With slowing economies in South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan, China has suddenly emerged as the new hotspot for teaching English abroad. I failed to even mention Japan only because the ESL market there began a steady decline almost a decade ago. Teachers are in such high demand in China that the number of available positions greatly outnumbers the amount of Western teachers and this imbalance should remain strong for at least the next few years. This disparity in the amount of jobs versus the number of available and qualified Westerners, makes China a teacher’s market. Unlike South Korea, experienced teachers with prior classroom experience and teaching credentials can land a fairly cozy job in either a large urban area or even in one of the smaller cities throughout the country. With rising salaries across the board in China, it is possible for teachers there to save a fair amount in the right situation.
Despite rising pay and a sea of open positions, some Westerners remain hesitant about teaching English in China. This is mostly due to stories of teachers not getting paid on time or schools not complying with contracts. Well, there is also the issue of pollution that should not be ignored. The reality is that there are some scandalous schools and companies operating in China. For the Westerner, there will always be a slight risk when it comes to teaching there. On the other hand, most schools in China are legit, conditions are improving and if you have the right credentials, you should have not problem with institutes honoring your contract. You should also keep in mind that those same types of horror stories about fly-by-night schools once existed throughout South Korea and Japan. The reality is that China is a great place to teach English for so many reasons, such as an abundance of jobs, the ability to save money, a chance to learn Mandarin and the opportunity to live in an ancient society with a modern twist. If I were going to teach English abroad, China would definitely be on the top of my list. I am not saying that conditions are perfect, but China can be a great place to work, save, travel and explore for qualified applicants with the right attitude and an adventurous spirit. If you are looking for a job in China or quick tips for Teaching English in China, below is some information that may help you make a more informed decision before doing so.
For more info about teaching abroad start with: The Best Countries To Teach English Abroad
Pay and Benefits for teaching English in China for 2015
While teachers have often ignore China in favor of higher pay in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, salaries there have been on the rise. Pay can vary significantly from province to province and expect to make more in the larger cities. Most first year teachers in China earn between $900 to $1500 per month in addition to free housing, healthcare and a completion bonuses. There are also a fair amount of positions that pay between $2000 to$2400 per month plus free housing, healthcare and a contract completion bonus. I currently place teachers in a Beijing public school program that pays nearly $2500 per month with excellent benefits. Keep in mind that in China, your salary is what you make after tax. In other words, if your contract says that you will make $1700 per month, then you will make that amount per month. When you factor in free housing and other perks, pay in China is almost on par with the rest of East Asia. If you live in Shanghai or Beijing, expect a cost of living closer in the neighborhood to South Korea, but the cost of living in China can be considerably lower in smaller cities, such as Qingdao for example.
Getting a Z visa to teach English in China
If you are going to teach English in China, then you should be on a Z visa. There is no reason for a school not to provide you with a Z-visa with the exceptions that it is fraudulent or a teacher does have the right credentials to receive one. To legally work in China, you need to obtain a Z visa from a Chinese embassy or consulate. Although there are other visas, such as an ‘L’, ‘F’ and ‘X’ visa, the only valid work visa is a Z Visa. Working in China on a ‘L’, ‘F’ or ‘X’ visa is technically illegal and it is possible to get fined, deported and possibly detained in certain cases. The reality, however, is that there exist a fair amount of Westerners working on these types of visas in China. Although the Chinese government has cracked down in recent years, they have by no means put a stop to it, nor will they likely ever do so. Working on an illegal visa is by no means condoned by this website, but if you find yourself in such situation, using your best judgment and allying with the right people is your best option.
For more on z visa read: How to Get a Z Visa to Teach English in China
Receiving a Z visa requires that you must be sponsored by a school before the Chinese embassy or consulate will issue it. Once a legitimate contract is in place between you and a school, the school will then attempt to sponsor your visa through Chinese immigration. Assuming there are no hiccups, some sort of visa issuance number will be issued to the embassy or consulate. In addition to a valid contract, Chinese immigration needs to see that you have a university degree, passport from an English speaking country and a TEFL or TESOL certificate. You will also need some sort of criminal background check.
Discrimination and Racism in China
You would think that in 2015, racism wouldn’t be much of an issue when it comes to teaching English abroad. Unfortunately, many schools and institutes in China and in other parts of Asia are under the impression that only White Westerners qualify to teach English. However, if you are a person of color, don’t be discouraged as there are thousands of positions that need to be filled throughout China. But you should be aware of this issue and understand that some recruiters or institutes may not respond to your application for this reason. Also be careful with recruiters that try to stick you into second tier schools and offer lower salaries. Fortunately, many schools and parents throughout China are beginning to understand that global society is changing quickly.
Keep in mind that if you are non-white, you may experience moments of blatant racism in parts of China and in other areas of Asia as well. While there will never be a physical danger, people may just be rude. I can also tell you that this could happen to anyone simply because you are a foreigner. When living in Japan, there were a couple of instances where I wasn’t allowed entrance into an establishment because I was a foreigner. If you do experience blatant racism in parts of China or from the staff of a school, the best thing to do is to ignore it and not to let it bother you. In the end, you will probably become quite popular and you’ll make a lot more friends than enemies.
Schools to avoid while Teaching English in China
Just as it was twenty years ago in Japan, teaching English in China has become big business and there are some large corporations that are cashing in. However, you should be aware that bigger does not mean better when it comes to teaching English abroad. If possible, I would try to avoid working for schools, such as Longman, Education First and Disney English. Theses companies that offer English educational services offer little in the way of Education and often pay lower salaries or demand more working hours. Previous teachers from these schools have often complained about a poor working environment and hostility on the part of management towards the teachers. The reality is that these are not schools, but only well-organized marketing machines whose only goal is to increase profit.
Schools like Education First, Disney English and Longman reinvest a great deal of their profits back into marketing and advertising. Marketing departments for these types of corporate chain schools are well-funded and endowed and highly educated and ambitious types that have little interest in education. If you spend some time reading through reviews on Google and on sites like Dave’s ESL Cafe, you will soon enough come across a mountain of negative reviews and complaints from former teachers and staff from these companies.
Teaching in China can be a great experience and there are plenty of opportunities throughout the country. Whether you are fresh out of university, making a career change or even retired, it is possible to teach in China so long as you have a university degree. As English education has become a top priority on all levels of society, China is sure to remain the hotspot to teach English for years to come.