(This is the first in a series of posts experienced EFL teacher TedKarma will contribute to TEFL Logue)
The first stop for many new EFL teachers is Korea — a land of incredible Buddhist temples, mega-cities, and one of the easiest places in the world for the TEFL Newbie to sock away US$1000 a month. Good wages, free housing and airplane tickets and low income tax rates mean a bottom line income that few people could hope for even “back home”.
The land of milk and honey? Not quite. With high rewards also comes a fair amount of risk. Korea’s language schools, or “hogwans”, as they are called in Korean, are also known for broken promises, contracts not worth the paper they are written on, and late or incompletely paid wages. But, there are ways around the hazards — more on that later.
The most common “starter” job in Korea is working for a language school, five days a week, 24-30 classroom hours a week. The duties of these are jobs are highly variable, with some people teaching only children, some teaching corporate classes, and others teaching both and everything in between. Most jobs offer a block-type schedule, but others may demand split shifts (working in the morning, not working mid-day, and working in the evening) and even some weekends.
Starting monthly wages are usually around KW2,100,000 (US$2,200) and up. With free housing and income taxes in the 5-7% range — most of that money ends up in your pocket, which is what makes Korea a favorite of those wanting to pay off student loans (or other debts) and/or wanting to save money for travel, investment, or retirement. The net income affords you an enjoyable lifestyle while still being able to save significant money without having to pinch pennies.
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How do you land a job in Korea?
The best place to begin your search is the Korean Jobs Board at Dave’s ESLCafe.com. The demand for teachers is great and many people lock up their first job in just a few weeks. A bachelor’s degree is a requirement, though very few schools require any kind of previous TEFL experience. A TEFL certificate and a bit of experience will, of course, help you get in the running for the best jobs.
Wait a minute — what about the problems mentioned earlier? Those problems can be avoided. Make sure to ask your potential employer for the contact information (phone and e-mail) of teachers currently working at the school. Not giving you such information is a red flag: Avoid that employer! Ask the teachers you contact every question you can think of. Are you paid on time? Is the contract followed faithfully? Are the teachers there happy? Why? Why not? What is the housing like? How far is it from work? Is it in a decent neighborhood? Is the housing furnished, and what does that include? Ask more than one existing teacher these questions as everyone has a different experience. Be as specific as you wish. You are, after all, considering a move to the other side of the world and making a one-year commitment to this employer. Make sure you KNOW you will be happy!
Researching your job well means you can avoid many of the standard pitfalls of the Korean TEFL market — and you get started on the right foot.
Most people have a great experience in Korea and find it quite rewarding, personally as well as financially. You can too!
Check out www.TEFLDaddy.com — a great place for newbies to start.