Do you want to teach ESL in Korea, but don’t know where to start? Here is a list of the most important things you must do to start the application process.
1.) Get certified. You must have at least a four year degree for most teaching jobs, and some jobs require either a masters degree or a TESOL/TEFL (Teaching English as as second language/teaching English as a foreign language) certification as well. Neither of us did a TESOL/TEFL program, but here are some certification programs some of our friends and fellow ESL teachers in Korea have used and would recommend:
2.) Find a recruiting company. This is really the only legitimate way to find a job in Korea. Let them do the hard work of job searching, submitting your paperwork, arranging the interviews and doing all of the correspondence. You’ll need to apply and get accepted by a recruiting company before any other part of the process can begin. Here are our recruiting company recommendations, based on our own experience and the experiences of other ESL teachers in Korea:
- Footprints Recruiting (the company we used)
- Adventure Teaching
- Korvia Consulting
- TeacherPort (Not really a recruiting company, but a search engine for teaching jobs abroad)
3.) Start getting your paperwork in order early. You’ll most likely need:
- An updated resume
- A notarized copy of your diploma(s)
- A notarized copy of your TESOL, TEFL or teaching certificate (if applicable)
- Several sealed copies of your college, university and/or graduate school transcripts
- A Criminal Record Check. NOTE: For Americans, this means a National FBI background check, not a state one. You will not pass the background check if you have any felonies on your record or any misdemeanors Korea considers a felony (like a DUI).
- Once you receive your background check, you’ll need to get an Apostille seal certificate affixed to it. This is an internationally recognized notary, and for Americans, it can usually be done at your State Department or using a mail-delivery service. For more specific information on the background checks required for each country, see this website.
- A passport with at least a year left before expiration and at least two empty pages left (this is just a personal recommendation–your visa will take up a whole page and you’ll need at least one more page for your entry and exit stamps).
- Several standard-size passport photos
- Two recommendation letters from a professional source, like an employer, professor or supervisor (for public schools only). The letters must include the person’s full name, their job title, address, contact number and an ink signature. It is very important that all of these elements are present in the recommendation letters–be clear with your recommenders on what is required to avoid any mishaps.
- If you are married and are seeking joint housing, there is a chance you might be required to show a marriage certificate. We weren’t asked to do this, but just in case, you might want to have a notarized copy of your marriage certificate on hand.
*Don’t forget to make photocopies of all of your documents for yourself just in case something gets lost in the mail–better safe than sorry!
4.) Choose which type of job you want to apply for: public schools, or private schools. If you choose public schools, there are three branches you’ll need to choose from: SMOE (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, which encompasses all of the schools in Seoul proper), GEPIK (Gyeonggi English Program in Korea, which includes all public schools in Seoul’s suburbs), or EPIK (English Program In Korea, which is all public schools in the rest of Korea). Once you’ve decided your preference, your recruiting company can point you in the right direction of how to begin the application process.
Personally, we recommend going the public school route. Because public schools are standardized and monitored by the government, you are way less likely to get screwed over. Your pay, vacation time and all other contract terms are set in advance and are (for the most part) inflexible. You’ll likely get about 20 days of vacation time (which is twice the amount of most private schools), and you’ll have an English-speaking liaison in your education office that can help you with any problems you may encounter with your contract.
Private schools have the allure of a bit higher pay (and if you have extensive experience, much higher pay), but there are just so many horror stories about private schools not honoring contracts, not buying their employees the required health insurance, refusing vacation time and much more. If you choose to go this route, do your research and make sure you talk to a past teacher from the school about his or her experience.
5.) Apply! Your recruiting company will let you know the specifics of what you’ll need to do for each job. Chances are you’ll submit your paperwork, and then if you pass that round you’ll be expected to complete a phone or Skype interview.
Good luck! Feel free to contact us if you have any more questions or comments. We’d love to hear from you!
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