When is the best time to teach in China? The short answer is when you’re ready!

The long answer goes something like this:

At the start of a semester

There are standard semesters in China which apply to all elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities. This makes planning easy if you want to work in one of these types of schools.

Semesters run like this:

  • Semester 1 – approximately September to January
  • Semester 2 – approximately February to June.

Although many people start their teaching adventure in Semester 1 (to coincide with the new academic school year), you have the flexibility of starting half-way through.

Non-government private centers don’t have to follow the standard semesters. They have their own programs and preferred start dates vary. This flexibility, combined with the high demand for foreign teachers, means that private centers and language institutes hire candidates all throughout the year.

What happens in the break between semesters?

People celebrate Chinese New Year between Semesters 1 and 2. During this time, Chinese people often travel great distances to spend time with their family in their hometown.

The end of Semester 2 marks the beginning of the summer holiday. For foreign ESL teachers, it’s a great time to go traveling – the further south you go, the hotter and more humid it becomes! Which exotic destination will you choose?

Once you’ve saved some money

When we say save some money, we don’t mean bucket loads. We mean just enough so that once you arrive in China, you’re not left high and dry waiting for your first pay packet. At some schools, you may need to wait up to six weeks until you get paid, depending on the school’s pay cycle.

Provided that accommodation is included in your teaching contract, having about US$1,000 in your bank account when you arrive is ideal. This should easily cover your daily living expenses for the first month or so while waiting for your pay.

Your expenses will include food, transport, entertainment and any additional things you may want for your home.

As long as you’re not constantly buying Western luxuries, you should have money left over which you can put towards domestic travel when you have some time off.

Note that having US$1,000 when you first arrive is a rough guide only. Some teachers start with less than this, while others start with more. For peace of mind, the more money you save before you go the better.

You’re fed up with your job (or can’t find one)

If you feel like you’ve achieved everything you can in your day job, or your boss sucks, or it’s just time for a change (or all of the above), then you need to seriously consider teaching abroad.

China is one of the best countries to teach in because it’s guaranteed to expose you to things you’ve never experienced before. And it’s a great way to recharge your batteries.

If you can’t find a job in your own country, China is a good place to look for one. As long as you’re friendly, flexible, and have the qualifications the school is looking for – you’re in with a great chance.

You’re dying to travel around Asia

Ever wanted to go travelling in Asia?

With 14 countries bordering China, and others just a short flight away, China is a great launching pad for travel in Asia and beyond.

Depending on your budget, you could travel internationally during the semester break. Popular destinations include South Korea, Japan and Vietnam. More adventurous options include Mongolia, Laos or even North Korea.

One of the great things about Asia is the cheap shopping. Thailand and Vietnam, for example, are winners if you’re on a shoestring budget. If you’ve got a bit more cash to splurge, then head to shoppers’ paradise, Singapore.

So if you’re dying to do some travelling in Asia, China is the perfect choice to start your teaching adventure.