Chances are you've never heard of Nanjing. The name 'Nanjing' translates in English to 'Southern Capital', and this bustling city of over 8 million people was -- as its name suggests -- the capital of China for over ten dynasties. Home to the temple of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and the infamous Nanjing Massacre during World War II, the wider Nanjing metropolitan area is home to over 30 million people. With such a massive population, the need for English-speaking teachers across all levels of education is growing.
Relatively untouched by international tourists, living in Nanjing will provide you the chance to immerse yourself in Chinese culture. The proximity of Nanjing to other major cities -- with Shanghai just two and a half hours away by bullet train -- makes it an attractive base to explore the country while also learning about the unique culture of the Jiangsu province.
Job opportunities for English-speaking teachers abound in Nanjing. There are many different options for you to work as a teacher or tutor, but you should be aware of the benefits and pitfalls of each.
School Teaching Opportunities
Opportunities exist at private language education centers, public and private schools, and universities. The quality of school and salary at each type of school tends to vary. The best-paying jobs are those located in reputable private institutions, or public universities, which require you to have a Bachelor’s degree, a TEFL Certificate, and two years or more of teaching experience. While you can apply at institutions directly, there are also opportunities to apply through agencies that place teaching staff.
Tutoring & Private Teaching Opportunities
If you don't have a Bachelors degree, TEFL Certificate, or teaching experience, there are still opportunities to teach in Nanjing. Many private English language centers will take on native-English speakers on a casual basis for tuition, though you should be careful of your visa situation should you wish to go down this path.
Additionally, you can advertise your skills through the many expat networks in Nanjing, like the Nanjing International Club, who will recommend you to Chinese-speaking friends and colleagues. Parents will often hire tutors for their children, as well. Again, you need to be aware that this type of tutoring is sometimes undertaken illegally, at considerable risk.
Levels of Education You Can Teach At in Nanjing
Children enter education in Nanjing at just two and a half years old, so teaching opportunities run all the way through from pre-kindergarten to primary, secondary, and tertiary education. Due to an increase in manufacturing and service industry businesses opening branches in Nanjing, there are also lots of opportunities in adult education, either in an academic or professional business setting. Some companies are willing to hire tutors specifically to work with staff, although many outsource this work to the major English language schools in the region.
Finding a job overseas is always a challenge, with the biggest question often being where to find reputable jobs. Go Overseas can help with your search for teaching work in Nanjing, and the following paragraphs will give you some advice on the qualifications needed, along with interview tips for success.
When & Where to Look for Jobs
If you look online, you will find many, many sites advertising for English-speaking teachers in China, including Nanjing. Go Overseas has many listings for roles in Nanjing across a wide range of levels, and many are with well-known organizations such as English First, offering you a level of security and support for your big move abroad.
Alternatively, if you don't yet hold a TEFL Certification, you might like to complete a TEFL Certification in China through a reputable organization that will then help to land you relevant work -- legally. You should also start looking for work early, as the visa process for China can be a lengthy one.
Qualifications Teachers Usually Need in Nanjing
You will have the best chance of getting a job with a reputable, reliable and responsible organization -- with an associated Z Visa -- if you hold both a Bachelor's degree and a TEFL Certification. These are generally the standard minimum qualifications required to work at State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) associated schools, universities and training schools.
Respect is very important in Chinese culture. Dress modestly, don't be alarmed if you end up waiting a long time to interview and be prepared to actively demonstrate your teaching skills. You might be required to take part in a role-play situation or to create a group activity on the spot. You will also be expected to answer standard behavioral interview questions, i.e. please tell us a time that you had to show leadership under pressure. A Skype interview often takes place before an interview in person, sometimes from overseas. Speak clearly and with confidence. Finally, always take business cards offered to you with both hands. This shows respect and will be gratefully appreciated.
Nanjing is a wonderful city to live in. While English isn't widely spoken in everyday life, people are always willing to practice their English with you -- and you certainly won't be ostracized as an outsider. Even with the inevitable culture shock that comes from moving to China, the vibrant culture, areas teeming with ex-pats, and beautiful surroundings help to make Nanjing an easy place to live.
Salaries can differ wildly, but you should expect around ¥10000 ($1550) per month as a basic salary for teaching in China. Some schools offer completion bonuses or housing assistance, and many will offer a salary advance when you first arrive in the country. Some international schools or accredited English language institutions offer closer to ¥20000 ($3100) per month.
Cost of Living in Nanjing
Living in Nanjing is relatively inexpensive. Renting an apartment, even one in the city center, is much more affordable than in many other major cities in China (i.e. around ¥3200/$500 per month). You can stretch your renminbi further by opting to share accommodation.
Thousands of amazing restaurants line the streets of the city, and you can easily live off cheap niu rou guo tie (dumplings) cooked on street corners. Groceries are inexpensive, but you will struggle to find western brands -- except, ironically, candy and Starbucks-branded goods.
With two major train stations and an international airport, plus four subway lines, hundreds of bus routes, and inexpensive taxis, there is no need to buy a car or worry about transportation in Nanjing.
Visas & Sponsorship
The employment of expatriate teachers in China is regulated by the SAFEA. Only schools that are officially associated with SAFEA can apply for the necessary “letter of invitation” and a “foreign expert work certificate." You need these documents to obtain a “Z Visa” that will allow you to legally earn money in China.
This is important as there are a number of smaller schools not associated with SAFEA that may try and convince you to work on a tourist or business visa. It's not recommended to do this as you could face fines, deportation, or even jail time if caught. If you do manage to get an offer of work associated with a Z Visa, you should also be careful to read the terms of your visa sponsorship. It might require a stand-down period or significant notice period, effectively bonding you to your initial workplace. When in doubt, always ask for clarification in writing.
Teacher Work Culture in Nanjing
Government institutions and private schools tend to demand less of their teachers than English language schools, who typically pay more. You will likely work with expats from other English-speaking countries -- the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa -- alongside hard-working Chinese staff members.
One thing to note is that life in China can seem a little, well, disorganized. If you are a stickler for timetables and planning ahead, you might find working in Nanjing challenging. Often, plans change at the last minute or are dropped altogether. Interestingly, the roles in China often offer a very light working week of 25-30 hours per week. Compared to a western working week, this gives you more time to explore the country!
Classroom Etiquette in Nanjing
Class size can vary wildly with up to 60 students per class in public schools, so excellent classroom management skills are a must, along with confidence and organizational ability. Being a wallflower will not work in the Chinese teaching environment, and it's best if you have an engaging and outgoing personality.
Student engagement is key for success, and while lesson plans and study books are usually provided by the school, you may find them woefully unsuitable for the age group you are required to teach. The Chinese are a very studious people, and you may be surprised at the number of people who will hang around after class is finished to ask questions.