ESL Jobs in China

Erin in China

Teaching ESL in China: Erin

I am from the United States (Michigan) and I have been teaching conversational English at a university in Nanchang, China for almost 3 years. I have almost 3 years teaching experience, but prior to teaching I was a radio DJ in the states and also have experience in fundraising and event planning for non-profit organizations.

I have a TEFL certificate in addition to a Bachelor’s Degree and radio diploma.

Living in China

There is never a dull moment living in China! I love the food, meeting new people and learning about this wonderful culture.  The people here are so friendly and welcoming. The least thing would be people spitting and throwing trash everywhere!

Nanchang is a very safe place and it’s very easy to get around by bus and taxi. They are also building a subway which should be done by next year. We have insurance through the school, but if you’re sick, you can only go to a place the school suggests. There are other clinics you can find with English speaking doctors, but some people if they are having more serious health problems, they usually go to Shanghai to see a doctor.

The school provides apartments for the teachers and the average salary is 5,000rmb a month if you work at a university.  There is plenty of part time work so you can make a lot more money than this. We have almost two months off in the winter and two months off in the summer, plus one week off during the National Day holiday in October. But the winter holiday could change because it always depends on Chinese New Year.

We only get paid for 10 months but we do get paid during the winter holiday which is nice.

Teaching in China

There is definitely a demand for English teachers in China. In Nanchang, most universities require two years of teaching or a TEFL certificate and a Bachelor’s degree. If you live in another country, once you’re hired the school will send you documents and you would need to apply for a work visa. When you first apply it is only good for one month when you come here, so once you arrive, the school will register you and get your resident permit and updated visa. Contracts are usually for one term (September – June) and if you stay the school will renew your visa before you leave for the summer.

We have co-teachers who give us our schedule, let us know when we have days off and will help you if you are having problems with your students. They are not in the classroom when you are teaching so you are left alone. A text book is provided but you do not have to use it all the time if you don’t want to. As long as you are getting the students to speak English, it’s up to you so you can be as creative as you want.

One class is 80 minutes with a 10 minute break after 40 minutes and class size ranges anywhere from 40-55 students. Dress is very casual here.

Recommendations & Concerns

You can learn so much about different cultures because each province is so different from each other. If you love to teach and love to travel, I would recommend China because you will have such a great experience here.

I would say some have concerns about pollution in some cities. If you are an organized person and need to know details ahead of time, China may not be the place for you. Everything is last minute so be prepared to never be able to plan anything in advance. But as we say, just go with the flow and realize this before you arrive and you will have no problems.



Erin Coyle is from the United States and has been teaching English in Nanchang, China for almost 3 years. She writes about her adventures on her blog, Erin’s China Adventures.

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4 replies
  1. Angela Mettle
    Angela Mettle says:

    Hello Erin. My name is Angela,i am currently teaching in South Africa. I would like to teach English in China,any idea how I can get a good school? Thank you, Angela

    • Erin
      Erin says:

      Sorry for the delay but I was traveling and had no access to email. I guess it depends on what city you want to go to and what grade you want to teach. I moved to Nanchang because of my friends and I got hired directly through a university. It’s a smaller city and not like Shanghai or Beijing. Right now China is requiring a bachelor’s degree, TEFL certificate and two years of teaching experience. What level would you like to teach? There are so many options- you could teach university but the pay is less but most schools provide housing and you could pick up part time work, there are international schools all over as long as you had a teaching degree, there are training schools but keep in mind you are required to be at the school even if you don’t have classes. Or there are some high schools who have international programs where the students will study abroad for university- you also need a teaching degree for these schools I would first think what city you may want to go to and then think about what level you want to teach. Have a great day!

  2. Mario
    Mario says:

    Hi Erin, I am due to begin teaching at affiliated high school of peking university,henan branch. My concern is about the breach penalty which is $2000 to $3000 usd, do they enforce this penalty and is it difficult to terminate the contract at any time. Thanks for your coperation. Sincerely Mario

    • Erin
      Erin says:

      Hi Mario! Welcome to China! Most contracts will state that yes if you break the contract you will have to pay, but to be honest, I don’t think it’s this amount of money. Some schools may enforce it, while others won’t. I work at a university and I know someone who ended up not taking the job after signing the contract and getting his physical done so our school made him pay back the money for the physical and visa. Now one thing to keep in mind too, especially if you want the chance to work in China again. Some schools will blacklist you-meaning if you break the contact they will tell you, you can’t work in China again and they will not give you a reference and they will make sure you don’t get hired anywhere else. But this is the worst case, especially if you leave on bad terms. But overall you should be fine. Good luck with the new job and let me know if you have other questions! Erin

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