Teaching English in Chengdu

Chengdu, like every major city in China, is abound with teaching opportunities for the native English speaker who is so inclined.

Usually you can find contact information for schools here in China online, in which case you can contact them directly and try to establish an agreement for a contract and visa sponsorship. First pick the city you’re interested in, then just search for schools on Google. Schools in the East of China, near Beijing and Shanghai, tend to pay better but the cost of living out there is also much higher. I believe Hong Kong also has abound with opportunities and pays handsomely. Korean schools tend to have an exceptional pay rate, but also tend to require more of their foreign teachers. I have a friend who used to teach at a Korean school in Wuxi (near Shanghai) making 13,000RMB (almost $2000 a month) monthly, although the work load was definitely above average for teaching in China.

Here in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan province, the average foreign teacher makes about 6,000 RMB, or just under US$1,000 a month for a 20 class hours per week schedule. However, once settled and your IKEA runs have ceased, it’s quite a luxurious life if you spend even 5,000 RMB a month.

There are a few different types of teaching jobs here in Chengdu:

1. You can work with a company that will send you to public and private schools in your area. The upside is that you only have to work for about 20 hours a week. The downside is that traveling from home to school, plus not really having anywhere to go for your breaks, makes this a weak upside. I started with a company that ran like this, paying 5K RMB a month. Not really worth it, and you end up teaching 20 separate classes of sometimes up to 40 students, from grade 3-11, and it’s rough going sometimes. You can design your own curriculum, but they give you the books you need to teach from.

2. Another type of English teaching company pays well, but you have to stay in the office from 1-9PM 5 days a week, and there is no fixed weekly schedule. In these types of schools, you teach students that are usually aged over 15, all the way up to corporate executives, ocassionally in a one-to-one teaching environment. You get to build better and more interesting relationships with your students, and avoid feeling like a worthless teacher after you teach a class of sweaty 13yrolds just after their gym class, who A) have no respect for teachers who cant speak Chinese B) Don’t want to be there C) and think that your class is a joke. Unlike the other type of school above (1), these schools are specifically for learning English, so you are respected and the people there (aside from the kids who are just forced by their parents, which are a minority) all want to be there. In the school above (1), you are a conversational English teacher primarily just there for public relations and publicity. These schools generally have a pay scale that falls between 7,500 RMB (NDI English School) to 10,000 RMB monthly (Web English School).

3. Another possibility that you may prefer is a university position. If you can get a job with a university, they will often pay for at least the plane ticket home after the completion of a one-year contract, provide on campus housing, and give you the freedom to design your own curriculum. They provide paid vacations and usually require a 13-15 hour weekly commitment  for 10 classes or so, usually paying 3,000+ RMB a month.

4. You can commute out to a small town outside of the city (usually over an hour commute), and I’ve been paid up to 200 RMB + transportation costs per class, but these gigs are more elusive.

5. All of the options I’ve mentioned don’t require a teaching certificate or a expert license. If you have these, or training qualifications like TOEFL, SAT, and Kaplan, you can find better paying positions, but, as I don’t have these qualifications, I’m not sure about the details. I met a gentleman who was a certified TOEFL teacher and he would get flown to different cities on the weekends, hotel + transport + stipend with 5,000 RMB monthly for a weekend lecture series, but this is an unusual position to hold.

6. Freelance. This is usually done on an F visa, where you buy your own visa every 3-6 months and teach whenever and wherever you want or are able to.

Visas and Teaching English:

This is getting harder and harder to deal with although the situation has improved slightly since 2008’s Olympics in Beijing. To get anything other than a Tourist Visa, you need an invitation letter from a sponsor inside China. You can come to China on a tourist visa, find a company to work for, and then have them take care of your next visa, which will either be an F (Business) Visa or a Z (Work) Visa. You cannot legally receive money for work on an F visa, however many people ignore this and get jobs anyway. The only problem comes when you need to renew your visa, in which case you need to either find a “visa company” to help you convert to a different visa, or leave China (Hong Kong is a popular destination for mainland visas) and re-enter on a new tourist visa. Americans pay the highest visa application price at over 900 RMB (Almost 150USD) for a tourist visa with one month duration. If you can get that Z visa with a company sponsoring you, you can get a visa good for up to two years. If you enroll in a university as a student, you can get a student visa, and then you can work legally up to eight hours weekly. Tuition at a university costs about 5-6,000 RMB a semester and slightly more at well known schools like Sichuan University. Go online to check the new Chinese visa regulations before you go.

In conclusion, I’d like to say that as far as teaching goes: small towns are difficult. Big cities can be fun to live and work in, but its easy to lose yourself in a sea of foreigners. The North is cold and dry in the winter and the South is hot and sweaty. Chengdu lies on the unfortunately area between latitudes determined to not require central heating; Yunnan is beautiful, Taiwan is better, but expensive and small.

Good luck!

34 thoughts on “Teaching English in Chengdu”

  1. That’s a very extensive list. You can ask private students for higher rates if you have a half-way professional setup. Rent an apartment with a spare to use as a classroom (a large whiteboard on the wall with basic IKEA tables and chairs). If students come to you, then there’s no wasted travel time.

  2. Nice article. Agree with Reed. You can generally get a good pay rate from private students compared to working for a company. The down side is that there is no way to judge how many students you can get, and whether they are reliable. If you’re gonna teach privately get deposits from your students at the beginning of their study. Cash by class could leave you with nothing as Chengdu natives are known to be lazy compared to those from other places in China.

  3. Hi Andrew,

    I’m planning to move to CD in a few months’ time, would appreciate it if you could furnish me with the details of getting a place with the private schools.

    Best Regards

    • Hey Chris,

      Andrew has been out of Chengdu for some time now so I don’t think he’ll see your message. But if you check in the forum (www.chengduforum.com) you’ll find there are private schools looking for teachers right now. Good luck-

  4. Working a few hours away from Chengdu, I do weekend trips into the city though. I earn about 20k RMB a month. Interesting what these ESL schools offers.

    • Hi Jack,

      I was originally born in Chengdu, and moved to the States when I was 8. I’m interested in going back to Chengdu for a short-term (6 months to 1 year) to live/teach English. Just out of curiosity, which city nearby Chengdu do you reside, and what do you do for a living making 20K RMB a month? If teaching English, according to my research, that is quite high of salary!

      Look forward to your reply!

        • Thanks Charlie for your last reply.

          Hey, so I’ve been told that the people who hire English teachers are usually pretty biased based on skin color/nationality/gender. I moved to the US when I was 8 and therefore speak perfect English with no accent. I also speak Mandarin and Sichuan dialect fluently. However, is that a con when looking for a English teaching job? People say the hiring parties usually prefer white blondes (particularly females, lol). They also prefer teachers that don’t speak Chinese so the students can have a more immersed environment. Do you think the fact that I’m a native-speaker having a Chinese face will decrease my going-rate?

          • I wouldn’t be too worried about it. It could make things slightly more difficult but I know other Asian Americans who are teaching english in Chengdu without issue. It might be a little bit more work, but the conditions for Asian Americans finding teaching work is dramatically better now from even a few years ago according to what I’ve heard.

  5. Do you have a typical timeline of how the teaching process works for someone new to the field? For example: application deadline, school academic calendars, etc.

    Since this was written nearly 3 years ago, where would be the best place for someone with no certifications to look for a job that can provide good benefits/compensation?

    • Hi Zifan,

      Timelines tend to vary school by school, but English teaching is a non-stop business that’s always looking for new teachers. I think the best place to find jobs is to actually be in Chengdu, rather than seek them out online. I suggest you check the Chengdu Forum for more information.

  6. Wow Charlie, I’m super impressed at your speedy response lol. Appreciate the tip! I will definitely look into that website.

    Unfortunately, I am not physically in Chengdu despite my desires. I totally get what you mean though, as I find it more difficult to get jobs even in a different state. Hopefully I could find something online to afford me a trip to and a job in that awesome city.

    If I were to have connections in Chengdu who could reach out to schools or other employers for me, do you think it is likely for someone with only a Bachelors degree (in engineering too) to be qualified for the stable, full-time jobs you listed 3 years ago?

    • There are a few problems with echina and such- firstly, IF you register they will be selling your information online. Secondly, even if you don’t register, if you’ve sent your information to any agents they could sell your information- and they will be calling you all the time. Thirdly, there is no way that you’ll be able to understand the school or make a final decision about working there until you go there in person and maybe try it out for a day. (well unless you’re not that picky and you just stick it out no matter what).

      I had one school that looked good on paper, talked with the owner and we had similar views on teaching. BUT (as I’ve been teaching here for over 10 years) I decided that I wanted to have a ‘trial run’ before signing the contract. Luckily I did this, because it ended up to be a teacher’s prison camp! I worked a different school everyday, had at least an hour commute everyday, AND no breaks between classes! It wouldn’t have been as hard as it was if they were older kids but the school did a bait and switch- and threw me in with a bunch of 4-6 year olds for 5 hours (again- no breaks at all). By the end of the day my throat was sore and my back hurt from all the stooping. Needless to say I had to decline their invitation.

      Yeah you run the risk of not being paid for a couple of days work but it might save you a lot of trouble- and a fight with the school. So going online to find a school is fine but understand that it’s probably in your best interest to go in person to follow up and make sure- never sign a contract until you’re sure.

  7. Hi guys,

    I have a question, I’ll appreciate if anyone can help me with some information.

    I’m considering to come to Chengdu in April-May 2016, I would like to work as English teacher, but I’m not a native speaker, I’m from east Europe, is it a problem?

    Second question, One of my 2 native languages is Russian, is it on demand there? And can I be a bilingual teacher?

    Last 2 years I spend in Middle east, I have no teaching experience, but fairly good English, an Ielts certificate would be enough ?

    • Hi Grigore,

      It won’t be as easy for you to find a job as it would for a native speaker, but if you are white, you will probably be able to pull it off. I haven’t heard of any demand for Russian language teachers in Chengdu before.

      To be legally employed as a teacher, you will need at least a bachelors degree. This rule is frequently broken, but just realize that you will be outside of the law. An IELTS certificate will help.

      Take care and good luck.

  8. hi u guys here,i’m a native chinese who is running a private communication community in CD where we need some native english speakers to teach english,please contact me if u had any interest

  9. Please Charlie I need your urgent help. I’m a non native speaker from Nigeria. I have a degree in Education English with two years of teaching experience. I also have an ielts certificate. Some how ,I got an offer to teach in chengdu. They said 40 hours per week,the pay is 6k-8k. (With shared apartment,1 bath,washing machine, internet, tv and visa) . Please I would like to know if this is a good offer or am I being cheated on?
    Thou I don’t understand if they meant two bedroom for me or just one for me and one for my roommate? Thanks while I wait for your response.

  10. Thanks Charlie, I appreciate. Please can I catch up with you on wechat for further enquiries? ID candyshop82 thanks

  11. Very interesting article. I have a friend in Chengdu who is looking for an English class to attend. she is a beginner and has found the lessons in private are way to expensive for her retirement income. Can anyone tell me where she might find a group class in Chengdu which would likely be less expensive.
    Thanks in advance.

  12. hey..i am searching an English teaching job in chengdu..i am studying in sichuan university..fluent in Chinese..if have opportunity let me know..thanks..here is my wechat..mamunalabdullah


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