How to find a job teaching English in Korea

After making the initial decision to move to Korea to teach, you’ll start looking for a job. If you’re not Korean, you basically have three options: universities, schools, and hagwons.

University jobs

Universities offer the best jobs: good pay, good job title, literally months of vacation each year. The downside is that these positions are increasing difficult to land, especially rare if you only have a bachelor’s degree. It’s not impossible, but you’d have to know someone and have some experience teaching here already.

Assuming you don’t have that much experience and don’t have the credentials for the uni jobs, you’re left with the decision between working at a school or working at a hagwon.

School jobs

At a school, you’ll teach during the day, normal school hours. You’ll probably have an assistant teacher also, a Korea who probably won’t speak much if any English, to help you keep order in class.

The upside to working at a school is that you have normal hours, you’re employed by the government, which means you’ll get a little more respect for your title and you’re more likely to get paid on time all the time. You also might get some decent vacation time, although often they’ll want you to teach summer and winter camps instead of getting that time off.

The downside to working at a school is that the classes are larger, probably around 30 students each, and you’ll probably be the only foreigner at the school, which can make it difficult to settle into the environment in the beginning. Also, you might get paid slightly less than if you worked somewhere else.

Many of my friends here got their job at a school through a program called EPIK (English Program in Korea). EPIK helps train and place teachers in different schools. I’m not as familiar with the program because I didn’t go that route, but it can be a good option if teaching at a school appeals to you.

Going through EPIK, especially through a site like Teach Away, has the added benefit of training many teachers at once, which helps give you some community when you first arrive.

[Note: If you’re a licensed teacher, you can also look into International schools, which is an excellent option but you need the license and some experience.]

Hagwon jobs

Working at a hagwon is more of a gamble. Some are great. Some are terrible.

Hagwon’s are private academies that teach anything from math or science to music or English. There are thousands of hagwons in Korea, and English is the most popular type. Some teach students, some teach business people, and some teach other teachers.

The upside of working at a hagwon is that you’ll probably work with other foreigners and your classes will be smaller, usually capped at 14 students but often with less than six per class.

The downside is that the hours are less traditional because they have to fit around everyone else’s schedule. If you teach students, you’ll probably work in the afternoons and evenings, maybe even Saturdays. If you teach business people, you might have to work the dreaded split shift, early mornings before everyone goes to work and then again later in the evenings once everyone gets off.

The other potential problem, and it’s a big one, is the reliability of the hagwons. They’re probably getting better with stiffer competition, but it’s still super easy to land in a place that works you like crazy and doesn’t ever pay you, to say nothing of trying to get your visa processed or flight tickets reimbursed.

Apply at your own risk. That said, it’s the option I chose. If you do your homework, you can cut out a lot of the potential problems. But still, nothing’s certain.

One good place to find lots of openings for hagwons is the job board on Dave’s ESL forum. Thanks to the Internet, it’s way easier to find positions and research about them from the comfort of your couch in [insert your home country].

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