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Best Kept Secrets About Teaching in China

Updated on December 13, 2016

Misconceptions about teaching in China, dispelled

The Department of Labor said that there are over 93 million people out of the workforce. Included in that number is approximately half a million university graduates that are either unemployed or working for minimum wage and/or part-time. That may not sound like much in a country with a population over 325 million, unless you are one of the ones not working or underemployed. If you are one of the millions that is working for minimum wage, and you would like a change, then there are opportunities. Have you considered teaching English in China?

Before I had the chance to visit China, I would have not considered teaching there… and I had all the excuses. I don’t speak Chinese. English was not my best subject in school. I’m not a teacher, let alone an English teacher. I have a two-year degree and not a bachelor’s. Teaching in China is not profitable. They have all English teachers they need. Sound familiar? However, when I received over a half dozen request to teach English in China in less than a week from one website, I was intrigued. Upon my arrival in China, I found all my beliefs to be wrong and threw them out the proverbial window and started with a clean slate.

The first misconception was the communication problem that I expected. Many Chinese, especially the younger ones speak English better than one might think. I would frequently walk around the city and seldom had a problem with communications. Most of the major street signs had both Chinese and English, as did a lot of subway signs, and signs in the malls. What few items that I could not find was because they didn’t carry what I was looking for. However when I traveled away from the major cities, the communications was a little problematic, but I managed to get along well enough.

The second paradigm that was shattered is that their English is poor. Their spoken English was a bit choppy at times, their written English and understanding of grammar was very good. Later I found out, through teaching at a few different schools, that the students usually had two classes a day in English, in addition to some students taking a third English class during the week. The students that I taught wanted to know more about idioms, cliches, oxymorons, and how to use them, so when they take an English test, they were able to properly use them in a sentence to get a better test score and consequently, get into a better university.

I believed that to teach English, one needed to be an English teacher, wrong again. When I went to China, I had an A.A.S. degree with a total of 200-semester credits. I had no problem finding work as an English teacher there, and if I had a 4-year degree, I could have taught in one of the universities in Tianjin. Within a short period of time, I had two teaching jobs and was doing some guest teaching in some of the elementary and middle schools. I was giving presentations some of the most prestigious schools and universities in Tianjin and even China. Granted I did have some help from a Chinese national that knew the system. Most of the schools in the cities look for university graduates, with some type of certificate in teaching English as a Second Language. However, almost any 4-year degree can get you a teaching job in China, and there is a good probability that you can teach English without a 4-year degree if away from the cities.

Because of the exchange rate, people have told me that you can’t make that much money teaching overseas. Depends on what you call much money? If you are working part-time or for minimum wage and holding down multiple jobs while trying to pay utilities and rent or living with your parents, then you are in for a surprise. It is common to find teaching jobs that pay upwards of 8,000 Yuan a month, or about 1,100 USD a month, with a two-year degree I was making 10,000 yuan (1,500 USD) a month and knew teachers making 15,000 yuan (2,000 USD) a month. Something that needs to be taken into account is the cost of living in China is a lot lower than in the states, allowing your money to go further. In addition, many companies provide housing with utilities, usually four people in a two room apartment, many will offer medical and dental, and reimburse your airfare or travel expense.

The teaching industry has boomed in the last few years becoming a billion dollar business, and they are hungry for native speakers with degrees. I list a few teaching jobs at, A few examples as of 12/12/2016:

There are also many companies like English First that can help you get teaching jobs in other countries. I met several teachers that had been teaching English for years. They would spend a year or two in one city and then move, making a career out of teaching and they got paid to see the world.

One of the benefits that really enjoyed was the travel. Most contracts are about a year long, giving you lots of time to explore. Face it, how often are you going to find someone else to pay your way to a foreign country, and taking tours are a lot less expensive if you don’t have to travel across an ocean. I took about two tours a year, and I always took the Chinese tours to see where they went on vacation and had a great time, every time, and I don’t speak Chinese.

What would you rather have on your resume, a year working for minimum wage at a box store or flipping burgers, or a year teaching in a foreign country? People are fascinated when they find out that you spent time in China. After I returned to the states and started applying for jobs, the one thing that came up the most was my time in China, and not all the questions were necessarily job-related. Even today, I still get a lot of questions about my time in China.

Robert Rumble

My pictures from China

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Greeted by a Buddhist Monk after climbing the 6000+ steps at Mount Taishan in Northern China.Robert doing a special class at Tianjin Youth Community Center The brightly colored temple in NanjingRobert doing some guest teaching to an Adult English class for the OlympicsTianjin Old Culture Street just  before Chinese New Year.
Greeted by a Buddhist Monk after climbing the 6000+ steps at Mount Taishan in Northern China.
Greeted by a Buddhist Monk after climbing the 6000+ steps at Mount Taishan in Northern China.
Robert doing a special class at Tianjin Youth Community Center
Robert doing a special class at Tianjin Youth Community Center
The brightly colored temple in Nanjing
The brightly colored temple in Nanjing
Robert doing some guest teaching to an Adult English class for the Olympics
Robert doing some guest teaching to an Adult English class for the Olympics
Tianjin Old Culture Street just  before Chinese New Year.
Tianjin Old Culture Street just before Chinese New Year.

Traveling to China

If you could visit one place in China?

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