What You Need to Teach English in Hong Kong: Part 1
Welcome to the first of a series of posts about how to find work teaching English in Hong Kong. In these posts, it is my hope that once finishing them all, you will have a solid idea on how to find a teaching job in Hong Kong and also be well equipped to do that job. I am going to detail the entire process from my perspective, seeing as though it is something I have done myself and figured other people might find value in.
Hong Kong is a great place to come and teach English in. It’s a very accessible place where you don’t really need to speak the local language to get by. I came to Hong Kong by accident as I met my wife in England and decided to move here so I could be with her. My motivation was always very clear for being in Hong Kong and this is something you should have too because it will keep you pushing through that initial period of uncertainty and culture shock.
There are a lot of things (by things, I mean practical and necessary things relevant to helping you find a job.) you can acquire before you come to make your life much easier.
A degree. If you are coming to Hong Kong and want the best opportunities to come your way, you are going to have to have a degree. Whether you work in a language centre or a school, this will still be necessary. When I came to Hong Kong, I had a degree already. It’s important to know that your degree doesn’t really need to be English or teaching related. (Although that will certainly help if you want to get on the NET scheme) For example, my degree is in Computer Game Design.
It is important to note that if you don’t have a degree you may still be able to find a job teaching English in Hong Kong but your options will be extremely limited. When I arrived here almost 10 years ago, it was far easier to find a job if you didn’t have a degree. Nowadays, that has become increasingly harder. To get the better jobs, a degree is a must. You might also want to look at another certificate worth your time. That’s a TEFL/TESOL course.
TEFL/TESOL certificate. I also had one of these before I came to Hong Kong so I had both going for me. This makes your employability and general ease of finding a job much less of a hassle. Here, I’ll detail where I did my course, how much I paid for it and the general rundown of what you’ll learn on the course, plus my thoughts on if they are worth it or not. Also, I will talk briefly about what the course might not prepare you for, like teaching kids.
Let’s start off with a general note on who you’ll be teaching when you come to Hong Kong. The general trend here is to teach in schools purely because that’s where most of the opportunities are. The course I chose, and most courses in general, focus on teaching adults. However, it’s not a complete waste because you can always transfer a lot of these skills to teaching children. Knowing how to build foundations in the most basic skills of listening, reading, speaking and writing are all transferable skills.
Let’s talk about the course I did. Before I could get on it, there was the interview to deal with.
What was involved in the interview? The interview process was relatively simple. They seemed to be looking at your ability to listen and retell details. They had me sit with a fellow interviewee and get to know them as much as possible. After that, they then asked me to introduce the person I was talking to and tell others in my interview group what this person was like and why they were interviewing for the course.
Where did you do your course? I did my course at Sheffield Hallam University in the U.K. I chose it because of a few factors. At the time, I was frantically looking for a course with a good reputation that I could complete quickly so that I could get over to Hong Kong as soon as possible.
How much was it? The course I did was a one-month intensive course which had a pre reading requirement before I started the course. It cost me about 1300GBP which was expensive, but luckily I had some student loan money left over.
What did the course cover? My course had a pre-reading component before the actual course started. This was comprised of assignments in various skills/knowledge areas that we touched on during the actual course. This was an essential part that had to be passed before you could physically start the course. Once you had done all of the assignments, the course started. When they said it would be intense, they were telling the truth. The course was one month long and you only got the weekends off. The course was full of lectures but there were also sessions that you had to actually teach. (I remember teaching the past tense wrong to a bunch of polish students. Quite embarrassing! You fall and you learn to pick yourself back up!)
It’s important to note here that not all TEFL/TESOL courses are created equal. Some of them have teaching practice included and some of them don’t. It is my strong recommendation that you chose the one that has teaching practice included purely because you can say that you have at least some experience teaching.
Was it worth it? The TESOL course I did was a fantastic opportunity to get to see what it’s like to teach English as a foreign language and the teaching component is a good “baptism by fire” exercise. The course missed one component that you might want to check for when doing yours and that’s a segment on how to teach kids. My first job was teaching kids and almost 10 years later, it’s something I still do.
A valid work visa. A work visa is a must if you plan on working in Hong Kong. It’s not necessary to have one before coming to Hong Kong but I would recommend it. Depending on the company who hires you, there are a few ways this can work out. The first is that you will be given a working visa before you come to Hong Kong. The second way (and much more common in my experience) is you come to Hong Kong first and the company will help you apply for the visa before you start working.
Somewhere to stay. This is pretty self-explanatory. You’re going to need a place to sleep! I was lucky that the job I applied for included housing as part of the contract I signed. (This is something I’ll detail in a later post)
Stay tuned for the next part in this mini series on getting an English teaching job in Hong Kong. I’m going to cover places where you can find work and best practices when applying. If you enjoyed this post, please do share it far and wide.