The U.S. Embassy in Beijing receives many inquiries about teaching English in China. Many Americans have enjoyed their teaching experiences in China; others have encountered significant problems.
Unfortunately, some American citizens travel to China under a contract with promises of a good salary, bonuses, and other perks, only to find themselves in difficult situations, often lacking funds to return to the United States.
The key to a successful English teaching experience in China is to be employed by a reputable school and to negotiate a well-written contract before leaving the United States.
We advise anyone considering an English teaching job in China to carefully review the terms of the contract in regard to working and living conditions. It would also be useful to ask for references from persons familiar with the institution, especially former and current American employees.
The Embassy cannot represent U.S. citizens in private employment disputes, conduct investigations or act as a legal representative in legal or contractual mishaps experienced by U.S. citizens, nor can we investigate or certify employers. Every school and province in China has its own regulations and interested parties should contact the local authorities for more detailed information. Each individual should evaluate potential employers before signing a contract.
This guide addresses types of positions available in China, visa matters, contract considerations, sources of information, cultural pitfalls to consider, tips on adapting to China, and Embassy resources.
TYPES OF ESL POSITIONS AVAILABLE IN CHINA
English teachers in China work in a wide variety of institutions. A brief description of the different options available follows. Please keep in mind that all institutions must have a license to hire foreign teachers in order for foreigners to be legally employed. Prospective teachers should verify the credentials of the school, university or institute before entering into any type of agreement.
The pay for teaching English in kindergartens in a large city such as Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou is a minimum of RMB 150 (about $18) per hour and usually more, with little preparation or outside work. This can be the highest paying teaching job available, but generally does not include rent or a plane ticket, and may require more than 20 teaching hours a week.
Boarding schools are fairly common in China, and spread throughout the countryside surrounding large cities. These jobs pay anywhere from RMB 4,000 to 9,000 (about $480 to $1,090) per month, including apartment and reimbursement for an international flight upon completion of the contract. They often allow for travel, with one month vacation for spring festival, two months for summer, and two weeks’ paid vacation. The age range of the children varies.
Summer and Winter Camps
Camps last from one week to one month and can pay RMB 5,000 (about $600) for two weeks. Although these are intense work environments, they provide an opportunity to interact with Chinese teachers, college students and children and are a good option for those interested in short-term teaching in China
Business English Teaching
Teaching English for a private business program usually requires a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification. It may also require prior experience teaching adult English, a degree in ESL, or prior business experience.
These jobs generally have a heavy workload — often over 20 hours a week with evening and weekend hours. However, the students in this setting are very eager to learn and work hard. The company may provide lesson plans and/or a housing allowance in addition to the base salary of approximately RMB 8,000 (about $970) a month.
Private Language Institutions
Private language institutes abound in China; some are well-established while others can be small and short-lived. Instructors in these institutes typically teach conversation- oriented classes, and occasionally teach writing as well. Pupils range from grade school students to business people; consequently student skill levels vary widely.
These institutions generally have a very high student turnover rate. Pay rates are dependent upon the individual institution and the number of hours worked (typically 20-30 hours per week, often including early mornings, evenings, and weekends, to accommodate pupils’ schedules).
Many universities in China have a foreign language or English department. Requirements for teachers vary depending on the university and the level of classes taught; however, a master’s degree or a doctorate may qualify teachers to work as a ”Foreign Expert” in a university and to teach more advanced courses for much more pay than a “Foreign -Teacher” receives.
Undergraduate classes will be larger, while graduate classes tend to be smaller, offering more personal contact with students. Salaries also vary from university to university, though most include housing on or near the university campus.
Advanced Degree Programs
Prospective teachers with a master’s degree, particularly an MBA, can receive a good salary working as a professor for a master’s degree program at a university. The teaching load is light, but requires teachers to hold office hours and devote significant preparation time to lectures, paper assignments, and exams.
Career teachers can make up to 40,000 USD per year, paid in foreign currency. Options for career teachers include private college preparatory programs for Chinese students, international schools for children of expatriates, and universities for higher-level students. These jobs are often extremely competitive.
Private Teaching and Tutoring
Private teaching and tutoring are very common in China, and there is great demand for native English speakers, particularly in the larger cities. However, in order to do so legally, written consent from a full-time employer is required. Teachers interested in giving private language lessons should include a stipulation in their contract allowing a certain number of hours per week for private teaching.