The following is a long detailed list of practical tips and advice about finding a job teaching English as a second language (ESL) in China. I'm currently working as an English teacher in China and have been for 1 year. The following list is comprised of things I learned from my personal experience and from talking to other teachers. It's sure to be useful for anyone looking to start their adventure as a teacher.
I can't say from personal experience but I'm sure most of the items on this list would apply to finding ESL teaching jobs in other countries as well.
If you have decided to teach then you're in for quite the experience. Hopefully this list will help make that experience a great one!
Keep in mind while reading this, that it may seem like a negative, difficult process full of trouble but that's only because this article is attempting to provide you with information helping you prevent any trouble you can possibly come across.
Chances are, your experience will be a good one, where you work low hours with relatively high pay in an amazing culture rich country so don't let all these potential problems discourage you.
Before applying for jobs it's important to know what employees are looking for in ESL teachers, and to ensure you have all the necessary qualifications ready to get the type of position you want. Your qualifications will also often determine what kind of visa you will be able to get. There's really only 6 things employers look at when it comes to getting a teaching job, they are as follows.
- Your native country – Most schools only hire from The USA, Canada, Australia, The UK, and New Zealand, although I have seen a couple teachers from the Philippines and Russia as well.
- Your appearance – Although it's unfortunate, when it comes to getting an ESL job in China people are sometimes discriminated by their race and color. Even if you were born in Canada if you're from Asian decent it can be very difficult to get a job as they want teachers who 'look' like they are from foreign countries.
- It can also be harder for people of darker skin colors as a bit of racism is still prevalent in smaller towns in China but if you stick to the bigger cities with more modern mindsets you should have no trouble.
- Your age – While I did have 2 older friends who were in their 50's and 60's that were teaching in my first location, they were were forced to work for a few thousand RM less than younger teachers in the same area because most schools want their teachers from 20-30 years old.
- Teaching Certificate - Most schools want to hire people with teaching certificates but if you have a 4 year degree you will still be able to get a job without one. Other teachers however will most likely have a preference over you. Most of the high paying jobs ask for both degrees and ESL certificates. I personally got a TESOL certificate before coming to China and it was a requirement for the job that I initially got. If you do decide to get a certificate I recommend taking the cheapest quickest course possible.
- From what I've heard people who have taken 20 hour TESOL courses get the exact same preference as those who have taken 120 hour course. I think the average price for a TESOL course is a little over $1000. The following certificates are all acronyms that are seen as basically the same from employers (TESOL, TEFL, ESL)
- Degree – This is one thing I don't have, (I instead have a 2 year diploma in video game design), and it has made things very difficult for me here in China. The big attraction for coming to China was that you didn't need a degree to get a working visa, a TESOL certificate was more than enough.
- After arriving here however I was told there was a new policy and now 4 year degrees are required in most locations. If you have a 4 year degree then you don't need to worry, but if not make sure to read the section of Visas below for more info.
- Experience - And lastly they look at your experience. Obviously the more the better. Don't be discouraged however if jobs boast they require >1 teaching experience... apply for them anyway, you'll often be considered despite not meeting the requirements.
If you have your heart set on English teaching and you don't fit into the ideal of the above categories than please don't let it discourage you. You should still try to get a teaching job, but ensure your employer knows about all your qualifications beforehand and I recommend you sign a contract and get a working visa before you leave your country, just in case.
Starting the job hunt
- Job postings
When looking for jobs if you don't have a direct connection to a school then your best resource is going to be the internet.
The absolute best website that I have found for looking for jobs, which helped me get the job I have now is capacities. This website is far superior to any others I have found on the subject. Not only can you search through tons of new jobs, in the specific areas of china you want to work in, but you can also read tons of detailed information about the specific cities to get an idea of what it would be like to travel, or live there.
Other sites that come highly recommended are eslcafe.com and treacherousness take a look at all 3 to improve your chances of finding a great position.
- Where to teach?
China is absolutely massive, and your experience of the country may be quite different from one location to another so it's really important to research different cities before accepting a job to ensure it fits the kind of place you want to live in. Some cities are beautiful, some are ugly, some are really crowded, some are peaceful, some have great public transportation, and some don't.