By now, most of us have heard of people traveling and teaching abroad. But in recent years, we had heard a lot about traveling to China to teach English. The more that we looked into it, the more we found reasons why to teach English in China was a great idea — for people of all ages. So…we took the leap and moved to China! And we have not been disappointed with the decision. Here’s what we’ve discovered firsthand about why you should teach English in China!
China is Booming…and Native English Teachers are Needed!
English teachers are in high demand in many parts of the world, but particularly in China. With a rapidly growing middle class, China has a large population of people with disposable income. They are specifically looking to improve their lives, and the lives of their children; and learning English will open many doors for them. In addition, many affluent Chinese see learning English as a luxury and as more Chinese travel abroad, where they can use their English skills.
Josh and I were teaching English in China, and we can personally attest to the seemingly endless opportunities for native English speakers.
From typical schools, such as kindergartens and high schools, international schools, language schools and after school programs, tutoring, editing, and even teaching business professionals at Chinese companies; there are so many places where you can teach English in China!
Recently as I was riding in a car with an English speaking Chinese businessman, and he was adamant that anyone who wants to make money right now should open an English school in China! He said the opportunities are incredible — and we have seen it first hand.
We live in the Panyu district of Guangzhou, and if you walk outside our apartment 5 minutes in any direction, you will walk past at least 3 English schools! In fact, the mall right across the street from apartment has 5 English schools alone!
Finding a Job Teaching English in China
When we moved here, Josh had already found a job teaching English in China. However, I came with him without a job. My goal was to scope out the area where we lived first, and find a nearby job. Sure enough, one day I walked out the door and handed out 3 resumes. The SAME day I got 3 phone calls to set up interviews, which ultimately led to 3 job offers. No joke.
Both Josh and I work at language schools, separate from traditional schools. Students (and adults) attend these schools in addition to their regular schooling, so our busiest days are on the nights and weekends. I also do work with a number of companies in the area who are looking to improve the business English skills of their employees who do business internationally.
As a Native English Speaker, You Are Highly Sought After!
Even though we are busy with other jobs, more opportunities seem to pop up everywhere — and it’s to the point where we have to turn down opportunities because we are just too busy! While some schools have local Chinese teachers who speak English very well (even majoring in it in University), we have found that schools are looking specifically for native speakers.
Native English speakers can help with pronunciation (something even proficient Chinese English speakers can have trouble with), as well as teaching them “slang” and other popular ways of speaking English in the Western world. It also helps them to practice their accents and learn about other cultures, especially if they aspire to travel or study in an English speaking country.
So as a native English speaker, you are highly sought after in China!
Travel Around China — Experience It Like No Tourist Can
It really hasn’t been that long since China opened its doors to tourists. In the past it has been quite difficult for Westerners to travel here, but the country is starting to make it much easier. One example is the new 72 hour transit visa for China, which allows people who have connecting flights to other countries (with layovers in China) be able to leave the airport for up to 72 hours to explore.
But most people who choose to travel to China choose to take an organized tour. This is definitely an easy way to explore. China can be a difficult country to navigate, especially with the language barrier. So if a person is uneasy about visiting, tours are a great option. However, tours will lack some of the excitement and connection with the culture.
This is what is great about spending time living in China. When you live in China, you have a chance to really see and experience the culture for yourself. You see the country in a totally different way, not the same as what is portrayed in the news back at home. You start to understand the different ways of thinking, and the traditional sense of the locals.
Plus, when you live here for a while you will have plenty of opportunities to travel. From day trips, long weekends, and week-long holidays. You will also get to learn about so many beautiful places that are a bit off the escorted tourist trail. The longer we live here the longer our Chinese bucket list has grown. Check out some of the places we can’t wait to see for ourselves while living here in China (bucket list post).
Teaching Does Not Need to Be Your Career
Many people think that you have to be a career teacher to teach English in China; that is not true. Most people with any background can qualify to be an English teacher. The primary requirement is simply that you be a native English speaker. Technically, you should have a college degree too (in any field), but there are many ways to get around that requirement. We know plenty of people teaching English in China without a degree.
It is helpful if you have a TEFL or TESOL certificate (certification to teach English as a second or foreign language). There are many schools that provide these certificates, both in the States as well as in Asia. But again, there are some ways around this if you don’t have it (depending on the school). However, it’s much easier to find work at a good and reputable school if you have a TEFL.
We actually earned our TEFL certificates in Thailand. We spent one month on the island of Koh Samui attending the TEFLWorld certification course. Not only was it a really great course that helped us tremendously with some basic skills for teaching English, but who doesn’t want to hang out on a tropical island in Thailand for one month?!?! We had a blast! And when it was over, we had our certificates in hand and were ready to start looking for a job.
Neither of us were trained as teachers in the States. Yet, we were both easily able to get teaching jobs here in China. Especially after receiving our TEFL certification. You can get the certification online; however, some of the better schools will require that you take an in-person TEFL class. So it would be wise to do some research on jobs in advance of booking your TEFL course so that you can be sure that the course will give you what you are looking for.
You definitely don’t want to waste money or time on a course that isn’t recognized by your target school.
Do I need to know Chinese to Teach English in China? – You DO Not Need to Know Chinese to Teach English in China!
This is another question that we were asked when we told our friends and family that we were going to quit our jobs and move to China to teach English. Many people are surprised to find out that you do NOT need to know any Chinese to get a job teaching English in China. In fact, we arrived knowing about 2 words (hello and thank you). Of course, since being here our Mandarin has improved, and we actively make an effort to learn more every day.
Some of you may wonder how we can teach without knowing the local language, but it’s simple…all classes are completely in English! It is an immersion method – most schools don’t want you to speak any Chinese in your class anyway. All English, all the time.
As an adult foreign English teacher at a language school, students come to my classes AFTER they have had classes with a Chinese teacher — who teaches them all the basics. That’s the hardest part really, the letters, pronunciation, grammar basics, lots of vocabulary, and sentence structure. Only once they have mastered these basic English skills do they come to my “foreign teacher” classes. So by the time I see them, they already know quite a lot of English.
As for Josh, he teaches very little kids…and they are basic level. He actually has a Chinese teaching assistant in all of his classes. They are there to help when the kids don’t understand (or if they are misbehaving, they can put them in check in Chinese!). So to we really don’t have to know Chinese!
Teaching English in China is Great for People of ALL Ages
Regardless of what you may have heard, teaching English in China (or anywhere in Asia) is great for people of all ages! It really doesn’t matter your age, although some schools prefer teachers who are under retirement age, but that doesn’t apply to all of them.
Teaching English in China is very popular among young people who are just out of college, and for very good reason. Many college graduates are having a difficult time finding work in their field in the States, especially with the poor economy over the last few years. Struggling to payback hefty student loans, teaching English is a great way to get a nearly guaranteed job right away. Further, if a recent graduate isn’t quite sure about their career path, it gives them time to figure it out while still working and earning good money.
However, Josh and I are not recent graduates. Having graduated from college 10 years ago, we were ready for a break from the rat race in the States. Sometimes it is a called a “Gap Year” (or two) when you take a break or sabbatical to go travel. But you can also use this as a time to earn some money and teach English.
We traveled for about 5 months first, then came to China to work and replenish our bank accounts, then we will take off to travel again. We have also met a number of other mid-30’s English teachers here too. Everyone has different reasons for teaching English in China, and that’s what makes it a great opportunity.
Lastly if you are an older teacher, then there are still plenty of opportunities for you to teach English in China or Asia. At my adult English school here in Guangzhou, I met an older couple from South Africa who were professors at a local University. They had many years of experience and were really good. Also, one of the guys in our TEFL class was an older gentleman who was looking to teach English as a way to do something very different with his life.
And even our TEFL instructor in Thailand, Darren, was previously a steel worker for many years in England. He has created a new and very different life for himself here in Asia. Who would have thought that a rough and tough steel worker would make a great English teacher, but he really is wonderful – and he loves every minute of it!
Boost Your Resume – Especially if You Work in Business
China is such a big player in the world right now, having experience living and working here is a highly valuable experience to put on a resume. Especially if you are young and just starting out in the job market, it is a way to really make yourself stand out among other job candidates (which is no doubt the hardest part when you are among a pile of resumes).
In particular, if you are looking for a future career in business, then working in China will be invaluable — even if you are just an English teacher! Your professional field can be anything, from finance, manufacturing, marketing, operations, etc. – you will benefit hugely from having international work experience and your resume will be even more attractive to potential employers.
Personally, I always wanted to have international business experience. With my education and background, coming to China was a great opportunity for me. Also, at my current job I am teaching adults — and even working with Chinese companies to teach English to their staff.
Even though I am an English teacher, I am actually learning a TON about how to do business in China, as well as learning about their industries and the challenges they are having working internationally. The experience is invaluable, it truly is.
Save Up Money – Yes, a Teaching Gig that Pays Well!
Sadly in the USA, many teachers (especially young ones) do not make a great living. However, as an foreign English teacher in China you can make a very livable wage. In fact, some native English teachers earn a very comfortable salary. In some ways, it almost seems unfair. Immediately, we were able to come here, get jobs, and live a lifestyle that is higher than what many locals live. Sometimes that is a tough pill to swallow. But at the same time, we have seen so much respect being here as teachers too!
Another benefit to living and working as an English teacher in China is that we are not only making a comfortable living, but we are actually saving money – and a good chunk too. Of course, it helps that there are two of us and we live together, but we know of other teachers who room together to split accommodation costs so they can save more.
Your income and savings will also depend on the type of job you get and the city where you live / work. We both earn comfortable wages at our jobs, and we have calculated that we can actually live here in China on one salary alone, and still have some left over to save. So the second salary is all bonus savings!
While we have only been here a few months, we are starting to see that after expenses we will likely be able to save at least $25,000 in the next 12 months while living and working here in China (yes, that is savings, after our expenses and living a comfortable lifestyle).
So Why Not Take Time to Travel, Experience Life in China…and Save Money???
In the end, there are many reasons why we decided to quit our jobs to teach English in China. And we can’t be more happy with the choice that we made. Whether you choose to teach children or adults, there are plenty of opportunities in China, and we have found living in China to be much different than we ever expected. It has really opened our eyes to many things, and given us some pretty cool memories that we’ll carry with us for the rest of our lives.
Are You Interested in Teaching Children in China? Josh’s School First Leap China is Hiring!
On a final note, some of our followers are very interested in the school where Josh teaches here in China, First Leap. Check out this complete story for more information about how he got the job, the training provided, and the support for our transition to China – Teaching English in China with First Leap.
**All schools in China handle their visa process differently**