So, what's next for you? There are many reasons people ask themselves, “What's next?” Could be you're a recent university graduate, or you just finished your last tour of your military service, or you're between jobs, or you're in the middle of your life possibly an empty nester wanting to try something new, or maybe you just want to work abroad. Teaching English as a Foreign Language or Second Language is a viable and exciting opportunity and an answer to this question.
I've long had the interest in living and working abroad. My journey as an ESL teacher began in 2016 after nearly 10 years in the FinTech industry in the States. My children were traveling the world and well on their way in their lives and I had a chance to do something I'd always wanted to do. I was similar to you then, asking myself this same question.
This industry of teaching English is truly a viable option for employment and there are some unexpected benefits that come along with it. First, let me share some information with you about how to secure a teaching position here in China. Currently the Chinese government has these requirements to obtain a legitimate working visa to teach English:
BA Degree or Higher
60/120-hour TEFL certificate (TESOL, CELTA may also qualify)
Native English Nationality (UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand or South Africa)
21 to 55 years of age
CRC (Criminal background check) from your local police station. Note: In USA, FBI criminal background is not necessary, a local police report will suffice.
With boxes above checked off, next you'll want to begin the search for a teaching position. There are opportunities to teach English all over the world, really, but there is a huge need here in China with English language schools popping up all over the place. My suggestion is to choose a reputable company and to ask for references of current and past teachers employed with the company. Do your research. With access to information, Americans can make a well-informed decision. I chose to work for EF because they are a longtime company with over 50 years in business! The curriculum is proven and constantly improved. The company is global and there are nearly endless opportunities for career growth or moving to different locations around the world to teach. The mission statement of a company (even whether they have one or not) is telling and for me, the mission and values statements of EF mirrored my own. For me EF was the company for me! Good news, EF also has a recruiting team that makes onboarding smooth and easy and they make introductions to schools all over China!
Next, you'll need to have a budget for coming to China that includes your flight to China and funds to get yourself started in your new apartment and city. Depending on the company that you choose you may have to secure your own apartment which could mean a deposit of several months' rent and a security deposit. It is not common that utility companies require deposits for accounts, and many landlords hold the accounts for these services in their name as a convenience and you'll settle monthly with your landlord. You will want to get yourself set-up in your new apartment at least with the essentials. It is also common in China that there is a single payday each month, so you could quite possibly have to wait three or more weeks before your first paycheck. The US dollar exchange rate for the local Renminbi (or RMB) is quite good, so all total you'll need approximately $4000 give-or-take, to get yourself started here in China.
There is a possibility of another scenario and that is that your company here in China will provide your housing for you as part of your employment package. This is a real boon because they will have negotiated the lease, etc. Most often these apartments also come partially furnished at least with the basics like a bed, kitchen fixtures, possibly basic living room furniture.
That brings us to the ‘agreement' or contract for employment. Most employers in China require at least a year's commitment. Some companies will accept longer terms upfront, like two years. Agreeing on a term is but one aspect of your contract, there are other things such as regular and peak teaching seasons that require some additional teaching hours (similar to Summer and Spring breaks in the US), and most employers pay a flight bonus in the sixth and twelfth months so that you will have means for a return flight home, there will be the typical outlining of holiday time, annual leave allowance, and the like as well. The agreement will be sent to you before coming to China, but you will sign and the official stamp for the document will occur when you arrive in China.
Two other things that are required are a health checkup and a clear criminal background check prior to coming to China. When you arrive in China you will have another health checkup (which is thorough and quick). By the way, this medical check will happen every year along with a renewal of residency for the city that you reside in should you renew your agreement.
After pulling all your required docs together, find the job, negotiate and accept the offer, you'll be on your way to China! Living in China is very different from living back home in the States. City infrastructure is different, and language, currency and food are also obvious differences. Couple these differences with cultural differences and adapting to living in China can be challenging; it takes time to adjust to living anywhere new, even with moves back home within the US. Be prepared with an open heart and an open mind, it will go a long way to your adapting more easily.
I've been here for several years now. I'm still adjusting to different ways of living and being here in China. I mostly like living here in China. I find the pace pleasantly less stressful and easy. Equally I find the workload and schedule pleasant and easier than back home, too. I have lived in smaller cities here in China (well small population wise by Chinese standards one was 15 million people and currently approximately 7 million people) and I feel quite safe and move around the city and the country with great ease as well.
So, what are you waiting for? Here's an answer to your what's next question: come to China and teach English! You won't regret it and you'll make memories that will last a lifetime!