The Pros and Cons of Non-Teaching Jobs in China

If you've taught in China for a time, you've definitely dream of leaving. The illusion of "getting out of teaching" isn't always true. Non-teaching occupations in China are hard to get and have hidden consequences.

Expat jobs are China's golden grail. These responsibilities are usually filled for a year or two before seasoned staff are reallocated.

Since coming to a foreign nation, particularly China, is a burden, expats enjoy high incomes and amenities including luxurious apartments, transportation, and sponsored schooling for their kids. It's perfect.

Due to the high cost, foreigners in these professions work long, stressful hours. These posts are also unstable. Your family may enjoy China and wish to stay, but your firm may not. Most expats leave because of the continual relocating.

Probability: "Local hires" don't get expat packages (see below). Even if you returned home to get an expat package, it generally takes years of employment with the same firm. Don't hold your breath. Unless you're ready to devote several years in one organization, an expat package is definitely out of reach.


Summary: Many Chinese enterprises save money by employing locally rather than recruiting an expat (see above). Local hires or half-pats are the most frequent non-teaching employment for foreigners in China. Marketing, technical writing, and consulting are half-pat employment.

Chinese enterprises recruit foreigners because they require a reliable native English speaker. Many firms may teach half-pats if their expertise doesn't match the company's profile since it's cheaper than bringing in an expat.

Advantages Half-pat work may help foreigners find non-teaching professions in China. They may be a stepping stone out of English teaching and, with luck, into another career. If you join the appropriate firm, a half-pat position may give a pay that, although not as high as expats', is definitely better than the ordinary English teacher after a few years of employment.

Many half-pat employment don't pay adequately for the hours worked. This is particularly true compared to teaching employment, which have less hours, long vacations, and respectable compensation in China's first-tier cities. Well-paid half-pat positions demand fluent or near-native English, decent Chinese, and a technological speciality like IT or engineering. Expect hard hours and unpaid overtime.

Your prospects are strong if you speak decent Chinese, have good guanxi, and have multiple years of work experience at a single school/company. If you've been a Director of Studies or lead instructor, your prospects enhance.

Translating, editing, writing, modeling, etc.

First, the basics. Foreigners can't freelance or have secondary jobs in China. By law, you may only work for the firm that supports your visa and on a work permit. Many firms, people, and organizations need international freelancers for translations, writing, editing, or a foreign face for advertising campaigns.

Marketing, manufacturing, journalism, real estate, and academics also need translators. Google Translate can assist you translate Chinese to English if you can search up the characters you don't know.

Many individuals begin their start in writing and editing as teachers, as schools need editors for textbooks and in-house publications. Companies assist rich kids with overseas university applications. Editorial is for writers, whereas modeling and voice acting are open to anybody who fulfills the client's needs.

Freelancing has clear benefits. Freelancers get paid by the hour or the word, work from home, and pick their own tasks.

In China, freelance employment is sporadic, making it difficult to earn a livelihood. One month you may have too many tasks, then none. Translation and writing aren't well-paid when you're starting out, and it takes time to create a portfolio and a customer base. Keeping track of various tasks, deadlines, and bills might be challenging if you're not organized and can't manage your time well. Freelancing as a foreigner in China is theoretically not allowed, so you'll have to be discreet and work out your visa.

You'll find freelance work in China if you can read Chinese, are a decent writer, or are comfortable in front of a camera. Due to visa restrictions and the stop-start nature of freelancing, it's advisable to use it as a complement to your primary source of income.

If you don't want to develop a long-term career in China and merely want to earn money, pay off college debts, and visit Asia, abandoning teaching may not be a wise decision. In first-tier cities, teaching positions pay more than 20,000RMB/month, equivalent to a 9-5 half-pat job. You can't beat paid summer and winter vacations, 20-hour work weeks, or the sense of success when your top child gets into an Ivy League institution. Remember that your life in China, no matter your employment, is what you make of it.

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