Before You Sign a TEFL Contract

There are many factors to consider before signing a TEFL contract in Asia. To set yourself up with the best prospects and bargaining rights you should have the following:

1.     A Bachelor’s Degree (in any field)

2.     A TEFL Certification – this can be obtained from any online or school program,    there’s no need to shell out a ton of money, as TEFL is not regulated.

3.     A Native-English Speaking Passport

Note, if you do not have one of the above, many schools and tutoring centers will still hire you if you are already in the country. However, they will likely be forging paperwork to hire you on a contract. I do not recommend signing on with these businesses.

The Chinese government, in particular, has been cracking down hard on businesses doing this. I’ve heard several horror stories of teachers showing up to work just to find the place shutdown and others waiting on paychecks for months.

Now, if you have the above three, let’s talk details.

Location 101

Renown cities, like Shanghai, and businesses, like  EF, have a large base pay and are usually reliable. However, the workload is heavy, the teaching standardized, and the cost-of-living high.

Small towns will often also have high salaries with far more freedoms in the teaching arena, but they can be isolating. In Asia, it should be known that very few people speak English in the countryside. If you are hoping to pick up the native tongue though, this could be a great choice for you.

Universities and other public schools provide ideal social environments for teachers, but unfortunately are unable to compensate you at a competitive rate. My personal preference is small, yet established businesses in lesser known cities, like my alma matter, Xi’an.

Salary and Working Hours

When I left Xi’an, a competitive hourly wage was between 150 to 225 yuan per hour. Salaried teachers worked around 20 teaching hours a week and still made around the same amount per hour. This needs to be in your contract, along with when and how you will get paid.

Note, 20 teaching hours should be considered full-time. Do not sign a contract which will require you to work more than 25 teaching hours a week. I’ve heard first-hand of teaching centers telling foreigners they need to teach at a different school occasionally to build up enough hours to obtain a teaching certificate. It’s not necessary and you do not need to do this. Far from it, any hours outside of your contracted hours are over-time and should also be getting paid.

Teaching Options

The options are endless on who you teach and how many students you wish to have at a time. Virtually any tutoring center offers one-on-one classes, small classes and larger classes. Likewise, there will be toddlers, adults, and everything in between, eager to learn.

Be sure to ask who you will likely be teaching and state your preference. If this is your first time teaching and you have no idea, go with the flow, variety has always been my favorite. There are pros and cons to all. If you are set on a certain age group or classroom size, try to incorporate it in your contract.

If your first lead does not seem to fit your style, keep looking! There are an amplitude of English teaching positions, one is bound to be a good fit for you.

Negotiating Contract Bonuses

Most contracts do require you to purchase your one-way ticket there, but upon completion of your contract (usually one year) the company will give you a generous bonus to cover your return flight. I never encountered a job offer which did not include this. So be sure to ask for this if it is not offered.

A housing allowance or apartment should be provided and a good employer will absolutely provide you with health insurance and time-off. Try to haggle on this last one as you will want to travel often in Asia ;).

Utilize Social Media

Lastly, there are hundreds of expat groups filled with teachers on social media, be sure to ask around about a school or tutoring center before signing. WeChat is huge in Asia and I always saw job offers and feedback floating around in groups.

If you are unsure of how to find these groups ask your potential employer if they can put you in touch with another teacher, they will most likely know of a group or two and will be able to send you a link to join.

These teachers may be a great resource, but be cautious of what they say as you may be the one taking over their breached contract. There are occasionally penalties for breaking a contract, so you should definitely ask about this as well.


Please add any additional tips or questions in the comment box and I will look forward to reading them.


Safe travels and signing millennials!

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