More and more westerners are becoming interested in making a life for themselves in China. Some are attracted to China for personal reasons, such as an interest in Chinese language, history, and culture; others have more pragmatic reasons, such as the belief that China’s economy will continue to boom. Finally, some just want the adventure and life change that living abroad provides.
What’s the best way to get your foot in the door in China? Below are some ideas, written specifically for those interested in teaching in China but applicable to those in all fields.
Have a skill set to go with your interest in China
There are lots of westerners who are interested in China. There are quite a few westerners who can speak Chinese. However, there is a much smaller number of westerners who are interested in China and have a unique skill set that is needed in China.
Here at China TEFL Course, we focus on teaching English in China, which is a great way to get your foot in the door and starting a meaningful career. However, teachers of all subject areas are always in high demand here. (Especially, for some unknown reason, physics teachers. If you can teach AP physics, you’ll never be out of work.)
It is becoming more and more expensive for employers in China to hire foreigners. Apart from the visa expenses, employers now pay a 33% social insurance tax on each foreign employee’s salary. Your skill set needs to justify this expense. Luckily, native English teachers do justify the expense.
Don’t assume that speaking Chinese is necessary to succeed
Speaking Chinese, especially at the outset of your career in China, isn’t as valuable in China as you might think. After all, there are 1.6 billion native speakers of the language here. Your language ability won’t set you apart from them. What will make you an attractive hire is having knowledge, experience, or expertise that most Chinese do not have.
Additionally, being able to speak Chinese isn’t always necessary to get along in the workplace. Many of the best paying jobs, especially in education, are for foreign (western) institutions. Once you land a job in such a place, you will spend at least 95% of the workday in an entirely English-speaking environment. Many successful and happy professionals in China came to the country speaking no Chinese and picked up the language they need over time.
Earn certifications to develop your career
For those who already have a university degree and are interested in teaching in China, the easiest first step is to earn a TEFL certificate. While TEFL certificates are relatively easy to earn (and greatly vary in quality, value, and usefulness), having that slip of paper puts you a little bit ahead of those who don’t have one.
After a year or two of teaching, if you are interested in continuing in education in China you might consider studying for a DELTA, an MA TESOL, or possibly working towards a teaching certification (qualified teacher status) in your home country. For Americans, the easiest way to earn a teaching certificate is through Texas; you can do all of the coursework online and do a three-month supervised teaching practicum in Texas.
If you are currently in university and like the idea of teaching in China, it would be worth your while to earn a teaching certificate. As mentioned above, subject-area teachers are greatly valued, so don’t limit yourself to a certification in English. Teachers are needed in all subject areas.
You can do it!
China is undoubtedly the most exciting place in the world to be. Don’t let self-doubt derail what could be one of the most exciting and fulfilling decisions you make in life. To take the first step, take stock of your talents, experience, and abilities. Once you have identified what you know and what you’re good at, look at how you can use them to take advantage of the opportunities that exist in China.