If you ask most people why they were drawn to Korea, the very first answer you’d commonly hear is– the benefits. Korea has by far, the best package out there- public and private school alike. Along the way, you discover the experience itself is so much more, but before I get into that, here you go~
Incentive Package for teaching in a Korean public school:
• Round trip airfare to South Korea
• Free apartment housing
• Signing bonus
• Paid vacations
• 50% medical insurance
Should you work in a public or private school?
Whether you’re with a government run program or independent one, there is no guarantee that your situation will be perfect and not meet with disappointment on some level. Both public and private employment have led to hit or miss situations for many- anywhere from bad apartment situations, problems with getting paid, bad co-teachers, etc… The forums are littered with unhappy results and while you’d like to think it’s just a bunch of disgruntled folk, the numbers ten to be so outstanding that you know there’s a level to truth.
Getting a job in a public school in Korea
Seoul placements are highly competitive, usually asking for at least a year of experience. The further out of the epicenter you’re willing to work, you’ll find more opportunity.
Mitch Gordon of Go!Overseas has a great article about the differences between the EPIK, SMOE & GEPIK.
I work with EPIK, the largest entity of English teacher placement around Korea. I chose a government program because its contract is for a year and it’s stable.
A typical EPIK working day:
Hours & Class: I teach a class of up to 30 students per class. My hours are 8:30AM – 4:30PM Monday- Friday; and I work 40 hours but only 22 hours are spent teaching in the classroom. My classes are 40 minutes and I have roughly 4 classes each day by grade level. I teach with a co-teacher and help with coming up with creative lesson plans to motivate the students.
Overtime pay : It is given for additional hours or programs designed by the school. For instance, I teach a Teacher and Parent English class per semester.
Vacation Time: I have 21 days of vacation time plus, most school holidays. The exceptions are winter and summer vacations, where I might need to teach Summer or Winter Camps. That’s a sizable chunk of vacation time though.
Community: With EPIK, I have an invaluable network of fellow native English Teachers, whom I met during orientation.Occasionally, our district also runs free programs, such as language classes, a toast master’s club and cultural tours.
Student Levels: You’re teaching a very mixed bag in public school. I even get special needs students in my classes. Overall, unless I have students who go to hagwons, the level of English will be relatively low. Students require more incentive to learn and are less motivated to learn English than hagwon students.
It’s not to say everything is sunshine and roses working in the public school system. There are occasional issues native Teachers can experience, such as bad housing, dealing with reluctant co-teachers, a school not wanting to pay overtime and the DMOE, doesn’t always help. But what job is perfect. To me, if it has a firm foundation, it’s workable.
How to apply:
Assistance in Korea:
The following is your chain of command- your co-teacher (*main), your school, the DMOE (the Dept of Education in your city)
Getting a job at a private school (aka Hagwon) in Korea
Working at a private school (or hagwon), is a bit like going independent. It’s attractive to those seeking quick placement and want to a greater say in location placement and salary negotiations. While I can’t comment directly on this, discretion must always be used. You will find an increasing amount of complaints in ESL forums about schools breaking contract, closing down and not telling the teacher, failure of payment, bad housing, the list goes on… Hagwons can be a little on the risky side, as some are unethical with movable roots.
Being a private institution and after-school supplement to learning, hagwons run their curriculum like a business factory.
Hours & Class: Classes in hagwons are roughly 1/3 the size of public schools. You start work during after school hours. You teach alone and are required to lesson plan, however, not much creativity is required in lesson planning as lessons focus on targeted learning and you must stick to the textbook. Most classes will follow one directly after the other for 40-50 minutes with a 10-15 minute break in between. You’ll teach anywhere from 4-6 classes a day and you can work anywhere from 5-6 days a week.
Overtime pay: I haven’t heard of any hagwon to pay teachers overtime.
Vacation Time: Vacation days allotted are approximately 7 days. No holidays or weekends.
Student Levels: the levels will range from beginner to advanced. These are paid classes, so learning and study skills tend to run higher and more focused. There are many which can speak decent English.
Finding a good school/employer:
While you can’t see the inner workings of the school, the NET before you will and will be eager to lay into the pros and cons of their experience. Ask the school if there’s a current (or previous ) English teacher, who worked there and whom, you can contact for personal reference. Do an internet search on your school to see if there’s been any problems in the past.
How to apply for a hagwon job:
There’s a massive amount of job ads for hagwons, enough to go around. Dave’s ESL Cafe is an excellent resource for finding esl job opportunities and recruiting agencies looking to fill positions in private schools. There are also several independent recruiters out there, such as Jobs in Korea (or JIK). Warning, not all recruiters are credible nor are job postings always reputable, so you’ll have to do your own homework. You should never pay money to a recruiter.
Do you need to be TEFL certified in order to get a job in Korea?
For Korea , a TEFL is currently not a requirement for hagwon and public school jobs. However, it is an asset that might leverage you higher than those without one. For university jobs, many seek a TEFL or Bachelor/Master’s in English. I had a master’s degree, so that gained me leverage over those who had neither, as well as higher pay. Korea however, appreciates a TEFL.
Outside of Korea, a TEFL can be like a passport to jobs in other countries. Most countries will ask for this type of certification. If you’re planning to pursue a career in teaching English abroad, TEFL certification is something you’d want to invest in
Where can I get a cost efficient TEFL certification?
TEFL certification programs can be costly. If possible, I’d recommend getting certified through an online program or in a different country, where it might be cheaper. Many expats I’ve known, have gone to Thailand or India to get certified. Research your options.
Have you worked in a hagwon or public school ? Feel free to share your experience and thoughts….
For more information about teaching in Korea, click here:
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