I recently secured a job for English teaching in South Korea for the Fall of 2016 in Guri City, South Korea.
It was a long drawn out process that took a lot more effort than I expected. But I chose South Korea because of the benefits, the culture, and the abundance of opportunities.
Teaching English in South Korea is the best overall place to teach if you compare it to other countries.
I looked into teaching in Thailand, Japan, China, countries in Europe, and even Taiwan.
The whole process took me about 6 months to actually get a job. The biggest reason it took longer than expected was I was pretty indecisive when I was offered positions. It’s tough to get exactly what you want when you don’t even really know what to expect.
I want to highlight the process that I went through in order to get a job teaching in South Korea.
Here are the steps that I took.
English Teaching In South Korea Process
1. Do you have a Bachelor’s degree?
So the first part of the process is having a bachelor’s degree. If you don’t have a bachelors degree then you can’t teach in South Korea. They used to allow teachers to come from English speaking countries without a Bachelor’s degree before 2000. But not anymore. Check out these other options for teaching English abroad if you don’t have a degree.
TEFL stands for “teaching English as a foreign language”. TESOl stands for “teaching English to speakers of another language”. And TESL is “teaching English as a second language”. You are almost always going to need to have a certificate for teaching in South Korea. It’s possible to get a job without one, but you are going to be limited in your possibilities.
There are many other ways to get your certificate as well. I chose Oxford Seminars because of the 60 hour in class portion. It looks good if you have at least a little practice making lesson plans and teaching a practicum to your class mates. Here is a good article that explains where you should look and what you should consider before deciding on the right TEFL course for you.
3.Create a teaching resume
Another reason why I chose Oxford Seminars is because they have an adviser that is assigned to you when the class is over. The adviser will help you find a job, create a cover letter, and perfect your resume. When I finished my class through Oxford Seminars completely, I was able to use their resume builder. All you do is input the information into the builder and it creates the resume for you.
The resume looks a little different than a normal resume. You are going to want to have your picture included, all of your work experience, and the format looks different than a normal resume. You can take a look at my teaching resume as an example.
4.Start applying for jobs
The biggest hiring season in South Korea is August. I was unable to find a job that I really liked during that month. So I kept on waiting. I ended up getting a job in October, which is actually one of the slower times to find jobs.
How to apply
There are many ways you can apply for teaching jobs in South Korea. The easiest way that I found was posting my resume on Dave’s ESL Cafe. Some people say they hate the forums on this website. But the main thing that it provides is traffic and recruiters.
When I first started out I would go through the job’s list for South Korea positions. And then I would email them individually. The problem with that is it takes a lot of time to look at individual job’s and email the recruiter specifically about that job. Most of the time they respond to your email with an automated post filled with all of the jobs available anyway. So my time was completely wasted sending an email specifically about one job.
Just post your resume instead and write a few sentences about where you want to teach.
Now just wait.
Within a day or two you are going to have TONS of emails from a vast amount of recruiters. They will be from tons of different countries. I still get emails from recruiters in China. But the majority will be from South Korea.
Respond to the emails with your name, your resume, and what exactly you are looking for. I recommend responding to at least 5 to 10 recruiters so that you are always being offered jobs.
If you decide to work with one recruiter only, I have a feeling you are going to end up being frustrated with how long it takes to get interviews. Make it a numbers game.
Some of the recruiters are going to want to speak with you by phone or by Skype in order to get a better feel for what you are looking for. Some are fine with just working with you through email. Which brings me to my next point.
5.Create A Skype Account
Make sure you have an account that you can access in order to talk to the recruiters easily through messaging and ultimately have interviews with the schools. It’s convenient to be online during the working hours in South Korea because you don’t have to mess with emailing the recruiters. Once you have established a relationship with a 5 to 10 recruiters and have them on skype, they are pretty much always online.
I started off talking very formally to the recruiters through emails. But you have to remember they could care less how formal you are. All they care about is getting you a job so they can make money.
Over the past month or two I would start off my conversations with them saying something like, “any positions in October that pay 2.2 Won?” And they are more than happy to relay the info on positions they have available. As long as they have your resume, they will go ahead and apply to the school for you.
6. Get Your Documents Ready
When you first start working with the recruiters they are going to ask you if you have all of your documents ready. The two main documents that they are talking about are your apostilled and notarized Bachelor’s Degree and your FBI background check. Both of these links will break down exactly how you go about taking care of this.
I got my Bachelor’s degree apostilled at my state office of authentications. It was very easy. I drove there and paid $15 total for both the apostille and notarization of two copies of my Bachelor’s degree.
I got my FBI background check through MYFBIreport. This took about three weeks to get back in the mail. You have to fill out all of the required forms on their website and go to one of your local police stations to take your fingerprints.
There are more documents you need before you are finished, but I’ll explain the rest later.
7. Apply for jobs through the recruiters and interview
After your recruiter applies, the schools typically want to interview within the next day or two. It’s a very quick process. They want to fill the teaching role as soon as possible. As long as you have all of the requirements (diploma, TEFL, resume), then you will get an interview most likely.
Your recruiter will then let you know when the interview is. It is usually going to be late at night if you are in the US. Because South Korea is 14 hours ahead (central standard time). And you will be all set.
Here is a solid article on some different South Korea recruiter options.
I signed my contract through ESL Park and the recruiters name was Yuna Kim. I highly recommend going through this agency. She was always sending me jobs, very professional, and quick about getting back to me about my questions.
I won’t go into to much in depth on interviewing tips in this article. But if you want some tips now, check out this article called Interview Tips & Common Interview Questions for teaching jobs in Korea.
The only thing I will say about interviewing is that if you say what you are “supposed” to say, you will have a good chance of getting the job. I’ll talk more in depth about this in a future post.
8.Feedback from interview and reevaluating if the position is right for you
If you did a good job in the interview you can expect the job. But don’t just take the first offer you get. Reevaluate first.
My first offer was a school in Daegu. The position was to start in late August. They offered me 2.1 million Won and round trip airfare. Which I guess is pretty standard for a first year teacher.
It took me a few days before I declined the position. The reason it was so hard to say no was because I didn’t know if it was going to be that easy to get a job again. Was this the only position that I was going to get offered? Or was it really easy to get another offer? How could I know when it was my first offer?
I researched Daegu and ultimately went with my gut feeling that it wasn’t where I wanted to live for a year.
I originally wanted to live closer to the Ocean in the south of South Korea, but now I am going to be teaching right next to Seoul.
You should definitely follow your gut and realize that there are a lot of jobs in South Korea. There might not be as many as there were 10 years ago because of the government cutting jobs. But there are still plenty.
The minimum requirement that I set for myself was 2.2 million Won and preferably round trip airfare. That’s what I ended up getting. So it all worked out in the end.
What to really consider before accepting a job?
Really research the city and decide if you want to live in a big city or a small city. Check out this reddit forum to figure out what is right for you. There are plenty of guides on the internet for making this decision. Here is one of them. In this guide she talks about what the best cities to live in are. And gives her opinion on living in Seoul.
Hagwon or pulic school? Getting a job is tougher at a public school because of the cuts to the EPIK program. So you are more likely to get a job at a private school called a “hagwon”.
I would put the weight of your decision into the school you will be teaching at. Make sure that you get a school with a solid reputation based on your research, or else you are going to be spending 40 hours a week somewhere you don’t want to be. You CAN research the name of the school in order to get a lot of information on it. Sometimes it is hard to find any in depth information though. But the best way is to Skype with a current teacher.
Have your recruiter give you the teachers email and set up a time to really ask a TON of questions. Don’t be shy. This is where you are going to get the bulk of the information from. The recruiter and the school just want to make money. The recruiter just needs you to sign the contract. The school just needs you to teach, so they can collect money from the students parents. There in it for the business. The current teacher is going to allow you to really get a good grasp if it is the right opportunity for you.
The minimum salary you want to take is 2.1. If you do settle for 2.1 then make sure you get round trip. If you get 2.2 you are most likely going to get one way airfare. Hopefully you get lucky like I did and get 2.2 and round trip.
Is the apartment going to be fully furnished? What does the apartment come with? These are questions that you are going to want to ask the current teacher. Sometimes if you Skype with them they will even show you around the apartment. Another option is to ask the school for photos of the apartment.
Other English teachers
Does the school have any other foreign English teachers? This is pretty important if you are interested in meeting other English speaking people while you are teaching in South Korea. You can always make Korean friends as well, but it’s nice to have other people with similar backgrounds teaching with you.
I got offered a position in Suwon and I was going to be the only English teacher at the school. But I prefer to have a few other foreign teachers at the school, so I declined.
It’s not the end of the world. You can always meet people at the bars and through other events in the city you are living in. It all just comes down to your preferences.
Here is what a typical email I receive from a recruiter looks like. This lists all of the benefits that come with a position.
A lot of the positions are going to have working hours from early afternoon to late night. That is because they are secondary schools to the public schools. The kids go straight from the public school to the private school. That’s how intense the parents in South Korea are about their kids education.
The average work week is 30 hours. And you almost always will have your accommodation included. Check this out for all of the benefits that you can expect form teaching English in South Korea.
Once you accept the job you can move on to the next step. It took me 4 months to actually accept a job. I came to the realization that pretty much all of the jobs are going to be somewhat similar. As long as I don’t accept a job from a school with a bad reputation, then I should be fine.
9. Send the documents to the school and get your visa
Here are the documents I just sent to the school in order to get my visa #.
1. One notarized and apostilled diploma.
2. One notarized and apostilled FBI background check.
4. 6 passport size photos (2X2 inch) taken at a photo studio. You can get 8 photos for $15 at Walgreens or CVS.
5. Photocopy of passport (first picture page)
6. Hard copy of signed contract.
7. Official Resume
8. Application form for visa number.
Once the school gets your visa #, then they will send it to you. The next step is for you to send $45 and 2 passport size photos to the Korean Consulate nearest to you overnight. They will then issue your visa.
10. Get plane ticket, and get your belongings ready to go!
I personally am getting my plane ticket from the school. So they will find the cheapest flight from the closest airport to me in the US to Incheon International Airport in South Korea.
The only other thing is to take care of anything personal back at home. I am selling my car, canceling my gym membership, and making sure I have everything squared away with my bank.
A question you could be asking about is, what do I do with my cell phone? Here is some information regarding your cell phone plan while in South Korea.
Conclusion on the process of getting a job teaching in South Korea
There are definitely some items that take a lot of work on this list. It can be frustrating at times. But it’s all going to be worth the experience of living in another country.
Making a decision to live on the other side of the world is a big decision that can cause a lot of doubts. I think that is why I was indecisive at first on which job to accept. But as a long as you follow this process and really research the school and city you will be living in, you are going to make a good decision overall. Don’t always accept the first offer. And don’t settle for less than you want because you don’t think you will get anymore offers.
The overall process was somewhat extensive, but getting a job was easy.
Resources for teaching English in South Korea
Here are a few other websites that I actually used when I didn’t know a thing about how to get a job teaching. They are all helpful. And they give you a different perspective on the process.
This guide was perfect because it was published right around the time I was finishing up my TEFL. The specific page that I am referencing is from a guest contributor that shares her experience of how she got a teaching job in South Korea.
Another good website that goes over the specifics on exactly what to expect for benefits and the overall process for getting a job. I like all of these sites that I am listing under resources, because they all add in some tips that other sites do not. The different perspectives will definitely help you out.
This page goes over everything about teaching in South Korea. That’s why it’s called the “Ultimate Guide To Teaching in South Korea”.
I like this page because it answers a lot of the questions that you are going to have before you decide to teach.
This page is great because it is a question and answer with a guy who has taught in South Korea for 10 years!
Let me know below in the comments if you have any questions about the process of getting a teaching job in South Korea. I would be happy to help you out!