ESL teachers are in HIGH demand all over China, and there are so many options for the kinds of school you can work for.
If you are coming with a teaching program or recruiting agency, they have already taken care of finding a school for you to work at and you don’t have to worry about this. However, if you’re finding a school by yourself, it can be a bit tougher to sort through all the options and figure out the best school option for you.
Some questions to ask yourself before you start searching for a school:
- What kind of school? Public, Private, Training School, etc.
- What city do you want to live in?
- What age students do you want to teach?
- How much teaching experience do you have? Would you like more support with curriculum and lesson planning, or more freedom and flexibility in class?
WHAT KIND OF SCHOOLS CAN YOU WORK FOR IN CHINA?
I had so many interviews with a variety of schools and basically made a spreadsheet laying out all of the requirements and benefits of each school. These are answers from schools I talked to, but these answer vary depending on the school and the city you’re in.
**I made this chart awhile ago and it was based on salaries for smaller cities. In Beijing and Shanghai you can get paid even more depending on the school, upwards of 20,000 RMB.
There are definitely pros and cons to certain schools. I currently work for Career China, a recruiting company in China. We recruit for many kinds of schools and can have you chat with a career consultant to decide what kind of school is the best fit for you.
Training schools may sound less ideal because you work weekends, but these are actually a fantastic option for first year teachers because they have more teacher support, curriculum is provided, and the teacher networking opportunities are great. If you’re an experienced teaching wanting more flexibility in the classroom, you will probably want to work for a private or public school instead.
Other great questions to ask schools:
- Is the curriculum provided? Will I need to prepare extra materials?
- Are there office hours?
- Is there airfare reimbursement and how much?
- Is there a teaching assistant? (With older students this isn’t necessary, but with younger students you will LOVE having a TA!)
- How long is the contract for? Most will be for 10-11 months.
WHICH CITY SHOULD I LIVE IN?
China is huge and each city offers something different – many foreigners flock to Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou because of the western conveniences and opportunities to meet more people and do more things. And those things definitely make the transition to live in China much easier.
But don’t let the idea of a smaller city be daunting to you. China’s version of small isn’t accurate anyways – I lived in a “small” city of 3 million people haha. I loved my smaller city. There weren’t many foreign restaurants and shops, of course, but I learned so much about Chinese culture and had so many unique opportunities to see “real” China.
There’s something so charming about being in a place where you may not run into another foreigner, and living in a city where you have to communicate with local people using mimes and gestures (or learn Chinese), and people snap your photo on the street and point and say “waiguoren”.
There are pros and cons to both big and small cities, but you’ll find interesting people and places no matter where you go in China.
HOW DID YOU FIND A SCHOOL TO WORK FOR?
I worked at a university for two years, a kindergarten for one year, and many different after school programs part-time.
If you’re looking for a school, there are lots of great websites to check out. Of course, if you’re going to work for a program and not finding a school on your own your won’t have to worry about this part. Here’s some resources that were super helpful to me when finding a school:
- Career China – Speak with a Career Consultant and match with a good fit for you
- Dave’s ESL Cafe – Search for job listings to find your own school to interview with
- Work Abroad
Many of these sites set me up with a contact person to talk to – I gave them some things I was looking for in a school and they would pass jobs along to me they thought I would be interested in.
You’ll also find lots of English companies – here are a few good ones I know about:
- English First (EF)
- Disney English
- First Leap
ACCEPTING A JOB
Once you get through the interview process and the school offers you a contract, you have some options. It’s okay to have several contracts to look through.I asked the schools for some time to consider their offers before choosing which job I liked best.
Once I chose my current kindergarten, I signed the contract and sent it to them, and then more fun stuff begins. Once you start teaching in China you’ll get something called A Foreign Expert Certificate. This is basically a kind of ID you need to teach in China. Since I was teaching at a university, I needed to get the university to cancel my Foreign Expert Certificate so my new school could apply for another one for me.
**Note! Because schools in China are different, my personal experience is based on working at a university and kindergarten. If you work for a training school or with an agency your experience and process might be a bit different.
ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS
The important thing: don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions! You’re working in a foreign country and want to make sure you’ll be comfortable with the situation. My current school boss likes to joke that I asked her more questions than anyone else, but I’m so glad I did. I wanted to make sure I understood everything about the job and the contract they offered me since I was doing everything on my own.
Teaching in China
Everyone has a different experience in China. The city you live in, the school you teach at, and most importantly, your attitude to new and (strange) things will all have a part in your Chinese adventure. I’ve met so many other foreigners in China who have good impressions, some with bad impressions, and all with different stories.
I hope this helps give you a better idea of finding a school in China! There’s a lot more information I didn’t get to here – if you have more questions leave a comment or message me!
You can learn more about my personal experience teaching kindergarten and university students from my articles here:
- A Typical ESL Lesson For Young Learners In China
- Tales of an English Kindergarten Teacher in China
- Teaching University Students in China
My friend Lauren makes awesome videos with more information about living in China and finding a job here. Check out her Youtube Channel and one of the videos I made with her: