Are you looking for an interesting experience living and working in another country? Not having any luck with the job search back home? Want to travel around Asia but just can’t afford it? If you answered yes to any of these questions, teaching English in China is something you should seriously be considering. As seasoned veterans of ESL in China, we’ve had lots of experience and are very familiar with the ins and outs of the industry. If you’re on the fence about potentially taking up a teaching job, read on for ten reasons why you should give teaching in China a try:
1. Supply < Demand
Even people who know nothing about economics understand the rule of supply & demand. One needs to look no further than the ESL market in China to see this old rule of economics at work – there are far more jobs for English teachers than there are actual English teachers. With over 1.4 billion people in China, this imbalance isn’t going to change anytime soon. If you’re having a hard time finding a job wherever it is you call home, don’t worry about landing one here.
2. China’s Growing Middle Class
China has undergone one of the greatest transformations of a country in history, moving from an agricultural, rural based society to one focused on manufacturing and urbanization in just 30 years. It is now the world’s 2nd-largest economy and is even expected to eventually overtake the United States. With China’s newfound wealth, there’s a growing middle class of people who want to travel, work in international companies, and send their kids abroad to get educated. They want desperately to learn English – especially from a foreigner – and they’re willing to pay for it.
3. Solid Wages
You may not think of teaching as a profitable profession, but it sure is one for foreign English teachers in China. Even with little to no experience, it’s possible to earn upwards of $20/hour for ESL teaching. More qualified and experienced teachers often charge an hourly rate closer to $40, and there are plenty of students ready and willing to pay. Even in full-time jobs – where the pay isn’t quite as high due to the addition of benefits such as insurance or a working visa – foreign ESL teachers earn multiple times that of an average Chinese private sector worker and probably work half as many hours. It may not translate into a lot in your home currency (dollars, Euros, or pounds), but it’s a great wage here and allows you to save money, especially since the cost of living will be much lower than where you’re from.
4. A Cushy Schedule
We’re not saying that all ESL teachers have it easy, but it’s possible for you to set up quite a cushy schedule in terms of working hours. In most places in China, a qualified ESL teacher can easily get by on 15-20 hours of teaching per week. It’s not uncommon to have 3-4 days off a week, which you can use to travel, study Chinese, or just relax in the park. Or why not go camping on the Great Wall? Of course, more demanding jobs exist, but they usually come with higher salaries and benefits. In the end, it’s up to you what kind of lifestyle you want to have – do you prefer more free time and opportunities to travel, or would you rather buckle down and save a bunch of money? That’s entirely up to you!
5. Save Money
If you’re smart about your expenses and can do a bit of basic accounting month-to-month, it’s possible to save a decent amount of money while teaching in China. As long as you’re not eating out in Western restaurants every night and blowing all your money at the bar, you can manage to stash a good chunk of your earnings away. You don’t have to live totally like a local, either. When we lived in Beijing, we were in a nice (and expensive) apartment, went out at least 2-3 times a week, shopped in the foreign supermarkets, traveled multiple times a year, and still saved thousands of dollars which we put towards a gap year trip and moving to Kunming. Of course, we’ll admit that it’s easier for a couple to save, as we shared an apartment and both brought in a paycheck. Single folks might have a harder time but can definitely save if they are smart about it.
6. It’s Fun
So far all of the reasons have been primarily economic ones – after all, being able to make a living is an important aspect of the experience. In addition to being a stable, well-paying job, teaching ESL in China can also be tons of fun. Here are just some of the highlights from our years of teaching in China:
- teaching our students how to play beer pong
- hosting a weekly music English Corner
- taking students out to dinners as part of a Foodie Club
- using the show Modern Family as a lesson plan
- hosting holiday parties for Halloween, Christmas, etc.
- getting paid to be a Beijing tour guide for a day
Now we’re not saying that you can do absolutely whatever you want in your class, but as the foreign English teacher, you’re given a lot of freedom when it comes to doing your job. After all, you’re the expert here! You may have a textbook or a rough outline for the classes you teach, but for the most part, you can do your own thing. As long as you’re getting the students to speak English and have a good time, you’re doing just fine.
8. Explore China
One of the best parts about teaching English in China is that you get to explore this fascinating country in your down time. Whether you dig big cities, the beach, adventure, history, or scenic areas, there’s no shortage of places to visit in the Middle Kingdom. Short holidays like the Tomb Sweeping and Dragon Boat Festivals are great for short trips, and you can save the epic journeys for when you have a longer vacation or when you finish your contract.
9. Meet Cool People
As an ESL teacher in China, your colleagues come from all over the world. Of course, you’ll meet people from the US, Canada, Australia, and other English-speaking countries, but you might also work with people from Germany, Brazil, or even Kenya. Outside of work, you’re also likely to get to know people from all corners of the world. It’s a mixed bag of people here, and it sure is more interesting than working with people who are all from your hometown or your home state.
10. Job Security
We’ve already mentioned the imbalance of supply and demand when it comes to ESL teachers in China, but that’s not the only reason you have job security here. Walk around China for one day, try to speak English to people, read the English on street signs or menus and you’ll quickly understand that China is pretty awful at the English language. We’re not just picking on China, either – we’re pretty terrible at Chinese as well. The languages are just so different and Chinese people simply aren’t used to speaking English. More and more of them want to learn, though, which takes a lot of time and effort. That’s where you come in, because your English is already way better than theirs, even if you’re not a native speaker.