For many, teaching English in China has a certain stigma. Some people think it’s the greatest gig on Earth, while others look down on it. No matter what your opinion, here are six irrefutable reasons why teaching English is a good first job in China.
For someone applying for a job in China from abroad, an English teaching position is a great way to get at least a one-year working visa with the help of a company who has (hopefully) gone through the process many times before. Interviews by schools and training centres for first-time applicants are typically done over Skype or WeChat, while documents are exchanged through e-mail.
If you have plans to change jobs or study at a Chinese university later on, obtaining a work visa as an English teacher gets you one step closer to your future goals. Once you’re in the door, transferring your work visa to another company is relatively simple.
The majority of English teaching positions in China come with a monthly salary that, at the minimum, will cover your rent, daily living expenses, food, and, depending on your lifestyle, also provide an opportunity to save money or travel.
Is this the type of job you'd want if you're planning to save for your retirement? Probably not. However, English teaching can be a lucrative business, and with an average monthly salary of 12,000 RMB, it’s not a bad place to start.
The salaries offered by English schools in China will differ, as will your workload, but even on the low-end of the spectrum, you can expect to make decent money, especially if you’re living in a cheaper second or third tier city. Some English schools in China’s top tier cities will pay new teachers upwards of 18,000 RMB per month with an annual pay raise of anything from 2,000 to 7,000 RMB. High turnover rates mean many English schools are willing to pay a lot to keep good teachers around.
Most English schools will have a mix of both Chinese and foreigners working as teachers, in the sales department, and as management. Although not the most glamorous job, teaching English in China often has a lot of downtime where you can easily make friends with your colleagues and expand your professional network.
Often, those who work at English schools don't stay there forever, so getting to know the ones who move on to other jobs can be extremely useful when you’re looking to change your career down the road. For example, my friend used to teach English with a girl who got accepted to a Chinese university. When he was interested in applying a year later, she helped him out with the absurdly convoluted application process.
No matter what industry or country you hope to end up in, having taught English in China, even if it’s just for a year, will stand out on your resume for several reasons. First, it shows that you can work in a multicultural environment. Second, it says a lot about the type of person you are - one that seeks new experiences and isn’t afraid to get out of their comfort zone. Third, teaching is a respectable job. You're constantly dealing with variables (kids, parents, faculty, visa officers etc.) in an often fast-paced environment, and you're able to maintain deadlines (teaching the set curriculum).
If you’ve been teaching English for 5+ years and suddenly want a career change, HR might give you the cold shoulder. But having taught for a year or two will certainly be an advantage when applying for jobs, both in China and abroad.
If you’ve only worked in restaurants for the past few years, it can be challenging to break into a new line of work. However, many foreigners who now have ‘cool’ or ‘interesting’ jobs in China are likely to have taught English early on in their career.
Teaching English in China is a great stepping stone that leads many people into other related positions or even new industries. A few examples are a quality assurance manager at an education company, a curriculum designer, an editor at a news agency, a writer, or a marketing exec.
Working in an office can be tedious, and while handling a group of kids may not be the dictionary definition of fun, it certainly beats staring at a computer screen all day. Teaching English as your first job in China is exactly what you make it. The opportunity for it to be fun is there, it’s just up to you to be creative.
Often, those who teach English focus on the irritations of the job – the day-to-day frustrations, management problems, etc. However, the job in and of itself can be a fun experience, and besides dealing with the inevitable challenges that children and even adult learners bring, English is an easier subject to teach than some.
If you’re on the fence about teaching English in China, stop focusing on the ‘why not’ and write down the reasons ‘why’ you should. Affirmations and positive thinking are often stronger and more persuasive than the reasons to not do something. Teaching English is a great first job in China, and ultimately, it's up to you what you want to make it.
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Keywords: teaching English first job in China
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