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Overview

The gigantic landmass that dominates southeastern Asia, China is the fourth largest country in the world. China is the world's most populous country with about 1.3 billion people, which is approximately 20 percent of the Earth's population. The coastal regions are the most economically developed with an estimated 90 million Chinese people living in these densely populated areas. An ancient nation with a long and powerful history dating back thousands of years, China is now at the forefront of economic development and is striving to make its mark on the world stage – as can be seen from the recent hosting of the Olympics. It has the world’s fastest growing economy, with a 2007 GDP standing at 24.662 trillion Yuan (about 3.4 trillion U.S. dollars) and a population of over 1.3 billion citizens, five times that of the USA. Luckily for those interested in teaching abroad, a big part of the country’s push into the global market is its quest for English.

Teaching positions are plentiful in China, where native English speakers are in great demand nationwide. There is currently a reported shortage of about 83, 000 teachers.

Salary and hours

In the big cities teachers should be able to get about 10,000RMB a month plus overtime (average of 25 - 30 hours a week) plus an end of contract bonus. Most common is between 4,000-6,000RMB. Private institutions and Universities often pay higher but require you to work more hours per week. There are lots of places that will offer less but everything in China is negotiable. There is a great deal of work, so teachers should be careful of getting tied into a contract or take the first thing hat comes along. Fairly standard additional items include: a paid round-trip airfare after 12 months of work, a paid-for and furnished apartment, a computer with internet access and telephone or Skype connections. You may also be in the running for a significant bonus upon completion of your contract. And remember that you can always negotiate for free Chinese lessons.

Contracts

Make sure you have the original stamped contract with you before you leave for China. The sign of authenticity in China is a red stamp on the contract. Make sure your contract states the pay, the number of hours to be taught, and the airfare reimbursement if there is one. Be sure to clarify with the institution whether weekends are free and whether or not you get paid for holidays.

Staying Safe

Generally it is not recommended to work through a recruiter, since there are plenty of scam artists around. Be especially weary of agencies or recruiters that ask you for money at any point in the process – a sure-fire indicator that the agency is not a reputable one. Ask for the name of a foreign employee, past or present, with whom you can get in contact. People with experience of teaching in China also recommend some kind of medical cover, ideally covering medical evacuation if necessary. The key thing to do however is research: do as much as possible and thoroughly research the school or university where you are going to teach and read accounts of people who have taught there. Make sure you read the Foreign Teachers’ Guide to Living and Teaching in China before you embark on your adventure.

Type of teaching

In private language schools teachers will mainly be teaching young people (mostly teenagers), but also people in their twenties and there is likely to be a range within that. There may also be opportunities to teach young learners. Remember that class sizes can be significantly larger than in Western countries (up to 60 students)

English students tend to come from the more affluent sectors of Chinese society and attend classes for a variety of reasons. The most common reasons are to supplement school lessons; to improve English for the workplace; to prepare for English examinations (notably IELTS); for study abroad purposes or to consolidate English skills before embarking upon trips abroad.

Accommodation

Typical rent depends on whether you are prepared to share or not. Sharing accommodation will halve your accommodation costs, and there is a great range of accommodation available. Around 3000 - 4000RMB in the cities should cover shared accommodation near the centre. Accommodation is much cheaper outside of the big cities. Remember to find out if your employer will reimburse you for travelling fees.

Start of school year/ best time to look for work

The school year starts in September but most schools will recruit during the year as well - particularly February/March. There is, however, a constant shortage of teachers in China, and jobs are available at almost any time of the year with lots of short summer school placements from June to September.

Red tape

You don't even need a CELTA to teach in China - being white and a native speaker is more important than having a CELTA so it's unlikely they will require a degree if the teacher is CELTA qualified. Again, it will probably depend on the school and location. Some teachers who are native speakers and have Asian ancestry often find it difficult to get work. Technically, teachers will need at least an undergraduate degree and fortunately, the law also states that in lieu of a degree, teachers with adequate "life experience" may be admitted.

Schools should take care of visa applications, and they usually get a Z-type visa. This is the only visa that allows you to work legally in China for a salary. You will also need a residence permit, which has recently been updated to a simple page in the passport. Do also check with the local authorities regarding age restrictions as in some areas there is a restriction on long term visas for people 60 and older. Remember that this can all take quite a long time to organize, so learn to be patient – a valuable trait to have in China anyway.