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Top 6 Most Popular Job Opportunities for Foreigners in China

1) Translator
One doesn't necessarily need an advance degree to become a translator, just an advanced level of Chinese and the credentials to prove it, the most common and prominent being the HSK test. There are a number of ways through which to make a profit translating between Chinese and English. For example, if you freelance through websites like, or any China-based expat website with job listings, you'll be able to earn 80-130 RMB per hour depending on your educational background and Chinese language proficiency.

Be careful though when you do freelance work, especially in China, as it tends to operate in a grey area of legality when it comes to taxes. Conversely, many fluent Chinese speaking expats choose full-time translating positions with either private companies or with various government institutions. For example, if you are translating for a law firm, you can earn 10,000-18,000 RMB per month, although these positions require an excellent grasp of both English and Chinese, as you will be drafting complex legal documents in both languages.

Unfortunately, there is one major downside to working as a translator in China: competition from your Chinese counterparts will be incredibly intense, as most Chinese have been studying English since they were six or seven years old, essentially giving those who stuck with it through university a massive comparative advantage. Suffice it to say, your Chinese language proficiency will have to be pretty stellar to even try to compete with them—two years of Chinese in university is probably not going to cut it.

2) Hotel management
In wake of China's booming economy, China's hospitality industry has also grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Radisson, Hilton, Shangri-La, and Portman-Ritz are all international hotel brands associated with prestige and money. With more and more famous movie stars and high-level CEO's coming through town, the managers and upper division staff at such luxury hotels are seeing big salary increases to match the many demands of their jobs.

According to China Hotel Magazine's 2011 Salary Survey Report, the average salaries for department managers and directors at 5-star hotels are 11,000 RMB per month and 21,000 RMB per month respectively. If you're promoted to the general manager of an international 5-star hotel, you can expect upwards of 50,000-60,000 RMB per month. And as an added bonus, you never know when you'll get the chance to meet famous movie stars or singers.

3) Chef and restaurateur
This job typically goes hand-in-hand with the one listed above. If you live in a city like Shanghai, Beijing, or Hong Kong, names like Paul Pairet, Eduardo Vargas, Jun Trinh, and Alain Ducasse should sound awfully familiar, even if you're not employed in the food service industry. And even for those who don't enjoy pseudo-celebrity status in their respective city, many chefs and restaurateurs are able to earn a very agreeable wages in China, with average monthly salary for a head chef at a high-end restaurant somewhere in the neighborhood of 21,000 RMB per month. And if you've already gone through the rigorous process of becoming Michelin certified, you can expect to bring in even more. But if you're just getting started, there's no need to worry—even inexperienced chefs in lower positions are able to pull in 10,000 RMB per month depending on experience and the restaurant.

4) Engineer
Engineers, both Chinese and foreign, have greatly benefited from the massive amount of construction in China during the last decade. Yet, while Chinese engineers fresh out of university are only making about 6,000-10,000 RMB per month (with chemical and mechanical engineers earning quite a bit more), the outlook for well-qualified foreign engineers is much, much better. With eight or more years of experience and a university degree, a foreign plant manager in China can earn upwards of 70,000-110,000 RMB per month!

5) Accountant
Accountants are in high demand all over the world, and this is no different in China. While most of the positions are filled by Chinese, there are still ample opportunities for foreigners with a decent Chinese language proficiency to succeed in Chinese firms. According to the J.M. Gemini research firm, the highest paid accounting job for foreigners in China is the Director of Accounting, which earns a monthly salary of more than 60,000 RMB a month! Granted, such a position requires 10-15 years experience in the field, as well as a BA or MA in Accounting plus a CPA (certified public accounting).

It should be noted that the accounting standards are different than those in America or other Western countries, but the Chinese guidelines are slowly getting replaced by the International Accounting Standards, so it should be easier to apply for Chinese firms in the future with your Western credentials. Slightly more attainable for younger accountants, the typical monthly salary for a Finance Analyst in China with three to six years experience and a degree in accounting or finance is 13,000-27,000 RMB per month.

6) CEO and marketing director
A high salary goes without saying with this position. Foreign GMs and CEOs have been coming to China for years and there is a good reason why. A general manager CRM (Customer Relationship Management) with 15+ years of experience is going to net you around 100,000 - 150,000+ RMB per month. Yet, if you are a CEO you're probably used to making that kind of money anywhere. A bit further down the totem pole you'll find that a marketing director position for foreigners will land you 50,000-75,000 RMB per month depending on the company. Obviously, since this is the highest paid job on the list, it will require at the very least an MBA, preferably an International MBA with a focus on Asia, and many years of experience doing business in China.