Some of us are lucky enough to be born with a silver spoon known as the English language. If this is you, you’re in a position where you can earn money whilst travelling without having a single certified skill. If you were born in the UK, Ireland, North America or Down Under, congratulations, you have already passed phase 1. If you can speak English fluently and you’re not from these countries, you can also live the nomad dream! My guide to Teaching English abroad is a good place to start but today, my good buddy Joe, who teaches English in China, shall guide you through the nuts and bolts of teaching English in China. Sit back and listen to his words of wisdom as he takes over and gives you all the information you need to start being a nomadic English teacher…

7 Reasons Why Doing Jobs Teaching English In China Is Smart

Red lanterns in Chinatown, Singapore
Ya gotta love a good lantern!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

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  1. You speak English everyday: This is recognised as a skill which can be swapped for cash.
  2. Everlasting relationships: Whether it’s that one struggling student that flourishes, or a colleague that helps you in a time of need, these people will be a part of you forever.
  3. You have an opportunity to help people achieve their dreams: Priceless.
  4. Discover worlds you never knew existed: Not only can you do something worthwhile and productive whilst bringing home slabs of bacon, but you can do it with the world’s wildest corners as your backdrop.
  5. Grow as a person: You will experience some moments of stress during your life as a teacher (sorry to every single one of my high school teachers for being such a shit) but being able to adapt and handle moments of uncertainty or discomfort is one of the best tests of character. This sense of achievement is brilliant!
  6. Valuable experience: Showing that you have the personality to go and teach in a foreign country and succeed is a massive CV booster. You will learn essential skills from this experience.
  7. Payday: If you can be smart with your cash and try not to piss it all away on liqueur and massages, you can watch that bank balance grow. Saving AND travelling #dollardollarbillsyall

Don’t believe me? Hear what these teachers around the world have to say about their experiences teaching abroad in China and other countries.

3 Reasons Why Jobs Teaching English In China Might Not Be For You

Nic standing next to the giant Leshan Buddha near Chengdu, China
He’s behind me, isn’t he?
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short
  1. If the sound of children shouting and generally wreaking havoc is not your scene, teaching could turn very stressful, very quickly. The majority of commercial teaching vacancies will involve young people, so you should expect to teach kids at some point during your TEFL career. If you have a short temper or you’re lacking in patience, teaching may not be your calling. At times it feels as though you are more of a zookeeper than an educator.
  2. There are A LOT of cowboy schools, organisations or agencies that do not look after their staff or care about the education of their students. Dealing with unhelpful agents is a real blood boiler. If you get stuck with one of these companies, they can make your life difficult. Be wary, always get written contracts, do your research on the agency before agreeing to anything. If in doubt, always go with one that’s trusted, with a professional website and legitimate reviews.
  3. There will be times when homework and lesson planning is necessary. A certain amount of extra curricular time needs to be accounted for. This being said, there are piles of reliable lesson plans readily available at the click of a button, so planning a lesson is never a strenuous task.

How Can I Do Jobs Teaching English In China?

I do not hold a university degree or have any notable qualifications. I only hold a 20+ hour TEFL qualification, which cost me about £150.  There are many offers and promotions for TEFL courses available online. I recommend MyTEFL. Broke Backpacker readers get 50% off their online course! Just remember to type in the special code PACK50 at checkout.

After completing my TEFL course, I contacted a few agencies which appealed to me and was introduced to a world of international teacher recruitment. The results for job searches were in the thousands. Although I was not qualified for many of the positions, there were still jobs with trusted companies, with a fair wage, interested in me. I had to provide a demo video of a 5-10 minute lesson. After a few Skype interviews with an agent in China, a contract was sent to me and my ticket was booked!

Yokohama Chinatown
China has some incredible architecture and unique culture.

If you are a graduate, the world is yours! You can gallivant across the world and make a competitive wage in just about any country you feel like. If you have completed any TEFL training this will make you a more valuable candidate and you will be rewarded with higher wages! There are countless companies to choose from, some offering packages where you can train whilst abroad, but these do tend to come with large fees and small pay packages.

For the more learned traveller, with a masters degree or CELTA qualification, you are in a position where you can live the high life, teaching at universities or advising business owners. If you are serious about earning money, look no further than the Middle East. Places like Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will give you cold hard piles of cash. If you’re after this, get your CELTA qualification. It can open many doors!

Teaching English in a classroom not your thing? Are you a native English speaker looking to earn cash whilst traveling the world? Teaching English online (even to Chinese students) is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection.

Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online

What Do I Need To Start Teaching English?

Kerosene lamp lighting up a journal with a pen and a note pad at nighttime.
Planning, planning, planning …
Photo: @Lauramcblonde

You need to be prepared for jobs teaching English in China. Many schools provide the curriculum and textbooks to follow. However, if you want to teach private classes (where there’s more money) you will need to gauge your target class, which age group you are comfortable with and the sizes of your classes. Search materials to help you give enjoyable lessons with satisfactory results.

A good place to start for lesson plan ideas (especially for kids) is BBC Bitesize. Dave of Dave’s ESL Cafe also has an incredibly helpful website with endless free information. You can get free lesson plans and ideas here and here too. 

There are also starter packs, lesson plans, flashcards and text books available for all ages and levels on I recommend this TEFL Poster Pack this invaluable Teach English as a Foreign Language Book and these fun 50 Scatter Sheets for your students. 

Chances are your agency will be responsible for all things visa related. You will need to provide all documents which they require of you. This includes a valid passport, ID photos, a copy of your TEFL certificate, your university diploma, resume and criminal record check. If certain problems arise then there are ways agents may be able to give you ‘under the counter help’.

A soldier standing in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China.
China is a wild ride!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

Always look for room for manoeuvre in your contract and gently push for the best deal for you. Most agencies will provide flight reimbursement or an incentive to stay if contracts are seen through. If you show that you are a capable teacher who is popular with students, you will be shown loyalty and a massive pay rise.

Be prepared to jump through a few hoops for jobs teaching English in China. There are many types of visas foreigners use to work. Not all of them are legit. Most foreign teachers will need to jet out to Hong Kong or South Korea every three months for the infamous ‘visa dash’.

In some cases, (usually depending on the validity of your agency), you may need to provide fake documents for a company or employer. It doesn’t seem to be a major concern for anyone but sometimes you just gotta roll with the punches. For all visa information, click here.

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    How Can I Get Jobs Teaching English In China?

    Sign up to a few different TEFL newsletters and job boards. There are jobs in every corner of the world, desperate for native English speakers. Upload your CV and make a profile to make it easy for potential employers to find you. Employers are extremely pro-active finding teachers. The internet is the most powerful tool and you can connect with anyone from anywhere. I secured my current job in China whilst sat in a hostel in La Paz, Bolivia. However, some of the best money-makers come from small individual enterprises and business ventures. 

    It also pays off to make relationships with locals or be able to speak a little of the local language. Locals love it when they can see an outsider has taken the time and effort to learn about their culture. If your new connection happens to want to practice English, then you’re off to a perfect start. The concept of karma also works in your favour. Show that you are genuine and offer help (with no charge) to start. Word of mouth will play its part and your good deeds will be repaid.

    will holding a stack of cash in venezuela
    This will deffo not be you!
    Image: Will Hatton

    I used to live next door to an old Chinese couple. Their 6 year old grandson used to come to stay with them and would curiously hang out at my doorway hoping I would come and speak with him. This went from a quick conversation in the corridor and learning his name to being invited into his grandparents house for dinner. During dinner we arranged for me to help young ‘Tang Tang’ with his English for an hour a week. In return, I was invited to sit with the family once a week and let them cook for me.

    I did this for a couple of months and as Tang made substantial progress in his English class, his parents were so pleased. They went and told all his friends’ parents about me. I now teach an English class of four 7 year olds at my house for an hour each week and they all pay 100RMB (£10) each. £40 in return for one hour of my time. That’s good!

    If you’re based in a city chances are there will be a local magazine or community website. Use these to find interesting cash-in-hand jobs. Many will be wanting private English tutors. Also use your current position to gain further students. Do not let your current employer know that you are recruiting students from their establishment though. This can cause friction. Be smart and be discreet.

    Nic standing on the Great Wall Of China with the wall and mountains behind them.
    Walking along the Great Wall of China
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    I also encourage you to make business cards, linking to a website or your social media pages. If you come across as professional, you are more likely to attract new students. A social media page with good reviews and a brief explanation can be a very powerful tool and really boost your clientele. Offline, make posters with a big smiley photo of yourself, a clear phone number and try to use ‘English teacher’ in the local tongue. Stick them around your community (ask permission if unsure) and try your luck! You never know until you try.

    Another one that works is leaving a poster advertising ‘English Club’ in a nearby cafe and seeing how many people show up. This might take a few weeks to gain a base but it can pay off. Always give out your details and encourage people to tell their friends. Basically, get involved, show your face, and let people know you are a walking talking English teaching machine!

    Where Should I Go To Find Jobs Teaching English In China?

    The million dollar question. With so many places to see and so many jobs ads to read, choosing a location can be a daunting task. If you are fully qualified, armed with a degree and a TEFL qualification, you are hot property. Living in China can be a real blast and there’s many teaching opportunities out there right now. Do you research. Check out this article by Travel Dave to learn a few of the basics about China before you head on out there. If you fancy teaching English elsewhere, check out these options… 

    Jobs Teaching English In Europe

    Looking out over the river from the Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic
    Prague is a wonderful city to call home
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    Europe offers some fantastic opportunities for summer camps and training courses, which gives you a taste of how life can be as a TEFL teacher. Whether you prefer the Mediterranean coast, medieval Balkan architecture or Alpine mountain ranges, Europe has great choices for any new TEFL Teacher. Working from Europe will let you earn a fair wage and the bathrooms will come with a bidet. All the food is covered in cheese and you’re never far from someone that speaks English. You will have to fork out 8.5 Euros for a Heinsenberg de Blanche though, or which ever luxury beer is on tap.

    Jobs Teaching English In The Middle East

    Looking up at the Burj Khalifa from the ground with metal dandelion sculptures in the foreground.
    Dubai is an expat hub in the Middle East.
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    The Gulf States in the Middle East have very high standards for their teachers and will require credentials and experience. With the quality of life as high as its skyscrapers here, one can really enjoy the life of a high roller by teaching English. Working in an Islamic country can potentially restrict you though. You’ll have to pay closer attention to stricter rules on alcohol consumption and clothing. Follow the rules, do not disrespect, and you will find yourself in a comfortable position indeed. However, if it’s relentless nightlife and crazy behaviour you’re after, you may want to think about other destinations.

    Jobs Teaching English In Asia

    A pagoda stands tall over the streets of Kyoto, Japan.
    Wonderful Japan
    Photo: @audyscala

    Asia is the king of TEFL opportunities right now. South East Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia all have countless groups looking for English teachers. However the pay is not as enticing as the far eastern countries and recently they are a little stricter with qualifications. Most positions now require a Bachelor’s degree at the very least to be considered. With the amount of tourists in and out of these countries it’s only natural that they bring in stricter guidelines. Teaching in countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan offer fantastic opportunities for budding English teachers. The standard of life to living expenses ratio makes these destinations very attractive.

    Jobs Teaching English In China

    Nic climbing in Yangshuo, Guilin, China.
    China has heaps of adventure activities too!
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    Without a doubt, the real goldmine is jobs teaching English in China. China is gigantic with an exciting and unique mixture of ancient and futuristic. It is still a relatively cheap place to live in comparison to your wage and your money can stretch to substantial lengths. Food is cheap! You can fill your belly with the change in your pocket and still have enough left for a deck of cigarettes. Nightlife in the city is vibrant and often free if you are foreign, not to mention you are spoilt for choice for travel destinations.

    Western culture is adored and they have the most active English speakers in the world living here! The standard is low though: this is where you come in! You can find jobs teaching English in China on the white sandy beaches of tropical island Hainan, in the wild woodlands of Inner Mongolia, see the Pandas in their natural habitat in Sichuan or soak in the ancient culture in Beijing. Wherever you decide to locate yourself, make sure you choose a trusted company that will ensure you are comfortable in your new surroundings. If you are a graduate with any sort of TEFL training, you can expect to start on about 12,000 RMB (about £1,200) with accommodation provided.

    Once you have one year of experience, your pay packet will get a generous boost. My friends at Laowai Here will let you know each and every detail you need to know for your new life in the orient.

    Resources For Jobs Teaching English In China

    Teaching English is a gateway to a new life. Whether you want to make a career or you just want to fund your travels, jobs teaching English in China are waiting for you! To gain a better insight on how people adjust to their new lives as teachers, check out Nomadic Matt, Scott’s experiences in his first two weeks in China.

    There’s a great selection of books that you should read too, to be inspired and prepared for your TEFL adventure! Check out:

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      So What Do I Do Now?

      Ok, so you’ve read the guide, you’re feeling pumped and you’re ready for these jobs teaching English in China! Woohoo! Follow these simple instructions and you will be on your way to newer pastures and brighter horizons in no time.

      1. Get yourself a TEFL certificate. You need it! Remember that all Broke Backpacker readers get 50% off MyTEFL with the code PACK50 at checkout!
      2. Read up on teaching English by investing in some good books!
      3. Pimp your resume. Make a solid CV that shows employers you are worth their time and money.
      4. Sign up to job boards and newsletters from TEFL companies.
      5. Upload your CV with a smiley photo to TEFL sites.
      6. Record a short demo video. Make a simple class plan (for example if can be about colours, shapes, numbers) and record yourself teaching. When speaking with agents, if you have no previous experience, they will often ask for a short demo video.
      7. Sit back and watch the jobs teaching English in China roll in. Listen to all offers but think very carefully as to which destination you feel you will be comfortable in. Take into account living expenses, potential opportunities, weather, lifestyle etc.
      8. ALWAYS research the company/agent which you are speaking with. I cannot stress this point enough.
      9. Read any paperwork thoroughly and then read it again. If there is anything which seems to be confusing or contradictory, ask questions and ensure everything is clear. Make sure that every aspect will be catered for and that you are happy with the overall deal. It never hurts to ask for more, the worst that anybody can say is no.
      10. Make a decision and don’t look back. You’ve spent a while haggling and bargaining with agents from all over the world but you’ve made your decision. Always familiarise yourself with a little of the culture before you embark on your voyage. If you are not a well travelled individual prior to this, you may be in for a big surprise.
      11. Research the rules, the customs, the food, the lifestyle and of course if you can, learn a few words or phrases in the local tongue. I recommend Earworms if you love music! 
      12. Your training is complete. Pack your bag, put on your corduroy jacket with the elbow patches, the world is yours, there are minds to mould. You are now ready to travel, teach, earn and learn! Go get it!
      Nic standing on a street with a traditional Chinese gate behind them in Pingyao, China.
      Exploring the charming town of Pingyao, Shanxi
      Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

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      About the Author


      Joe is on the wrong side of 25 with a short attention span and a hairy chest. He’s a part time freelancer, amateur camera clicker, spiritually unclaimed art dabbler, inhaler of food, herbal enthusiast, believer of karma, unkempt vagabond, bedroom DJ and an outdoorsy type with a strong desire to try things. From the green grasses of Cardiff, Wales, UK he’s always late and not necessarily fashionably. Currently teaching English in China.