretty money, so how can one actually get a teaching English job in China?

There are two ways of applying for a teaching job in China. You can either do it online using various websites such as:

Or, alternatively, you can fly here with all necessary documents prepared and apply for a job in local language agencies or ask people around. Once you come here, you will notice that locals will stop you in the street and ask if you would like to do some teaching. Moreover, it’s good to be surrounded or keep in touch with fellow bloggers and expats living in China who can recommend reliable schools and learning centers. Either way, you can be sure you will find something within 2 weeks. The best time to apply is late August and beginning of February when the new semesters begin. Some schools start looking for foreign teachers at last minute so there is a great chance for you to get employed with a decent salary if you know how to negotiate. You can also earn money from home working as an English writer on PapersWill.com.

What is the lifestyle like living in China?

There is always something new happening every day. You try new food, you meet new people and you learn a new language which is much easier to comprehend than many people think. You will never get bored in China and there is also something to discover and get familiar with. Thanks to our job, which is absolutely stress free, we can enjoy China experience every day by traveling to different provinces, making new friends with Chinese and working a lot on our blog.

food in china
China has amazing food
chinese dumplings
Steamed dumplings anyone?

You can easily keep yourself busy with weekend trips to Hong Kong or Beijing and exploring places ordinary travelers are not very familiar with. Life is easy filled with chill and happiness.

What did your free time look like living in China?

When we are off work during the day, we share our China experience with our readers by writing and publishing posts on our blog. Moreover, we meet with our Chinese friends to have a lunch and dinner, visit local KTVs (Chinese karaoke), ride our bikes around famous in Dongguan Songshan Lake and study Chinese (mainly Cez at the moment). When weekends or national bank holidays come and we have more than 2-3 days off work, we pack our bags and go explore unknown parts of China.

living in China
Did we mention the food was delicious in China?
SONY DSC

We pick up one destination, pack our cameras, take a train and start another unforgettable China adventure. It does not matter if it’s gonna be another famous UNESCO World Heritage such as the Floating Zhangjiajie Mountains, breath-taking Yangshuo River or undiscovered by ordinary travelers Fenghuang. It’s all about the journey and having a great time.

visiting Zhgnjiajie mountains in China
And…it’s epic. Zhangjiaji mountains

And to address what is on everybody’s’ mind, what is the dating and sex life scene there?

Oh the nightlife China has to offer...
Oh the nightlife China has to offer…

We are not experts in parties – we do it rarely, but we hear that it’s rather easy to get a date – whether you’re male or female. If you want to find someone and you like Chinese girls or boys – you won’t be lonely here. A word of advice though: Chinese girls expect guys to pay a lot on dates (food, drinks, cinema, and SHOPPING!). Chinese guys have to spend a lot of money to get married… Nevertheless, some girls are more Western in approach to dating and they don’t need men to burn money on them.

Great Wall of China Jump of joy. 'Yes we are happy together and do not have to venture out into the horrible world of dating like the rest of you'
Great Wall of China Jump of joy. ‘Yes we are happy together and do not have to venture out into the horrible world of dating like the rest of you’

And…I think it is safe to say that I am – sold – on teaching in China as a not only a sweet cultural experience with this delightful food but also as a viable way to make money while traveling. I think the better question is: Why the hell have I not been to China yet to teach English? ADD damn you.

Travel Insurance

If you are going abroad or doing anything that would make your dear sweet mother cringe, I would recommend picking up some Travel Insurance. The hospital situation there can be sketchy, so pay a little to have the piece of mind. I recommend World Nomads – as that is what I get when I travel abroad. They have a ton of different coverage options for any situation. There are other companies online if you don’t want to go with World Nomads, but I do recommend you get something so you can sleep like a sweet panda cub.


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