Over the years, teaching English overseas has become very big business and an appealing path for travelers, adventure seekers and teachers. The list of popular destinations has grown and changed over the years. One country that is always near the top of that list is South Korea. I’ve been teaching in South Korea for over ten years. From kindergarten, elementary school, university to adult, I’ve taught almost every kind of imaginable class there is. Each one offers a different challenge and reward. So if you want to teach ESL in South Korea, let me help you with the process.
Why Teach English Korea?
Deciding to leave your family, friends and your comfortable way of live is a huge decision. If you are ready to do that and are looking for some sort of adventure, then the first thing you need to do is decide on a country. South Korea is a great place to teach English for many reasons.
For one it’s a safe country to live in. Nobody wants to travel half way around the world to live in a dangerous country. You don’t have to worry about that here. You may be asking “What about North Korea?” Well, it could scare some people from coming here, but it really shouldn’t. Once you are here you will realize that most of the information in the media is blown out of proportion and that people go about their daily lives without any concern.
There are several other aspects to consider. One of the most important items in my criteria was money. Even though salaries in South Korea for entry level ESL teachers have stagnated over the years, it is still ranked near the top. You can expect to find a job paying close to or over 2 million won (roughly $1,800 USD) a month. That may seem a little low where you live now, but when you consider that your housing will be paid for, and you won’t have other major expenses like a car to worry about, it becomes a lot better.
Besides safety and money, you need to select a country that you will enjoy living in. South Korea excels in this area too. Outdoor activity, culture, night life and peaceful solitude, South Korea has something for everyone. Even budget travelers. It’s a great place to live, and I still enjoy living here, even after 10 years.
Where to Teach English in Korea?
Now that you’ve chosen South Korea, you need to decide on where in Korea you want to live. If you want the excitement and action of Seoul, make sure you pick a school in Seoul. If you want beaches, then pick a city on the coast. Do your research, go onto a facebook page (for example: ‘Peeps in Gangneung’) to a city you are interested in and ask questions. See how active the foreign community is, and what kind of events they participate in. The city you chose will have a huge impact on your experience, so choose wisely.
What Type of School?
The next step is deciding on the type of school you want to teach in. I’ve taught in pretty much every type of school so here is a quick breakdown.
Kindergarten: If you love little kids then this could be for you. If not, stay far away. I taught kindergarten for a year and loved it. You need a lot of energy but it’s a good place to start. Hours usually go from 9am to 6pm.
Private Academy: Probably the most common and easiest to get. Students range from elementary school to high school. Class sizes are around 10 students and the hours are typically shorter.
Public School: Steady and reliable work. If you want to make teaching your career this could be a good experience for you. You will usually have a Korean co-teacher with you and they do more training than the hagwons. They also average better pay and longer vacations. You might need a TESOL certificate or a teacher’s degree to land one of these jobs as the competition is much stiffer. Public schools usually start the recruiting process in the winter and summer.
Universities: Regulations have changed and you will need a master’s degree or years of experience to get one of these jobs.
Adults: If you don’t like kids and don’t mind working a split shift then adults would be a good place for you. You will have to look hard though, most adult classes are only offered as part time employment.
Application Process for English Teachers in Korea
Alright, now you’re ready to go through the application process.
1. You will need to be from one of these 7 countries: USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia or South Africa.
2. A full bachelor’s degree and clean criminal record. Both need to be legalized and apostilled.
3. Color copy of your passport
4. Health check statement
6. 2 passport sized photos
7. A set of sealed transcripts.
8. Contact a recruiter or search job postings.
9. Interview: Usually on skype or by phone. They really just want to see if you match your picture and have the accent they are looking for.
10. Review the contract. Make sure you are ok with everything in the contract. If you have a question or problems ask the recruiter or manager to see if you can change it. This is REALLY important.
11. Send your documents. This will get the visa and immigration process rolling. Once your visa is approved, take your issued number along with your passport, fee and completed visa form to your nearest South Korean embassy.
12. Pick up your visa about a week later and book your plane ticket. Some schools will book it for you. Make sure you know who is responsible to do it. If you have to purchase the ticket yourself, the school will usually reimburse you after the first month.
13. Say good bye to your old life and hello to your new adventure in Korea.
Teaching English in Korea has been a great decision for me. I’ve met some incredible people and gained a lot of wonderful experiences along the way. If you are interested in different cultures and seeing the world, then South Korea could be a good place for you. The most important tip I can give you is do your RESEARCH and don’t settle for something you don’t want. It could change what should be one of the best years in your life into a nightmare. If you follow my plan, you will be in Korea eating kimchi, exploring new places and making meaningful memories in no time (well in 2 or 3 months anyway).