If you’re interested in traveling, experiencing a new and different culture, and saving money, then being an ESL teacher may be the job for you. As long as you have a bachelor’s degree in any subject area, there is a way for you to teach English in Korea. Before you start job hunting, here are a few things you should know.
As you have discovered, searching for ESL jobs in Korea yields tons of results. You may find it easier to sign on with a recruiter, like Footprints. Most recruiters ask for your resume and a short phone interview before taking you on. If accepted, you can tell them what you’re looking for- age level, area, etc.- and they can greatly help narrow down your search to find the school for you. If you’d rather search on your own, the largest Korean ESL job board is Dave’s ESL Cafe, or you can try craigslist.com.
The three most common teaching positions in Korea are hagwons (private schools), public schools, and Universities. A hagwon position is the most common for a first-time ESL teacher, as the requirements are usually minimal. A little internet research is enough to see that hagwons have a bad reputation. Unfortunately, in many cases this is well-deserved. A hagwon is a private business, and the director treats it as such, with money as the main objective rather than education. However, many teachers are perfectly happy working at a hagwon. If you are offered a contract from a hagwon, read it carefully several times. Don’t be afraid to point out anything vague, and demand changes before signing. The hours of the average hagwon job are good; unless you’re teaching kindergarten, you’ll probably be on an afternoon shift between 2pm and 9pm, with about 30 teaching hours a week.
A public school job may be a bit harder to land, but it’s more secure in the long run. Unlike hagwons, you won’t have to deal with annoyances like unexpected (and unpaid) field trips as a public school teacher. But the hours are different, and even if you don’t have class until the afternoon, you’ll most likely have to report to school bright and early with the rest of the teachers. Many ESL teachers at Korean public schools report spending their morning hours surfing the net in the teacher’s lounge. If you want a better shot at securing a public school, a degree in education, English, or linguistics, a teaching certificate like the CELTA, TEFL, or TESL, and a good recruiter will increase your chances.
A university teaching position in Korea is by far the best way to go, but these jobs are coveted and hard to get due to high pay, low hours, and often, months of paid vacation time. Even if you have the above degrees and certificates, plus prior experience teaching in Korea, a university job is often attained through the good ol’ boy system. If you plan on spending a few years teaching in Korea, start networking early!
Spend some time researching Korea and ESL teaching before you make a final decision. Check out forums like Dave’s ESL Cafe and see what others have to say about their experience. Of course, take everything you read with a grain of salt. Your experience in Korea will be what you make of it. Just remember, while a job teaching ESL may have light requirements, the fact is you will be spending at least six hours a day as an official teacher, which includes working with kids, planning curriculums, grading tests, patience, and creativity. If you feel confident that you will be happy in a job with these demands, then teaching English in Korea may be the job for you.