I don’t know how much of the Guide you have had a chance to read thus far but I think, when you have the time, you need to read through each page of it carefully and deliberately because there is a lot you may not be considering. For example, your implied contrast in TEFL professionalism between China and Thailand is unfounded, such that you suggest that one can have a serious career in the former but would just be “mucking around” in the later. Generally speaking, EFL teaching is de-professionalized in Thailand, Korea, and China as the only credential that is truly required is the ability to speak English natively: a nice physical appearance and a good singing voice are also very helpful.
I fully appreciate that when people are struggling vocationally and financially back home, teaching English in China looks very inviting and promising. School owners, especially large franchises like EF English First, recruiters (both Western and Chinese), and these “nonprofit cultural exchange” programs spend a great deal of time and money trying to convince Western people that their lives in mainland China will be more comfortable and satisfying than they are now. These shameless hucksters and their lackeys write of the “low cost of living in China,” “free housing,” and how most of your income will be entirely discretionary because “everything is so cheap” in China. If all this sounds too good to be true, that's because it is.
If you read the international news, you know that China is experiencing record-breaking economic inflation: The price of milk, eggs, bread, and other stables cost more now in China than they do in any major city throughout the United States—and I’m referring to the net purchase price, not relative purchasing power.
With an associate’s degree, you might be able to find a teaching position at a private language mill for 6,000 to 8,000 per month, teaching 18 to 22 periods per week (exhausting) and if you can find the energy to work a second or third job, you might be able to push your monthly income up to as much as 15,000 yuan over time.
Assuming a salary of 8,000 per month (about $1,200) in a second- or third-tier city, you might be able to save up to half of that if you make no improvements to the substandard cold-water flat you will be provided with and live very cheaply. If you decide to travel or, God forbid, become seriously ill (such that you will only be provided with accidental injury insurance, not medical insurance), you will see an entire year’s savings disappear in a blink of an eye. Far worse, for each year that you spend as an indentured servant teaching oral English to the spoiled, bored, and disinterested children of China’s nouveau riche, your chances of ever being able to make it back home diminish exponentially. You will very likely become an economic prisoner of the Asian EFL Industry (for an outside source, please see the Slavery of Teaching English
David, my best advice is to do whatever you can to avoid having to move to China to teach oral English for Coolie wages. This is fine for recent college graduates and old folk who are seeking subsidized Chinese language study or travel experience (for a year or two
) but this is not a viable career path for an early middle-aged Western man who is obviously very bright and just terribly frustrated right now.
As you already have an AAS in Information Technology, have you thought about pursuing computer industry certification such as MCSE, MCDBA, CCNA and the like? Wouldn’t computer technology certifications broaden your options back home? A bachelor’s degree conferred by an unaccredited school (or one accredited in Thailand only) is not going to be of much use to you, either pedagogically or financially.
Do whatever you need to do to make life work for you back home. Teaching oral English in China is not a viable career path for anyone and unless you speak fluent Chinese, you can expect your day-to-day stress levels to skyrocket (according to over 600 survey responses that I have received).