Although teaching English in China is likely to be very different to any other job you may have done in your life, some things remain constant wherever you work in the world.
Chief among them is your suitability to a given position directly affecting your ability to do the job, and the level of enjoyment you'll take from it.
In the TEFL arena, this translates to the different types of schools you can find yourself working at.
The person who can effectively teach grammar to a high school class might not be so good at entertaining a group of children in a kindergarten, and vice versa.
So to get the most from your time teaching English in China, you'll need to know which kind of school is right for you and your own personality.
Kindergartens in China
If you love being around children, are full of energy, and are a natural entertainer, teaching in a kindergarten in China could be the most enjoyable job you ever do.
The kids will typically be aged between 2-6, and keeping them engaged is the most important thing. Because of this, classes are more active then when teaching older students, and are often based on a lot of singing, dancing, and games.
The kids will have little to no English, and the focus is to get them interested in learning by using short games to build vocabulary and basic sentences.
Teaching hours in Chinese kindergartens often have a morning session followed by a long lunch that includes nap time before the afternoon classes.
A Chinese teaching assistant will be present when teaching in a kindergarten in China.
Public Schools in China
Teaching English in a public school in China means working with a stricter curriculum than in kindergartens, although educational activities and games are still commonly used.
Foreign teachers are expected to help the students mainly with speaking and listening, and tests may be more regular than you'll be used to back home. Classes can see anything up to 50 students, and the English ability may vary quite a lot between classmates.
Public school semesters in China run from September to January, and from February or March to July. Because of this, schools recruit seasonally and sometimes offer 10-month contracts.
They also require fewer teaching hours per week than other types of schools, have longer holidays, and provide greater job security.
Public schools in China will also usually provide a local teaching assistant.
Universities in China
Teaching at a university in China means holding one of the most prestigious positions in the Chinese education system.
As with teaching younger students in public schools, you'll be expected to focus on developing the speaking and listening skills. The English levels of the students will again vary, although the class sizes are smaller at around 20 students.
These students will be aged between 18-21, and your teaching style will need to fit the interest of this age range while maintaining their interest and motivation to learn.
Getting a job teaching English in a university in China is more difficult than other types of schools, and prior experience is often necessary.
However, the benefits include a regular schedule of around 20 teaching hours per week, access to great equipment and resources, being held in high regard by your students and other people around you, and leaving with a valuable addition to your resume.
English Training Centres in China
Private English training centres are common in China's bigger cities, and can either be franchised branches of big chains or smaller, independent organisations.
Branches of English First, Wall Street English, and Disney English are often seen on the high street or in shopping malls, while smaller English training centres are less visible and will generally occupy space in an office block.
These private centres are the most common place for foreigners to teach English in China, and offer quite different conditions to the public school system.
Students can range from children having extra English tutoring to businesspeople wanting to communicate better with foreign customers, and classes can be 1-1 or small groups. Classes are usually conversational, although tutoring in preparation for foreign entry exams such as IELTS and TOEFL is also common.
As there are no school terms, you can find a job all year round, and the pay per hour is better than in public schools. However, the hours are typically longer and less regular; meeting the students' schedule means often teaching evenings and weekends.
To make the most of your time teaching English in China, you'll need to identify what kind of teaching job will most suit you and your personality.
Whether a naturally energetic entertainer, good with teenagers and young adults, or able to adapt to whatever a private training centre will throw at you, understanding the differences between the types of school in China is a great place to start.