A TEFL certification in China pretty much translates to a job guarantee in the world’s most hip-happenin’ country. Among underground Terracotta Armies to the hottest technology, there are giant pandas and plenty of emojis to accompany aspiring teachers as they undergo the ancient tradition of noble study, final combat examinations, and join the ranks of revered ESL masters.
Of course, it’s not just sticky buns and hacky sack clubs. There are cultural differences to get used to and strategic options to consider, but the pros of getting a TEFL certification in China and then accepting a teaching position offer greatly outnumber any blackened grains of rice you may encounter.
If superb organizations, eager pupils, fantastic pay, and plain convenience of life sound good, signing up for a TEFL course in China is the stepping stone to working in a magical country packed with ancient traditions and flashing neon lights.
The pros and cons of taking TEFL courses in China
1. Pro: The job market
With a population of 1.4 billion people and an increasing necessity for English in global business, the demand for English teachers in China is high. And even better: these jobs come with really appealing perks.
With a TEFL certification in China, you get the crème-de-la-crème selection of job opportunities, a legal teaching status, and (in most cases) automatic job matching. In addition, you get experience in a classroom, which is a saving grace when you realize that the Chinese classroom does not mirror the Western world.
The people skills and personal links you nurture during a TEFL course in China is definitely the best way to get the best jobs in a very appealing teach abroad country.
2. Con: The airfare
Depending on where you live, airfare might not be the cheapest, and flight duration might not be the shortest. And while you can rest assured that baozi and stinky tofu are waiting for you on the other side of the ocean for mere pennies, getting there might take some additional planning.
There are many Chinese airlines that tend to be cheaper than global alliance companies and flying standards are high, so don’t be afraid to join a new SkyMiles candidate. Also, keep in mind that if you get TEFL certified in China in a city other than Beijing or Shanghai, the super speedy national train network might be cheaper and easier than additional local flights.
Finally, a rare few TEFL courses in China do include transportation of some sort, so check what is included in your package.
3. Pro: The pay
Not only are the jobs aplenty, but the pay is almost as high as the Shanghai Tower. On average, teachers make 13,000RMB (almost $2000 a month), which, considering China’s low cost of living, means that teachers not only live comfortably, but indulge in all feasts desired and manage to save a nice percentage of the salary to invest in further travel in Asia.
Furthermore, many English teaching jobs come with a very generous package, often including language classes, insurance, accommodation, residency permits, and any required visas. Of course, completion of a TEFL course in China lets you snag the highest-paying and highest-rated job placements!
4. Con: The pollution
Between the large population and roaring industries, pollution in China might take some adjusting to. Especially in bigger cities, smog can reach alarming levels that greatly impede visibility and are hazardous for health.
While the majority of the time you’ll be okay (unless you have asthma or respiratory issues), when the smog arrow dips into the red zone, pull out that flattering face mask and turn on an air cleaner at home. Stay indoors if living in an urban area or look for TEFL courses offered in more isolated areas if you are particularly affected by pollution.
5. Pro: The classroom discipline
Education plays a big role in Chinese culture and teachers are treated with utmost respect. Even in kindergarten, you’ll have rows of toddlers sitting quietly and listening attentively. As all teachers know, not having to spend half of the class time dealing with discipline issues makes any lesson plan 100x more enjoyable.
Not only do you get well-behaved pupils, but it’s great knowing that your work is appreciated. If anything, you’re going to get more issues from students’ parents, who are worried that their child isn’t learning fast enough or that the teacher is too nice, rather than from classroom horseplay!
6. Con: The communication restrictions
First, there is the local language. Even if you do come with a basic knowledge of Mandarin, the sheer magnitude of scribbled signs and fast-paced conversations is enough to dizzy any head and tongue. Participating in an entry-level Chinese class is definitely recommended, but casual communication still takes some time (like, a lot of time) to feel comfortable with.
Furthermore, the government blocks many websites you might be used to (Facebook, Google, YouTube, etc.), which makes communication with the outside world a bit more difficult. Of course, there are alternatives and ways around restrictions, but it’s still a bit of a nuisance and infringement on freedom.
7. Pro: The convenience
In China, you can pretty much get anything you want at any time you want. Whether it’s xi’an pancakes at 4 a.m or a sparkly dress from Amazon, there is a street food stand or drone ready for instant satisfaction.
Technology is the leading industry, which means that practically anything is a touch screen click away and there is an app for all the desires you didn’t even know you had.
In addition to commerce, variety, and 24/7 opening hours, basic daily functions are with high standards. Transportation options, both within and out of cities, are infinite and businesses really cater to the customer.
8. Con: The transition
The first couple of weeks of a TEFL course in China might be a bit bumpy. Not only can the cities get overwhelming, but you are looking at a completely different writing system, words are foreign, jet lag is real, and there is that limbo period before classes start and a job match.
Courses tend to last four to six weeks, but they are intense in content and time requirement. Thus, it’s a good idea to arrive a bit before to get a grasp upon your surroundings, settle under a new roof, and stock up on Maidong to get you through early mornings and late nights.
After the initial shock of being thrown into fast-paced waters and once you start to understand what job options you have, life with The Sleeping Dragon gets a bit more relaxing.
9. Pro: The food
Landscapes are intriguing, people are welcoming, the pay is good, but… let’s face it: The most savory memories will include Chinese food. While there is plenty of rice and noodles, tofu lovers can rejoice, vegans have plenty of options, and foodies will be completely overwhelmed at the abundance of colors and smells at every street corner.
Think endless dumplings, jian bing, hot pots, dim sum, Chinese BBQ, sticky rice cakes, and sweet red bean soup for dessert. You could literally eat a different dish for every meal during your TEFL certification in China, with plenty of fresh market stalls still left to explore.
Food plays a big role in culture in China and mealtime is a great opportunity to socialize, learn customs, and make lasting friendships sealed with a shot of snake wine.
Get TEFL certified in China and find out why it’s worth it!
If your taste buds haven’t influenced your air flight purchase yet, then may we remind you that getting a selfie on the Great Wall of China on your day off is a lot cooler than whatever else your colleagues might be doing back home?
Whether you want to master calligraphy, find the zen of kung fu, or be one of the annual 14 million visitors awed by the Forbidden City, the whisper of treasures waiting to be discovered in China should not be ignored.
It’s one thing to take a rushed tour of the nation; another to live there, earn a comfortable wage, and then experience it under all angles of the sun. Signing up for TEFL in China immortalizes you among the dragon descendants and lets you take a shot at teaching English to the world’s largest population. Who knows? You might just be the next Confucius!