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Teaching in China: Questions from a 16-year-old high school student


jordanbonnick
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Hello Chinese Forums

I am a new member to this site and I'm not sure if there are any new thread rules. Anyways...

Im currently a junior in high school and it's about that time for me to take the SAT, begin applying for colleges, etc. I am interested in Chinese culture, and I have begun learning Mandarin. I plan on attending UGA (University of Georgia) and majoring in English Literature or TESOL and doing a Masters in Education at Emory University, Columbia University, Harvard University, or Cornell University. After I complete these degrees, I want to go teach English in China- perhaps for a large portion of my life, or even all of my life. I've always wanted to be a teacher. My mother used to be one, in fact. Coupling this with my interest in China and a desire to experience a new culture, I believe it is the right route to take.

The question is.. Will it be worth it to do these degrees if I want to teach in China? I've been thoroughly researching the profession- including reading blogs by foreign English teachers in China and watching various videos on YouTube- and it seems that only a Bachelors degree is needed. Also, many have reported that they know of people who have gotten jobs in China without degrees, and these same individuals are making as much as they are with degrees! So, if I complete these degrees (and become fluent in Chinese) will I be offered-

1) a higher salary

2) more job prospects and of a higher caliber (e.g., top schools in China)

3) more respect (I hear many native Chinese teachers and non-teachers alike consider foreign teachers a joke)

Also, give me any and all advice you can. :D

Thanks a lot guys

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1) The legal requirements are clear. You need a degree (BA minimum), a TEFL or TESOL qualification and two years work experience.

 

2) It is possible to get work without the above, but it is not legal. 

 

3) It is not necessary to speak Chinese to teach English in China. In fact, it can be detrimental. Serious schools want foreign teachers to bring an English speaking environment to the classroom. If you are speaking Chinese to the students, you are not helping them learn English.

 

4) Being able to speak Chinese will make no difference to your salary or prospects. You will be employed for your ability to speak (and teach) English.

 

5) Most teachers are reasonably well respected, in my experience. But there are always the few idiots who screw it up for everyone else.

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Welcome, Jordan

My advice would be to equip yourself for a career in education, with a focus on Chinese and English, ANYWHERE, not just in China. That gives you the most flexibility, and probably the pick of the jobs in China. Study Mandarin, study education.

I wouldn't worry too much about the legal requirements to work here at the moment - there's no telling what they'll be by the time you graduate. You should anticipate having to gain work experience outside China before moving over though.

Be wary of regarding teaching in China as a reliable path for a big part of your life - just in the last...how many years? Five? Ten?... we've seen it go from a free-for-all where anyone's welcome to having requirements based on degrees, work experience, age. It's very easy to imagine a new rule coming in which means you need to change your plans.

If you're hungry for some China experiences NOW, start looking at what you can do in summer vacations and maybe in a gap year. But if you're serious about a career in education, it would be premature to come over here underqualified - you might make more money at 23 that way, but you'll be a lot poorer by the age of 32.

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The question is.. Will it be worth it to do these degrees if I want to teach in China? I've been thoroughly researching the profession- including reading blogs by foreign English teachers in China and watching various videos on YouTube- and it seems that only a Bachelors degree is needed. Also, many have reported that they know of people who have gotten jobs in China without degrees, and these same individuals are making as much as they are with degrees! So, if I complete these degrees (and become fluent in Chinese) will I be offered-

1) a higher salary
2) more job prospects and of a higher caliber (e.g., top schools in China)
3) more respect (I hear many native Chinese teachers and non-teachers alike consider foreign teachers a joke)

Hello Jordan,

 

I'm currently teaching in China, so I can share my perspective.

 

The law currently states that in order to get a Foreign Expert Certificate along with the proper work visa you need at least a Bachelors degree as well as two years of full time teaching experience. Beijing is also pushing for people to have ESL certifications, although that seems to be a very very flexible standard as there are a lot of bad ESL certs available but it seems the government doesn't sort which ones are appropriate and which aren't.

 

However, your best bet is to equip yourself as properly as you can. What I mean is that if you are certain you want to become a teacher, then get the best degree you can. Becoming a certified teacher [i'm assuming you are American] will open up many doors for you. Why I say this is because the laws in China can and do change like the wind, so shooting for a specific thing at this point [at least 4 years away] is not efficient.

 

Knowing Chinese will not get you "in the door", but a degree and experience will. Sometimes you can do it without either, but that is against the law and pointlessly risky. However I know people who have sucessfully done one or the other at some point. Don't risk it.

 

With that said, knowing Chinese will help you once you are here, not only in your daily life, but it will increase your opportunity to network - and this country runs on social networks. Also learning some Chinese will improve YOUR image. This industry attracts a wide variety of people - some dilligent, some drunk. Make the best of it, because it helps the rest of us who try the same.

 

TLDR - learn as much as you can. Get a solid degree, maybe a teaching cert. Don't expect doors to fly open, but once you are here you can begin to upgrade your situation.

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