Should I teach English at a Unigwon? (13 Answers)

unigwon Korea

Question asked – 

I have a Master’s degree in History, one year of teaching experience at a kids hagwon, and a 120 hour TEFL Certificate. What are my chances of getting a university job anywhere in Korea? Most universities ask for 2 years of college or university EFL teaching experience. Does this count me out? Should I just apply for a unigwon job to get college student teaching experience and then apply to a university after?

Read 13 Answers 

“I know of a few unigwons in Korea. Try Kookmin University in Seoul, Suwon Science College, Hangkuk University of Foreign Studies – Cyber Campus, Gongju National University in Daejeon and Yonsei Foreign Language Institute, Sogang Foreign Education Language Centre…There’s also the SWELL (Seoul Women’s English Language Licensure unigwon. There are probably dozens more.”

“Since you already have an M.A degree, I wouldn’t rule out applying to universities. But don’t expect to get a university job in the bigger centres like Seoul, Busan, or Daegu. Target the colleges and universities outside of these cities. You have a much better chance getting a university teaching job in Pohang, Chungnam, or Gwangju, for example. Although I don’t know exactly what the requirements are for these smaller city universities. You’d have to check them first. Here’s a list of university and unigwon jobs in Korea.”

“Often universities will advertise for teachers in hopes of getting someone with the highest qualifications. They’ll even advertise for a teacher with a Ph.D in TESOL for instance. But, the reality is…. if they can’t find an English instructor with the advertised qualifications, they’ll lower their standards as the semester start date gets closer. The two years of university teaching experience requirement could be the first one they’ll drop. Some universities will even wave an M.A qualification and choose an experienced English teacher with a B.A and 2-4 years of teaching experience at a public school in Korea, adult hagwon, or unigwon. It all depends on how quickly they need to hire a teacher for their university. Some smaller universities in rural locations will place more value on Korea English teaching experience than someone with a Master’s degree but limited EFL classroom experience.”

“An M.A degree is the barrier to entry for the majority of Seoul universities. There are smaller, community, 2 year colleges in Seoul and Busan that would consider you since you  already have an MA (even though it’s not in English, Education or TESOL). Colleges are a good launch pad for a university job in Seoul.”

“I know some foreign English teachers who’ve lucked out getting university teaching jobs in Seoul, because they had friends who worked there and a teacher ended up leaving right after the semester started, for whatever reason. They were tipped off by their friend of the job vacancy and it  was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, which got them the Seoul university job. Of course they had an M.A degree, but didn’t have two years prior college teaching experience. In fact, they had only worked at hagwons. So, a bit of luck because of a connection could get you hired in Seoul or anywhere in Korea.”

“Many universities are mandated to advertise their “English Professor” positions to meet university hiring diversity and discrimination rules. But in reality, the job is already filled, when you apply. They already have a teacher chosen, but they need to advertise anyone, just as proof that they opened up the teaching position to the general public. There’s no way to know if the university is doing this, unless you are the guy or gal, who’s already being hired, while the ad goes out though.”

“This may sound counterintuitive, but there’s nothing wrong with applying to the largest universities even if you don’t have the required qualifications and experience. While they do get hundreds of applications for roles they advertise prior to the September and March semester start dates, you may see ads showing up in the middle of the term. Woosong College has hundreds of foreign English professors, and if their annual turnover is 10% a year (still pretty low), then they have at least 10 roles to hire for each year. Some of these roles may even need to be filled during the middle of semesters because of teachers leaving due to all kinds of reasons (and not have anything to do with the actual job at WooSong). For example, family emergencies, health issues, found a better job offer in Thailand, etc…. are all reasons for a teacher to leave at the last-minute or in the middle of a semester.  The larger the university, the more foreign teachers they hire, the more job vacancies. Keep that in mind.”

“Woosong University is an ambiguous one. They hire teachers for the university, college, and language institute (unigwon)So, if you’re hired by the WooSong Educational Education Foundation, make sure you understand where and who you’ll be teaching. Look for the dead give aways such as a lot less vacation, teaching kids, teaching summer and winter camps, lower pay at an hourly rate and more hours.”

“Just remember, that unigwons are a hybrid of a university and hagwon. You’ll mostly be teaching college students non-credit English classes throughout their university semester. Also be prepared to teach summer or winter English camps with university students (or even kids). If you’re willing to go the unigwon route, ask if you’ll be teaching kids, because kids classes MAY NOT count towards your two years of college/university English teaching experience required for an official university teaching job down the road.”

“Also, if you end up teaching at a unigwon to get your 2 years of teaching experience for a university job… be aware that you’ll teach more hours at a unigwon than a university, have less vacation, may teach camps during semester breaks, teach non-credit ESL conversation classes, have shorter 6 month teaching contracts (not 1-2 years like a university), may have to teach kids, endure split shifts, may be sent out to other hagwons or public schools, will receive an hourly teaching rate, rather than paid monthly, and your teaching visa will be an E2 Not an E1 professor’s teaching visa.

As a general rule of thumb, expect to teach college students 80% of the time at a unigwon and 20% to kids and or adult classes (sometimes off site). Some of the differences between a unigwon and university job may turn you off from a unigwon, but you’ll have to accept some if not all of them if you want to get your two years of unigwon teaching experience.”

“Just because you teach one or two years at a unigwon, does not mean those years will be considered relevant teaching experience with your MA to qualify to teach at a university later. You’ll need to show evidence that you taught adults, prepared lesson plans which involved either TOEIC, TOEFL, IELTS, essay writing, business English, for example. Also letters of recommendation from the unigwon managers or school director would be helpful to prove that you were actually teaching college students, not kiddies.”

“There’s nothing wrong with teaching at a unigwon in Korea. Especially to get your two year’s teaching experience. I think the reason unigwon’s get such a bad rap is because teachers are somehow fooled into thinking they are getting hired to teach at a university, but it’s just the language institute which is connected to the university (sometimes even run by a non-university entity). Prospective teachers get a big surprise when they learn they are teaching a lot more hours and don’t get the cushy vacation time that an actual university teaching position would offer them.”

“Teaching at a unigwon beats a hagwon experience in MHO. You won’t be babysitting, you’ll get your two year’s of college level teaching experience, and you might be able to move up to an E1 English professor job in the same university as where your unigwon is.

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