Step 1: Pick a Place
The first thing you want to do after you’ve decided you want to teach in South Korea is choose a location. If you don’t have a specific city in mind, think about whether you want to be in a small town or large city. If you don’t particularly care where you end up, that’s okay, you just need to make sure you are somebody who can be happy in any type of setting.
Step 2: Find a Recruiter
Teaching English in South Korea is a huge business and there are many recruiters out there who will help you find a job. I recommend finding a couple recruiters and having them both try to find jobs for you. It’s best not to depend on just one recruiter.
One way to find a recruiter is by going to Dave’s ESL Café. Look through the forums and message boards and try to find a recruiter with some good reviews. Then all you have to do is email them!
Step 3: Tell Them What You Want
Make it clear to your recruiter(s) what you want. If you are trying to find a job with your significant other, make sure the recruiter understands that you want to live together in the same apartment. This is totally possible and is not as difficult to find as some might lead you to believe. Are you set on living in a specific city? If so, tell your recruiter that that city is the only place in South Korea you will move to. Also let them know whether or not you want to teach in a public or private school.
Step 4: Get Organized
Your recruiters will do the job search for you. While you wait for them to find you some interviews, you should start getting your paperwork together. The South Korean government is constantly adding new things to the list of documents you need, as of now, you need a:
- Valid Passport (make sure it will last at least one year from your estimated departure date)
- Copy of Your University Diploma Notarized and Apostilled
- An FBI Criminal Background Check Notarized and Apostilled (these can take a long time to process so do this ASAP!)
- Two Sealed Official Transcripts
- Passport Size Photos
- Pre-Employment Self Health Check
Your recruiter will inform you if there have been any changes to this list and exactly what you will need.
Step 5: Interview
Once your recruiter finds a school they think you might like, they will set up an interview for you. This is not just the school’s chance to chat with you and make sure you aren’t a nutcase, but it is also an opportunity for you to feel out what kind of school you could be potentially teaching at. Interviews are not typically long. They will ask you a few questions about yourself and why you want to come to South Korea and then they will ask you if you have any questions. It is always good to ask a couple questions. This is not a good time to discuss things like money, your recruiter will negotiate that for you. You can ask about the curriculum, the daily schedule, class size, etc. And don’t forget to ask for the email address of a current foreign teacher at the school. That is incredibly important!
Step 6: Decisions Decisions
Don’t rush into things. If something doesn’t sound right or feel right, don’t let your recruiter convince you otherwise. You will be signing a year-long contract and you want to make sure everything is the way you want it. Your school should pay for your housing, if they do not, keep looking. Salaries range from 1.9-2.3 million won. If you have teaching experience or a teaching degree you will be offered the higher end of that range and if you don’t have experience or a relevant degree you will be offered the lower end of that spectrum. Also, ask your recruiter for pictures of where you would be living.
Make sure you get the email of another foreign teacher working at the school. Ask them all of your questions. Important questions include:
- Do you get paid on time?
- How many people have left before their contract was over?
- Do you enjoy your day-to-day life at this school?
- How many other foreign teachers are there at the school? (The more the better. This can be a good indicator of how well the school is doing. A school with only a two foreigners might not be a very strong school.)
- How many sick days do they give you?
- How many vacation days do you get?
- How is the medical insurance at the school?
- How long is your commute to school?
- How well did the school stick to your contract?
- Did they pay for your flight and if not, did they reimburse you quickly?
These are some really important questions. Unfortunately there are many cases where recruiters leave out some serious details or try to flat out lie to foreigners looking to teach in South Korea. Recruiters get paid for finding you and getting you to sign a contract, that is their first mission. Don’t let them push you into a contract you don’t feel comfortable with. The best way to avoid this problem is by directly asking a foreign teacher who is already teaching at the school. Make sure you are confident that you are sending yourself into a good situation.
Step 7: Applying for a Visa
Applying for a visa is the last step in this process…other than boarding a plane and leaving. Your recruiter will give you all the information you need to apply for your visa. Before you can apply, you will have to sign a contract and the school you will be teaching at will have to submit your information to the immigration office in Korea. Once they have done that, you will be given the information you need to successfully apply for a visa. You cannot apply for a visa before the school submits your information.
Check out my other posts for more information on teaching abroad: