With China’s population making up almost a fifth of the entire world’s population at 18%, the country has a tiering system to classify its cities for business and economic purposes.
According to the tiers, economists, consultants, and businesses devise marketing strategies and campaigns according to the city’s affordability, trends, and consumer behaviours. All 628 cities are loosely categorised into 4 tiers that group them according to their population size and GDP. The lower the tier, the wealthier the city.
As such, what should your expectations be as a foreign teacher looking to teach in China? If you are wondering what is the salary range you should look at, it would be dependent on the tier of the city you are looking to teach in. Nonetheless, your salary package is equally dependent on the experience and qualifications you have as a teacher and the kind of school you are teaching in. However, the tiering system allows you to understand what are some typical expectations to have as an expat teacher.
Tiers 1 to 4
What cities qualify as Tier 1 and what are some of the criteria these Chinese cities have in common?
Tier 1 cities are big metropolises where the population is over 15 million with a GDP of over U$300 billion. Typically, Tier 1 cities include Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. These are also the economic hubs of China with trade and businesses bustling every day.
These cities abound in job opportunities for foreign teachers as there is a large demand for English classes that cater to school children right up to working adults.
Tier 2 cities are emerging cities that are not too far behind in GDP of U$68 to $299 billion with 3 to 15 million people. These cities are also hustlers in their own right and feature many wonderful teaching jobs within a developed city infrastructure.
However, the range is wide in Tier 2 cities which also determines the pay package and benefits that are available to you from the school. If you are teaching in exchange for a rewarding experience, the lower end of Tier 2 cities will provide a teaching experience like no other that money cannot buy.
Tier 3 cities are typically manufacturing cities that keeps the economy going and well-oiled. These cities have a GDP between U$18 to U$67 billion with a population size between 150,000 to 3 million people. In these cities, teaching jobs may be generally limited to public schools for school curriculum as private institutions are not an exceptionally thriving scene. If you are looking to make big bucks as an English teacher in a tier 3 city, it is not impossible, perhaps a road less travelled.
Tier 4 cities have populations of less than 150,000 and a GDP below U$17 billion. These cities offer foreign teachers an opportunity to make an impactful difference to schooling children. These are usually rural parts of China where the children may grow up with a lot, but have a huge heart. Teaching experiences are generally heartwarming, but expectations in terms of salary wise should be well-managed.
How should I approach teaching in each tier of city?
As a first time teacher looking to teach in China, it is important to weigh out which teaching experience you desire and prioritize. Are you teaching to make a difference or are you also wanting to be strategic in your career choices.
Working in tier 1 cities is fast paced, competitive, and relatively demanding, which is typical of a metropolis. For example, teaching jobs in Shanghai vary from educating school children in private or public schools, to adults looking to improve their conversational English in professional settings.
The employment opportunities are diverse which allows you to explore various scopes and consider specializing in a niche. Salaries are competitive and attractive which invites a strong pool of talent. If you are an excellent educator, teaching in tier 1 cities like Shanghai, and Beijing is a walk in a park for you.
However, if you need to build your confidence, you may consider teaching in other the other tiers of cities where competition is less stiff and you may end up being a big fish in a small pond. Teaching in China can mean many things to different teachers. Some teach to travel the world at the same time, others teach to really make a difference. As an educator, your personal goals will help lend some direction to the kind of teaching job you may want to carve out while in China.
Teaching in Shanghai
If you are an excellent educator and want to maintain an upbeat city lifestyle, teaching in Shanghai can be an ideal choice. Shanghai embodies the development and progress significance China has achieved while staying rooted in its heritage.
With a population of 27 million people, the teaching landscape are loosely split to four main types of schools; Kindergartens, Private Language Centres, Public Schools, and Summer or Winter Camps.
Kindergartens are often coveted English teachings jobs in Shanghai with fewer teaching hours and simple lesson planning.
Private language centres face an uncertain future at the moment. Nonetheless, as an English teacher, these classes are typically smaller and intense as they are extracurricular lessons for students looking to get a head start in their academics. The salary is relatively attractive but you may have to take your breaks during weekdays instead of weekends.
Public schools also make an attractive choice for teachers with paid school holidays which allows you to enjoy vacations. However, the classes usually can have up to 50 students which will exercise your class management skills.
Winter and Summer camps are seasonal and are usually intense and packed wit activities. If you are an existing teacher, make sure to check if your contract allows you to take extra jobs during the holidays.
All in all, teaching in China is an immensely rewarding experience. Immerse yourself in one of the world’s oldest cultures while ploughing a bright career ahead.