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Requirements and qualifications for a teaching position in China

Photo by Rex Pe

As the English-teaching market lacks a unified standard for recruiting foreign teachers, and consequently attracts many foreign hopefuls to China every year, the country has made a point of tightening the qualifications for hiring foreign teachers ever since the mid-2010s.

Beijing currently requires potential teachers to have a teacher certificate issued in their own country for those who want to teach classes other than English. Other big cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen also have a relatively high requirement for foreign teachers as there are many foreigners living there. The provincial cities and small cities, meanwhile, tend to have less strict requirements.


Requirements for Beijing

According to a notice issued by the Beijing Human Resource and Social Security Bureau, foreigners wanting to teach in Beijing have needed to meet the following requirements since October 31, 2014.

  1. Healthy, and not suffering any illnesses regarded as problematic for a teaching position by the Chinese government, including serious heart defects, HIV or contagious diseases, untreated mental illnesses or untreated cancer. Teachers generally only have to undergo the standard health examinations for foreign workers, which don’t check for some of these items, such as mental illnesses. It is possible, though rare, that a school will ask for further checks.
  2. With no criminal record. As the inspection tightens up, the employer or the labor bureau may require a Certificate of No Criminal Convictions.
  3. The age of the applicant should be between 18 and 60 years old.
  4. Needs to hold at least a Bachelor’s degree and two years’ working experience in related fields.
  5. Foreign teachers that teach anything other than the English language should have at least a five-year working experience in related fields.
  6. Foreign teachers that teach in pre-schools, middle schools, international schools or any educational training institutes should hold a teacher certificate or license obtained in their home country when applying for work permit in China. 
  7. If they have not obtained a teaching certificate or license in their own country, they should have one of the internationally recognized language teaching certificates, including TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) or TKT (Teacher Knowledge Test).


Requirements for other cities of China

The other cities in China generally observe the guidelines issued by China’s State Administration for Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA) regarding work permits. This means meeting items one to four of the Beijing requirements.

However, as the competition in the market is getting fiercer, holding an existing teaching certificate or license, or – especially – any of the internationally recognized teaching certificates, would give you an edge over the competition.

The rule of hiring foreign teachers also varies from place to place, especially in small cities where there are few foreigners but the demand for foreign teachers remains high. The requirements might be lowered, as the SAFEA guidelines use the word “should” instead of “must”, and there has been a great deal of “flexible” interpretation across provinces regarding the minimum educational requirements. 


Useful Chinese words and phrases

外教 wài jiāo Foreign teacher
任职资格 rèn zhí zī gé Qualification
任职要求 rèn zhí yào qiú Requirement
北京人力资源与社会保障局 běi jīng rén lì zī yuán yǔ shè huì bǎo zhàng jú Beijing Human Resource and Social Security Bureau
工作经验 gōng zuò jīng yàn Working experience
教育背景 jiāo yù bèi jǐng Education
教师资格证 jiāo shī zī gé zhèng Teacher Certificate/License





Useful links

One of a number of websites about teaching English in China
The US Embassy’s notes on teaching in Beijing


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