How to Get the Right ESL Job in China


At the time of starting this blog I had not chosen a school/job as yet. But a few days later I finally settled on one. Here’s some tips on how I did weeded out the schools and areas.


The first job contract I received really confused me. The night before I had done a video interview with someone and found out the next morning that I got the job!! Yahoo, right? Nope, it turned out to be just another learning curve. The contract I received was for another school!!

The process started with the “recruiter” showing me a tonne of great pictures of a gorgeous kindergarten that looked like a Google workplace (if you haven’t seen – Google a google workplace!). The kindergarten looked like paradise! They were offering 20,000 Yen for only 5 hours of work/day, including accommodation.

The video interview was a quick two minutes. It was just a woman with a white wall – and her young daughter popping in at the end of the interview. I could have been anyone interviewing me, which I didn’t think about it at the time. Later I found out she was an “interpreter”.  I got the impression that she wasn’t from the school at all.

The next morning I received the good news – that I was accepted by the school. BUT, when I studied the contract I saw it was for another school – not for the one I was told about. AND, the contract was ME hiring the recruiting company… the contract was not with the school directly. When I questioned the now team of “3 recruiters” about the contract being different than the school I thought I was interviewing for – they said there was a mix up because they were dealing with many schools at once.

Fair enough.

But at this point, I have a few contacts in China and some of them are/were ESL teachers with experience of the new person’s dilemma. Yes, there are scams out there of people who offer you a job “too good to be true” and when you arrive you’re put into a school that is bleak and horrible. My contacts told me, “Ask to see the school or speak to a previous English teacher.” So, I did… but get no clarification in response. They were unable to connect me with a previous English teacher, nor do another video chat inside the school. (I’ve had a job interview with a school in Taiwan where I was shown around the school and met the children. THAT, was a credible job).

An experienced teacher warned, “It’s a red light for me. There are some schools that bring you in on a volunteer visa too – so watch out – if they’re not that organised.”

BTW, it’s apparently OK, but not ideal to come to China on a tourist visa and then switch to a work visa. HOWEVER, if you INTEND to work in China you must enter on a z visa.  That’s what the Chinese Visa Application Centre told me this week when I was there. BUT, people do rush into a job and enter into China on a tourist visa – and then change to a work visa. Just make sure that it does get changed into a work visa. AND, you need to know there’s a process with that too – I think you need to fly to Hong Kong after your arrival – to get the work visa (plus purchase a return ticket to China). So, there’s an added expense.


From reliable sources, and my experience, I’ve seen the good schools do some….but perhaps not all, of the below:

  1. Do a video chat from the school. They have shown me around the school and introduced me to the children.
  2. Confirmed that they WILL organise the health insurance. Although, many teachers purchase their own once their in China.
  3. Are very clear about the working hours, allowable sick days and public holidays (and that they are paid).
  4. Are happy to chat about the details of the job description, area and answer pretty much any question you might have! Yes – even where the nearest gym is!


At this time of year (end of August) it seems all the school are hiring for the new year – beginning of September. So, I’m being handed a tonne of job offers. It’s been quite challenging trying to sort through them all.

FIRST, I needed to explore China and decide what areas suit me most. Being born in Canada, but having lived in Australia for 22 years, I don’t fancy the idea of living in a cold climate. BUT, if I want to go to China for work, I gotta accept that it’s colder than Australia. So, I’ve had to compromise and aim for the South part of China where it doesn’t snow – but is still cold.

Shanghai and surrounds is what I’ve ended up with.

I’m now in Changzhou. It’s a nice city – although I haven’t seen much of it.

My job?

Well, the school is very kind – BUT, they have me teaching Grade 1 aflatoun (even though I lack the training) and science (which I have no idea how to do). I teach Grade 4 English too – which IS what I’m trained for and what they hired me to do.esl china

The accommodation is nice, but because it is dormitory style …. well, we have a group of kids here who think China is party city. Drunk people coming home at 4am is not pleasant. Ugh.

I am very happy with my recruiter though. He promises me a higher paying job for next year. And I told him about the accommodation being noisy at night time… so I’ll be certain to ensure I get my own place.

All in all.

China is great!