There seems to be too much misinformation floating around as to what is really required to teach ESL or TEFL in China at present. For instance, we have found over 20,000 posts online at various ESL & TEFL & TESOL forums and message boards insisting that you "MUST" have a TEFL or TESOL certificate to teach in China. This is simply a false statement, but the repetition of this statement all over the internet and echoed by the many recruiters who are sales agents for the TEFL & TESOL training companies, makes it believable. One Chinese user at Yahoo "Answers" named "May" put up over 9,000 posts in the last three years spreading this lie. Considering that she probably earns a $100 commission for everyone she enrolls into a TEFL or TESOL Training program, May must be pretty wealthy by now. But "May" is not alone, there are literally hundreds people just like May working for 19 different TEFL and TESOL training companies that use the same lie to enhance their sales.
So for the record, according to SAFEA (the official Chinese government agency that regulates the employment of foreign workers in China) below are the ONLY official requirements to teach in China:
1) A bachelor degree from an accredited university
2) A minimum of 2 years previous work experience
3) Minimum 21 years of age
4) A police certificate confirming no criminal record
5) A valid passport and a work visa (Z visa)
Additionally the schools and universities will insist on their own requirement of "English Fluency". Until July of 2013, these above requirements were not strictly enforced and thousands of teachers circumvented the requirements by entering China to work on a tourist, business, or student visa. Today in 2014 however, enforcement has gone from one extreme (lax) to the other (very strict) and there is zero tolerance. Recently, over 1,600 foreigners were arrested, fined an average of $2,000 and expelled from China, with a 3-5 reentry ban, even though some of them are actually married to Chinese nationals. See:
Now the TEFL/TESOL sellers are also using other lies to sell their certification programs that include the following - all of which are FALSE STATEMENTS:
* Most all the schools in China will not hire you if you do not have a TESOL or TEFL certificate. (In truth of the 19,239 schools/learning centers in China that hire foreign teachers, only 393 of them require TEFL or TESOL certificates, and 278 of these schools require thatyou buy training programs that they themselves sell!)
* If you do not have a TESOL or TEFL certificate you will only get the crappy jobs that pay less tha 10,000 yuan per month. (In truth 98% of the schools that hire in China do not even ask if you have a TESOL or TEFL certificate).
* There is a new law starting next month that will require every foreign teacher to have a TEFL or TESOL certificate. (a clever fabrication)
* If you do not have the 2 years working experience, a TEFL or TESOL certificate is a substitute for that requirement. (A blatant lie)
* If you do not not have a degree in Education the schools require that you have a TESOL or TEFL certificate. (Although this sounds logical it is also a lie)
* You will earn a much higher salary in China if you have a TEFL or TESOL certificate. (We actually did a survey on this issue in 2013 and found that the only teachers who make more money than others are those holding a degree in Education, ESL, or are AP certified)
You simply do not need to have any TEFL or TESOL certificate to teach in China as any "REQUIREMENT".
Now then, have cleared the air on the " China teacher requirement" issues, we will say that taking a TEFL or TESOL training program is a good idea if you have never taught English before. About half of the expat teachers now working in China are not really qualified to teach from the perspective of experience and academic credentials. These are the teachers that would clearly benefit form a TEFL or TESOL program.
But in this regard, there are only two such training programs whose certificates are recognized and accepted around the world (the Cambridge CELTA and The TESOL Institute program). MOst all the other programs issue you certificates that are only recognized and accepted in very small and poor countries like Haiti, Guatemala, Somalia, etc.) And online programs are not going to make you a better teacher in 120 hours no matter how diligent your efforts are. If you choose to take TEFL or TESOL training, we urge you to do so in a live classroom environment where you can actual role-play and interact with real students or instructors.