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Jemutesonekh

How useful is a Chinese studies M.A.?

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Jemutesonekh

I'm thinking about getting an M.A. in Chinese studies. How useful a job qualification would it be if I didn't go on to get a Ph.D.?

I majored in a subject unrelated to Chinese studies in undergrad, but have subsequently become very interested in China, particularly Chinese cultural history. I want to further my interest in an academic program, but don't want to do so if it won't lead to interesting China-related career opportunities. At this point, I'm not sure whether I'd want to get a Ph.D., so I want to confine this question to opportunities an M.A. can help provide. Here are some of the possibilities I can think of. How much would an M.A. help to get these sorts of jobs? What others are there?

- Government (e.g., State Department)

- Nonprofit with a focus on or including China

- Entry-level researcher at a think tank or some other sort of research institution

- Teaching at a high school

- Teaching at a community college

- Teaching at an English-speaking university in a developing country

- Journalism (would a Chinese studies M.A. matter at all as a qualification in this field relative to previous experience or publication record?)

- Business (increased opportunities in the business world are frequently cited on Chinese studies M.A. program websites, but it's difficult for me to imagine how the degree would lead to a job at, e.g., a company with operations in China; if it could, how?)

Thanks in advance for your help!

(x-posted to Ask Metafilter)

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kdavid

This type of major limits you to teaching/education careers, but it seems that that's what you may want to do.

Thoughts that came to mind on your list:

- Government (e.g., State Department)

You'd need a good amount of experience doing whatever it is you would do in the State Department first. They probably wouldn't hire someone without experience and just an MA. Maybe if you had the MA and some Peace Corps experience your chances would increase.

- Nonprofit with a focus on or including China

Again, you may need a bit of volunteer or nonprofit experience first.

- Entry-level researcher at a think tank or some other sort of research institution

Probably not without experience and/or a PhD.

- Teaching at a high school

You could do this without much experience. I have a former colleague currently doing this. He's teaching Chinese language.

- Teaching at a community college

With some experience this is possible.

- Teaching at an English-speaking university in a developing country

I assume you're leaning to China. You'd most likely be a shoe-in for this granted you fit the other foreign teacher criteria.

- Journalism (would a Chinese studies M.A. matter at all as a qualification in this field relative to previous experience or publication record?)

With only this MA, you wouldn't have much of an edge. Experience would be a main factor here.

- Business (increased opportunities in the business world are frequently cited on Chinese studies M.A. program websites, but it's difficult for me to imagine how the degree would lead to a job at, e.g., a company with operations in China; if it could, how?)

Unless you're fluent in Mandarin and can interpret/translate, I don't think this MA will help you anymore with business than another non-business degree would.

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fanglu
Entry-level researcher at a think tank or some other sort of research institution

Probably not without experience and/or a PhD.

It might depend on the masters. Is it a research masters? If so, that's some experience and would probably put you in with a much better chance than a pure coursework masters.

- Teaching at a high school

Wouldn't you need a teaching degree/diploma for this?

Teaching at an English-speaking university in a developing country

I assume you're leaning to China. You'd most likely be a shoe-in for this granted you fit the other foreign teacher criteria.

I can't imagine there's a shortage of Chinese cultural history specialists in China. You could teach English of course, but then your masters would hardly matter, would it?

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Meng Lelan
Teaching at a high school

This can be extremely competitive depending on where you are. For example in Texas there can be at least five to eight applicants for every opening in teaching Chinese in a high school.

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gerri
For example in Texas there can be at least five to eight applicants for every opening in teaching Chinese in a high school.

For serious? How come?

I only know the situation from German-speaking countries, where you'd need a teaching degree to teach, which is not available for Chinese because Chinese is not a part of the curriculum anywhere (or vice versa). So, there are only a few schools offering Chinese as an elective, and who teaches is a matter of guanxi more than education (except of course for knowing Chinese ;p )

To OP: I wonder what the first degree was. The recommendation (though it's one of the typical ones) I usually hear - and think has some value - is that a degree in language and culture ought to be combined with a degree or skills in business, or something else that's widely considered more useful/practical (as in: directly applicable in a particular line of work.

Also, judging by some of the things I've experienced, another question is what experience you have with China and/or what you want to work. A country/culture can seem truly fascinating when studying it from afar, and, well, even lead returning expatriates to suicide...

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kdavid
For example in Texas there can be at least five to eight applicants for every opening in teaching Chinese in a high school.

I'd love to see the citation for this.

I'm more interested in seeing how many Chinese teachers in the States, or other western countries, speak standard mainland Mandarin.

99% of the expats I've met here in China that have taken a Chinese course back home have come over with Taiwanese or southern accents (e.g. they don't distinguish clearly between the j/zh, x/sh) etc.

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Daan

To the OP: I may have missed this, but how good is your Chinese?

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Meng Lelan
I'd love to see the citation for this.

They aren't going to publicly publish how many people they interview for a job because of legal privacy issues, but I can tell you from personal experience that when I got called for an interview to teach Chinese in a high school near Houston, I was told I was the sixth person being interviewed. And that they didn't have time to interview three more people who applied. Here in San Antonio I actually know the directors of the foreign language department, who told me of having anywhere from six to eight applicants for teaching Chinese, and this was before the recession started.

It's very difficult to compete for a high school Chinese teaching job in areas with high populations of Chinese people, because in Texas getting a teaching certificate to teach Chinese is so easy that a Chinese friend of mine got a probationary certificate in a matter of weeks and got a job teaching Chinese in a high school. She didn't even have to take any Chinese tests until she got the job and was teaching for six months because everyone knew she was going to pass anyway.

Also many school districts can't afford to spend money on starting a new Chinese program, so there's a program that brings in teachers from China to teach Chinese for a year in a high school, and the program pays their salaries. So that's more competition - because the school gets a "free" teacher as opposed to having to go find, interview, hire a new teacher here.

Just keep in mind I'm speaking for Texas. Could be different in other states, but I don't know about other states because I've been in Texas for over a decade now.

Edited by Meng Lelan
more info

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chrix

Gerri, this is changing. Some German states are planning to start teaching Chinese regularly, starting in grade 9.

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renzhe

Can you actually do an M.A. in Chinese studies, without having studied Chinese or some related field (linguistics, etc.) before?

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chrix

A lot is possible in the Land der unbegrenzten Möglichkeiten.... :mrgreen:

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gerri

or the land of limited impossibilities.... Austria's Chinese Studies dep't is working on getting a Chinese teacher training certification established, too. But Austrian bureaucracy puts the crazy into bureaucracy, produced Kafka, so.... I'll believe it when i see the regular Chinese classes at school

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HashiriKata
Can you actually do an M.A. in Chinese studies, without having studied Chinese or some related field (linguistics, etc.) before?
As far as I know, yes, in the UK.

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chrix

Yes, but since secondary education is one of the few things in Germany exclusively in the purview of the state governments, it does mean that innovative education ministries can push things like this through.. So I'm quite hopeful...

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roddy

There will be taught courses, often referred to as 'conversion courses', which are designed for those without prior experience in the field. Often what you're actually doing is taking a subset of undergrad courses, combined with tutorials, essays, etc. Edinburgh's Master of Chinese Studies is one (taught conversion course - don't know how much overlap there is with the undergraduate course in this case):

Applicants for the postgraduate Master of Chinese Studies are normally expected to have a good honours degree or equivalent. A background in the social sciences and some knowledge of China are helpful but not a requirement.

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HashiriKata

Edinburgh's Master of Chinese Studies is run separately from all undergraduate courses (with different sources of funding).

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Daan
Can you actually do an M.A. in Chinese studies, without having studied Chinese or some related field (linguistics, etc.) before?

chrix might know more about this, but I believe this is the distinction between the MA Chinese Studies (no prior knowledge required) and the MA Sinology (good command of Chinese required) at SOAS in London?

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renzhe

Hmmm... I might have to look into something like that :D

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HashiriKata
It's more like a second undergrad degree than a Master's.

Undergrad degree is better, because you study for longer (in principle). It's called Master only because this is the 2nd degree, after your 1st (undergrad) degree.

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