You’re American and you’re looking for a job in China.
It makes sense.
After all, China’s an international job hotspot for adventurous people wanting to expand their career horizons.
But what kind of positions are available? And which ones are in demand?
Well, today I’m going to sum up 11 of the best jobs in China for Americans that cover a range of industries and experiences.
So, no matter your background or interests, there could be an amazing job in China for you.
(Note: If you’re currently outside China, it may be hard to get a work visa due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can check with your nearest consulate or foreign affairs department for the latest entry requirements. Bring on 2023!)
1. English teacher
OK, I’ll start with the most obvious.
English teachers are in high demand in China, and always have been.
That’s because English is compulsory in Chinese schools, and foreigner teachers – especially Americans with crystal-clear pronunciation – are held in high regard.
The requirements to teach English in China are a little tighter than they used to be. For instance, you need to complete a TEFL course on top of your bachelor’s degree, before you can get your visa.
But even if you have very average teaching skills, as long as you have a Western face you could earn some very nice coin.
Expect to make anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 per month, depending on experience. Public schools include free housing and utility bills too, and most even reimburse you for your flights.
This means your only expenses are local transport and food. And remember, the cost of living in China is much lower than in the States!
If you’re an experienced teacher, you may find academic freedom is different in China, and it can take time to adjust.
For example, teacher Kim Ooi explains, “You might get told exactly what the format of your exam has to be, how long student essays must be and what scores to give.”
Check out the Teach in China hub on The Helpful Panda for more information about this lucrative job.
2. IT specialist
Working in China gives you the opportunity to build your career, gain international experience, earn a generous local salary, and meet new people.
And if you’re a techie, it also gives you the opportunity to build your skills in a country that has one of the world’s leading tech sectors.
Tech-savvy Americans usually head to Shenzhen, an enormous city in the south of China, just a stone’s throw away from Hong Kong. It’s the Chinese version of Silicon Valley.
According to Sean Upton-McLaughlin, author of ChinaCultureCorner.com, employers in Shenzhen are “looking for people with specific expertise in specific industries”.
For Shenzhen, this will be tech fields including AI, hardware, software and cloud computing.
On the other hand, expat Alistair Baker-Brian says you don’t need a tech background to make it in Shenzhen.
“There are a lot of opportunities for those joining at entry level and plenty of scope for fast career progression.”
“So even if you have no Chinese language skills or work experience in tech, I dare say you can easily find a job in this rapidly changing city and industry”, he says.
If you have a love for food and beverages, you could very well find an amazing job in China.
Positions include chefs and restaurant managers, or – once you’re established in China – running your own restaurant or bar in a big modern city.
Seasoned expat Sean Fox helps run Craft Head Brewing Co., a brewery and taphouse chain in Shenzhen.
He says one of the best things about his job is how exciting it is to be a center of a community.
“It’s really nice to be a place that people rally around – where they have birthday parties, make new friends, have weekly rituals, and say hellos and goodbyes.”
“It’s especially nice when you’re an expat and you can meet people both from China and from around the world”, he says.
Sean also describes the food and beverage industry in Shenzhen as “wide open”. “There are so many opportunities in China for creative food and drinks that neither Chinese people nor expats have ever experienced.”
4. Operations coordinator
As Tait Lawson on Quora cleverly points out, your main assets in China are “your English language abilities and your ability to understand and communicate with Westerners on a deeper level.”
That’s why client-facing work, with the clients being Westerners, is a popular choice for American job seekers.
Roles include operations coordinators, support representatives and area supervisors – anything that involves acting as a liaison.
You could try getting a job with the company in your own country first, and then figure out your relocation plans.
But if that’s too hard or time-consuming, you could try your luck by applying directly for a job in China.
There are professional roles on sites like Jobs in Shanghai or you could register with a recruitment agency in China, which is usually the preferred choice at the executive level.
5. Voice artist
Although Olivia Seaton-Hill’s first job in China was an English teacher, she’s now living in Shenzhen as a voice artist and actor.
“Voice artists can do a lot of different work,” Olivia says. This includes dubbing, audiobooks, cartoons, video games, advertisements and more.
Most of the voice work Olivia does is English dubbing. This is usually for cartoons which have been translated from Chinese to English.
“At times it can be challenging matching the new English lines to the characters’ mouth movements, which have been animated to fit the Chinese lines. But it’s really rewarding when you nail the perfect fit!”
Many AI companies will also seek out foreign voices to help with the development of new products.
“This is a great way to get some first-hand experience in a recording studio,” Olivia says.
Olivia has even made it onto IMDB. Her latest voice work is for animated production, Boonie Bears.
It’s also worth pointing out that Olivia is from Scotland, so it’s not just Americans who are snapping up international jobs in China!
Your other big asset in China is your face.
It’s no secret that a Western (read: Caucasian) face gets you places in China. Chinese companies are generally interested in good looking, white, young Westerners.
You might face stiff competition though. For example, there are lots of Russians who come to China to work in modelling, and they might be willing to work for less money than you.
Sadly, if you don’t have a Caucasian face, things are a lot tougher.
Racism is alive and well in China and if you’re black, you’re not going to fit the Chinese ideal of beauty. It’s one of the more depressing aspects of Chinese culture.
7. Sales and marketing representative
Sales and marketing are often lumped in together, but having worked in the field myself for a long time, I can tell you they require different skillsets.
So, if you see a job advertisement in this field, do your due diligence and find out what the employer means when they say ‘sales’ or ‘marketing’.
For example, you could be responsible for selling products to an international audience, and have sales targets to match.
Or, you may be involved in social media, helping promote a Chinese company abroad and ironing out any traces of Chinglish along the way.
Sales and marketing jobs in China range from fairly entry level (with some experience) to executive.
I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, but you might!
The locals love foreigners who can perform, sing, dance, paint – you name it – in a way that’s very different from the Chinese norm.
Years ago, I remember meeting an Australian singer and pianist, who opened up a piano bar with her Chinese husband in Xi’an.
She sang classic tunes, Adele style, and the locals loved it.
If you’re not quite at the Adele level, or you haven’t bagged yourself a Chinese husband, you could try your hand at teaching music in China instead.
If you have engineering experience, then why not build on that experience in China?
China is a hot market for qualified engineers in a range of positions including project management, quality, production, software, compliance and more.
You’ll most likely be working for a Western company. Leading companies in the field include Apple, Siemens and Mercedes-Benz.
Try sites like Glassdoor for jobs in mechanical engineering or check individual companies for their jobs page. For instance, SAP has plenty of software engineering jobs in Shanghai and other big cities.
10. Course counselor
Millions of senior students in China dream of studying abroad in countries like the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
And these kids need help with their applications, as well as things like essay tips and resumes.
Richelle Gamlam, Seattle native turned world traveler, worked for over two years as a college counselor in Beijing.
Her job involved helping Chinese high school students apply to American universities.
“I had my own private office, I made a pretty decent salary, and I had lots of great benefits” she says on her blog.
“Some places require you to teach classes, others actually have you doing admissions paperwork. The worst places will have you writing your students’ essays for them.”
Companies prefer native-speaking Americans who have a degree from a top college in the USA, and they’re not afraid to ask for it (Chinese employment laws are different to those in the West).
Just remember to research your prospective Chinese employer before signing up.
Another way of working in the course advice field would be to reach out to your local universities and colleges and see if they have any jobs in China.
Many American universities have a strong presence in China, as that’s a big source of income for them. And they might need an American on the ground in China to help with things like seminars and career fairs.
And, the work might only be seasonal which could suit you better.
There are plenty of jobs in China for Americans with great penmanship.
You could land a job in writing or editing in areas like travel and lifestyle, or perhaps you’re more suited to technical or legal writing.
You could also work with a media organization creating content, even working as a journalist (just remember that Chinese journalism is very different to what you’re used to).
State-run English newspapers, TV channels and radio stations can be found in all the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
So, if you’re good with words, China could be your calling.
How do I find the best jobs in China?
By now, hopefully you’ve narrowed down the kinds of jobs you’d like to do in China.
But how do you go about finding said jobs? Well, that’s a whole other topic which you can read about here.
I don’t think I’d do it justice by skimming over it in this article.
Do I need to know how to speak Chinese?
Knowing some Mandarin will help you get by in China, but isn’t necessary for the jobs listed above.
Tax considerations for Americans in China
Working in China doesn’t mean you get to escape taxes. Sorry!
China has one of the most complicated tax systems in the world, so it’s worth getting to know how US expat tax in China works.
Using the internet in China
If you haven’t heard, the Chinese internet works a little differently.
When you live and work in China, and use Wi-Fi, you’ll need a VPN on your phone and laptop to be able to access all your favorite Western sites and apps.
This includes all the big ones like Google, Gmail, WhatsApp, Facebook – even The New York Times.
You need to download the VPN before you arrive in China too. Please check out my article about the best VPN for China before you jet off!
So, what’s the very best job in China for an American?
This is a subjective question, and only you know what skillsets you have.
But jobs in teaching, engineering, marketing, tech and software, are booming in China, making it very enticing for Americans looking to make the move.
Who would have thought that China is the land of milk and honey?
I hope you liked my article on the best jobs in China for Americans. Now, check out some of the best China blogs to understand China a little more.
Main image credit: LYCS Architecture on Unsplash.