How to Avoid a Mismatched Teaching Job in China

How to Avoid a Mismatched Teaching Job in China
Apr 25, 2022 By Paul Bacon ,

We’ve discussed before how best to find teaching jobs in China, but what about finding the right teaching job in China? Every year, thousands of foreigners come to the Middle Kingdom to teach, and the majority thoroughly enjoy their time here. However, I dare say this is often more to do with their social and travel experiences than their working life. For many, finding the right teaching job in China takes more than a shot in the dark.

How to Avoid a Mismatched Teaching Job in China

The Cause

The Impersonal Recruitment Process: The first thing you need to know is that the online recruitment techniques used by most Chinese schools are an inexact science at best. Many schools and language training centers will hire teachers based solely on a degree and teaching certificate. They care little about an employee’s personality or plans for their time in China.

For some, the whole process is conducted over email without even a phone interview. As many hires are managed by recruiters, a new teacher’s first meaningful contact with their employer will often be when they arrive for their first day of work. As a result, neither the school nor the teacher really know what they’ve signed up for.

Misaligned Priorities: This kind if surface-level recruitment process causes plenty of mismatches. Let me give an example:

I once met two British teachers in their late twenties who had taken a break from teaching middle school in the UK to spend a year lecturing at a university in Beijing. As well as expanding both their resumes and horizons, the newbie expats were also looking forward to sampling some of the Beijing nightlife.

They took jobs working together at a campus in the north of the city. The pay and job descriptions were great on paper, but on arrival they discovered that the apartment the university had provided for them was in the same complex as the university dorms, which closed at 10pm sharp, no exceptions. This put a giant spoke in the wheels of their social life and took months of difficult wrangling to resolve.

Other newbies come to teach in China for what they imagine will be a kind of gap year experience with lots of travel and time off. They are often hired by the big-name English language training companies, which cast a wide net across English speaking countries.

Operating first and foremost as businesses, these companies focus on public demand. This means classes in the evening, at the weekend and during public holidays to accommodate children outside school hours and adults after work. Many young hires therefore find themselves quickly disillusioned as their chilled international adventure begins to feel like a lot of hard work.

The Solutions

Shop Around: While there may be fewer jobs on offer in smaller rural cities, there are thousands in China’s bigger cities. It’s always wise to check several recruiting sites to compare terms and salaries. Always do due diligence and never jump blindly into the first job on offer.

Research the City, not Just the Job: It’s also wise to learn as much as possible about the city you’re considering making home. China is a country of some pretty big contrasts that can affect teachers both socially and financially. For example, a small industrial city in Shanxi will have a far lower cost of living than Beijing or Shanghai, but will also provide infinitely fewer Western-style food and entertainment options.

If you’re happy to be immersed in Chinese culture, then fine. If not, you may want to consider moving somewhere slightly more cosmopolitan. Do some thorough internet research and, if possible, seek out some foreigners who know the city well.

Be Sure of Your Exact Location: As some of China's cities are the size of small countries, you’ll also want to ensure you know exactly where your potential employer is located within that city. This is particularly true when it comes to major municipalities such as Tianjin, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Beijing.

You may imagine the glitz and glamor of the Bund when you take a job in Shanghai, only to find yourself in a distant dusty suburb that bears little resemblance to the city in your head. The contrast between the downtown and outlying areas of China’s major cities can be very stark indeed.

Don’t Over-Commit: While it’s relatively easy to find a job in China online, it’s much easier to find the right teaching job in China when you’re already here. For this reason, sign the shortest contract possible if you plan to stay longer than a year so you have the option of switching jobs once your commitment is fulfilled.

It’s very common to see foreign teachers start out in public schools or low-end private schools before graduating to the bigger private companies that offer larger salaries. Similarly, many teachers move to bigger cities after putting in some time in “the sticks.”

Read the Small Print: As most Chinese schools write their contracts in Mandarin and then translate them into English – often not especially well – there is significant room for misunderstanding. The golden rule here is never to assume anything and be aware that the Chinese version will always take precedent in any dispute. At the very least, Google translate your Chinese contact and ensure everything is clear before you sign on the dotted line.

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Keywords: teaching job in China


All comments are subject to moderation by staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.



thank you

Nov 05, 2022 13:44 Report Abuse



Well all this thing is very important for beginners.....

Sep 06, 2022 04:58 Report Abuse



This is a kind of needed lecture for beginers who may be dissapointed if they do not take into considerations the given advices.

Aug 25, 2022 01:36 Report Abuse



that is quite a meaningless comment - the sort of thing a 'life-coach' would say without actually giving any solid advice. in order to work in China you have to know HOW to teach, not just be 'passionate' (you can be 'passionate' about anything). You have to be able to plan, be flexible, patient, pragmatic, and PROFESSIONAL. You also need some balls to be able to stand up to the BS you will encounter at some point.

May 11, 2022 02:20 Report Abuse



Don't rely on an email process before you accept a position - insist on an online conversation with a recruiter/employer. This will give you a sense of what you are letting yourself in for. Ask any and ALL questions. Deflection or refusal to answer your concerns is indicative of how your interactions will be treated. If nothing else, and this is your first time to china, this will give you a sense of what to expect in terms of the local attitude to foreigners. Above all make sure the position is legal and ASK QUESTIONS about any and everything: ask for contact details of current/past foreign employees to verify what you are being told. This is perfectly reasonable and legitimate. Don't accept being fobbed off if a question is not answered to your satisfaction.

Apr 25, 2022 13:15 Report Abuse



you are right about asking questions when being interviewed.

May 07, 2022 14:42 Report Abuse