Do I need a degree to teach English in China?

China covers a vast area of Asia and has a huge population of around 1.4 billion, so it is no surprise that it also has an insatiable demand for TEFL qualified teachers. However, many teachers who consider heading to China continue to ask the same question:

Is a degree required to teach legally in China?

Until recently the answer to this question was probably no, however, things have changed considerably in the last few years. Most individual employers are still unconcerned by a treacher’s academic background, but government restrictions now mean a degree is an official requirement for teachers when applying for a Z (work) visa. The Z visa is required by every teacher who wants to work legally in China, which means the answer to this question is now yes, a degree is required to teach legally.

Can I teach legally in China with any other type of visa?

Teachers who are not eligible for a Z (work) visa, are still free to visit China on a different visa such as an L (tourist) visa, an M (business) visa, or an X (study) visa. Due to the high demand for teachers some schools are happy to employ people with these visas, however, this is not legal and you are at risk of a big fine, deportation, and even a stint behind bars if you choose to go down this route. If you come across job adverts suggesting that it is fine to work on anything other than a Z visa in China you should ignore them and look elsewhere for the right destination to suit your qualifications.

Why are some schools happy to employ people without a Z visa?

In many areas of China there is a shortage of eligible teachers which means that recruitment companies and individual schools will go to great lengths to fill their vacancies, including hiring teachers without the necessary credentials to work legally. These employers will take the risk of hiring teachers without the correct visa as they figure the chances of them getting caught are very small as the authorities have such a huge number of schools and other establishments to cover. Indeed, many teachers are able to work unhindered for long periods, but the consequences for those that do get caught make this a gamble that is not recommended.

How else can I work in China without a degree?

If you have your heart set on teaching in China but do not have a degree there is another legal option you can try. The X (student) visa is relatively easy to obtain and it allows you to work part-time in an internship role. The pay for this type of position is not very high, but it is still possible to get by while gaining a good amount of valuable classroom experience. If you qualify for the X (student) visa it will be valid for six months, although you might have the option to extend this in some cases.