So you’re on the fence about teaching in China, here are a few things you should know.
There are a few different options open to you when it comes to teaching, let’s break it down.
Public vs. Private
- Public schools are government run schools. Usually at these schools you will only work an average of 20 hours per week but you won’t be paid as much. Public schools observe all the national holidays and usually give you 1-2 days off for Christmas. You will have long summer and winter holiday breaks (although you won’t be paid for summer and may only get half salary for winter). In cities like Shanghai and Beijing these jobs are difficult to get unless you have previous teaching experience. Universities, vocational schools, middle schools, high schools, and primary schools all fall into this category. These schools will usually provide you with housing or a housing allowance.
- Private schools are privately owned and operated schools. These are the schools that you often need to look out for in terms of legitimacy as quite a few people have had issues with pay, visas, etc at schools like this. You can make sure the school is legitimate by running a Google search on the name and location of the school and words like “review” or “teacher” to see what pops up about it. If someone has had a bad experience at one of these schools they’ll usually let the internet know about it. Another good place to find out information is Dave’s ESL Café. At private schools you tend to work 40+ hours per week, some of these are teaching hours and some are office hours. Training schools and kindergartens are part of this category. These schools will often not provide housing but may offer a small housing stipend, this varies from school to school.
Choose an age group you’re interested in working with. I find that children are not my cup of tea so I’ve avoided taking jobs with kindergartens and primary schools. Jobs working with small children tend to pay the best though.
Next, realize that you’re probably not going to be making as much money as you would in your native country. However, depending on the city you’re living in, everyday life is pretty cheap and you can survive on spending just a few RMB a day. It’s even possible to save money (gasp!). The average salary for a public school job for a first year teacher is 5,000rmb (785.67usd) per month. Please keep in mind that you won’t have to pay rent, that mobile phone bills are very cheap (100rmb can usually last a few weeks on a pay as you go phone), and that a meal in a second tier city costs anywhere from 5rmb to 50rmb depending on the restaurant. Every year that you’re at the school you can negotiate a raise into your next years contract.
Private schools salary ranges from 9,000rmb to 15,000rmb depending on the city and hours worked. If you have a private job you probably will have to pay rent, in a second tier city that’s about 1500-3000rmb per month and in a first tier city can be between 2000-5000rmb per month.
You may be wondering what I mean by “tiers” when I talk about the cities. Chinese cities are ranked based on their facilities, GDP, size, and various other factors as to what tier they are. Cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou are considered first tier cities. These cities have the most western conveniences, are bigger, and more expensive than second and third tier cities. If you think that you just can’t live without access to cheese (yes, really) and a variety of western food (other than McDonalds and KFC which are EVERYWHERE) then you need to stay in a second tier city or (preferably) above. If you can “rough it” i.e. live without western conveniences for awhile then you could probably be fine in a third tier city. Don’t go to a village. Seriously. It’s even too rough for Chinese teachers in villages and they’ve taken to recruiting Chinese college students to work at the schools there because no one else wants to go.
*Unless you have at least two years teaching experience it is extremely difficult to get a public school teaching position in a first tier city. Plenty of private school teaching positions available though.
I worked in a third tier city in Jiangxi Province for two years. There were two McDonalds and one Walmart which is nothing like Walmart in America. An average of 20 foreigners lived in the entire city. No cheese.
After that I moved on to a second tier city where there were two stores that sold cheese (neither being Walmart), three western foreign food restaurants, and a plethora of foreigners. Needless to say, my living quality and social life improved quite a lot.
Whatever city you decide to go to, do your research! Learn about the city, see what there is to do there, read blogs about the place. Know what you’re getting into and be prepared! This past year we had a foreign teacher who just couldn’t hack it. He complained constantly about the food, locals, transportation, dirt… His inability to adjust was a drain on those around him and we were all relieved when he packed up, broke his contract, and fled back to America.
Culture shock is normal, but if you find it difficult to adjust to new situations then China is not somewhere you should move to. Adaptability is a necessity in China.
In order to work in China there are a few requirements:
- You must have a four year university degree
- You must have a resume, it doesn’t have to have a lot on it, but you should have some work experience
- It is a very, very good idea to get TEFL or TOEFL certification. There are online programs to do this, most schools prefer a 120 hour program.
- You need a passport
- Recommendation letters from previous teachers or employers
Once you’ve decided that you would like to work in China as a teacher you can post your resume online at websites like learn4good.com or browse and apply for jobs at sites like Angelina’s ESL Café, EChinacities, Teaching Nomad, and so on.
Next time… Recruiters.