The short answer? Yes!  It is possible to teach English in China without a degree.  The long answer is that it’s not always legal and it’s not without its risks (though it is quite common).  Let’s unpack the details to see how it works and how to keep an eye out for a job that’s right for you.

Interested in other countries?  Here’s a full rundown of everywhere you can teach without a degree.

Looking for more on China?  See who’s hiring or check out our guide for more requirements, visa information, etc.

Can You Still Get a Visa?

In my opinion, the biggest risks to those teaching in China without degrees is not having the correct visa – as we discussed in the visa requirements section, a Z visa is required to teach legally in China.  However, in order to get a Z visa, you have to meet a strict set of requirements and usually, that includes a 4-year degree.  Because of this, most jobs that don’t require a degree will offer you a tourist or business visa – again, this is not uncommon, but it is a risk.

If the school is able to get you a Z visa then it’s much easier, but it’s still a good idea to be cautious and make sure the visa is for you and your school (and not another branch, etc).

Be Persistent in the Job Hunt

China has an astronomical number of English language schools and hundreds of ESL jobs are posted every day.  Many English schools in China will gladly hire a non-credentialed native English speaker.  Be persistent in your search for a school that will hire you without a four-year degree.  Also be sure to do your research- don’t just jump blindly into any school that sends you an offer.  Read up about the school on internet forums if you can.  Ask for contact information for any previous teachers to ask about their experience.  If the school will not provide you with resources to do your research, be wary.  Keep searching.  There are a lot of schools in China.  

Complete ESL Teacher Training

Many TEFL or TESOL certification programs will require you to have at minimum a bachelor’s degree upon enrolling in the program.  However, there are other certification programs that do not require any degree and still provide thorough training, support, and proof of completion.  That proof will help you immensely in the search for an ESL job in China.

Related: The Best TEFL Courses in China

Pros of Teaching in China without a Degree

The obvious proof teaching without a degree is the money saved.  Without having to lose yourself in the endless spiral of student loans, heading off with your native speaking skills means more money earned for you.  The other good thing about teaching is the amount of time saved.  Let’s say you want to get into China asap to teach, but think you have to wait another four years after earning a degree, four years is a long time.

Cons of Teaching in China without a Degree

One of the biggest downsides of teaching without a degree is the limited opportunity.  There will be fewer schools that will hire you if you are lacking a four-year degree and you may make less money too.  You will have to contact schools directly, as if you go through a third-party agency, you will likely have to produce verification of a degree.  Agencies have pros and cons of their own, but they can be incredibly helpful in helping you find a teaching job abroad.      

Is it Worth it?

Only you can answer this question!  It is easier to find work in China simply due to the overwhelming demand for native English speakers than in other countries.  There are many teachers who have jumped into the world of teaching English as a second language without a degree and have succeeded.  As with every job, fully research your options and talk to previous teachers to ensure you’ll be teaching at a reputable school, and come home from your time abroad with a positive review.

4 Responses

  1. I have an associate’s of applied science degree. However that does not meet the qualifications. I’ve been living in China for several years and I’ve decided to study for a BA in Chinese Culture and Language from Huaqiao university. This will be great in many ways but I’m not 100% sure that a BA earned in China would qualify for the Z visa. Do you have any idea? Thanks!

    1. Hi Micah – to be honest I’m not sure. Id contact a few schools and ask before investing the time and $$. Please let us know what you find out!

  2. If my husband were to get a job teaching in China (with a degree, traditional route), an d I came with him…would I be able to find a job under that visa (after I got there), or would I need to switch visas?

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