Finding a teaching job in China is not all that difficult, although finding the best teaching positions in the country does require a little more effort. All the hard work will pay off, however, once you find yourself in a highly-paid and highly-rewarding position, working in one of the country’s most reputable schools.

Yes, you could waste time and shoot off 101 cookie-cutter applications. Or you could take some time to ensure you stand out from the pack and only apply for positions that will be worth your while.

Here are 5 ways you can secure the very best teaching jobs in China:

Make sure your qualifications fit the bill

Having the right qualifications to teach in China is the most evident first-step. To secure a great teaching job, you’ll firstly need to ensure you’re eligible to apply for one!

The top-notch schools, the ones everyone wants to work with, will require you to:

  • Hold a Bachelor’s Degree (in any subject)
  • Have at least 2 years’ teaching experience
  • Have TEFL qualifications that they recognise

And that’s just the start. The full list of eligibility requirements to teach in China may cause some potential teachers to back off. However, if you have top notch qualifications and experience, showing this on your CV will almost certainly land one of the better teaching jobs out there.

Most schools consider teachers with extra skills more valuable. If you coached basketball, or taught music or drama, for example, you are more valuable to schools as they can provide an additional offering to parents and probably reduce costs. Experience living abroad, particularly in Asia, is also considered valuable as China can be a culture shock for many and schools would consider these teachers better able to adapt.

Want to delay your move to China to accrue more teaching experience or gain the right TEFL qualifications? You can do that, too.

But read on first.

Apply at the right time of year

Some teachers will miss out on their dream teaching job simply because they’ve applied too late. What a travesty!

By and large, private language schools and training centres hire at any time of year. Traditional schools, like public and international schools as well as universities, tend to hire new teachers to start the new school year. In China, the school year starts towards the end of August or beginning of September. Most reputable schools will begin their search for new teachers about 6 months prior, in February– which also happens to be the beginning of the second term of school. This is when kids return to their desks after the end-of-year holidays.

You must be patient, intuitive and persistent, and that means regularly scouring job boards. Also, do not hold off on applying in the hope that something better may come along. Those super-coveted teaching jobs with highly-prized schools don’t come around too often, so make sure you’re ready to apply when they do.

Spread your wings (and your search)

Not every great job is about teaching English, specifically. And no, Beijing doesn’t always offer the best teaching experiences in China. Open your horizons, both in terms of teaching destinations and the type of teaching jobs on offer and you’ll tap into a much greater pool of fantastic opportunities.

Some of the best schools in China hold their subject classes in English, which is when it pays to have teaching experience and subject specialization. Subject-specific positions in international schools, universities and private schools make up about 10-15% of the jobs.

Moreover, the country offers amazing opportunities in incredible cities that aren’t so well known. These up-and-coming powerhouses of opportunity, like Chengdu, Hangzhou, Kunming and Guilin, can make for awesome living, given they’re smaller, less congested and boast distinct cultures and natural surroundings.

Which brings us to the next, very important point…

Don’t judge the quality of a teaching job solely by the pay

The best teaching jobs in China, according to everyone who’s ever worked here, aren’t always the ones that pay the most. Why? Because teaching is a vocation, not just a job– and remuneration is just one piece of an intricate puzzle that involves stress-load, working hours, teaching independence and surroundings. Where you live and what kind of environment you have outside of school will be as pivotal to your happiness as what or where you teach.

Even if you’re enticed to teach in China to earn some good dough, travel and save, do know that your lifestyle (and cash flow) will be determined more by where you live rather than just your salary.

Tier 2 and 3 cities usually offer lower-paying jobs, but also much lower costs of living. Perhaps you’ll be paid 20% less than if you worked in Beijing, but when your day-to-day costs are reduced by 50% your overall financial picture will look more favourable.

The bring-home point is this: don’t simply hone in on jobs with the highest salaries; look at the whole picture. Does the school have a good reputation for treating its teachers well? Does it seem to be a rewarding place to teach? Is the job in a Chinese city that appeals to you and is the workload exactly what you’re after? These are more important things to consider, first and foremost.

Scrutinise your teaching offer closely

Some schools are in the habit of promising the world and delivering the suburbs so, no matter how dreamy the write-up may be on that job board or how generous the employer seems to be during your interview, the only things that matter are those stipulated in your written job offer. That’s why you ought to go over the contract with a magnifying glass. In China, the employment contract is weighted in the favour of the employer, so it’s important to be placed at a good school who will honour contracts and treat you well.

When you search for jobs through a reputable recruitment agency, you are assured that schools and institutions are scrutinised closely. Although trusted recruiters try to deal only with schools that are honourable and trustworthy, they do not have full control over what schools offer. Want to make sure the “best” offer does not become the worst job? Do your homework and know the contract pitfalls before you sign on the dotted line.

Finding the best teaching jobs in China becomes a whole lot easier once you understand the full picture.

Written by David O'Connor

David is the chief contributor to China By Teaching, a trusted service matching teaching candidates with reputable schools in China. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is headmaster of a bilingual kindergarten in Beijing.

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