Chang studied Chinese under his father and private tutors. He attended the Peiyang Naval Academy since 1888 and graduated after five years’ study.
Chang Po-ling joined the navy and served on a training ship for two years. He was engaged as a private tutor at the homes of Yen Hsiu (a noted scholar of Tientsin) and Wang Kuei-chang (Tientsin salt merchant) and these two private schools which he conducted were eventually to become the present Nankai University at Tientsin.
Mr. Chang went to Japan with Yen Hsiu in 1903 to study the Japanese educational system. Upon return, he started a middle school in Mr. Yenvs house by the combination of the two private schools. Chang Po-ling travelled to America and Europe to study educational systems in 1908 and became a Christain in the same year.
He re-visited America in 1917 and spent a year and half at Columbia University Teachers' College, specializing in education. In the winter of 1918，he started, in addition to the middle school, a collegiate department which is now known as the Nankai University.
With the financial help of Li Chuan, Yuan Shih-kai, Lu Mou-chaif the Rockerfeller Foundation and the China Foundation, the University and the Middle School grewn to their present size. Since the founding of the University, a girls middle school and an elementary school were added to the Nankai Institutions; he was responsible for the organization and growth of this “chain of schools’’ the total enrollment of which reached 2500 in the 30s of the 20th century.
Besides Nankai, Chang Po-ling served on the boards of several other educational institutions. He was always particularly interested in physical education and athletics in China.
Mr. Chang served as a trustee of the China Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture from 1924 till 1925. He was a member of the Peiping Political Council.
Mr. Chang was noted for his emphasis on athletics, which he believed would rid China of its image as the 'Sick man of Asia' in the early 1900s, quoting that 'only a good sportsman can be a good teacher'. Chang Po-ling established a number of annual national athletic meets and the forerunner to the modern Chinese Olympic Committee. He established several smaller institutions, including a girls middle school (1923), experimental primary school (1928), institute of economics (1927), and of chemistry (1932).