7 Typical Jobs for Foreigners in China

7 Typical Jobs for Foreigners in China
Mar 15, 2018 By Eddy O’Neil , eChinacities.com

Arguably, there are few countries in the world that offer as many work opportunities to foreigners as China. A decade or so ago, jobs for foreigners in China were largely limited to the fields of English teaching and manufacturing. Today, however, more and more industries are looking outwards for talent. Below is a list of 7 typical jobs for foreigners in China.

English Language Teacher
English language teaching is the gateway to China for many foreigners. The qualifications required to teach English varies depending on how official you want to be. It can range from needing to be a native English speaker with a university degree and IELTS certification, to being a foreigner spotted on the street by someone whose son needs some extra help at school. Typically, the truth skews more towards the former, and those looking to take a English teaching job in China seriously should prepare themselves accordingly.

In terms of long-term prospects, the scope can be somewhat narrow for many English teachers in China. While some go on to open their own schools and enjoy great success, it’s only a very small percentage. What English language teaching is good for, however, is giving foreigners a base from which to learn about China, learn the language and make the sort of connections needed to jump into a different career with less of a ceiling.

International School Teacher
While the vast majority of teachers in China are working as English language teachers, you can also find a good gaggle of International school teachers who specialise in a range of subjects in most Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. These teachers work with age groups ranging from kindergarten to sixth form. Typically, the schools follow an American, Canadian or British curriculum.

In most cases, these schools are looking to hire teachers with at least a Bachelor’s degree in education and some experience in the field. As a result, they mostly hire directly from overseas. That being said, there are still opportunities for foreigners who already live in China to get work at international schools, even if they don’t have a degree in teaching.

Some international schools are willing to hire locally-based English language teachers who have shown they’re serious about education, have adapted to the local culture and will be a reliable member of staff. You may begin in a support role and receive lower pay than more qualified colleagues, but it’s a great opportunity to get into a higher pay bracket and to begin a career that can last a lifetime. 

QA Specialist / Product Manager
Some readers might be surprised by just how many of the current top-level manufacturing managers in international companies in China started out as English language teachers.

Going back 10 or 15 years, companies in the West struggled to find people to oversee their manufacturing in China. Few wanted to spend more than a week or so at a time in the country, and even fewer could speak the language or had the slightest idea of how to deal with local staff.

So when these companies found young foreign English teachers who were already settled in China and could speak the language, they were willing to give them a try, even if they didn’t have an education or work background in the industry. Having a member of staff on the ground who could communicate directly with the supplier and the local workforce is an invaluable asset.

Admittedly, the manufacturing boom in China is not what it was 10 years ago, but many companies still understand the value of a foreigner who’s adapted to the local culture, learnt the language and proved they have the right work ethic. 

Marketing Specialist / Social Media Specialist / SEO Specialist
In the last 5 to 10 years, Chinese companies have become more outward looking and internet savvy in their approach to sales. In the past, the typical Chinese company was not massively interested in building a brand overseas or communicating with a foreign end-user directly. Most companies worked with a foreign middle man/woman, who sold their products to the Western market for them.

These days, however, especially with the rise of technology and e-commerce companies in China, there are plenty of wannabe Apples, Facebooks and Amazons looking to reach the wider world. These companies understand the value of online marketing, social media and SEO.

Typically speaking, this kind of company is looking for foreigners who intuitively understand the online customer base overseas, who can talk to these people in a native and natural manner, and who can bring attention to their brand. A university degree is usually required for this kind of job, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be in a marketing discipline. Having a proven work record in your home country will go a long way.

As of yet, most of these companies do not tend to hire directly from overseas or try to target staff from the foreign companies they wish to imitate. There is, therefore, a great number of opportunities for foreigners already based in China who want to work in these industries. These jobs offer fantastic opportunities in fields that are booming. And with the right experience in China, you could easily move back to the home to work for a big tech company after.

Copywriter / Technical Writer / Localization Specialist
These same companies also need native standard of English for their promotional materials and products. This has seen a marked rise in copywriter, technical writer, and localizations specialist roles in the past few years.

The work can include editing text on a product’s packaging or user manual, compiling product descriptions for Amazon, writing blogs for third party websites, and polishing the in-game text of computer games.

Model / Actor / Singer
Think you’re the next Brad Pitt or Lady Gaga? You can realise your dream in China, sort of. There’s no shortage of job opportunities for young, photogenic foreigners in China.

The most common and arguably easiest opportunity available is modeling. Many Chinese companies are looking for foreigners to model their products, which could be anything from sexy lingerie to mobile phones. Some foreigners pursue modeling as a full-time career in China, while others see it as a bit of pocket-money when the right opportunity comes along.

Acting roles on Chinese television shows and the growing number of Chinese movies are also available from time to time. Typically, for foreigners without past experience and the right connections, these roles will be limited to that of an extra. However, the pay can still be worthwhile and, who knows... maybe you’ll get spotted in the background of a Chinese soap opera and get your big break.

Perhaps the most challenging job of the three listed here is that of a singer or musician. You can’t get by on your foreigner looks alone for this one. You’ll need at least some musical talent. In the past, the best chance to make a name as a foreign musician in China was to work with agents and promoters and trawl the bar and nightclub circuit across the country.

Yet, as the pool of foreigners in China grows, more and more singers and musicians are finding each other and forming bands. They then start by playing open mic nights at bars and slowly build a name for themselves.

Soccer / Tennis / Basketball Coach
Soccer, in particular, has been booming in China for the past few years. The sport is known to be the favorite of President Xi Jinping and, as a result, investment in football has increased tenfold across the board. Schools have built new fields and introduced the sport to their physical education curriculum, while private clubs and businesses have set up training academies and state-of-the-art facilities.

In turn, there has been a massive increase in the number of football coaching opportunities in China. Some of these positions are aimed at highly qualified and experienced coaches from overseas, but others are perfect for local foreigners with a passion for the game and some experience with kids.

Basketball remains one of the country’s most popular sports, and the influence of Chinese star Li Na still sees lots of young kids taking up tennis. Foreigners with the right mix of passion and experience in these sports and others can find coaching positions across China.

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According to the 2013 census there were 848,500 foreigners living in China with an average yearly increase of 3.9%. How many foreigners do you know? 100? 200? 1000? You may have noticed a huge drop in the diversity of jobs held by foreigners that you know. But that is a very small sample of the overall population of foreigners in China.

Apr 10, 2018 13:30 Report Abuse