ESL teachers are in HIGH demand all over China, and there are so many options for the kinds of school you can work for. Since many expats left China in the last few years, and China has eased COVID restrictions, there is a huge gap in the market for teaching English in China and many schools eager to fill these roles in 2023.
But where do you even begin finding a school to teach at? What are reputable schools and companies to work for? What are the important things to know before signing a contract?
As someone who taught English for 3 years in China, worked in marketing at an Education Recruitment company, and has lived in China since 2015 through the pandemic times, I have many years of experience and knowledge about the teaching industry in China.
Here is some advice and resources I wish I had before applying for schools in China.
- Questions To Think About Before Applying For Schools in China
- What Types of Schools in China Can You Work For?
- Questions to Ask Schools During Interviews
- What City in China Should You Live In?
- Where To Find a School To Teach At in China
Questions To Think About Before Applying For Schools in China
- What kind of school do you want to work for? Public, Private, International School, Training School, University, Kindergarten, and so on.
- What city do you want to live in? Do you want a big city experience or a small to medium city experience?
- 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?
- How many hours per week would you ideally like to work?
It’s okay if you don’t have the answers to all these questions. These are just important to keep in mind to shape your teaching experience and work/life balance while living abroad.
What Types of Schools in China Can You Work For?
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.
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.
Questions to Ask Schools During Interviews
- 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 about 1 years.
What City in China Should You Live In?
China is huge and each city offers something different. Many foreigners flock to Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou because of the large, international experiences the cities offer, and for the opportunity to meet more people and join more communities. 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 in Hunan. 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.
Check out my article about Living in a Big City vs. a Small City in China.
Where To Find a School To Teach At in China
I worked at a university for two years, a kindergarten for one year, and many different after school programs part-time. I found these jobs through a variety of ways: online websites and job boards, recruiters working in China, and WeChat group contacts.
If you’re looking for a school, there are lots of great websites to check out. Here’s some resources that were super helpful to me when finding a school:
Talking to a Recruiter: Usually you will give them a list of requirements you are looking for in a school and they will pass jobs along that they think you will be interested in.
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: