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Hi everyone,


I'm interested in teaching English in China.  I have never been there, and would like to go there not only to teach but also to improve my Mandarin Chinese.  I currently researching this.  I have a few questions.  What do most English teachers do after they completed their contracts?  Do they return to the states to find a similar job?  Is it difficult to get a job back in the states when one returns?

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I'm not from the states but I can tell you about some trends I've seen with returning UK teachers


- First of all, at least half of them who planned just to go for a year or two got married and stayed

- The majority who had a semblance of a career, such as the lawyers, programmers, events managers etc went back to that

- A significant proportion got a PGCE (a teaching qualification required to teach in mainstream schools), and got 'proper' teaching work

- Of the remaining bunch, approximately half went to work in TEFL schools/colleges and get pathetic amounts of pay and no benefits.

- The remainder went into MAs/Phds, graduated and either went into the above mentioned TEFL schools, or went back to China.

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Baron is on the money above. Additionally, many end up coming to Beijing or Shanghai to find internships/jobs/careers in something not teaching related and in order to stay in China, as non-teaching opportunities outside of bigger cities can be challenging to find.


Many extend from 1 year to several because they realize one year is not enough. Some of those stay indefinitely. How they transition on to other work, if they do, is similar to ending a gap year of any type - lots of searching and a bit of luck. Saving a ok nest egg to hold you out for a few months helps. That cushion would be especially important if you plan on returning back, as I assume it is difficult to find a job in the US as a teacher in China (i.e. most move back empty handed and search).

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I've been here for almost eight years and am just over 100 days from permanently moving back to the States (yes, I'm counting the days!).


I'll give you the same advice I give other new teachers:


You need to have a career goal. Additionally, you need to know how teaching ESL in China will help you achieve your career goal. If ESL has nothing to do with your long-term goals, then you should keep your stay here short as the longer you're away from the "real world," the more a detriment this time here will have on your future.


If your career goal is to get into ESL, great. Get a year or two of experience and then return to your home country and get an MA in TESOL or Linguistics, or even a higher degree such as a PhD. After that, you'll have a wealth of opportunities with high pay and benefits.


If your career goal is China-related, then there are many opportunities here to help you with that, such as learning the language.


I have some good friends who have been here so long, and have been here without earning any qualifications or language experience, that this is pretty much the only thing they can do for the rest of their life. They're only option to change careers would be to return to the States, return to school, and start from scratch--and that won't be easy with a family to care for and a wife who cannot work.


Sure, ESL in China is great to start, but do you really want to be playing the role of babysitter and/or entertainer for the rest of your life? Additionally, the older you get, the more difficult the job will be. Also, the pay isn't what it was back when I first arrived in 2006--it hasn't, and won't, catch up with inflation. Foreign teachers are also increasingly disrespected and deprofessionalized.


So, use this opportunity as a step in a direction which will help you achieve your career goals. Have a plan before you step on the plane. What do you want out of this experience, and how can you make it benefit your future?

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Post-graduate in linguistics opens the door to a wealth of high paid opportunities? Either the US really is still the land of opportunities, or you may be slightly over-optimistic. While I certainly know linguistics postgrads who are happy in their work (particularly those in field linguistics), I don't know a single one who is in a well paid job with good benefits. Even the the ones who work at unis aren't getting permanent full time posts. I'd be surprised if any I've know are on over £30k pa, apart form those who went into publishing first then got the MA/Phd.


The feverish entrepreneurialism and hopeful aspirations you see in China can blind foreign teachers to the grim reality of flailing developed economies back in the west.

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I should have been more specific.

An MA or PhD opens a wealth of opportunities abroad as a professional ESL instructor at international schools, whose pay is high in comparison to the public sector. Most of these teachers are earning western salaries while still maintaining a low cost of living in the host country.

I myself am returning to the States to do a PhD in History, so I'm far from blind to the economic caveats and challenges tied to pursuing a doctorate.

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All the best to you and your Phd


Many international schools require a practical teaching diploma rather than theoretical postgraduates, but I suppose having a MA on top of a teaching qualification may give you an edge over the other candidates for competitive posts.


Public sector teaching in the UK is reasonably well paid, but TEFL teaching and a TEFL certificate isn't a direct route into it. Of course it doesn't hurt to have it, but you still need the extra qualification.

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