CONTRIBUTED BY SIBO LUNGU
Teaching is not for everyone’s cup of tea, but if it is, here is some information about how you can get started on ESL teaching in Korea.
Is it legal for a dependent on an A-3 visa and SOFA status to teach in Korea?
Am I eligible?
Criteria #1 is that you must have a passport from one of the following countries:
United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa
Some employers are specific about the nationality, gender and even hair color they prefer, but as far as Korean immigration is concerned, these nationalities are all eligible for an E-2 teaching visa.
What documents do I need?
Detailed information is here:
I would recommend gathering everything before coming to Korea. I never needed my resume or recommendation letters, but it’s a good idea to have them ready just in case potential employers ask.
Do I need to be a certified teacher?
It doesn’t hurt, but at a minimum you need to have successfully completed a Bachelor’s degree. Experience is not necessary for private academies. Public schools often require an English teaching certificate such as Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification. The required course hours are low (starting at 100 hours), so many people take the certification courses online and complete it within a month or two.
Where can I work?
There are public schools and private academies (called hagwons). Both have their pros and cons. Public school schedules are normally a 40 hour week. They sometimes do have weekend programs and summer camps. With a public school job you get a stable employer and schedule, a defined syllabus, teaching materials, Korean holidays off, and usually a good part of summer and winter break off.
Hagwons have different schedules because they begin after children get off of school, so typically they run from afternoon until as late as 10pm. Some hagwons are only a couple of days a week; some are a couple of hours a day, and others on weekends. I worked 30 hours per week so I still had plenty of free time. On the downside, any horror stories you read about bad employers are almost always from hagwons, so screen your employer more thoroughly if you are looking at private academies. The students’ ages, levels of English, and the class sizes all vary per academy. It’s a good idea to find the right fit for yourself. The elementary school age group I had was a perfect match for me.
How much can I earn?
It ranges from $1000 – $3500 per month all depending on your hours. $2500 is average if you are working 30-40 hours per week. Other benefits like health coverage, plane ticket, leave, and a housing allowance are defined in the contract, so what you earn may end up being more. Make sure you understand your contract in detail before you sign it to avoid any confusion. Cutting the contract short, sick leave, overtime, and other unplanned situations can arise, so make sure you discuss and understand the consequences with your employer.
Where do I begin?
This was the process for me:
- Gather all the required documents defined here: http://www.gone2korea.com/teach-korea/document-requirements.html
- Find and get the job (Use Craigslist, DavesESLCafé.com, ESL teacher Facebook groups, or one of the many recruiter websites).
- Your employer will tell you where to go for your health check. This has to be done at one of the designated local hospitals. I went to Pyeongtaek International Hospital.
- Your employer will help you get your visa at the closest immigration office. Go with all your documents including your spouse’s orders and a copy of his or her ID card.
- After 2-3 weeks, you’ll go back to the immigration office to pick up your passport and Alien Registration Card (ARC). Your passport will have a new stamp in it that serves as the E-2 (teaching visa). However, your ARC will still say A-3 because you status is still under A-3/SOFA, but with authorization to teach.
- Go to a local bank of your choice with your ARC and open a bank account so you can get paid
- Start work!
Do you like it?
Absolutely. Even though teaching is not my professional background, getting into the groove was not difficult because I enjoy working with children. I got to experience the Korean culture more, make friends, and keep busy. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.