Not all ESL teaching jobs are created equal, no matter where in the world you are. In China, the differences seem to be even more pronounced. Whilst some positions lure you with high pay, others may offer priceless freedom, both in the way you teach your students and in the kind of workload you’re expected to take on. Understanding the benefits and pitfalls of different types of ESL jobs in China will help you hone in on the kind of teaching institution that would best suit your skills and desires.
This also holds true if you’re an experienced ESL teacher and have worked in several countries – China is a unique destination for teachers so unless you’ve taught here before, you’ll still want to get acquainted with the pros and cons of each teaching job type.
Here’s a quick lowdown of the kind of ESL jobs you can get in China:
1. Kindergarten teaching jobs
Highly coveted for being among the highest-paid ESL teaching jobs in China, kindergarten positions are also among the easiest to get so they can be ideal for first-time foreign teachers who wish to get a foot in the ESL-teaching field. Overall, these jobs can make for a very sweet deal: low-stress workloads, creativity in class, fun, games and usually brilliant conditions adding to the mix. Having said all that: not everyone is suited to teaching very young children so, alluring conditions notwithstanding, you really should have an innate love of children to enjoy kindergarten teaching. If you do, you will inarguably have a wonderful teaching experience in China.
2. Public school jobs
The polar opposite of kindergarten jobs – at least as far as pay is concerned – public school ESL jobs in China are often overlooked by potential foreign teachers. Yet the rewards, for their more modest pay, can actually be quite genial. In public school, you’ll only be teaching on weekdays (usually only 20hr a week) and will have ample time off given the extensive school holidays. Moreover, you won’t be required to get too creative: schools have their set curriculum in place and will also provide you with a teaching assistant, making these among the ‘easiest’ teaching positions of all. Another ideal option for first-time teachers or anyone who’s after a more balanced work-life experience in China. Choose a less expensive teaching destination in China and you can really make that modest pay and ample time off work to your advantage.
3. International school jobs
At the higher end of the ESL teaching scale in China, in every way, are international schools, coveted for their prestige and curriculum uniformity and renowned for their impressive pay and high standards. International schools love returning teachers so if you have any experience with any of the big-names, make sure it’s highlighted on your application. It’s not impossible to bag a job here for the first time (obviously, every teacher must have, at some point) yet you must really stand out from the teaching pack to garner their attention. Specialised subject teachers are always in demand and expectations are high – but, if you come up trumps, you’ll be among the highest-paid teachers in the whole country.
4. University jobs
Competition is stiff for university ESL teaching jobs in China and it’s not hard to see why that would be. When it comes to teaching, in general, universities in China will be perhaps the most familiar scene. A high degree of teaching freedom, endless debates with a group of young, enthusiastic and independent thinkers and fantastic teaching conditions (restricted teaching hours and good pay) make these highly-coveted jobs.
5. Online teaching jobs
An oxymoron if ever there was one, an online teaching job in China actually requires you to be in the teaching city, where you’ll be holding virtual classes in designated studios which are then broadcast all over the country. There is still a lot of work you can do from home but you will be required to head into the office to record classes or hold them live just a few hours every week. The most reputable online teaching agencies in China are found in Beijing. If you can get used to holding your classes in front of a camera, and keeping up your enthusiasm, you’ll find these online teaching jobs to offer a lot of independence.
6. Training centres and private language school jobs
The one type of ESL teaching job type that can vary dramatically depending on the institution, is the one that’s meant to supplement English-language schooling. These are the classes children and adults have on the side (be it for work or to improve at school) and are mostly held on weekends and evenings. Yes, this means that’s when you must teach! Having weekdays off can have wonderful benefits, including the ability to pick up extra private tutoring on the side, and it can also mean you’ll have the freedom to take Chinese language classes if you wish or even take day-trips to explore your region. Most importantly, you will also receive two full days off during the week and, if you can organise for these to be consecutive, you’ll enjoy your unique ‘weekend’ at a time when everyone else will be at work. Overall, you’ll teach far fewer hours in training centres and private language schools, then you would anywhere else.
Our comprehensive Guide to ESL Teaching in China can give you a fantastic overview of all things teaching-in-China related. If you’d love to have more personalised advice, however, feel free to contact us here.
At China by Teaching, we’re in the business of matching the right teacher with the right teaching job in one of the most exciting and rewarding countries in the world.
By David O Connor
David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is a lover of craft beers, book clubs and super long road trips.
Feng shui is an ancient Chinese art of arranging buildings, objects, and space in an environment to create positive ‘chi’…
Stuck at the intermediate plateau? Here are four of the best Chinese TV shows for intermediate learners…
Are you an online English teacher? Here are 8 ways to make lessons fun and engaging in an online classroom…
Check out our Chinese language resource library →