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How to Start Your Career in China: Four Entry-Level Jobs

Trey Ratcliff

By  Doris Larkin April 29, 2015

Want to head East, but don't want to teach English as a second language? Here are alternate options for globally minded professionals. 

According to HSBC’s 2014 Expat Explorer Survey, China is considered one of the most desirable expat destinations. While teaching English as a second language has long been the mainstay of many foreigners, there are a number of other career options.

Here are a few examples of entry-level jobs in China that do not require fluency in Mandarin:

Jobs with multinational companies

The operations of many multinational companies can be found across China, with head offices nearly always based in Beijing and Shanghai. Since most of these head offices operate internationally, English-speaking employees are in high demand. Western-educated Chinese candidates tend to be preferred (due to their native Chinese-language proficiency and high level of English), which is why cultural understanding and familiarity with Chinese business models is a necessity.

However, if you speak English or another European language fluently (especially French, German, Italian or Spanish), multinational companies are seeking employees with language skills. (For example, a German company will seek fluent German speaker.) In order to gain experience, you may consider interning in China—alternately, if you have very specialized expertise, you may be recruited directly by a Chinese firm.

Keep in mind that while Mandarin isn’t necessary for all entry-level jobs, if you want to move up the ladder, fluency will eventually be a requirement. Learning the language will require time and commitment, including time spent interacting with native Mandarin speakers.

Acting or modelling

Working as actors or models is a fun possibility and these jobs are easier to find in mid-sized and smaller cities. As Chinese actors and models are already in ample supply, especially in Beijing and Shanghai, there are roles specifically reserved for individuals who do not look Chinese. To be a film extra or a model, one does not need to speak Mandarin. Of course, for speaking roles, Mandarin would be required.

Au pairing

If you’re interested in childcare and early childhood education, wealthy Chinese families look for au pairs who speak fluent English and other European languages, because they can teach their children these languages and impart Western manners. This job offers ample opportunities to study Chinese in one’s free time.

Working for a non-profit organization

Due to foreign funding requirements, NGO offices tend to be English-speaking environments. As a result, there will always be demand for people who can write grants in English and manage communication with Western collaborators. Volunteering in China with one of these organizations is a great way to get your foot in the door.

Useful Resources
Mandarin Study, Internships and Volunteer Placements in China
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