Ok, so you’ve chosen Korea as your destination. Great choice, you’re going to love it. Now the question is, how do you get a job and what school should you choose?
The English Language industry is Korea is massive and worth a lot of money, for this reason ESL schools are constantly popping up. The downside is that many of them close just as quickly as they open. Therefore, it’s important you choose the right Hagwon (Academy) because the school you choose will basically be your jumping off point and it will either make or break your experience. I guarantee that any negative reviews you discover online regarding living and teaching in Korea is because said person chose the wrong hagwon.
Choosing a school
After a quick google search, Chris contacted a recruitment agency based in America called Aclipse. Aclipse recruit specifically for Chungdahm Hagwon, a private academy with 11 branches and hundreds on franchises throughout Korea. Chungdahm has deep roots in Korea and seemed like a safe choice. The recruitment process didn’t take long. A member of Aclipse got in contact and we arranged an interview via Skype. The interview took approximately twenty minutes and at the end I we were told we’d receive notification via email confirming we’d been accepted. Two days later, the email arrived. We were then instructed to make an introductory video, this was by far the hardest and most cringey part of the entire process, in fact we had to make the videos separately because we couldn’t stop laughing. My video is included in this page to give an idea of what’s expected.
From here, the recruiter sends your CV and video to the Chungdahm schools where the staff review your profile and decide if they want to offer you a position.
The next stage in the recruitment process was receiving our offers from our prospective schools. Chris was offered a position in Chungdahm’s Songpa branch across from Olympic Park and I was offered a position in one of the branches, Shinsongpa. At first, we were bothered because we wanted to work in the same school but later learned the schools were ten minutes apart in a really nice area. We didn’t realise it at the time but working in a branch and franchise would offer us different opportunities. As a branch employee, Chris had a lot more opportunity to progress. He became Team Leader, then Assistant Faculty Manager and later a Trainer at Headquaters. He was also given opportunities to work on the new Chungdahm 3.0 program. As an employee in a franchise, I peaked when I became a Head Instructor. This is worth noting if you’re reading this and considering Chungdahm as your place of employment. My advice is to choose a Branch. You also have more support if your school mistreats you, HQ don’t care too much about the franchises.
We were offered free flights plus 24 hours work per week at ₩27,000 per hour. You might hear about ‘salary’ vs ‘hourly,’ this isn’t something you can choose for yourself; the school sets the terms. An ‘hourly’ employee earns just that, per hour and normally works for a private hagwon. A ‘salary’ employee receives the same amount each month regardless of how many hours worked. What are the advantages and disadvantages? Well, a salary employee normally receives free accommodation as part of their package, but they inevitably work more than 24 hours per week. However, they get all public holidays off which is a huge bonus. Hourly employees get paid for any additional hours worked which is great during summer and Christmas, as this is the ‘intensive’ period. Korean schools close for six weeks during the summer and one month at Christmas so the students attend extra classes at their academy. Oh, if you work for a private hagwon and you’re an ‘hourly’ employee, expect to work on Christmas Day. It all comes down to priorities, if you want to earn good money but also want time off during the year, a 9-5pm kindergarten or elementary academy is for you, you’ll earn between 2.2- 2.4 million won per month with free accommodation and public holidays off. If money is what you want, and lots of it, a private academy like Chungdahm is the best option. You work 3-10pm or 3-7pm and only for about 24 hours per week. You will earn between 2.2- 2.5 million won per month, you’ll most likely pay for your own accommodation and these academies don’t take off public holidays, and if they do, expect to make up the classes on a Saturday. What’s great is that only working 24 hours per week leaves lots of free time to pick up tutoring jobs for which you can charge between 30,000-50,000 won per hour. I used to make nearly an extra million won per month from tutoring, alone.
I later discovered that other teachers in my school were earning more per hour, it depends on several factors; education and country of residence. Americans do get paid more money, and if you attended an Ivy League University, you’ll start on about 30,000 per hour.
We accepted our offers and next applied for our visas. Give yourself 4-6 weeks for this as it involves sending documents to Immigration in Korea. However, if you do run out of time, you can always do a quick trip to Fukuoka in Japan. A blog post about that later.