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PhD in Linguistics, teaching primary in China, where next?
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Western East



Joined: 03 Dec 2016
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 3:39 pm    Post subject: PhD in Linguistics, teaching primary in China, where next? Reply with quote

Hi all, first time posting here.

I'm a female British national of Chinese descent in my early 30s just starting out in a TEFL type job. I want to ask others with more knowledge and experience of the TEFL world for some advice as to where I could go next in my overseas career.

Last year, I graduated with a PhD in Linguistics from a U.K. university. Following that, seeking a change of environment, I applied for a teaching abroad programme in China. I am currently teaching at a primary school in a second tier city in China. Whilst it's been a good working experience, I don't feel this is the right place or position for me. I'm thinking I might do better aiming to teach older students (from secondary school to university) now.

After I finish my current primary school teaching job in summer, what would be a good next destination for me if I were to continue teaching abroad? I am considering whether it would be better to stay in China and try to look for a job in a better location with older students or try out a new country? I've considered places around East and South East Asia, like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia.

Here's a quick list of my credentials:
U.K. national,
BA, MA and PhD (all related to English Language/Linguistics),
No CELTA/TESOL certificate, but completed a TEFL in China certificate (120 hours, comprising of 60 hours online and 60 hours classroom experience),
10 months experience working at a primary school in China when my current contract ends this summer,
Limited experience of teaching at university (3 months) and have presented at academic conferences before,
Some short story and poetry publications in writing competition anthologies.

Considering that I do not have an awful lot of experience in TEFL teaching, would my best bet for overseas work still lie with applying through TEFL programme recruiters? Or possibly should I consider government programmes like EPIK in South Korea or the JET programme in Japan too? And what about applying to institutions directly?

I've also been wondering how useful it would be for me to invest in gaining a CELTA certificate. Would it improve my employment prospects in the TEFL market? Or would it not add much to what I already have?

Thank you in advance for your responses!
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 10044
Location: The real world

PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Western East wrote:
Last year, I graduated with a PhD in Linguistics from a U.K. university. Following that, seeking a change of environment, I applied for a teaching abroad programme in China. I am currently teaching at a primary school in a second tier city in China. Whilst it's been a good working experience, I don't feel this is the right place or position for me. I'm thinking I might do better aiming to teach older students (from secondary school to university) now.

A PhD in Linguistics is overkill in terms of teaching ESOL. What was your specific reason and interest in pursuing doctoral studies, and what was the focus of your dissertation? That should guide you in figuring out your what and where questions.
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Western East



Joined: 03 Dec 2016
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nomad soul wrote:
A PhD in Linguistics is overkill in terms of teaching ESOL. What was your specific reason and interest in pursuing doctoral studies, and what was the focus of your dissertation? That should guide you in figuring out your what and where questions.


Thanks for your response, nomad soul. I've met your reaction to my educational background before. I admit my situation can seem quite unusual. Entering the overseas TEFL world from a doctoral background seems a step down career-wise to many people. I can only explain my decision to make such a change by the fact that, after having been in university for several years, I felt I needed time away from higher education settings for a while to re-assess myself and what I wanted. I spent nearly all of my 20s completing a Bachelors, then Masters and finally a PhD. The progresssion through my degrees had been quite a natural one: one followed after another, and I consider myself privileged to have been able to study to such a high standard. I quite enjoyed studying and researching linguistic topics, which was my motivation throughout my time at university. But in the last few years, I'd been thinking increasingly about travelling, perhaps a sign that I was yearning for a change after been in one place for so long. As for my PhD thesis topic, it was related to the analysis of discourse in comics books, so not directly relevant to TEFL.

Teaching now at a primary school in a second tier city in China had not been my first preference of destination and teaching level, but it was what I ended up been offered through the teaching abroad programme that I applied through. I'm thinking I'll be more selective next time round if I choose to teach abroad again.

Being honest, my decision to get into teaching English abroad was not so much coming from an academic or career standpoint, but was more personally-driven and perhaps arose from a need to find something more meaningful for myself. I was not immediately attracted to the idea of looking for some kind of post-doctoral research role after my PhD, and I'd heard a lot about how it was getting more difficult to find stable academic jobs in U.K. universities, and how stressful a typical lecturer's job could be with multiple responsibilities (balancing teaching with administrative responsibilities and maintaining your own research profile, regular publications and attendance of conferences). I didn't mind the idea of teaching in general though and was being drawn to travelling abroad. I also enjoy creative writing and thought that a TEFL job might offer me more free time to write, along with the possibility of some inspiration from travelling to a foreign country.

So anyway, that more or less summarises my reasons for getting into TEFL abroad, and I'm being open-minded about where I could go next. Are there any overseas roles that might be more relevant for someone with my educational background?

Thanks again!
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 10044
Location: The real world

PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 3:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Western East wrote:
I'm being open-minded about where I could go next. Are there any overseas roles that might be more relevant for someone with my educational background?

Your main challenge is that employers will view you as highly educated but lacking in solid TEFL experience. The typical MA to PhD path usually entails at least several years of experience gained post-MA. Employers want to see that balance --- that you gained years of hands-on teaching experience before attaining more education. You'll appear over-educated for entry-level positions requiring only a BA, yet under-experienced for jobs specifying at minimum, an MA. You'll have to figure out how to reconcile this on your CV when applying for jobs. That may mean leaving off your PhD, which is a tough call since it's an accomplishment. But at the same time, you don't want to turn off prospective employers who may not be sure if you're a fit for the position.
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santi84



Joined: 14 Mar 2008
Posts: 1273
Location: under da sea

PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why a troll? My son's preschool teacher has a PhD in education. For whatever reason, not everyone with a PhD continues in academia.
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danshengou



Joined: 17 Feb 2016
Posts: 407
Location: A bizarre overcrowded hole

PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Western East wrote:
Are there any overseas roles that might be more relevant for someone with my educational background?


Now that sounds more like it.
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HLJHLJ



Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 1128
Location: Ecuador

PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With your background, and the teaching practicum in your TEFL cert, a CELTA is unlikely to make much difference to you. More experience will certainly help.

In terms of where and what, do you want to teach kids or adults?



Oh, and be prepared for sniping here about your qualifications, it's best ignored. If you are interested in South America, drop me a PM.
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Western East



Joined: 03 Dec 2016
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you to the pertinent and kind responders.

This is off-topic, and I had not intended to delve into this, but for those curious about my doctoral research subject, it was basically a study that tested the application of linguistic models used for analysing prose texts to the 'multimodal' medium of comics. 'Multimodal' is a term used to refer to mediums which possess more than one narrative mode, such as the visual and textual modes of comics, or the visual and auditory modes of films. It had implications for expanding the use of known linguistic models of analysis from prose to a multimodal type of text and furthered the field of multimodal studies. Of course, my research also revealed unique characteristics in comics and more complexity in their multimodal narrative than many people would give them credit for. Aside from contributing to existing linguistic knowledge, I had also set out to challenge the notion that comics and graphic novels are simply 'non-literary' and 'kiddy' texts. I personally feel I made a small step in 'legitimising' comics within academia and perhaps, in time, in the eyes of the public. I believe that there is still so much untapped scope in comics, with the comics industry largely dominated by the more popular superhero and childen-targeted titles, and 'literary' and biographical graphic novels (like Art Spiegelmann's 'Maus') been fewer. Of course, that is not to criticise the existing comics market out there, but I am saying that comics could be used for so much more. There is potential to experiment more with their storytelling capacities and to generate a wider variety of comic genres.

Anyway, back on topic...

nomad soul wrote:
Your main challenge is that employers will view you as highly educated but lacking in solid TEFL experience. The typical MA to PhD path usually entails at least several years of experience gained post-MA. Employers want to see that balance --- that you gained years of hands-on teaching experience before attaining more education. You'll appear over-educated for entry-level positions requiring only a BA, yet under-experienced for jobs specifying at minimum, an MA. You'll have to figure out how to reconcile this on your CV when applying for jobs. That may mean leaving off your PhD, which is a tough call since it's an accomplishment. But at the same time, you don't want to turn off prospective employers who may not be sure if you're a fit for the position.


The 'highly educated, under experienced' conundrum is one I've been thinking a lot about. It seems obvious that I need to get more experience now, the question is how best to go about that and what kind of experience should I be seeking?

santi84 wrote:
Why a troll? My son's preschool teacher has a PhD in education. For whatever reason, not everyone with a PhD continues in academia.


Nice to know I'm not the only one!

HLJHLJ wrote:
With your background, and the teaching practicum in your TEFL cert, a CELTA is unlikely to make much difference to you. More experience will certainly help.

In terms of where and what, do you want to teach kids or adults?



Oh, and be prepared for sniping here about your qualifications, it's best ignored. If you are interested in South America, drop me a PM.


Thanks for addressing my CELTA question! I had wondered about how beneficial it would be to me and whether it was something worth investing in.

Regarding the kind of students I'd like to teach, I'm currently thinking older students, from secondary school age up to university level, so teenagers or adults.

And thank you for your warning about how my qualifications might be received by some here. I was beginning to wonder what I might have said to provoke some of the less welcoming responses here. I certainly hadn't intended my first post on these forums to cause problems.

I might just ask you about South America at some point. Don't really know much about it. But as I said before, i'm being open-minded!
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 10044
Location: The real world

PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Western East wrote:
I am considering whether it would be better to stay in China and try to look for a job in a better location with older students or try out a new country? I've considered places around East and South East Asia, like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia.
....
Regarding the kind of students I'd like to teach, I'm currently thinking older students, from secondary school age up to university level, so teenagers or adults.

Instead of focusing on other countries, there surely are opportunities in China for someone with your education since Chinese schools and unis appear to be flexible about qualifications. Plus, it's a large country, which generally equates to more opportunities. In addition to this website, keep an eye on higheredjobs.com and TESOL.org for uni positions that fit your quals.
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Elicit



Joined: 12 May 2010
Posts: 71

PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There would be opportunities teaching EAP in university parnerships in China. Unsure how the lack of experience would be viewed but the Ph.D would go down well, especially in the more research focused places.

You could try the big two British universities in China, although they may have already concluded taking applications for a September 2017 start. An alternative is to look for a lesser known reputable university partnership programme that would give you the all important experience to move on to bigger and possibly better things in the future. I only know the British parnerships but there are perhaps many other US partnerships that may well be interested in you too.

If my place begins to recruit for September 2017 I'll let you know, because they would achnowledge the value of your Ph.D. Big push for academia and research here at the moment.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 11294
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am less optimistic about the OP's quals now that they've been more fully described. Just the possession of a PhD does not necessarily wow savvy prospective employers and the study of the deeper meanings of comics, while possibly interesting and useful in some circles, has little relevance to EFL.
I suggest that a CELTA may in fact be a useful addition to his/her CV.
Ah, hold on-I see that you've done a practicing. I take back my advice but still think the PhD is unlikely to be much of an asset.
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HLJHLJ



Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 1128
Location: Ecuador

PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That hasn't been my experience. In terms of English teaching, universities have been far more interested in my academic writing skills, (thesis and publications) and my experience of having been through the academic process of a PhD. They generally aren't that interested in the content of the research.
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Mr. Kalgukshi
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Joined: 18 Jan 2003
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Several inappropriate postings have been deleted. Members observing insulting, sexist, off-topic or other inappropriate postings are encouraged to notify the Mod Team without delay.

If you had a posting deleted on this thread, you may assume you are now on the Next Step Permanent Ban short list. Such action includes one's ISPs.
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taikibansei



Joined: 14 Sep 2004
Posts: 688
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2017 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The destinations you mention all seem good to me, though they all tend to be on the competitive side--particularly with regards to finding university work. For these countries, I think the lack of university-level teaching experience and academic publications may make things a bit challenging. Regarding the former, is it possible to teach part-time classes at a local university near where you're at now? (Not sure how visas work in China....) Basically, the more university classroom experience you have, the better your chances will be.

The lack of academic publications may also hamper your search, particularly for the better positions in Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Japan, etc. Have you explored publishing your dissertation, either in parts as journal articles, or together as a book? Not sure how it works in the UK system, but can you discuss your publishing options with your dissertation adviser(s)? This would be the first thing to try, in my opinion.

To be honest, for many (most?) university jobs in Asia, schools just want to be able to check off boxes. You have a PhD related to English language/linguistics--that's a great box to have checked! Next, schools will want to check off the pertinent box on your teaching experience--each school will be different, but one year of relevant experience would probably be the absolute minimum (and many places will want more). With regards to publications as well, having "academic" publications (preferably in refereed journals) is a real plus. Note that surprisingly few people on hiring committees will be very concerned about the substance/contents of your research. They want to check off a box--does she have academic publications, yes or no? (Most Japanese universities will say they want at least three academic publications, but even one may be enough with the completed PhD, especially if the rest of your CV seems competitive.)

Again, all this is to help improve your chances of surviving the first cut. After that, most places will want to interview you (and the other finalists). Surviving that is another thread, however.

Good luck!


Last edited by taikibansei on Wed Feb 22, 2017 12:48 am; edited 1 time in total
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taikibansei



Joined: 14 Sep 2004
Posts: 688
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2017 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

HLJHLJ wrote:
That hasn't been my experience. In terms of English teaching, universities have been far more interested in my academic writing skills, (thesis and publications) and my experience of having been through the academic process of a PhD. They generally aren't that interested in the content of the research.


This has been my experience as well, particularly the bit in bold. Again, there are exceptions to this--but at many (most?) universities in Asia, these exceptions tend to be for extremely competitive positions at the more highly regarded university programs.

The OP is not really competitive for such positions right now. Thankfully, there are still a lot of other universities out there, places that would welcome her application. Many of these schools are good places to work.
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