Teaching in Korea

Let me start by saying that I LOVE living in South Korea and teaching here isn’t too bad either. Of course, there are things that I don’t enjoy but that’s going to be the case with any job. I’ve been teaching for about 8 months now and for the most part, I enjoy being at work. I didn’t put too much thought into moving to Korea and honestly didn’t know much about what teaching in Korea would be like. But now that I do know, I thought I’d share some information. 

Where do I teach? 

There are two types of schools you could teach at in Korea, Public School or a Hagwon. I teach at an English Hagwon. A Hagwon is a private after school academy that specializes in English, Math, Science, etc. So basically, it’s just extra school but almost all Korean students attend hagwons, and most go to multiple. I really like teaching at a Hagwon because I have small classes, anywhere from 1 to 12 students, and a set curriculum to teach from.

What did I need to get a job? 

I think all teaching jobs in Korea require a degree from a 3-4 year university. Some schools require teachers to have a TEFL certification. If you want to teach at a public school you have to get TEFL certified. I didn’t get a TEFL certification and didn’t have any problems finding a job. You also need a passport from an English speaking country, which I had. I applied for jobs through a recruiting company, Adventure Teaching, and interviewed with schools via skype until I found one I liked. Also, you need a Visa to teach in Korea. Schools will sponsor an E2 visa for their teachers but because I’m half Korean, I applied for an F4 visa at the Korean Consulate in Dallas before I even had a job.

 Money, Benefits, Savings. 

From what I’ve heard, most hagwon salaries start around 2.0 million won (around 1,800 USD) and go up from there depending on your qualifications. There are tons of benefits of working in Korea; flight reimbursement, housing, health care, pension, and a completion bonus to name a few. Most people can afford to save half their salary which is usually around $1,000usd. The remaining money is more than enough to live comfortably in Korea. Personally, I’m not saving tons of money, but I am paying off debt (student loans and a credit card I shouldn’t have opened*sigh*) and traveling around Korea. 

Vacation and Sick Days

Oh my goodness, I’ve been working since I was 16 and this is the first job that I haven’t missed a day. Sick days in Korea aren’t common. In order for me to take a sick day, I’d have to go to the hospital and get a note or something proving that I was indeed sick. So, if I’ve got a cold or am just feeling crummy, I’ve got to tough it out and go into work. Another thing that makes it hard to take sick days is that it tends to screw over your coworkers because they have to pickup your workload. 

Vacations are pretty similar to those back home – maybe slightly shorter. Working at a hagwon, I get 10 vacation days plus national holidays. I only get to choose 7 of my vacation days and the other 3 are set dates. I get enough days off that I’m not dying from working all the time but I do wish I had more time off. 

What is a normal day like?

I believe that most Hagwons operate in the afternoon because that’s when the students get out of public school. I work 2-10 which I know sounds awful, but it’s actually amazing. I love having my mornings free to run errands, explore, or just relax. Also, in Korea everything is open late into the night which means that there’s always plenty to do after work. 

At work, I teach anywhere from one to four classes a day. Most classes are 70 minutes long. Because I teach from a set curriculum, I have very little prep work and usually have 3-4 hours of down time which I spend on my phone or computer. I don’t have a set break or lunch time at my job which is nice because I can leave to get food or run home when I’m not teaching. Most days are easy and even a little boring.

What are the kids like?

No, Korean children are not any better behaved than American children. Children are children. The elementary kids are full of energy and the middle schoolers are moody and awkward. I had no clue what to expect from the kids and was terrified it was going to be extremely difficult to teach Korean children English but it’s been surprisingly easy.  

The biggest hurdle I’ve had is that the kids are are EXHAUSTED. They go to school for around 10 hours a day and then go home and do homework. I constantly struggle to keep the middle schoolers awake during class. 

I teach elementary and middle school students. The kids range from 9-14 and their english skills range from basic communication to nearly fluent. I’m constantly surprised by how much my students understand. I don’t speak any Korean and my students are smart enough to follow the lesson, and a lot of them are fluent enough to have conversations and make jokes. Overall, the kids are great!


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