Whether you've heard about it, thought about it, decided you want to do it, or have never even considered it, this blog post is going to give you a thorough look into teaching English in South Korea.
Pros of Teaching Abroad:
- Regardless of whether you intend to teach English for the rest of your life, teaching English abroad is a great skill to have! This is an opportunity to teach without going through the extensive accreditation that is required to teach in the U.S. All you need usually is a bachelor's degree in anything (although ideally English or Education) and TEFL certification. Although previous experience with kids is preferred, it's not required. So basically it's an entry-level job. Teaching abroad will not only teach you how to teach, but will also provide skills of living independently in another country and all that entails.
- Student Loan Deferral / Money
- South Korea is a great destination for student loan deferral. (Deferment is an agreement between the student and the loan provider whereby the student may postpone repaying the loan for a designated amount of time.) This is possible in South Korea since it is the highest-paying Teach English Abroad country in Asia. English teachers can usually make enough to be able to save 30-50% of their salary after expenses. That means that you can save between $800-$1000 a month! Not to mention that the demand for English teachers is always high in South Korea so you'll likely always be able to find a job.
- Of course, teaching English abroad is a great opportunity to travel! If you ever had the dream to "travel the world", now's your chance! Schools run on a student-schedule meaning that when students have a break, so will you. On your vacation days you can travel the country you're teaching in or even go to nearby countries! A plane ticket from the U.S. to Japan can cost over $1000, but a plane ticket from South Korea to Japan is often less than $400. So if traveling to other countries is on your bucket list, teaching English abroad (like in South Korea) is a fantastic idea!
Cons of Teaching Abroad:
- Not a Teacher?
- If you're only considering teaching abroad because you want to travel, this may not be a good option for you. Teaching abroad means that you are indeed a teacher. You will have to manage a class and teach them English, grade their homework, work in a classroom, etc. There's no getting around that. If you're just in it for the travel, you may become frustrated or unhappy.
- English Bubble
- If your goal is to get better at your target language (i.e. Korean) and think that teaching English in South Korea is automatically going to help you, you're mistaken. Many South Korean schools actually prefer that you don't speak Korean since they want full immersion for their students. Also, especially if you teach in a popular city like Seoul or Busan, you may find yourself in an "English bubble" since there are many expats like you who are English-speakers and don't intend to learn or get better at Korean. There will also be many foreigners that would rather speak English to you--to better their English. So if you want to get better at Korean, or any language besides English, you'll have to work for it. (You could visit some language-exchange cafes, for example).
- Potential Bad Contract
- Especially if you're new at this and you don't go through any program or recruitment agency, you may find yourself stuck with a bad contract. Basically, if you don't do your homework/research beforehand and just apply directly to schools, you may end up in a school that doesn't pay you what it should, a school that won't reimburse your flight, and/or just a bad, sticky situation. So if you're serious about this, look at your options. I'll acknowledge some below.
2. EPIK vs GEPIK vs SMOE
EPIKEPIK stands for "English Program in Korea", a program sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Education. The EPIK Program was established in 1995 with the mandate to improve the English speaking abilities of students and teachers in Korea and to develop cultural exchanges. Over 600 teachers are placed in the EPIK program each year.
In order to qualify for EPIK, you need at least one of the following:
1. BA Degree in Education
2. Teaching license in your home country
3. TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate of 100 hours or more (preference to applicants who have a 20 hour in-class teaching component)
4. 1 year of full time teaching experience with the TaLK program
-Free housing provided by the EPIK Program (utilities not included)
-Entrance Allowance of 1.3 mil won to purchase a one-way ticket
-Exit Allowance of 1.3 mil won or a renewal Bonus of 2.0 mil won for resigning
-10 days of ESL training in Seoul
-Settlement allowance of 300,000 won (This is a “signing bonus” which you receive when you arrive in Korea. This will help you settle in and buy various things you will want as you move into your new apartment!)
-Paid vacation for 18 working days plus 13-15 National Holidays
-Medical insurance and pension, 50% of which is covered by the EPIK Program
-Higher salaries for teachers who choose to work in more rural locations
GEPIKGEPIK stands for Gyeonggi English Program in Korea. It was established in 2003 to provide English education to all public schools in the Gyeonggi province. There are currently over 1,000 foreign ESL teachers working for the GEPIK program.
Has same requirements and benefits as EPIK. (Basically the difference is EPIK covers the rest of the country).
Public school positions with the SMOE (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education) are some of the most sought after in Korea. The program was established in 2005 to provide English education to public school students in the Seoul metropolitan area with the eventual aim to place a native English speaker in every school. There are currently hundreds of ESL teachers in Korea teaching for the SMOE Program.
In order to qualify for SMOE, you need all of the following:
-Citizenship from an English speaking country (Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom, Ireland)
-Native English Speaker
-Bachelor’s Degree from a University or College
-No criminal record
+ one of the following: 1) BA Degree in English, Education, Creative Writing, or English Literature 2) MA in any major 3) TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate of 100 hours or more 4) Teaching license in your home country 5) 1 year of full time teaching experience
-A competitive salary based on qualifications (2.0-2.7 million won / month)
-18 days of paid vacation
-A teaching job directly in Seoul! If you want to live in a large, bustling Asian city, Seoul is a great choice
-Free housing (utilities not included)
-Reimbursed roundtrip flight
-Orientation and training
-Settlement allowance of 300,000 won
-A completion of contract bonus
-Full health insurance (50% of the costs covered by the SMOE Program)
3. Recruitment Agency vs ProgramA good way to avoid a bad contract is to go through a program or a recruitment agency. These things are like a middleman. Usually they'll take care of some fees and technicalities (like making sure you get a good contract and finding a school that is a good fit).
Recruitment agencies usually don't require any fees, but they only help with getting you a job and possibly visa help. Once you have a job, they back off. Programs, however, will often stick with you from the beginning to the end. Personally, I prefer the concept of going through a program. I like to have that kind of support backing me up.
TeachAway is an international teacher recruitment company that places certified and ESL teachers in positions around the world.
They also offer TEFL Certification through the University of Toronto. You can choose between a 100-150 certification and the prices vary depending on which you choose. This TEFL curriculum actually seems pretty great since if you choose the higher-hour certifications, it includes 2 units of specialization (i.e. Teaching English to Korean Speakers, Teaching English to Young Learners, Digital Technology in the Classroom, etc). The prices range from $995 to $1495 for these certifications.
In order to look at potential jobs, you have to make an account on this site. It doesn't cost anything and takes less than a minute so it's worth it. What's interesting is there are often more than just ESL Teaching Jobs on this site.
When you click on a job, it'll tell you a bit about the country and specifics of that job. It'll also tell you what's needed from you (qualifications and requirements) and the benefits of the job. It'll also tell you your start date. However, in order to apply, you have to finish filling out your teaching profile.
Beyond the TEFL certification, you do not need to pay any fees. When you click the "Apply" button, it literally applies you to the job. So don't click that unless you are fully finished with your teaching profile and have all qualifications for the job.
2. CIEE Teach AbroadCIEE offers paid teaching positions for university graduates looking to share their language and culture while immersing themselves in new communities around the world.
Teaching English in South Korea costs $1,900 in total, and includes all of the following:
Job placement, enrollment in 150-hour TEFL course (which is $1,000 value), pre-departure and visa assistance, one year of iNext international insurance with 24-hour emergency assistance services, in-country support, orientation weekend in Seoul, airport pickup and transport to your assignment on arrival, cultural and professional development activities, contract completion bonus equal to one month's salary, 15-25 vacation days annually, a furnished studio apartment with amenities, airfare included (usually covered by the school that employs you), and South Korean national medical insurance.
Basically, CIEE has got your back from the start to the finish.
CIEE offers free webinars all the time that more thoroughly cover their programs and specifics. The South Korea Teaching program is 1-year long and you can apply in the fall or spring.
As someone who intends to teach abroad and wants to go through a program, CIEE is honestly my pick. I love the benefits and support they offer and it really seems like the best deal financially, considering everything that's included within the program fee. I've also spoken to representatives that were really friendly and helpful and have heard/read good things about the program in general.
There are countless other programs and recruitment agencies out there, I've just given you an example of one of each--the two I've most researched.
4. OTHER OPTIONS
1. Online TeachingWant to teach English while abroad but don't want to make it your full-time job? You can try online teaching!
You could actually teach other languages and not just English; the minimum requirement is to just be fluent in the language that you're teaching.
Of course, if you want more students, it's ideal to have any of the following: TEFL certification, major in English or Education, teaching experience, etc.
There are various sites that help connect you to potential students and/or set up your teaching profile. Here are some I found from a quick Google search:
tutoragent.com (recommended by many blogposts about online teaching)
italki.com (recommended by famous polyglots like Benny Lewis)
I've not spent much time researching about this option so I can't give any personal opinions about it. It does, however, seem to be a popular option for many travelers.
2. WorkawayIf you want to teach English but aren't necessarily looking to get paid, then you should check out work-exchanges or volunteer programs. The only fees are subscription to this site (which you need to contact hosts) and any flight/visa costs. Room and board should be covered by your host.
Workaway is an international organisation that enables travelers willing to work as volunteers to contact hosts (who can be individuals, families or groups) wanting help with their projects or activities. Volunteers or 'Workawayers', are expected to contribute a pre-agreed amount of time per day in exchange for lodging and food provided by their host.
You can search for hosts either by location, task, or a keyword. So if you want to teach English in South Korea, you can search Asia-->South Korea-->Show results.
Currently there are 37 hosts in South Korea but it changes all the time. Oftentimes the South Korean hosts are hostels that need general help in the hostel (i.e. cleaning, reception work, maybe painting, hosting, etc) but also want some kind of language-exchange help. There are also families or people who are simply seeking help with the English language for various reasons.
Basically it's a much more relaxed, unofficial venue of teaching English in South Korea.
3. CHICultural Homestay International's World Explorers Program connects you with a host family to teach English to for up to three months. This is another program that is not paid and is more like a work-exchange.
In exchange for a clean and comfortable room and full board, all you have to do is share your native language with your hosts for 15 hours per week. These casual English conversation lessons usually run five days a week, three hours a day. CHI provides you with tutoring materials, but most of our hosts that are learning English as a second language (ESL) simply want to practice speaking English with a native speaker.
-A screened host family
-Three meals per day with your host family
-Conversation aids to use with the host family for teaching English abroad
-A clean and comforting room
-In-country support throughout your entire stay
-Pre-departure orientation via Skype from CHI
-Letter of recommendation and official certificate upon completion of the program to help build your resume
-Assistance in securing travel insurance, cheap flights and discount travel options
*You can also get college credit
The cost depends on how long you intend to stay. So for example, the South Korea program is currently $56.63/day if you stay 30 days, $29.98/day if you stay 60 days, and $21.10/day if you stay 90 days.
There's a sea of information about teaching abroad out there, but here are some links I found that may be particularly helpful: