Of all the Asian countries, South Korea is one of the best to teach English in as foreigners are really given a warm welcome here. Teaching in South Korea can offer you many extras besides living in one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the East. You will also have the respect of the local people and you can join a growing community of English teachers throughout South Korea.
Teaching English in Korea is big business and can take many forms. However, here is a rundown of the kinds of job you are most likely to find yourself in. Big business means there is a lot of money invested in teaching and wherever there is a lot of money, there are cowboys trying to rake it in and hold on to it. It cannot be stressed enough that people looking for work must go through a reputable recruiter to find safe and secure work in a legitimate school. Insist on speaking to other foreigners in your proposed school or getting their email address which affords more privacy. Too many people have had bad experiences here because they simply did not bother.
Korean parents are very passionate about their children’s education; they will fork out large percentages of the household budget to send their children to private academies where they can learn useful skills, English of course, being at the top of the list. As a result, you will find them (the mothers particularly) very demanding of their children. But the teachers are left to run their classes as they see fit. Teaching is a respected profession and the teacher’s judgment is deferred to; the parents reckon that because you’re a teacher you know what’s best. So although you’ll feel bad for the overworked students, the parents will trust in you and leave you alone.
Generally speaking you will find teaching here stress-free. Yes you will be nervous at first and taking on a new job just after arriving in a new country is a bit of a double whammy. It will be tough but will gradually get better and it is likely you will surprise yourself by your adaptability. You will, in fact, learn something about yourself.
It is in any good school’s interests to make it easier for you to cope and to fit in. You should know your spelling but unless you are teaching at university senior level, you won’t have to delve too much into grammar; hopefully you know it but you won’t have to teach or explain it. You will follow a textbook and general syllabus. Supplementary materials and everything you need will be provided. Your colleagues will give you tips and there are reams of advice and hints on the internet. Compared to at home, your teaching is not very regulated. You will be given some fairly vague guidelines regarding your methods and discipline procedures but they follow the dictums of common sense. Your employer will more than likely observe a class or two at the beginning to offer advice and perhaps occasionally later but in your classroom you’re the boss and left to your own devices and methods. There is very little paperwork and time spent with homework and prep is minimal.
TFA Private English Language Academy Jobs in South Korea
Most expats looking to teach English in Korea will work, initially at least in a hagwon (Korean word for private academy). These are private schools generally for children up to the age of 12. An average working day for a teacher at one of these hagwons does vary from academy to academy, but a typical day starts around 10am and will finish early evening with breaks and free lunch. However, there are also private academies where you will teach from the afternoon into the evening. Your students will be varied; school kids who need extra tuition or adults taking it upon themselves to learn the language. The holidays are reasonable and the hours good if you are a night bird but conditions and wages vary too much to summarise them here. Best advice is read your contract carefully!
If you’re teaching kindergarten level, you may find that your first day at school is also the first day for your 5 year-old pupils, so expect the unexpected. Your classes may appear to be chaotic at first – probably because they are, but don’t worry, it has happened to us all and things settle down. The classes are small – typically 10-12 kids and no more than 15. As well as basic English, depending on the hagwon, you may find yourself teaching some art or perform some science experiments and probably get out of the classroom to go on day-trips to local museums or parks. Games and fun activities are encouraged. The kids are invariably adorable and often hilarious – even when they don’t mean to be. It’s almost a guarantee that you will get very attached to your students!
TFA Public School Jobs in South Korea
Public School teaching offers quite a different teaching experience from that of a hagwon teacher. The three types of Public School teaching jobs are at Elementary, Middle and High School level. They will invariably have bigger class sizes but you’ll work less hours, get more holidays and probably better wages. There may be up to 40 pupils in your class (this can vary) with teenage hormones everywhere but discipline isn’t a huge issue.
If you’re nervous about this kind of teaching, don’t worry too much. For each class your Korean co-teacher is there to help out and explain tricky or important stuff to the students. In fact, while it is reassuring to have a co-teacher, particularly at first, few teachers have much use for them once they have settled in. Second level is the hard part for Korean students as their overriding concern is getting into the best university where they can then network and thereby have beneficial friends for later life. All this means they have too much to lose by misbehaving here and causing you unnecessary problems, so don’t stress about that side of things too much.
Requirements for Teaching in South Korea
For teaching English in South Korea, you will require a Bachelor’s degree. For private academies, unlike other countries, a TEFL certificate (while an advantage), is often not a requirement for a TEFL job. However, for public school positions with the EPIK (English Program in Korea), a TEFL certificate will be required unless you have a teaching certificate, a degree in English (or related major) or previous teaching experience (a full year or more) in Korea.
Applying for a Visa to Teach in Korea
The E2 visa is what you need to legally teach English in South Korea. It is usually valid for 12 months (the length of a typical contract) from the date of entry into the country and of course, it’s renewable. In order to be eligible for this visa, teachers must hold a Bachelor’s Degree (either 3 or 4 years) from an accredited University in a native English-speaking country.
Your E-2 visa will only allow you to work at the specific school which sponsors your visa. You cannot work at another school unless you receive a special permission from immigration on your visa. When you receive your visa, it will be a single-entry visa. If you wish to travel internationally while in Korea, as many teachers do, you will need to apply for a multiple re-entry visa at the immigration office in Korea. This is very easy to obtain and usually costs 50.000 KRW.
Once you arrive in Korea and start working, you will need to apply for your Alien Registration Card at Korean immigration. You will need this Alien Registration Card to start your health insurance, open a bank account and wire money back home. It must be completed within the first 90 days after arriving in Korea, but will normally be done in the first two weeks. Don’t worry, your school will help you with all of this. Remember it’s in their interest that you settle in ok and that all legalities are dealt with straight away. They have put a lot of time into hiring you so they won’t want anything left out, especially at this late stage.
To apply for the E2 visa, you will need the following:
- 2 letters of recommendation (ink-signed and scanned)
- Scanned passport photo (also bring 8 passport photos)
- Information page of your passport (scanned)
- Degree certificate (copy of your actual certificate, not a transcript, notarized and then apostilled by the Department of State/Foreign Affairs/FCO)
- Teaching Certificate (TEFL certificate or teaching certificate or both)- where applicable
- Criminal background check (original – notarized and then apostilled by the Department of State/Foreign Affairs/FCO)
- Signed contract
- Copy of your medical check report
How To Apply.
If you’re still at home, getting your visa is probably your priority and the process takes a bit of time and effort (depending on which country you will be employed in of course).
We will advise you on every step and make it as stress free as possible. Suffice to say, once it’s done and you’re here you’ll wonder what you fretted about. It goes without saying that if you have any questions, please email us using our Contact us form on this site or directly through firstname.lastname@example.org
So what exactly is a teaching Visa? This is what you will need to legally teach over here in Asia. It is usually valid for 12 months (the length of a standard contract) from the date of entry into the country and of course, it’s renewable.
In order to be eligible for this visa, teachers must hold a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree (either 3 or 4 years) from an accredited University and be a citizen of one of the following English speaking countries – USA, Canada, Ireland, UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Your visa will only allow you to work at the specific school which sponsors your visa. You cannot work at another school unless you receive a special permission from immigration on your visa. When you receive your visa, it may be a single-entry visa. If you wish to travel internationally from your base country here in Asia, as many teachers do, you will need to apply for a multiple reentry visa at the immigration office. This is very easy to obtain and usually doesn’t cost a lot.