Question asked –
I’m graduating college in April and really want to teach overseas. I’ve looked at China, Korea and Japan and it’s hard to make up my mind. Each country has their own unique qualities. Of course, money and comfort are also a consideration, so I’m leaning towards Korea. I’ve heard that the market is competitive and saturated with ESL teachers. I’ve also heard that most of the job offers are crappy and out in the countryside. Would you still suggest Korea, or somewhere else?
Read 9 Answers
“It depends what you’re coming to Korea for. A working holiday, where one doesn’t expect to make a lot of money, just an extra $500-$1,000 per month savings to pay off your student loans in a few years, or the life changing experience of living abroad. If we’re talking strictly financial opportunities, then yes, salaries have stagnated for many years for teachers already here. But, the upside of living and teaching in Korea is that you’ll get free accommodation, a paid plane ticket to and possibly from Korea home, a 1 month contract completion bonus as well as medical and pension. Korea is one of the few countries where you’ll live rent-free if you’re working for a hagwon, EPIK or some universities. This means you can save half your salary if you’re reasonably frugal. Can’t beat that in any ESL market, except maybe the Middle East, but that’s a hardship tour.” The one exception being cosmopolitan, Dubai but you’ll need an education degree and or Master’s with teaching experience to work in the Emirates.”
“The EPIK public school teaching program in Korea has had its budget and foreign teacher intake reduced over the years. The plan was to phase out all foreign English teachers by the end of 2014, but that hasn’t happened yet. There’s an article in the Korea Herald newspaper about it.”
“There was further talk that the Korean government would end the EPIK program in 2016 as well as the TALK program. EPIK is still advertising for teachers though.” Korvia and Teach Away recruit for EPIK still.
“The EPIK program pays better than hagwons and your employee rights will be protected better since you’re working in a government program. Better housing, accommodation and more professional, in my opinion. You’ll need a TEFL Certificate if you don’t have a teaching license, have full-time teaching experience, or a Master’s degree. Here’s a link which talks about the benefits of the EPIK program. You’ll get 20 days vacation time, which is double the days of a hagwon + 15 sick days. At most hagwons you’ll be lucky to get 3 sick days. Expect more competition to get into the EPIK program though”
“Some teachers say you can make more money at a hagwon, but you’ll teach longer hours, of course. Private lessons are still in demand (but illegal). Doesn’t stop most teachers from private tutoring and the hourly pay can range from 30,000 per hour (to teach kids whose parents want private tutors) to 50,000 won to teach businesspeople. So, yes, you can still make money if you’re prepared to sacrifice some Saturdays and work part-time in the evenings at a second job (need approval from your hagwon) or teach privates (illegal and not recommended).”
“If you get an education degree with a teaching license, the you can apply to the international schools in Korea. The pay is better, you’ll get plenty of vacation time, better benefits, and it will be much better for your resume than HAGWON. Thailand seems to be a popular place for international school teachers due to the warmer weather, + beaches and cost of living is cheaper than Korea. If you’re looking for a more relaxed lifestyle away from the bigger Korean cities, then check out Jeju Island. It’s considered the Hawaii of Korea.”
“If you get your MA degree and accumulate 2-4 years of college or university teaching experience you could eventually apply to universities. In reality the pay isn’t much better than a hagwon job, but you’ll work less than half the hours of a hagwon. Hagwons expect 30 teaching hours per week while I’ve seen university jobs which only require 8-15 hours per week. Certainly a lot less teaching load, and 2 months or more of vacation between semester breaks in the summer and winter, but you’ll find yourself teaching English camps between semesters or working a second job to make extra cash. If you’re only teaching 8 hours a week Monday to Thursday at a university, you’ll get bored and want to work extra, unless you’ve got a really good hobby, or getting a second degree online or something.”
“If you’ve never taught English, and you’re fresh out of college, your only choice is hagwons. Do you want kids or adults? If you only want to teach adults (like college students, business people or housewives) then expect to teach split shifts. This means a couple of early morning classes from 7:00 am (or earlier) until 9:00 am, then a few hours break, then a lunch class, then a break until 5:00 or 6:00 pm, then a few more hours of classes until 9:00 or 10:00 pm. This kind of schedule can be gruelling if you can’t return to your apartment between classes and get some R&R. The upside is your students will take you out for dinner and drinks. They’ll also become friends and your support network in Korea. I’d recommend adults over kids. Where do you want to teach? Seoul, Busan, or medium or smaller cities? Seoul will be the most expensive in terms accommodation, but if you’re hagwon provides housing, you’re laughing. Some teachers say that living in the smaller cities is cheaper, but there are plenty of restaurants, bars and shopping places in Seoul, where you can find good prices as compared to the smaller or rural locals…” Stay out of the 5 start hotel nightclubs!
“You’re going to hear from many teachers in Korea that market is saturated, the pay has flatlined, and public schools aren’t hiring as much as they used to. I suppose to some degree this is all true, but if you look at the ESL job sites for Korea, there are still scores of jobs being offered everyday. If you’re willing to take an entry BUT reputable hagwon job in your first or second year here, and work some extra hours, perhaps in the evenings, or on weekends, pay yourself first (send money home before you have a chance to spend it on the latest gadget or vacation to Thailand) then you’ll do just as well here or better than any other ESL market. Be disciplined, work hard, be flexible, and stay positive. If you do these things you’ll not only have a great experience in Korea but you’ll save much more than you could ever hope to save back home.”