Follow us on Facebook

5 Biggest Mistakes Foreign Teachers in China

Wish They'd Known Earlier

My name is Kim, and I am a counsellor for New Career China. We are a free service that connects English teachers with China’s many schools and universities. During my time at NCC I have been surprised to find the amount, that prospective teachers are not aware of, so I am hoping this article will help.

Teaching in China……. Well, thousands of people are doing it, all ages and creeds……… but how easy is it? The process can be a minefield and there are many pitfalls that can befall you.

Up to 70% of teachers can make the wrong decision when choosing where to teach in China. China is a vast country, 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities and every one of them needs you!


Is it easy or hard to find a job in China?

When you look at the many sites offering jobs in China, it stands to reason than a great quantity would mean success. It is easy to be enticed by a high wage, but be aware, what lies beneath the offer may not be so attractive. You want to be able to land in China with a job and knowing exactly what you are getting into.


Things have changed, you now need a Bachelor’s degree, two years teaching experience, a teaching certificate TESOL or similar, criminal check, medical examination and most important a Z visa to allow you to legally work there.


Not all schools are members of the “State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs” (SAFEA), and they need this so that you can get a Z visa and have the right qualifications to work in their establishment. A student or travel visa won’t cut it if you get caught and it will be 再见 (goodbye) China.

Can I just step off the plane and find work?

Yes, you can, there are many agencies you can find who will help you get a teaching position but not all agencies are equal. Along with the good there is always the not so good.

Imagine, you are in a strange country, do not know the language, have no fixed accommodation, no job and you are putting yourself in the hands of strangers, sounds like the start of a bad horror movie!


It is not unheard of, to hear tales of unsuspecting teachers, signing contracts to work in schools, where the details have been fabricated and then, they do not get sent to the school they signed up for, but to a totally different one. How can you do any research in a situation like that. I am sure you did more research when you were looking for a college or university or to buy a car, so why on earth would you not do your homework when basically signing over a year or more of your life.

Come on people, planning is the key, organise your trip to this wonderful, exciting country, find your job, negotiate your needs, wage, time off, make sure all is legal so you can enjoy this wonderful adventure.



University positions are sometimes overlooked due to the low wage they offer, on closer inspection they can be a dream option. Lower wages yes, but so are the hours of work, allowing you freedom a full- time position cannot.


There is more time to explore your new surroundings, possibly get a part-time job away from teaching so you can immerse yourself in the locals and the culture, improving your mandarin along the way. If that does not suit, make up your hours with private tuition, join WeChat, make connections and you will never be short of students. Make sure you clear this with your university first, or, you could get it written into your contract during negotiations.

City job or not?

Everybody has different ideas about where they want to work, they may have previously visited an area, have a friend that lives there or just seen it on the History channel.


Now no one can deny that wages are higher in the big cities, but so then is the cost of living, the amount of people and, the pace is fast. There is a lot to be said for starting off small. The lesser known areas may offer less in salary, but often as not give more incentives. The cost of living is less, it is less hectic, you get time to” Stop and smell the roses”. Who is to say you can’t take day trips to visit the bright lights and hustle and bustle of the metropolis.


After you have been in China a while, if you feel you would prefer to work in the city and want to change your job, you will be in a stronger position, with your new connections and knowledge gained in your time already spent.

Adventures are wonderful at any stage in your life, experiences are the cornerstone of our character, and learning about the new and different allows us to be more open and understanding people. Discovery of our world is a privilege that is more available to us than ever before. Grasp the opportunity to grow, through helping others whilst protecting yourself.