If you’re hoping to apply for a hagwon job in Korea, you’ve come to the right place! Getting a job teaching English in Korea is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a lifestyle change. The application process for an E-2 visa is bit complicated, but landing a job doesn’t have to be. I’ve created this guide for you guys to ensure transparency throughout the entire process and reduce levels of stress.
If you’re unsure whether you’d like to work at a public school or hagwon, I think it’s best to weigh out the options. It’s worth noting that you can only apply to Korean public schools twice a year. Before you continue, I want to warn you that hagwon jobs are rewarding but can be tough. Korean children are under extreme levels of stress and Korean society and culture perpetuates that. Hagwons pay higher, but the workload can be extreme. As long as you know this going into it, there won’t be any issues. Expect surprises, though. There will always be last minute surprises in any Korean work-setting!
Anyway, here’s a step-by-step guide for you to follow when you decide to apply for a hagwon job in Korea.
How to apply for a hagwon job
Step 1: Begin the E-2 visa process
I’ve highlighted the necessary steps for Americans applying for an E-2 visa in this post. I definitely recommend checking it out to be sure you’re not missing any documents. Some of the paperwork takes a long time, so it’s best to be one step ahead.
Step 2: Make a video
This is totally optional, but it’s something that will make you stand out from other candidates. There’s a cringe-worthy video somewhere on the internet of one of my job applications. While I’m not going to post it, I can assure you it’s hilariously embarrassing but was extremely effective.
Step 3: Contact a recruiter
While it’s certainly possible to apply for a hagwon job in Korea on your own, it’s not something that I would recommend. A recruiter will keep you up to date with everything you need to know and find schools that fit your criteria. The recruiter will inquire about location and age/level preferences and help you determine a good pay rate.
Since I earned qualifications at the International TEFL Academy in Chicago, I was able to request a high starting pay grade. I earned a little over 2,200 won (~$1,979 USD) each month my first year plus overtime hours. While that may not seem like a lot of money to earn each month, keep in mind that your housing will [most likely be] free and the cost of living in Korea is fairly low.
There are tons of recruiters to choose from, but I recommend Appletree Edu and Star Teachers. I used Gone2Korea my first year and I suggest avoiding them at all costs. The school I was placed in was horrible and was eventually forced to shut down. Nah, dude.
I had really great experiences with Appletree and Star Teachers and the communication was never lacking. It really helps that both companies have offices in America. Once you provide your information and get in touch with someone from the agency, you’ll start to get interviews.
Step 4: Do your research
One thing you should know if you’re looking to apply for a hagwon job is that these are some of Korea’s shadiest businesses. The owners will try to deceive first-timers into thinking that their academy is worth working for, when in reality it’s a terror. Prior to accepting an interview, be sure to check the hagwon blacklist to check if the institution is listed. Another way to check is by Googling the name of the academy and seeing if anyone has wrote about it on a comment board. The most popular online community for foreigners in Korea is Waygook and could be worth checking out. I was able to avoid interviewing with a school after discovering the name on the hagwon blacklist.
Step 5: Prepare for your interview
Once you’re offered an interview, there are several questions I suggest you write down.
- How many teachers work at the school?
- How long have they been teaching at the school?
- Why is the teacher I’m replacing leaving?
- How far is the apartment from the school?
- What are my teaching hours?
- Will I have any prep time?
- Do I get any sick days?
- Will I receive pension as well as severence?
- Will I have any breaks during the day?
- Will I be compensated for overtime?
As I mentioned before, the people who are interviewing you may not be honest. Be sure to make a mental note of their answers in case you need to edit the contract at the end of the process. Please be wary of any hagwon director who doesn’t provide pension to his or her teachers. It’s illegal.
Step 6: Interview time!
Your prospective employer is looking for someone who speaks clearly and is enthusiastic about teaching English. Wear something nice, be confident and show interest in the conversation at all times. Most importantly: SMILE! Ask the questions provided above and try to get a feel for the staff.
Step 7: Speak with one of the academy’s teachers
If the school is impressed with you, they’ll send your recruiter a contract. I’m going to be honest here: Korea has zero chill. Seriously. The employer will request that you have the documents signed, sealed and delivered within days – sometimes hours. Keep in mind that this isn’t a warning sign. It’s just the way people a part of Korea’s stressful culture function.
Before you put your pen to paper, be sure to request an interview with a teacher at the school. If the conversation with the employee is done through email, channel your inner stalker (I know you’re capable of it. #2016.) and get to work. Check if they exist on Facebook or any other social media channel. As creepy as it is, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Ask them to be honest about the school’s policies, management and daily ongoings. Though you may not always get the most honest response, these are all questions worth having the answers to so it’s best to try. Bare in mind that hagwons often put you in contact with the Koreaphile of the office. They know this person will want to impress the staff and won’t mind lying a bit to gain praise from the top of the ladder. My first school offered the teaching staff 100,000 won (~$90 USD) if we convinced people to work for the company. The only one who was willing to do it was – you guessed it – the Koreaphile. The people she recruited were so horrified by the environment that they left the country after several months without notice. A lesson to us all to be honest humans.
Step 8: Review the contract
This bit can get quite tricky. Remember all those questions you asked the manager and the director? Make sure the contract reflects their answers. Ensure that the pay, vacation time and sick days are written in exactly as you want. While it varies depending on qualifications, I wouldn’t settle for anything less than 2.1 million won (~$1,889 USD) per month. In addition, make sure you get at least 10 vacation days, severance and pension.
Step 9: Sign your life away
I’m joking. Sort of. Anyway, if there are any amendments to the contract that you’d like to see, let your recruiter know. Make sure to double check the contract before you sign it. Don’t let the hagwon boss pull a quick one on you! My second employer attempted to short change me on payments. I had the signed copy of the amended contract (which was a much higher negotiated pay than they initially offered) and brought it to work. My manager faked innocence but, more importantly, fixed my payment. Don’t let hagwon bosses walk all over you. PROTIP: They will probably attempt to.
Step 10: Don’t freak out
It’s scary, dude! I didn’t sleep for an entire night after I sent my contract off to Korea. Moving abroad is a big step and takes a lot of courage. Give yourself a pat on the back for being awesome and buy yourself an ice cream. Although many of your friends and family may want to check you in to a psych ward for choosing to move to Korea, understand that so many people do what you’re about to do each day. There will be plenty of expats whom you can bond over the quirkiness of the country and you can potentially form lifelong friendships.
If you’re wondering what to bring to Korea, here’s a packing list for Korea. In addition, one of my favorite bloggers, Wee Gypsy Girl, recently published a guide for female expats in Korea. It’s an incredible resource and something I wish I had while I was living there. Check it out and show her some love!
As I mentioned earlier, the E-2 visa application process is lengthy. It’s best to have several of the steps done prior to beginning the interview process. If you have any questions, always feel free to contact me or drop a comment below. Thank you so much for reading! Be sure to pin the image below to spread the word and help fellow future expats along the way.