Top Tips - Getting a Teaching Job in Korea
Every year thousands of foreigners move to South Korea to teach English. The process of finding a teaching job and getting recruited has been well documented and reviewed a lot online. Below, we provide some of our Top Tips for the recruitment process.
Job Location and School Type
There are teaching opportunities spread across the entire country. Deciding where to teach (Big city vs Small city/rural town) and at what kind of school (Private academy vs Public school) are the most important decisions that will impact your work and social life in Korea. The top cities for jobs are Seoul, Incheon, Daegu and Busan. For more rural areas, the Gangwon province with its coastline and Chungcheongnam region with it central position are popular options. Once you have researched what area you want to teach in the next step is to focus on the type of school. Both private academies (aka hagwons) and public schools have their pros and cons. The main difference we would like to stress is that private academies operate as a business with a rigid working model, and so as a teacher you will have less flexibility in your teaching style and working conditions. But this can sometimes be beneficial to first time teachers.
Research your location thoroughly as it will play an important part of your experience in Korea. Each city/town can be very different and the smaller the city the more isolated it can be from foreign influence.
Teaching Adults vs Kids
Another big decision which will effect your teaching experience and work life in Korea is the type of students you teach. Like many of the decisions this can be quite subjective, some people like the singing and dancing that comes with teaching young kids while others will prefer the opportunities to socialize and connect with your students on a non-academic level which teaching adults provides. We like to highlight one difference, which is that adults are mostly active students who are choosing to study English and often they are paying out of their own pocket. Adult learners will want to get the most from their lessons and they will expect fast and measurable results. In comparison, kids can be considered passive learners in that a lot of the time they are not voluntarily studying English, and so as a teacher the focus is often more about finding ways to motivate students to learn.
Look at some textbooks and online materials for teaching both kids and adults, and then try making some lesson plans for both types of students. You may find a preference to the differing styles and levels offered by both.
Job Sites & Recruiters
As you can see from our Listings Directory there are many job sites and recruiters you can utilize for your job search. A lot of first time teachers applying from abroad make the mistake of only applying to one or two sites and are left with a very small handful of choices that may not be the best. If you come across the words ‘ There aren’t that many jobs available’ please don’t take this as the full-hearted truth. There are plenty of jobs and opportunities and new jobs pop up on a daily basis.
Apply to as many job sites and recruiters as you can. Be specific with the recruiters and tell them what kind of position you are looking for. Keep applying until you find what you are looking for and check the job sites daily as positions can be filled up very quickly.
In recent years, for first time teachers, it has become the norm to have completed a TEFL course in order to compete with experienced teachers and also boost their salary. There are plenty of TEFL courses available with the simplest options being online courses. A lot of the companies offering the courses use some marketing tricks like claiming large discounted prices when in fact the discount is offered all year round, and also advertising the course as being accredited from an official education body. Please note that apart from the CELTA course which is a globally recognized certificate, there is no official governing body that regulates these TEFL courses. That being said, there are lots of sub-par options out there so before taking the TEFL course please do some research online and ask in communities or your recruiter for some feedback.
This website is a great resource for finding the right TEFL for you. Recently setup and run by teachers, the site allows users to write honest reviews about TEFL courses and they have policies in place to prevent fake reviews. Follow the link – https://trustedteflreviews.com
Interviews are normally short and sweet and can be seen as a more casual than what you may be expecting compared to other career interviews. Nonetheless you should dress in a formal way and be prepared. You may be asked to prepare a mock lesson in which case you should check what exactly they require from you. It is common to speak to two different people during the interview. First, the main head of the school/academy and also the department manager.
Due to the casual nature of these interviews it can easily come to an awkward silence. Be prepared by making a list of questions to ask before hand about the school. Also prepare answers for the following common questions:
1) Why do you want to teach in South Korea? Why did you choose South Korea?
2) What are your strengths (and weaknesses)?
3) Describe your personality/character?
4) Why do you want to teach kids/adults?
5) What do you know about Korean culture (food, movies etc)?
6) Do you smoke? (yes they still ask this)
If this is your first time seeing a contract for teaching in South Korea it can appear to be overwhelming. Fear not! Each contract is typically broken down into different sections each with a paragraph of explanation. The most important things you should look out for which may cause some conflict in the future are:
1) Flight Payment – check the exact details of who is paying and if there is reimbursement check the terms.
2) Working Hours – make sure there is clarification on the teaching hours and working hours and watch out for weekend and overtime work.
3) Vacation Time – check the terms for how you can take your paid vacation days (Minimum 10 days for private schools, 26 days for public schools).
4) Other Benefits – pay attention to what’s included in the housing, and also the terms for your end of contract bonus, and sick leave conditions.
5) Termination of Contract – although you can legally leave your job as you please their can be complications with visas and changing jobs so check that there is nothing unusual here especially for securing a letter of release.
Be thorough with your contract check and don’t be afraid to ask the recruiter/school to make changes. Also feel free to post the contract for review in the Reddit group r/teachinginkorea
The most important step and maybe the scariest. Deciding to go to another country to teach can be a big step and should be done with some clarity and full understanding. Only decide after you have all the information about your potential employer and not before. There are quite a few horror stories online of people going to teach in South Korea but often these negative experiences come about as a result of decisions being made too quickly and with little information. There is a wealth of information about teaching in Korea online and if you have any unanswered or even peculiar questions always try to ask an experienced teacher from one of the online Teacher Communities in our Listings Directory.
Before signing any contract and officially accepting a position make sure you ask the school to give you a foreign teacher’s email/Skype so you can ask them about their experience working at that school. If they refuse its a major red flag. Hearing first hand feedback from a teacher will give you the best insight and help you make your final decision.
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