Working in China: 3 General Jobs for Anyone

Working in China can be an interesting and rewarding experience, allowing a full-immersion into the culture and way of life in China. Furthermore, by merely being a native English speaker, you can find jobs that pay quite well even by western standards while living in a city with much lower costs of living. This is of course advantageous for people looking to save money while experiencing life in a new and exciting culture, getting out of a boring life back at home where it can be tough to just break even on living costs. Aside from some pesky censored internet, a problem which can be solved with a VPN, living and working in China can be quite easy.

But are there many jobs in China for Americans and other Western nationals?

What kind of jobs will be open to you will obviously vary depending on your education, training, and work experience. That being said, there are some general jobs that almost any English-speaking western national can easily obtain. These one-size-fits-all types of jobs are a great way to quickly make some money while living and testing out life in China. From there you can either branch out and try to transition to a different type of career, or, try to start your own business amidst the fastest growing consumer market in the world (Why Start a Company in Guangzhou). Here are some general jobs that you should look into:

1. Teaching English

school
By far the most popular job, this is the ultimate go-to form of employment for younger foreigners in China, mainly due to the ease of hiring, low-stress, low-responsibility, and very decent rate of pay. There is an astounding number of schools (both private and public), private language centers, and universities hiring native English speakers to teach at nearly any level.

Requirements

Officially, you will be required to have:

  • A university degree (Bachelor’s or higher)
  • TEFL or CELTA English-Teaching certificate
  • Have 2 years working experience
  • Be a native English speaker

Realistically speaking, you can find a job speaking English without any of those requirements. Seriously. Even those who speak English as a second language are able to find employment, however the quality of the employment may not be nearly as good as those that have the above mentioned requirements. Those without a degree, straight out of highschool, have also been able to find teaching gigs in China.

How is this possible?

To be bluntly honest, many English schools in China are looking for a white, western looking person as a way to appear more international, and thereby attract students. The quality of a teacher can often be overlooked, so long as they look the part. People who are not white, though possessing all the correct qualifications, may have a harder time getting hired, though don’t let this discourage if this applies to you. With the right amount of networking and perseverance, this unfortunate racial barrier can be overcome. You may want to try applying to schools or language centers that cater primarily to adults, since they are more focussed on the practical aspect of your teaching ability.

Working Conditions

Depending on where you work (private school, language center, university, etc), you can expect a variety of different environments and working hours. Typically, hours are very flexible, and during the day. However, teaching adult students is also possible, and these classes generally take place at night. If you are not a fan of children, you should probably stay away from teaching younger grades, as they can require more discipline and incur much more stress than older students.

Pay

The pay varies region by region, city, and your qualifications, but in general it is very good considering the amount of actual work required. Working full-time in a somewhat large city, you can expect to make roughly 14,000 RMB per month (~2314 USD), which is very reasonable considering the low costs of living in China. This salary is more than enough to cover your living costs and entertainment budget, with some left to spare to save for a rainy day. Many employers will also offer a flight reimbursement bonus to be given after the completion of your contract. Some employers also include a nice housing allowance, which leave you more money in your pocket! You can usually find a job that will suit the hours that you want, which is great if you are looking to focus your energy on a side personal side project, like e-commerce, launching a startup, or writing that e-book you’ve always been meaning to get around to.

How to get hired

You can try and get some groundwork done by contacting language schools before you arrive to China, but most people find this unnecessary. You can easily come to China with a simple tourist visa (how to get a visa) that allows you to stay for up to 60 days. This is plenty of time for you to find a suitable teaching job, and usually your employer will be able to arrange a visa for you afterwards. Most language schools prefer to conduct correspondence in person, rather than across the world. One thing you should definitely avoid is signing up with an agent or middleman that connects you with a school. This is almost always a scam, and they will take a large chunk out of your salary. There are plenty of jobs available so you shouldn’t really need to resort to having someone find one for you. Once you get to the city you plan on teaching in, look up some local language schools (there should be advertisements everywhere) or you can even go to the local universities and enquire about teaching positions. If you aren’t having any luck there check out the classifieds and job postings in these sites:

Networking is definitely a huge factor in the employment process in China. Go hang out with some expats, go to a local meetup, there will bound to be someone there who has experience working as an English teacher. One thing you should note: It may take a couple weeks for you to find an appropriate job, so make sure you have some savings in your bank account to keep you going during your search. You should save around 2 months living costs (~2000$) before making the jump to China to teach English.

2. Public Relations / Marketing / Promoter

pr
In larger international cities in China, there is a significant demand for talented individuals who are able to market and promote events, restaurants, and other businesses to foreign English speakers. This promotion type of work is largely conducted through the internet or other digital media.

Requirements

  • Usually a university degree (marketing, communications, journalism etc)
  • Prior PR / Marketing experience

Working Conditions

Marketing is usually a full-time job, working in an office or at a business location. A number of short term (3- 6 month) internships also exist in various companies.

Pay

A full-time marketer / promoter can usually make anywhere from 15,000 – 25,000 RMB (~2300 ~ 4000 USD) per month. Your pay scale will depend on a number of factors such as your prior experience and skill set.

How to get hired

Definitely check out eChinaCities.com for jobs listings in the city that you are interested in living in. Most likely the jobs you are looking for will be in the international big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. Other sites to check out include:

3. Acting / Modelling

acting
Now this job mostly only applies to people who are white, unfortunately. You may think that you are not very good looking, but in China the Caucasian face is high valued. Many companies in China seek Caucasian-looking individuals to perform some basic modelling or acting for their products /commercials, even if you do not have any prior experience.

Requirements

  • Be non-Asian (preferably Caucasian)
  • Have average looks or better
  • Prior experience is a plus

Working Conditions

This will vary depending on the type of gig that you land. Typically you will be working either on a photoshoot location or possibly on a sound stage of a video production company based in a big city. One thing you should note is that it may be difficult to get a steady stream of income. That being said the hourly pay is usually very good, so make sure you save some of that money for when there is a slowdown in your work opportunities.

Pay

This is extremely variable depending on the nature of your gig. A basic one-day shoot for a video advertisement can pay 1000- 2000 RMB (160 – 330$). A basic modelling photo shoot can pay about the same. Of course, if you are really good looking, and female, there will be more opportunities and high pay scales available to you.

How to Get Hired

Check out the classifieds sections in expat websites or contact modelling / media companies directly. eChinaCities.com always has a handful of job listings for modelling or acting. Networking is also key. Meetup with other expats and someone will definitely be able to direct you to the right place, since this is a very popular form of employment within the expat community.

Other Jobs

Of course there is a limitless amount of different employment opportunities in China. You could also do:

  • Work for a large multinational corporation
  • Apply your hospitality skills working in an upscale hotel
  • Quality control
  • Copywriter
  • Journalist
  • Teach at an international school

You can always try and apply your experience and training in your current job to one in China, however you will probably have trouble being hired in a smaller company if you do not speak Mandarin. To look for you “normal” jobs, you can always use the normal channels like indeed.com. Some more china specific job websites include:

Things you will need when applying for jobs

You will need to prepare a CV or resume when applying to these jobs, but often employers may also want the following documentation:

  • Recent Photo
  • Photocopy of passport page, and visa page
  • Photocopies of degrees or certifications
  • Reference Letters (maybe)

These additional documents may not be necessary for all jobs (teaching English sometimes requires virtually no documentation), but it’s good to have them just in case.

Last Thoughts

Living and working in China can be a daunting experience, however, with the right attitude and perseverance you will have no trouble finding employment. Remember that sometimes the best jobs are not listed, and you will need to rely on your networking skills increase your job exposure. China’s economy is quickly rising and with it are many opportunities to make money. Most people coming to China from the West will be qualified at the very least to teach English, which is always in demand and generally a decently salaried job. So what do you think? Would you be interested in doing any of these jobs?

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