Are you thinking about teaching in China?
Before you make this big but exciting decision, it’s critical that you first do research about what options are available in China.
You need to determine what you want out of your experience, and to do that you should identify your personal preferences early on.
Three initial questions to consider are:
- What type of school do you want to work in?
- What part of China do you want to work in?
- What salary and working conditions are you prepared to accept?
It’s ok if you don’t have any particular preferences straight away. However, you should at least have a think about all three questions as they will ultimately shape the kind of experience you will have teaching in China.
1. Type of school
Of the following types of schools in China, which would suit you best?
If you like working with…
young kids and have lots of patience
kids, playing games and having some two-way interaction
teenagers, playing games and having two-way interaction
adults and discussing a range of topics
Private language center
all age groups (age/level depends on school)
This is a general guide only – some adults like playing games too! Your age, experience and education will also help determine your suitability.
You will have different challenges depending on the age of your students. Young Chinese students are very active and often noisy, so a lot of your time will be spent on behavior management and controlling the class.
On the other hand, older students in China are usually passive and quiet, and your challenge will be to actually get them to talk!
Senior students in China are a lot quieter than young ones.
Students at private language centers could range from three-year-old kids with no knowledge of English to adults with advanced Business English capability.
The main difference between private centers and government schools in China is that classes are often held at night and on the weekend at private centers. The workload is usually bigger too.
To compensate for this, ESL teachers generally have much better salary packages at private centers than at government schools.
2. Teaching location
Geographically, it’s the third largest in the world and covers multiple temperature zones.
Its people are as diverse as the landscape; provincial cultures, customs and dialects prevail.
This means that teaching in rural Inner Mongolia would be a much different experience to teaching in downtown Beijing.
Have a think about where you want to teach in China.
Some questions to think about regarding the location you choose include:
- Do you want to work in a small city or a big city?
- What kind climate suits you best?
- Is there a particular style of Chinese food you prefer?
- Does it matter to you if there is a strong local dialect?
As infrastructure, climate, food, and language vary greatly across China, it’s best to do your homework before you sign a contract.
(Here's some advice I recently gave about teach in China contracts.)
3. Salary and working conditions
For some people, teaching in China is a gap year adventure, while for others it’s more serious and long term.
No matter how long you intend on staying, you need to be comfortable with the salary and working conditions being offered by the host school.
Before you start your job search, you should identify what matters most to you. This will narrow down your search, making it easier to find your dream job.
Some of the most important questions to consider are:
- Given your experience, what salary are you prepared to work for?
- How many hours do you want to work per week?
- What kind of accommodation would you be comfortable living in?
Foreign teacher salaries in China are relatively low by Western standards, but generous when compared to local Chinese salaries.
On the flipside, the cost of living is lower in China, particularly outside the big cities like Shanghai and Beijing.
The cost of living is relatively low in most Chinese cities (pictured: Chengdu, Sichuan province).
While you’ll earn enough money to live very comfortably anywhere in mainland China and travel domestically during holidays, any money you save in China will be worth less when you exchange it in your home country.
Remember, most people choose to teach English in China for the experience of a lifetime, not to make lots of money!
Did you like my blog? If you really want to arm yourself with the best information about teaching in China, make sure you read my epic 91 tips for teaching in China. I cover every nook and cranny!