How to get a teaching job in Korea: Job options
Oct 9, 2008 English as a Foreign Language (EFL) 2901 Views
There are so many jobs in Korea. How do I find the right job for me?
Here's the scoop on working in Korea. There are only a few requirements that you must meet in order to work there as an English teacher. A teacher working in Korea must...
...be a native speaker of English or have native-like proficiency in the English language.
...hold a bachelor's degree or higher.
...have a pulse.
Taking the above qualifications into account, it can be said that most college graduates can at least work in any part of the Korean peninsula that they choose. To an extent, they can also be fairly selective about which jobs that they choose. There are a number of different kinds of jobs that you can choose from and a few different ways that you can go about landing one of these jobs. Here are some of the options that are most commonly available.
Option #1: The Private Academy or "Hagwon"
Hagwon jobs are the most abundant in Korea. Nearly all of the ads that you will see on ESL employment sites are hagwons. There are hagwons in Korea that teach nearly every subject and every student population. Consequently, if you teach in a hagwon you can end up teaching any age of students at any level of English-speaking ability. Whether you are sure which student population you desire to work with or not, there are some other factors that should be taken into consideration first. Here's a short list of the different kinds of hagwon positions out there and a few quick facts about those jobs.
Usually work kind of a split shift. Kindy in the morning, Elementary in the afternoon. Many Kindergartens offer a free lunch. Often asked to work special events such as Christmas pageants and summer concerts. Some teachers complain that they are only glorified babysitters. However, this depends on the individual school. Many of these schools take students on field trips. Most teachers enjoy the field trips just as much as the students.
Typically work afternoons and evenings. Shifts may start as early as noon and end as late as 8 or 9 pm. Teachers are often asked to teach test preparation courses for tests such as TOEIC and TOEFL. Students at these hagwons arrive after attending their regular school day and are often pretty worn out by the time you see them.
Almost always work a nasty split shift. The first block can start as early as 6 am and end around 9am. The second block starts in the evening around 5 or 6 pm and goes into the night. Highly motivated students. They're paying the bill and they want to be there. Many of these school offer courses in business English. May teach all levels of English ability, but true beginners are usually taught by Korean faculty.
As a final point, these aren't the only kinds of hagwons out there. Neither are the ones mentioned above always separated from each other. At one time, I was teaching all of the levels mentioned above at a single job! Needless to say, I was getting some overtime pay. Also, if you look around the web for very long it's easy to find some sites that paint hagwons in a bad light. It is very true that nearly all of the bad experiences that you hear about take place at these academies. However, in this part of the guide I'm trying to take somewhat of a neutral stance on the subject of hagwons. Besides, this is where most teachers in Korea get their start.
Now, lets's move past hagwons and into the other kinds of employment available in Korea. Although the highest percentage of jobs available in Korea are at hagwons, there are other options open to you, especially if you are an experienced teacher or just know how to market yourself effectively. Here are a few:
Option #2: The Public School
A law was passed a couple of years ago requiring all public schools in Korea to have at least one foreign teacher of English on their faculties. These jobs are very secure and pay is always received on time. Usually more work than a hagwon. Great for the serious teacher. Typically more vacation time than a hagwon. Usually looking for experienced teachers. May be a little lonely, if you're the only foreign faculty member.
Option #3: The University
These are some of the most sought after jobs in Korea. They often require their applicants to have master's degrees and some experience. However, there are some universities that look for experienced teachers with bachelor's degrees. It seems that these jobs are in many ways similar to hagwons that are affiliated with universities and teach non-credit enrichment courses. Here's a little more of what I know:
Some of the most secure jobs in the country; you should always get paid on time. Workweeks anywhere from 16 to 20 classroom hours. Usually must hold office hours (around 5 a week). These jobs often have the most vacation time, sometimes from 8-12 weeks paid a year. Often asked or even required to work at the university's summer or winter camp during one of the vacations. However, you typically paid extra for this on top of your vacation pay. Some universities do not provide housing. The ones that do provide accommodation often give either a dorm room on campus or a stipend (typically around 300,000-400,000 won) to help pay for housing. Some even provide key money to get you into an apartment. These days, most of the universities that advertise openings only grant face to face interviews. Consequently, only teachers currently residing in Korea can successfully apply to these jobs. Because many universities only accept applications from teachers living in Korea, fewer and fewer of them are providing airfare for new teachers.
Well, that's pretty much all that I know about the major types of positions available in Korea. There's one more very important thing that I want to include in this part of the guide that I may repeat a couple more times. Here goes:
There are a few shady employers in Korea who will deduct taxes from your pay and not actually pay them to the government. Now, before you think that it's no skin off your neck if they break the law and steal from their government, consider this: they may actually be stealing from you. If you are a citizen of the United States, your government has an agreement with the Korean government that enables US citizens who meet certain requirements to work one year in Korea without paying taxes. If you meet these requirements and your employer pockets this money, it may be possible for you to get it back. There is more information on the Department of State website.
Also, for citizens of Canada (and maybe some other countries), I believe that you are supposed to bring proof that you paid taxes on the money you made in Korea upon your return home. This can be a little tricky when your employer is only pretending to pay taxes. Your country's consular affairs may be able to help you out.
There is also a lot more information on ESL teaching positions on my website.