Do I Need a TEFL Certificate to Teach in China?
A common question among English teachers moving abroad to teach is “Do I need a TEFL certificate to teach in China?” (“Do I need a degree to teach in China?” is also a pretty common question.)
The short answer: Yes, you need a TEFL certificate to teach in China.
What is a TEFL certificate?
A TEFL certificate is a professional qualification awarded upon completing a short course. It is an acronym standing for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and may also be called a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). The course covers everything from English grammar and lesson planning to teaching methods and classroom management.
The course awarding a TEFL certificate can be online, live in a class, or some combination of the two. The length will also vary with 60-hour, 120-hour, and 150-hour courses being the most common. The course may or may not include a teaching practical section in which a trainee has live classroom teaching assessed by an instructor.
To legally teach in China, a teacher needs to either have a 120-hour TEFL certificate or better. Alternatively, they can be enrolled in a TEFL course in China that they complete upon arrival.
You can also learn more here: Finding the Perfect TEFL Course.
Why is a TEFL certificate important?
Like any professional qualification, the TEFL certificate has a variety of functions in your teaching career. Here is a short list of how the certificate can benefit you directly, especially if you’re planning on getting a teaching job in China.
- It’s a visa requirement in some countries. To legally work in China as an English teacher, at a minimum you will need a passport from an eligible country (i.e. UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa), a university degree, and a 120-hour TEFL certificate. And even in those countries where it’s not a legal requirement, many of the best language schools will also require a certificate as a pre-requisite.
- It shows you’re serious. Let’s face it: teaching abroad is often used as a way to make some money while travelling the world on your gap year. This is fine for some people – and there are schools out there who don’t mind hiring those essentially on working vacations. If you’re serious about teaching abroad, even if only for a few years, then getting a TEFL certificate shows potential employers you’re serious. It makes it easier to get the higher paying jobs, even right out of university.
- There’s a lot of valuable information in a good TEFL course. A reputable, professional TEFL course is worth way more to you than just a path to a higher salary. It has to potential to also make you a better teacher to better serve your students. And the essential information found in the program can be either a solid foundation for new teachers or a helpful refresher to those who have already had a couple years in a classroom.
How do I get a TEFL certificate?
First, you’ll have to find a reputable TEFL course, so this may be helpful: What to Look For When Choosing a TEFL Course. As a summary, look for a course based on your needs following these basic guidelines.
- Always check and double check the course’s reputation. Not all TEFL courses are created equal, and since many offer commissions to 3rd-party salespeople, you could find an over-abundance of positive reviews. Check multiple sources before committing to a program.
- Be aware of your price threshold. A certificate makes it easier to get a job and makes it more likely that job will have a higher salary. It isn’t a guarantee, however. Make sure that whatever course you take that it’s not going to put you in the poorhouse.
- Choose the best course for your goals. Make sure that you are taking sufficient training for the career path you have in mind. You may want to take a look at this: TEFL or CELTA? Pros and Cons of Different Teaching Qualifications.
There are lots of great programs out there, but here at Saxoncourt we recommend ITTT as a reputable TEFL provider. They have various online programs, live training, and combined courses. And you can get discount through us.
Then it’s just a matter of completing the course and collecting your certificate. The course’s style will depend mostly on the medium through which it is delivered.
- Online TEFL courses will often be text-based with optional video, chat, and discussion support. Assignments and assessments will often rely more heavily on multiple-choice questions, though there are likely to be short answer sections handled by an instructor as well. These programs may or may not include the practicum (i.e. live assessed teaching) and rely heavily on the trainee’s own discipline, but the prices are often much more reasonable.
- Live TEFL courses will be set as a traditional class with lectures, in-class reinforcement activities, and assignments both in class as homework. These often include a practicum and other opportunities to have your various teaching skills assessed by an instructor. Live TEFL programs are usually significantly more expensive.
- Combined courses will mix elements of an online course with a live course, usually teaching theory online through self-study with reinforcement and assessment happening during in-class portions.
For the purpose of teaching English in China, all three of the course styles are valid and can provide a teacher with a legal work visa. The only requirement is that the certificate awarded clearly specifies that it is at least a 120-hour TEFL certificate. There are other course lengths and even other qualifications that are acceptable in China. For example, a CELTA is a higher-level qualification, and you can learn more about the two programs here: TEFL or CELTA? Pros and Cons of Different Teaching Qualifications.