We know you’ve been doing the research on how much money you can make here, what types of school you want to teach at, and even how to make friends in China. Of course, you’ve considered location – who wouldn’t when moving to one of the world’s largest countries? China’s diversity makes it a challenge to understand what type of experience you’ll be having, sometimes solely based on whether you’ll be living in the north vs. the south.
They essentially are two different worlds.
So, when it comes to the word “best”, there’s no doubt that “best” is in the eye of the beholder. One thing that is easy for us to agree on, is that when we say the “best cities to teach English in China”, we actually just mean the most competitive and well-known cities for you to teach English in China.
We like to provide city guides so you can better understand the culture, background, cuisines, and living costs of your potential destination, but no matter how well we describe these places, they may not be on your get-me-there-asap radar, simply because they aren’t publicized enough or just out of the scope that we learned about in school.
First, let’s talk about what now makes competition steep in China. Just like I’ve talked about inexperienced applicants assuming they have access to high salaries and benefits, it’s kind of the same you-can’t-sit-with-us attitude for particular cities if you don’t have the proper qualifications. Remember that just like educators in your home country have years and years of experience, sometimes even decades, it goes for China as well. It’s not all millennial travelers who plan to come and go as they please.
Furthermore, it’s not just about having experience. Particular government branches sometimes want you to be a certain age, have graduated a certain year, have relevant teaching experience two years post-graduation, have a passport from a specific native-English speaking country, a specific English-teaching certificate, and know all the words to Sisqo’s Thong Song.
Okay, the last one is obviously a joke, but its formers are not!
As I tell all of my applicants, China is based on a tier system, so let’s break down the most sought-after cities based on their tiers.
Best Cities to Teach English in China
1st Tier Cities
Yep, all tier one cities are as competitive as hell. They’re modern, booming, expat-filled, have most amenities from the west like shopping and restaurants, and have easy access to other major international ports.
These are just a few reasons why people are so eager to get to these well-known metropolises. However, if one of these cities is your only consideration when moving to China, you should stop everything you’re doing and read this article by Spartan Wanderer. As I’ve said 100 times, I love, love, love Beijing, but am so much more thankful that I started out in a smaller place first.
So what’s competition like in these major cities? Well, think of it like this: the most elite teachers come to these places often because of salary and benefits.
Higher living costs = higher salaries
For example, people who have experience teaching English in the Middle East are making $60,000+/year in addition to incredible benefits. Is it likely they’re going to accept an offer making a fraction of that just to have the small town experience?
Nah. They’ve grown accustom to a certain lifestyle by doing something they love. Why would they take a pay cut?
As I’ve mentioned previously, there are absolutely, positively people who have started their teaching careers in these cities with zero experience and zero qualifications, but the fact of the matter remains; China is changing, and the saying, “quality, not quantity” has never been more relevant for both employers and potential employees.
2nd Tier Cities
- Northern China: Tianjin, Dalian
- Northeastern China: Harbin
- Eastern China: Qingdao, Nanjing, Suzhou, Shanghai, Fuzhou, Xiamen
- Central China: Changsha
- Southern China: Yangshuo, Guilin
- Southwestern China: Kunming, Dali, Chongqing, Chengdu
- Northwestern China: Xi’an, Urumqi
I’m pretty sure this list is going to make your head spin. If you’re geographically unfamiliar with China, you’re probably thinking, “There is noooo way it’s that hard to get into these places. No one has ever heard of them!”
All I can say to you, my friend, is that you’re wrong. These cities are kicking up dust and catching up with the top four above. They’re growing too big for their britches with western influence, expat population, high speed railways, luxury shopping, and nearly everything tier one cities offer…
with less people and less pollution.
You essentially get the best of both worlds when leaning more towards one of these cities. But just like tier one destinations, these governments know damn well that people want in, thus making visa requirements more strict, especially for the bolded Eastern cities.
3rd Tier Cities
Psych! Sadly, no one cares or really wants to go to tier three cities. While they’re tagging along with second tier and have Starbucks popping up in them like a Monopoly board, they’re still not quite there yet. In my nearly five years of being in the ESL industry, I have not once heard of a person who actually wanted to go to a third tier city. On the bright side, there are thousands of people who have fallen in love with their third tier best kept secrets, including me.
You’re probably wondering where the heck you’ll teach now knowing that best cities to teach English in China are pretty tough cookies to get into. My advice? Step up your game and make those schools want you! Get your resumé decked out with my tips here. Apply with a self-introduction or teaching demo to let schools see a side of you that’s not on paper. But most importantly, don’t blow your interview!
Sure, they’re competitive places, but it’s obviously not impossible to someday call a pollution-free city like Xiamen your home. Just imagine going to one of Suzhou’s world renowned parks on your 2-hour lunch break.
Ah, the world really is your oyster.
So, what’s your experience been like landing a job in China’s best cities to teach English? Share your advice with our applicants in comments below. Good luck with your search!