Which qualification do I need to teach in China?

Going to China to teach is an exciting prospect and once you’ve decided it’s for you, it’s perfectly natural to just want to get on a plane and go. It’s an opportunity to experience a whole new culture, gain your independence or fulfil a lifelong dream. But before you go it’s important to prepare yourself fully. Of course, that means having all your travel documents ready, packing, budgeting and arranging farewells with family and friends. But it also means taking time to ensure you have the right qualification for what you want to do.


First off, due to regulation changes, it is no longer possible to teach English in China without a bachelor’s degree. Not all establishments require it to be in English or even in teaching, so it’s worth checking before you apply. Provided you have a bachelor’s degree, though, there will be opportunities for you to teach English in China so read on. 

Do I need QTS or PGCE to Teach English in China?


QTS (qualified teacher status) shows that you have met the statuary requirements to teach in the UK. A PGCE (postgraduate certificate in education) is an extra educational qualification which often includes QTS. It is not necessary to have either to teach English in China, but the UK education system is highly regarded around the world and for the more elite roles either will stand you in good stead. Indeed, for a most senior position in most schools, you would be required to hold either QTS or a PGCE.

To begin with, let’s clear up what some of the acronyms associated with teaching English abroad mean.


Teaching English as a Foreign Language – an industry acronym for teaching English in a foreign country and refers to training courses and certificates commonly required. 


Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages – used to refer to courses aimed at teaching English to non-native speakers in English-speaking countries. TESOL courses in the UK, Canada and Australia are regulated by their national governments and it is common for certificates to be issued which are recognised around the globe. In the US there is no TESOL regulation, so most courses aimed at teaching abroad, even in other English-speaking countries, are referred to as TEFL. 


Teaching English as a Second Language – allows you to teach English to those for whom English is not their first language. TESL most commonly refers to teaching English to non-native English speakers who are living in a country where English is the first language. 


Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults – a certificate exclusively awarded by Cambridge University’s, Cambridge English Assessment body but taught at numerous accredited schools and educational establishments all over the world. This is an intensive course comprising 120 hours of TEFL learning which trains you to teach English to adults. 


Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults – Also awarded by Cambridge English Assessment body but only available to qualified teachers with a minimum of 1-years’ teaching experience. 

Which Course is right for me?


Which course you choose will depend on a number of factors personal to you such as your budget, aspirations and long-term career goals. What you must do is make sure the course you take meets international standards laid down by the British Council. These include: 

  • A minimum of 100 hours of training and coursework (equivalent to a full-time 4-week intensive course) 
  • At least 6 hours of live practise teaching with ESL students 
  • The course is taught by experienced university-level instructors (with at least an MA in teaching English as a foreign language or linguistics, a DELTA or extensive professional training and English teaching experience) 
  • The course employs a curriculum that is accredited and externally monitored by a recognised independent organisation 

Creditable establishments offering TEFL courses can be found across the globe, but so can unreputable organisations offering courses at prices which seem too good to be true – because they are! While one of these cheaper alternatives may teach you something about TEFL and may even qualify you for some teaching roles, the vast majority of TEFL jobs across the world will not be available to you and those that do are likely to be at less desirable locations. It’s also worth noting that the quality of training you receive on non-accredited courses may be very poor and set you up to fail. One of the things to look out for is the support you will receive to find you a job once you are qualified. Most reputable companies will have advice and guidance to help you and some will have links with schools in China who they can recommend. 

Teaching in China is a wonderful experience and one that you will remember for the rest of your life. You’ve made the first crucial step in exploring the possibilities – now it’s time to chase that dream! 

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