Is Teaching at a Language School in China Worth It?

Posted February 18, 2016 by Tricia in Traveling Jobs / 4 Comments

I have been and always will be a question-asker. Sometimes you simply need to know stuff. This interview series features random travelers I meet that may or may not blog or write about their travels. They work or travel to unique places. I want to know why and what they recommend in order to follow their path.

My goal is to bring you different ways to travel the world. Showing you how you can afford to visit exotic and alluring places is important. Not all readers understand traveling can be about more than vacations. Not all readers have buttloads of cash or time to fly to Europe or Australia for only a week. The Adventure List is here to help. Follow my interview series or guest posts to find out how other people can afford their lifestyle of travel as well as how I afford to travel to places such as Alaska and Roatan.

Today I talking with Kyle from Drift Away about his experience teaching English at a language school in China.

What is it like to teach in China?


Let’s chat China!


Kyle: I spent a year teaching English to 4-14 year old students in Harbin, China (northeast) at a language school. That was from September 2014 to September 2015.

I’ll be returning to coach basketball in a month of two. That’ll be in the south of China, Shenzhen.


What exactly is a language school?

A language school is an institution that students attend outside of their regular school hours to learn/improve in a language that isn’t their mother tongue. Its similar to Sunday school where students go to learn about a given religion. In the TESOL world, these schools are often called Cram schools because of the intensive format of the learning.

Is teaching in China worth the experience?

What qualifications does a person need to teach at this language school or in general?

The official qualifications are; be a native English speaker, have some experience teaching, have a college or university degree, be 30 or under, have a TESOL certification to teach. All of the listed requirements are flexible depending on the employer. But generally, the more legitimate employers will need these qualifications to be met. The difference between a proper employer and a bad one ranges from a proper working visa, accommodations, salary, airfare, respect of contract and more.


What is the hiring process?

The hiring process varies, but for me it was as follows; complete my TESOL certification with Oxford Seminars, which then allows them to include me in their network of teachers. They then send my candidacy to schools depending on my preference IE: Asia, South America, Europe etc. Once schools show interest, I’m put in contact with one of their recruiters, they describe what the school’s expectations are and send a sample contract, I review it, they interview me, and if I pass the interview, a date is set for me to start. Depending on the country (for me it was China), the employer should take care of all legal documentation necessary to allow for your start with the company. Some schools offer a few weeks of training before teaching. Some schools allow teachers to their TESOL certification upon arrival.


Is teaching in China worth the experience?

You teach a wide range of ages, do you find this difficult? Does the school provide a support system?

I didn’t find teaching a wide range of kids to be stressful. My school had a set curriculum which made it easy to teach the kids. However, I didn’t enjoy teaching the younger kids (4-7) because it’s more like baby sitting than teaching and at that age the kids understand a handful of English words at most.

There was support in the form of Chinese teachers in the classroom who helped communicate some of the more difficult concepts to students. There were also tutors at the school that reviewed past and new lessons with students.


What is your typical schedule?

My schedule was a max of 20 hours a week, 80 hours a month. I taught an average of 10-15 hours a week. I had 2 days off weekly, not necessarily back to back.

Is teaching in China worth the experience?

How would a person find a teaching position in China? Or your best recommendation?

I’d suggest going with Oxford Seminars, although they are expensive. Their wide network of schools and great advisors made it worth it for me.


Does the school provide room and board? If not, did they assist you in finding a place to live?

My school provided accommodations but not every school does, it varies by country, some schools provide airfare, accommodations (or rental allowance), some help you find a place, some provide a proper bank account, some provide language lessons to help teachers transition more easily … Other schools provide none of the above. Oxford Seminars has a great detailed list with what to expect from schools in different regions of the world.


Is teaching in China worth the experience?

How do you like your area?

I didn’t like the area I lived in. The employer failed to state explicitly that the 3 schools I could be teaching at were outside of the city core. As a result, I lived in the rural outskirts of the city. It was a unique experience because they get almost no foreigners, speak no English generally and there were also a lot of new sounds, sites and smells (most of which weren’t very pleasant in rural China).


Now the coaching basketball thing: would you say the process is similar?

With regards to coaching, the process has been different. I was recruited via networking through a friend of mine. The requirements are more basketball focused than English focused and the company I’ll be working with is a Canadian company, not Chinese so communication is much more transparent. Also, I have experience in China now so the whole experience seems much less daunting.



Thanks, Kyle for an immense amount of information.

Follow Kyle: blog –



Any questions about teaching in China?


Teaching not your thing? Try WWOOFing or a ski resort.

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4 responses to “Is Teaching at a Language School in China Worth It?

  1. heyy!!!

    its an very nice share…
    the blog is really interesting…

    the best part is the images are so colorfull
    than you so much fir sharing this information.

  2. Thanks for this informative article !! Good reads
    I can see that your journey toChina has been fun and colorful, I wish to have one too. 🙂

  3. Hey… Thanks for this article and the whole exposure you give about China. I have most of my friends living in China and earning their iving from teaching languages.

  4. My big concern would not being located in a nice or interesting area. I have been to China – inner Mongolia and the climate can be very harsh for many months. It would be a great experience though as regards personal growth.