Jobs in Chinese Literature and the Teaching of Mandarin


As a dissertation-writing grad student, I spend a lot of time worrying about getting a job someday. Reports of the humanities’ slow collapse compound daily, Finger-wagging scholars and journalists tell me “just don’t go” to grad school because the system is exploitative and the market is terrible.

Most recently, I’ve been seized by the fear that my achievements in research and translation will be practically meaningless when I go on the job market in less than two years. Schools want Mandarin teachers, not scholars of classical literature, right? To see whether or not my intuition was correct, I decided to go look at the job listings myself. Specifically, I wanted to know how many emphasized the teaching of Mandarin, versus how many emphasized content courses and/or classical Chinese. Here are the results:

Tenure Track
  • Arizona State – no Mandarin teaching, but “desired qualification” is “to teach content courses in Mandarin Chinese”
  • Bard College – “Ability to teach Chinese language at all levels and courses of one’s specialty is expected.”
  • Barnard College – no Mandarin teaching
  • Brown University – Ming-Qing fiction, focus on classical Chinese, no Mandarin teaching
  • Bucknell University – “teach Chinese language at all levels”
  • California State University, Long Beach – requires Mandarin teaching
  • College of Staten Island, CUNY – “The successful candidate will be expected to teach not only various levels of Mandarin Chinese but also classical Chinese literature courses or courses on Chinese culture. Ability to teach various levels of Japanese or Korean is highly desirable.”
  • College of William and Mary – no Mandarin teaching
  • Dartmouth – “must be able, willing, and enthusiastic about teaching both Chinese literature in English translation and Chinese language courses at all levels”
  • Dickinson College – “Applicants should be prepared to teach Chinese at all levels”
  • Fordham University -“Applicants should be willing to teach Chinese language, literature and culture courses at all levels.”
  • New College of Florida – “We seek a generalist with a strong commitment to teaching Chinese language”
  • New York University, Shanghai – no Mandarin teaching
  • Pomona College – teaches three language courses
  • San Jose State University – “Teaching responsibilities include all levels of Chinese language as well as courses in literature and culture”
  • Skidmore College – “The College is particularly interested in candidates with demonstrated excellence in language teaching along with a scholarship focus on postmodern Chinese literature.”
  • Smith College – “The successful candidate will teach courses in Chinese language and literature.”
  • Southern Illinois University Carbondale – “Duties include teaching language, literature, and culture courses at all undergraduate levels.”
  • Texas A&M University – “Candidates must be prepared to teach at all levels of the language curriculum.”
  • University of Arkansas-Lafayette – “Our hire must be able to teach Chinese at all undergraduate levels, especially courses in Chinese business language and culture.”
  • University of Macau – no Mandarin teaching
  • University of Puget Sound – “Candidates must be enthusiastic, willing and able to teach both Chinese literature in English translation and Chinese language courses at all levels.”
  • University of Richmond – “the successful candidate will be expected to teach Chinese language courses”
  • University of San Diego – “The selected candidate will assume the role of director of our Chinese language program.”
  • University of Sheffield – no Mandarin teaching
  • University of Washington – no Mandarin teaching
  • Valparaiso University – seek a “generalist able to teach all levels of Chinese language, literature and civilization”
  • Vanderbilt University – no Mandarin teaching
  • Washington College – ambiguous, but no Mandarin teaching mentioned

Non-Tenure Track

  • Amherst College – no Mandarin teaching
  • Grinnell College – “will include four language courses and one culture-in-translation course in the candidate’s area of specialization”
  • MIT – lecturer in Chinese
  • Middlebury College – “Chinese language courses at one or more levels from beginning Chinese to fifth-year Chinese and Classical Chinese, including courses on modern and contemporary Chinese literature and culture taught in Chinese.”
  • NYU – Chinese language lecturer
  • Portland State University – instructor of Chinese
  • Swarthmore College – vague, but implies Mandarin teaching
  • Stanford (postdoc) – no Mandarin teaching
  • Washington and Lee University – must “have demonstrated excellence in scholarship and in teaching Chinese language in a U.S college or university setting”

So, to do a little basic math on these:

Tenure track

Mandarin teaching: 19 (66%)
no Mandarin teaching: 10 (34%)

Non-tenure track

Mandarin teaching: 7 (78%)
no Mandarin teaching: 2 (22%)


Mandarin teaching: 26 (68%)
no Mandarin teaching: 12 (32%)

Conclusion: a majority of schools, especially those located in the United States, are looking for teachers of Mandarin. Knowledge of classical Chinese and the inner workings of its cultures is merely an afterthought. I guess it’s time to start brushing up on language pedagogy.


3 thoughts on “Jobs in Chinese Literature and the Teaching of Mandarin

  1. On the plus side, I think those of us who learned Chinese as adults have actually got certain advantages over native speakers when it comes to teaching Chinese, since we’ve had to think about the sorts of things that native speakers by definition haven’t. Though who knows whether or not colleges will see things that way when they’re looking at candidates.

  2. You think that’s bad, try looking for a way to get paid for work in premodern languages outside academia.

  3. Thank you for this. As someone looking to pursue graduate studies in Chinese, this is invaluable. My preferred focus (as a long-standing passion) would have been classical Chinese, but as mentioned by Matt above, unless I’m fairly certain of being able to go on to doctoral studies and stay in academia, I’ll effectively be educating myself out of the market.

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