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5 Tips to Increase Your Chances of Getting a Teaching Job in China

A foreign teacher teaching and instructing young children at a Kindergarten in China.

China is an exciting and very rewarding teaching destination and part of its appeal is the fact that demand, right now, is very high. Scoring a teaching job in China is not all that difficult, however, scoring the right job may well be, especially if you’re aiming high – both in terms of job position and destination.

Here are 5 Insider’s tips on how to increase your chances of getting a teaching job in China:

1. Have the right qualifications

Needless to say, you don’t want to be swimming upstream by starting your ESL teaching job search miles behind everybody else. China demands a certain set of requirements for prospective foreign teachers and all schools and teaching institutions in the country adhere to these demands, for the most part.

The main requirement to teach English in China is a Z Visa and, to get your hands on one of those, you’ll mainly need:

  • A Bachelor’s Degree, in any subject
  • Recognised ESL Qualifications
  • 2 year’s teaching experience
  • + a number of other pertinent requirements, which you can read about here Am I Eligible?

Now, the reason we say ‘for the most part’, is that exceptions are occasionally made in certain circumstances. Maybe you’re not originally from one of the seven recognised countries but you are a native speaker nonetheless; you might just get lucky and find a prospective employer who thinks that is more than sufficient. Or a particular school, in dire needs of a teacher, may not insist on extensive prior experience, especially if they run a set curriculum you’d have to learn anyway.

Yet leaving all that aside, having the right qualifications to teach in China is surely going to increase your chances of getting a job, so it’s always a great place to start.

2. Be patient and persistent

It’s a confusing and at-times overwhelming task to navigate through the teaching-seeking positions available in China and it certainly doesn’t help that, at least in Tier 1 cities like Beijing and Shanghai, competition is fierce. By the time you’ve compiled a list, checked it twice and finally settled on a job you’d like to apply to, it’s most likely already been filled. So get to it – time is of the essence! The first thing (even if we do say so ourselves) is to work with an agency like China by Teaching that’ll gather all your wishes, swiftly sort out available jobs, and present you with a choice of suitable positions in just a fraction of the time it would take you to do the same. This is crucial for Tier 1 cities and positions that are highly coveted – like kindergarten and international school jobs.

The second thing is to not get discouraged: give it enough time and the right position will become available. Make sure you have time on your side, however, as the whole process can take quite some time.

A foreign English gives instruction to Chinese Children in a kindergarten setting

3. Time it right

The schooling system in China runs on two semesters, the Fall Semester starting in early September (sometimes late August) and Spring Semester which runs from February onwards. The key here is to start your applications about 5 months before the start of the term, keeping in mind that there’s a lot more hiring happening at the beginning of the school year (Fall Semester) compared with the Spring (April) which is actually the school year’s ‘half-way’ point. Exceptions do happen, of course, especially with private institutions, some of which can hire at any time of year, depending on their needs.

This early approach doesn’t just increase your chances of finding a job in China, but of finding a good job, because it’ll give you time to shop around, negotiate, research both the school and destinations and decide which of the options is the best fit for you. Rush the whole thing and you’ll end up in a job you may not like in a city you have no interest in living in.

4. Think outside the box

Speaking of which, the last point may not always be negative. Just because you may not have considered a lesser-known teaching destination it doesn’t mean you won’t like living there!

Lateral thinking is the ESL teacher’s key to scoring a teaching job in China and this holds true both for the destination and the teaching job itself. There’s a lot of variety within the teaching scene in China: yes, you can teach English, of course, but you can also teach Maths, Geography or PE in English in an international school, you can play games with 2-year-olds in kindergarten or give one-on-one lessons in teaching institutions, instead of 60 students in lecture halls. There’s a lot of room to manoeuvre your teaching career in China so don’t limit your chances of getting a job by only considering one kind of option.

By thinking outside the box, you could not only increase your chances of getting a teaching job in China in the first place (by widening your job search) but it can also help you find an even better job, once there and your initial job obligations (usually 12 months) have been fulfilled. Every potential ESL teacher has a ‘dream job’ in mind but that doesn’t mean the only way there is direct. Make a pit stop, if you have to. Read more about ESL Teaching Jobs in China.

5. Broaden your (geographical) horizons

Since you’re considering broadening your job search, why not broaden your destination choices too? In this particular case, however, there are a few very valid reasons to look beyond your ‘must-100%-live-there’ city of choice.

Now, sorry to burst any bubbles here but just because you’ve visited Shanghai before and think you’d love to live there, it may not mean you’d really love it, 24/7, with a 9 to 5 job and all the stresses that come with it. The city isn’t for everyone and that’s true of every teaching destination out there. Looking beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and into Tier 2 cities is a wonderful tactic for increasing your chances of getting a teaching job in China, especially when you consider that some positions outside the prime hubs can offer sensational working conditions and a much more relaxing and enjoyable lifestyle.

Moreover, don’t let the bottom dollar dictate your teaching destination of choice. Generally speaking, the highest-paid jobs are also in the costliest cities, so what you’re left with at the end of every month may be less than if you worked in a lower-paid job in a much cheaper city, and that’s something not many prospective newcomers even consider. Tier 2 cities are oftentimes ridiculously close to Tier 1 city: close enough to offer a multitude of travel options yet far enough that your life will be and feel totally different.

Want to chat all thing ESL teaching in China related? You can drop us a line, right here.

David O Connor

David O Connor

David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is lover of craft beers, book clubs and super long road trips.

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