You need to ask yourself these questions before you continue.
How old are you?
You should be at least 18 to go and teach. Some schools may also have upper age limits but there are plenty of middle aged teachers in China.
Are you a native English speaker?
Most schools in China prefer native English teachers from the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Great Britian. There are jobs available for non-native speakers but they are more difficult to find.
Do you have or can you acquire a passport in your native country?
China requires foreign teachers obtain a work visa. The company that hires you will assist you in acquiring this visa but you will need to have a passport. Unless there is a legal reason that you are not allowed to leave your country, you should be able to obtain a passport in your country without too much hassle.
Am I qualified to teach?
In the past, many schools in China did not require a degree to teach English. This has changed. Based on government regulations surrounding Z-visas now, a legitimate teaching opportunity should require at least a 4 year Bachelor’s Degree and a TESOL/TEFL certificate (120 hours). Can you get hired in China without these qualifications? Yes, but I would be very wary of a school which is attempting to skirt government regulations.
Do you like working with kids?
Working with kids every day can be tough, especially within the primary grades. If you have little patience with young kids, you may want to look into finding a job which allows you to work with high school seniors or adults. No matter what you choose, you won’t enjoy teaching in China if you don’t have some degree of patience.
Do you have a physical disability?
Having a disability is NOT a reason to give up on going to China. However, please know that China is not nearly as handicap accessible as other “first world” countries. Places such as apartments and restaurants which would ALWAYS have elevator access in your country may not be so accessible in China. In addition, most people in China spend a lot of time walking from the train to a bus stop, or from a bus stop to their homes. Taxis are available but they are also more expensive. If you do have a physical disability, be upfront about the disability when you are looking for a job so that there will be no surprises when you arrive.
Do you have any medical problems?
China is a fast developing country and these days, most medical services are available. However, it is always good to check (online) to make sure medicines and devices you need are available in China. If not, you will need to stockpile these items for the duration of your stay.
Having certain diseases such as AIDS and Hepatitis may prevent you from working in China. Teachers who apply for a work visa in China will have to undergo a physical which includes bloodtesting. Check with the Chinese embassy for the latest information.
I have laid out the most basic questions you should think about before making a decision to stay in China. In addition to those questions, however, you should think about the following questions which are a little more personal.
Where are you in your life at the moment? Is this the best time?
a). If you are in the middle of college, and you leave to teach in China (which is not affiliated with any university program), you may have to pay interest on your college loans while you are teaching since you will not be taking any classes.
b). Do you have many financial obligations in your home country?
Living in a foreign country does not exempt you from making child care payments, credit card payments, school loan payments, or any other legally binding payments
While you can generally expect to earn 3-6 times the salary of an average Chinese worker, you cannot expect to make the same salary as you would in the U.S. While it is true that the the cost of living in China is much lower than in the U.S., teaching English in China is not a get rich scheme. If you are frugal, you should be able to save some money each month but it won’t be much.
In my opinion, teaching English in China is best for people who want to take a year off between high school and college, have just graduated from college, or are looking for something “different” to do later in life.
Next section – Learn About China