ESL jobs in China|Find a teaching english job(TEFL jobs) in China.

My China experience began as I battled my way through scores of emails from recruiters and schools across the Middle Kingdom. I had sent my resume to hundreds of potential employers as I searched for my first job opportunity in China. In response, I received a giant raft of emails from interested parties. This may sound like I am trumpeting myself as a world-class educator, but I am making the point more to illustrate that for prospective teachers coming to China there can be a plethora of options and no easy way to make an informed decision.

The greatest lesson I learned from my experiences in getting to China and my subsequent years living here, is that it is vital to (i) know why you are coming, (ii) know the details of the job you are taking, and (iii) to ensure these factors are compatible. To explain the importance of this, I would like to recount my own personal experiences and use those of others I have encountered here in China to paint profiles of the jobs available and the people who typically fill them. I fell into a trap that ensnares countless others. I looked for a “job in China.” At the time, I was still in England and China was, in my mind, one homogeneous block of mystery and potential adventure. I failed to understand that just like my home country the jobs on offer were varied and that just because I was offered a job here didn’t mean it was the right job for me.

I found my first job through a recruiter. The process was quick, smooth and remarkably easy. However, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. After a few days, I soon realized that the job I had taken was going to be a major challenge. The first aspect of this was the location. The town itself, Dawufeng, was a small industrial hovel (and I do not use this word lightly) about an hour away from Tianjin. I was the only English speaker in town and was at least one hour away from any other laowai. Even though my home-life was less than ideal, it was nothing compared to the job I had at school. I taught at both the local primary and middle schools. In both, the classes were made up of over 40 students. In the primary school I had an assistant who spoke some English, but in the middle school I was on my own. None of the Chinese English teachers spoke much more than the most basic English. The whole situation left me feeling overwhelmed and, at times, desperately unhappy.

The job in Dawufeng was clearly not the right fit for me. This is not, though, to say that another, better-suited teacher would not have enjoyed the experience – someone who was a more experienced teacher or who had better Chinese skills perhaps. Everyone has their own needs and motivations. By not understanding mine, I found myself in a situation that I did not enjoy. The first, and most vital, step for those looking to come to China is to understand why they are coming and to then seek the job that suits them best. Below, I have briefly outlined the ESL job-market here in China and how it might relate to those interested in heading east.

Public Sector
Let’s start with public schools and universities. There are two basic considerations here, holidays and salary. The salary in public schools is likely to be quite modest – as low as 4,000 or 5,000rmb in some cities (a little higher in Beijing or Shanghai). Universities tend to be a little higher, pushing closer to the 10,000 mark (both usually provide apartments as part of any package). However, the flipside to the lower compensation is that the holidays on offer are usually far longer, often taking in three summer months and lengthy periods at Spring Festival. Many – although certainly not all as I do not wish to generalize – of the teachers working in public education tend to fall into two categories.

• The first are youngsters, often straight out of university, who are using a teaching job as a base from which to see China. Being new to the workplace, these teachers are also less concerned about salary than some of their older counterparts. Most tend to get their jobs through recruiters – just as I did – or through organized schemes, such as that of the British Council that places teachers in schools around the country. (Many of the recruiters looking for this type of teacher, clearly state in their online ads the travel opportunities around the region in which the school is located).

• The second group features those focused more on making a difference and with a genuine commitment to education – perhaps often teachers in their home country. These are the type of teachers who would have been more successful than I was in Dawufeng, and, who would be best suited to slightly more remote areas of the country.

The teachers attracted to this sector will tend to be making a shorter commitment to China. This is reflected in the contracts available. Many can be as short as four to six months – often covering one semester – or, those that last a year, include an airfare home.

Private Sector
Now, let’s move onto the private sector, which includes local private schools as well as major international companies providing language training and teaching. In this sphere, the money is better, but the hours longer and demands greater. This is the sector that attracts those looking for a little more stability:

• The first group you may find working at major education companies are those for whom teaching overseas is a career or a longer-term commitment. This is because –on the back of Asia’s insatiable demand for English – many of the companies have grown into major corporations and can offer high salaries and genuine development opportunities. At the top end of the market, salaries may not yet quite match the levels of those in the west, but, with improved exchange rates, they are getting closer.

• This type of company often also attracts older professionals seeking career breaks or a change of pace, the chance to earn salaries that bear closer relation to those on offer at home, hence making the trip away a far less costly experience.

For many of the bigger companies involved, teachers are required to make commitments of at least a year. Therefore, many of the people involved are likely to be in China longer. This does not necessarily mean they will stay with the same company as, just as in any industry at home, there is competition for talent. This often creates a migration from the lower end of the market towards the better paid top end as teachers accrue experience in China.