Right after I graduated from university I spent two years (fall 2012-fall 2014) teaching English in South Korea. I could make an entire book about it but am going to keep it short & sweet. Contact me if you have questions.
What are the requirements?
- Must be from a Native English speaking country such as: U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand.
- Bachelor’s degree
- Pass a background check & drug test
- Flexible and “go with the flow” work ethic
- Able to throw down soju shots with your boss – half joking.
Here are some FAQ’s that I have received over the years from friends, family, and those who have interest in teaching in South Korea:
- What’s the difference between teaching at a private (hagwon) or a public school?
- I spent both years working at a private school. Students will go to the standard public school during the day and then off to their private lessons in the evening. This could be tae-kwon-do, computer classes, English lessons, piano classes, or basically anything that could advance them academically. The pressure to do well in school is very high. Some students would get home as late as midnight (depending on age). I was their designated English teacher for their private lessons. I had small class sizes and the lessons would last 25-45 minutes. At the three schools I was at during this time I had about ZERO prep and never brought work home with me.
- I also taught kindergarten for the first year. This was typically kiddos ages 4-7 who would only go to school during the mornings. I only witnessed children throwing up in class twice. 🙂
- Are there certain degrees you need in order to be qualified?
- No, you just need a Bachelor’s degree. If you have a certification to teach you will have more options and should apply for an international school.
- What agency did you go through?
- Did you know any of the language prior to going to Korea?
- Not at all. I tried to remember “hello” & “thank you” before I got there but I failed. However, within my first week of living there I could read the language because it is actually SO EASY. I then picked up bits and pieces while living there. You can get by without learning it, but don’t be that person. Just try! Koreans love when the westerners put in that effort.
- Why did you choose to live in South Korea?
- I was debating between Korea & Japan. I applied to teach in Japan but didn’t get in. It’s a bit more competitive. I chose Korea because I knew the salary was decent and I needed to pay off student loans. I couldn’t just travel abroad and not make $$. Knowing nothing of the culture and never having been to Asia, I just did it because I felt like it.
- When did you apply and what made you apply?
- I applied around December 2011 knowing that I wouldn’t be able to go before August 2012. If you choose to teach at a private school you can apply any time of the year and only need a month or two notice. If you apply for a public school the best hiring months are August & February.
- Do you have any tips, suggestions, or things that you wish you would have done differently?
- I wish I had worked at a public school. You get earlier hours and more vacation time. However, I was really lucky with the schools I worked at. Teaching at a hagwon (private school) can be a bigger risk but there are pros and cons to both. Working at a public school has more lesson prep.
- I wish I would have budgeted more because I made a lot of money and I spent a lot of money. But I have no regrets and was able to do so much in those two years and still save over $10,000 and pay off $10,000 in debt.
- Is it lonely?
- I lived in the 7th largest city in Korea which still has over 1 million people. I had a lot of expats friends and there were always events going on. I also played ultimate frisbee and my teammates became my “Korean expat family.” There was no time to be lonely because so much was always going on.
- What is the contract, housing, and salary like?
- Contracts are usually a year and you are paid on a monthly basis; I made about the equivalent of $2,000 USD per month.
- Housing is always free.
- Some schools give you a pension.
- You get a year end bonus that is the sum of your monthly salary.
- You will have health insurance and the healthcare is super cheap.
- Schools pay for your round trip flight.
- Your visa will be taken care of by the school.
- How did you get TEFL certified and is it required?
- I took a 120 hour class online through Bridge TEFL. It is not required to have the certification if you are working at a private school. However, it is getting more competitive and it is required for public schools. I also just think it’s good to have so that you know a bit about what you are getting yourself into.
Overall, I absolutely LOVED teaching in Korea.
There were definitely hard times: for example, when I got rejected to stay another year at my first school, when I was lied to about having health insurance, when my boss hit on me, when I got paid late every single time during my second year, when I didn’t want to eat raw octopus at a teacher dinner and was called insulting, and when I would go home crying because I felt so bad for some of the kids.
However, I really was treated well, worked at good schools the whole time, DID get paid back for my health care, DID call out my boss who got fired, DID get paid every single penny I earned, had amazing co-teachers who always helped me out, sang karaoke until the morning with those same co-teachers, negotiated my salaries and benefits, made great expat and Korean friends, and lived in an amazing city.
I forced myself not to stay a third year only because life was too easy and I knew it was time to move on after two years.
**I would love to hear your opinion if you have taught abroad or answer any questions if you are interested.
To see pictures of when I was teaching go to my page called Korean kiddos are cute.