How Can I Teach English in China without a Degree?

By Havvah Holl

Teachers looking to move abroad will soon become familiar with China’s massive job market for TEFL teachers. With an almost absurdly large number of students who want to learn English, China is constantly hiring teachers, and offering great benefits to entice teachers to make the move. This demand gives China the unique distinction of being a country with a high savings potential, whether or not you have a university degree. It is key to understand the issue of visas, and that those without a degree may need to be more persistent and flexible in their job search.  Also, holding citizenship from a native English-speaking country, and getting a TEFL certification can both be important in most cases. 

Understanding Visas is Key to Teaching English in China without a College Degree

The vast number of English teaching jobs (an estimated 300+ million Chinese are learning English!) can make China seem like an easy choice for teachers without a degree, but it is important to keep one thing in mind. The Z visa is technically the only legal visa for TEFL teachers, and a Bachelor’s degree is a requirement to obtain a Z visa.

Wondering what a visa is?
Read this: What is a Visa & Do I Need One to Teach English Abroad?

Teaching English in China without a 4-year degree

So How Can You Teach English in China with No Degree?

China is a huge country, with a lot of bureaucracy and complicated relationships between schools and the government. This results in a large gray area in the operations of different schools throughout China, and leads some schools to routinely hire teachers on an alternate visa, such as an M or an F visa, which are often referred to as a business or interning visas. They may choose to do this for a number of reasons including high demand for teachers, the complexity and cost of the Z Visa process, or even the school’s relationship with the government. While these types of visas are not technically legal to teach on, they do allow the visa holder to live in China for an extended period of time. These visas can also be easier to obtain, making this a preferred option for some schools. Please keep in mind that while these are an option, we do not recommend that you work in China on a tourist visa. 

The prospect of working illegally in China is understandably daunting for many prospective teachers, but the practice is quite common. It is important to thoroughly vet schools that are offering this as an option, but it can open many doors for teachers that may not meet the traditional Z visa requirements.

More Tips for Getting a Job Teaching English in China with No Degree

  • Get Your TEFL Certification - Earning an accredited TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification will provide you with the skills and qualification you need to get hired as an English teacher and to succeed in providing your students with the quality educational experience they deserve. To learn more about your options, check out these links:

    - 7 Key Tips for Evaluating a TEFL/TESOL School 

    - TEFL Class Index - Learn about accredited TEFL classes online & in 25 locations worldwide.

    - 170-Hour Online TEFL Certification - This is by far the most popular TEFL certification option for those looking to teach English in China.
  • Be Patient, Persistent & Flexible - China is a vast nation with tens of thousands of language schools seeking to hire English teachers. Finding the right job can take some patience, especially if you don't have a degree. Research and apply for multiple jobs and don't hesitate to look beyond the most famous cities like Beijing & Shanghai.
  • Do Your Homework & Research -  The more you learn about China as a country and as a job market for teaching English, the smoother your job search will go.

Great resources to start with include:

 - CHINA PROFILE - Review the China Country Profile, which provides a detailed overview of teaching English in China. 

 - TRAVEL RESOURCES: Check out travel videos, blogs,  and articles about living and traveling in China, including guidebooks like the Lonely Planet. This will help you learn about different cities and regions where you can teach, in addition to providing your with info on Chinese history, culture and practical travel tips.

- JOB SEARCH GUIDANCE (for enrolled ITA students & Alumni): Once you enroll in your TEFL class, take full advantage of ITA's Job Search Guidance Resources, including webinars, school finders, connections with recruiters, job boards, how-to-get-a-job guides, and the opportunity to work one-on-one with our expert Student Affairs representatives who possess years of experience helping ITA grads get jobs teaching English in China.

- CHINA ALUMNI FACEBOOK GROUP - Enrolled ITA students and graduates can share perspectives, questions and job tips on our exclusive Alumni China Facebook Group. Only enrolled students & alumni can post, but anybody can check out the conversation for great perspectives from folks who are teaching English in China or are planning to go.

Alumni Stories: Teaching English in China

Here are some great first-hand accounts from International TEFL Academy graduates who are teaching English in China with no college degree.

Check out more Q&As, articles, blogs & videos from ITA graduates teaching English in China in our Asia Alumni Stories.


Want to Learn More about Teaching English in China & Around the World?

Request a free brochure or call 773-634-9900 to speak with an expert advisor about all aspects of teaching English in Asia and around the world, including TEFL certification, the hiring process, salaries, visas and more.

Related Resources:

About the Author: Havvah Holl

A native Midwesterner, Havvah bought a one-way ticket to China in 2007 and ended up teaching English in Kunming for 3 years. In addition to helping hundreds of ITA students gain employment abroad each year as Manager of the Student Affairs Department, Havvah is an active member of ITA's Alumni & Charity departments.

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