CHINA EFL/ESL JOBS: Information from Various Sources

Teaching in China

Since I originally posted "China EFL/ESL JOBS: A Case of False Advertising," an article by Niu Qiang, PhD and Martin Wolff, J.D., on February 12, 2004, several people in China have written in with differing opinions. The Chinese government's requirements for a Foreign Expert visa seem to include a Bachelor's degree (see, for example, the SAFEA Guide for Foreign Experts Working in China as Consultants which is reproduced here), but some individuals state that they have had no problem getting a work visa to teach English with no degree. It should be understood that while many people do teach overseas without a degree and sometimes without a certification, this is often illegal (or barely legal, depending on the country).

I have not taught in China. I cannot tell you how it works from personal experience. But I will tell you this: please be careful. Do your homework. Research the laws of the country. If necessary, find someone who is fluent in the language and get them to help you unravel the visa requirements and other regulations. If someone tells you that it may not be legal for you to teach in a country without a certain qualification, don't just ignore them.

In the spirit of fairness, I am also posting the following emails which were sent to me by others teaching in China:

From Jim Miller, Foreign Expert, PRC, Feb 6, 2006
From an anonymous (name withheld by request) teacher in China, 2004. (Note: this info may be out of date as per Jim Miller's email above.)
From another anonymous (name withheld by request) teacher in China, June 2004. (Note: this info may also be out of date as per Jim Miller's email above.)

Now, what does all this mean to you as a teacher thinking of going to China for the first time?

First of all, understand that there's a certain risk involved in leaving your own country to teach in another. The language, customs, laws, and so forth are going to be different. There are unscrupulous recruiters and so forth who will try to trick people into working illegally, and that can end up with a very bad situation for the teacher. On the other hand, you can (and MUST) do your own research about the schools, recruiters, and so forth before accepting a job.

Note again that I have not been to China myself, and this is all, to a certain extent, hearsay, but this is what I have learned from several people teaching in China, so I present it in the hopes that it will be useful. Quite honestly, since I have never taught in China, I'm not qualified to make the decision of who you should believe. All I can do is present the different points of view from people who HAVE been there, and let you make your own decision.

Please research job forum sites, such as Dave's ESL Cafe and talk to people before taking a job in any foreign country. Teaching overseas can be a hugely rewarding cultural experience, but is not without risk. Be careful out there, folks!

For more information on China legislation, contracts, and so forth, please see this page from the China TESOL Teacher Registry, administered by Global Access China Ltd., in association with The State Administration for Foreign Experts Affairs, PRC. purports to be the only Chinese Government information website about teaching in China.

There are also many good articles on teaching English in China at


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