How to Teach English in South Korea

Moving across the globe to teach English in South Korea was one of the best decisions I've ever made. During my one year contract, I fell head over heels in love with the country, my students and Korean culture. It was a life changing experience that I'll always cherish.

If teaching English abroad is something you want to do, but you have no idea how to get started; you're in luck! Today, I'm going to explain the different processes you can take in order to land a teaching job in South Korea.

I believe everyone should get the opportunity to work and live abroad at least once in their lives. As an English teacher in a foreign country, you'll get to travel, immerse yourself in different cultures, make a decent earning and build valuable work experience that will look good on any resume.



Okay, so you've decided you want to be an foreign English teacher. Where do you start?

First, you need to decide if you want to work in a public school or hagwon (private academy). If you choose public schools, you'll need to apply to programs run by South Korea's Ministry of Education. If you take the private academy route, you'll have to seek out positions and apply directly to the organizations. Each option have their pros and cons which I will go into below.


I want to work in a public school

Pros:

  • Stable jobs 
  • Work during school hours
  • Free furnished housing 
  • Round-trip flights provided
  • Medical insurance coverage
  • In-depth orientation and training
  • Decent wages
  • Settlement allowance (one time payment to help you buy furnishings, groceries and other things for your apartment)
  • Paid vacation leave (usually 14-18 days per year) 
  • In most cases, you'll also get a Korean co-teacher to assist you in the classroom 
  • Severance pay (EPIK program only)
  • Pension plan (EPIK program only) --- Only Americans, Canadians and Australians are eligible for a lump sum return on their pension contributions. 

Cons: 

  • You have no choice regarding your placement and may end up in an extremely rural area
  • Larger class sizes 
  • Varying English levels in the classroom (can range from fluent to very low-level) 
  • Usually only have two possible start dates: March (beginning of school year) or August (start of second semester)
  • You'll most likely be the only foreigner at the school (This could be a pro if you're looking for a more authentic Korean experience!)



There are two programs run by the Korean government that allow you to work in a public school: TaLK and EPIK

TaLK (Teach and Learn in Korea)

TaLK is an after-school English program devoted to teaching students in rural areas of South Korea.

Length of contracts: 1 year (although 6 month contracts are approved under special circumstances) 
Eligibility: Must be a citizen of a country where English is the primary language and at least be a second year student at a recognized post secondary institution  
Placement: Elementary schools in rural areas
Working Hours: 3 hours a day usually in the early afternoon
Pay: A monthly stipend of 1.5 million KRW per month (approximately $1550 CAD) --- I know it's not much but remember you don't have to pay rent or your flights! 
Training: One month orientation 

When I graduated university, I was burnt out. Studying for exams, working full-time and maxed out course loads left me exhausted. There was no way I was ready to jump into a career. I decided to apply to TaLK because I wanted to travel and was enticed by their reduced working hours (15 hours a week, yipee!)  


Application Process:

1) Create a TaLK "My Page" account

2) Fill-out and submit Application A (profile and photo) and Application B (self medical assessment, personal essay and letter of pledge) on "My Page"

3) TaLK will contact and invite you to an interview at a local application office 

4) If you passed the interview, you'll be required to send in a variety of documents via post mail to the local application office. 

These documents include: 

  • Two recommendation letters (signed and sealed)
  • A detailed lesson plan
  • Official school transcripts (authentic and sealed)
  • A copy of your passport photo page
  • An nationwide criminal record check 

5) Once your documents have been reviewed and approved, you'll receive an acceptance e-mail. Go to your "My Page" and click accept on your offer.

6) Apply for a work visa. You'll have to get either an E2-2 or a F4 visa. 

7) Book your flights to South Korea and get out of here already! 

I sent in my application and within two months, I was accepted into the program! In August 2013, I packed my bags and moved to South Korea.

Before I started teaching, I had a month of intensive training and orientation. During this time, I attended teaching workshops, lectures and participated in practicums. I also befriended a ton of other teachers from around the world. After four weeks, I was ready to meet my students and get teaching! 

I was placed in Pohang, a quaint and coastal city in Gyeongsangbuk-do province. Here, I met my friendly and extremely helpful co-teacher Hazel. 


Hazel was a Korean university student who assisted me in the classroom three times a week. I don't know what I would've done without her! Not only did she work along side me, she also helped me transition to life in Korea. She acted as a translator between me and my landlord, took me out for delicious Korean food, set up my cell phone plan and so much more. If you work with TaLK, most likely you will be assigned a co-teacher however, there are cases where you won't get one (i.e. if you live in a super rural area). 


My 12 months in South Korea flew by in a blink of an eye. During my year, I got to travel all over the country and even made it to Indonesia and Japan. I also made some amazing friends whom I still keep in touch with. 

Lastly, I was able to witness the impact I had on my students. Some of my students didn't even know the alphabet when I first met them. After a year, they were able to read. That's a pretty amazing feeling. I don't think I've ever had a job as rewarding as teaching. It was unbelievable to see the progress my students made and know that I was the one that made it happen. 


EPIK

EPIK is TaLK's sister program which is also run by the Ministry of Education. If you have previous teaching experience and are looking for more hours and a better salary, then this is the route to take.

Length of contracts: 1 year 
Eligibility: Must be a citizen of a country where English is the primary language and have a Bachelor's degree from an accredited post secondary institution 
Placement: Elementary, middle and high schools all over the country 
Working Hours: 40 hours per week with 22 instructional hours maximum 
Pay: Monthly salaries start at 1.8 million KRW (approximately $1875 CAD), however increase if you have a teaching degree, previous teaching experience or TESOL/TEFL/CELTA certification. Click here for the complete pay scale
Training: One week orientation 


Application Process: (very similar to TaLK's procedure)

1) Fill out and e-mail the application forms and two scanned letters of recommendation

2) If your application is successful, EPIK will contact you for an interview.

3) Once you've passed the interview, you'll be asked to send in your required documents (criminal record check, transcripts, certifications, etc) 

4) Apply for a work visa. You'll have to get either an E2-2 or a F4 visa. 

5) Book your flights to South Korea. 

* Many people have asked if a TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) certification is necessary. Although they are not required, they do look good on your resume and EPIK will give preference to candidates who hold them. 


I want to work in a hagwon (private academy)

Pros:

  • Smaller class sizes 
  • Students will possess similar English levels 
  • Will work with other foreigners 
  • Usually higher salary than public schools
  • Can start anytime of the year 
  • Working hours can be shorter
  • Free housing 
  • Medical insurance coverage 
  • Severance pay 
  • Round-trip flights provided 
  • You get to pick where you want to work

Cons:

  • Less stable (I have heard of hagwon directors firing teachers without notice) 
  • Less vacation time (usually 10 paid vacation days)
  • Abnormal working hours 
  • You may have to work on weekends 
  • Making money may be a higher priority than education considering hagwons are businesses 


Length of contracts: 1 year 
Eligibility: Must be a citizen of a country where English is the primary language and have a Bachelor's degree from an accredited post secondary institution 
Working Hours: Shifts normally begin in the afternoon and end in the evening with approximately 30- 40 hours a week 
Pay: Monthly salaries vary from hagwon to hagwon but generally start at 2 million KRW (approximately $2080 CAD). These salaries increase if you have a teaching degree, previous teaching experience or TESOL/TEFL/CELTA certification. 
Training: Depends on the hagwon 

If you can't wait till March or August to start teaching, you can apply to a hagwon and get started right away. I currently have many friends working at hagwons in South Korea and know that they are enjoying their experiences immensely. 


To apply, you'll have to find job openings on your own and send in your application to the hagwon directly. Or, you could contact a recruitment agency to help you with the job search.

Here are some reputable websites that advertise available teaching positions in South Korea:

Dave's ESL Cafe - A website and discussion forum for foreign teachers and students. You'll also find lesson plans, teaching methods and more.  

Waygook.org - Waygook is a community forum for foreign teachers in South Korea. It is a great resource full of educational games, lesson plans and tips on how to adapt to life in Korea.

TeachAway - An international recruitment company that helps teachers find positions around the world.

*If you are hired by a hagwon, make sure to obtain a contract and read it over carefully. The contract should include your salary, housing, working hours, severance pay, income tax, medical insurance and your flight ticket home. If anything is missing, talk to your hagwon director and make sure they add it in before signing. 


South Korea will always have a special place in my heart. I hope this post has inspired you to get out there and make a difference in some children's lives. 

If you have any questions about teaching abroad, please don't hesitate to leave me a comment below.

Melissa Li

I’m a Canadian girl on a quest to step foot in every continent before I’m 30. You’ll most likely find me chowing down on Japanese ramen, partying at a music festival, hiking to the top of a scenic lookout, cuddling with cats, or chilling out at the beach. I’ve visited over 60 countries so far and hope to inspire you to do the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment