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How to Get a Uni Job in South Korea: the English Teaching Job of Your Dreams

Updated on August 05, 2015

All about University Jobs in Korea

Check out this guide by Jackie Bolen for some reliable and practical advice about how you can get that job in South Korea that you have been hoping for. This books covers the prime candidate and what to do if you are not that person, job search strategies including job sites and networking, application package tips and mistakes to avoid, interviews and demo lessons and mistakes to avoid and frequently asked questions by job-seekers. There is also a sample resume template and some cover letter advice from which you can work from as you apply for jobs.

Hopefully after reading the book, you'll be well on your way to getting that university job in Korea that you've been hoping for. Please leave a comment if you need any help in your job search and I'll try my best to help you.

Do you need to speak Korean to work in a university?

What others are saying

Over at Amazon, people seem to love the book! Only 5 star reviews so far and hopefully it stays that way.


Sharon from TEFL-Tips:

“I’ve been following Jackie’s blogs (My Life! Teaching in a Korean University and Freedom Through Passive Income) for a while now. She really knows her stuff and this book is no exception. She lays out the info in easy to read form. You can read it straight through or just skip to the parts that you need to read. She gives you the basics about teaching at a university in Korea and gives you lots of tips, such as common mistakes people make at a demo lesson and an interview. I think her info is invaluable and I’d highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to get a university job in Korea or even those people who currently have a university job and would like to get another one.”

Jad9Jb:

“Having met the author at a conference, she seems very personable and eager to help. This comes through in her book. Having been working on gaining a full-time university job after five years teaching elementary school students in Korea, it confirmed decisions I was making, help me question some in relation to time-management (why do I so much so much time on X, when doing Y would likely be more valuable), and gave additional ideas and information about other a few resources I did not know about. Fantastic book from an author who seems like a great person (though admittedly I have only met her only once).”

Ben:

“All relevant information for someone looking to land a Uni position in Korea. Well written and easily digestible. Worth the price to have it aggregated into a book.”

Basic Requirements for University Jobs in Korea

All about the Author, Jackie Bolen

You may be wondering who I am and why you should take my advice. I am originally from Canada and came to Korea to teach English over ten years ago. I worked in hagwons for two years before making the jump into Korean universities about eight years ago. I have worked at two of them: one in Chungcheongnam-Do (5 years, located in a rural area) and one in Busan (in my third year now).

I am an active member in the expat community where I have started numerous clubs and social groups. Also, I am an executive member and presenter within the KOTESOL (Korea Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) organization. My background is a BA/MA in the humanities, and I hold CELTA/ DELTA certificates. I have a popular English teaching blog called, “My Life! Teaching in a Korean University.” During my time here, I have followed the Korean ESL industry closely and am up to date with the relevant changes and requirements for English teachers, and best of all: I have helped numerous friends get jobs both at my places of employment and other institutions which I had no affiliation with.


Hopefully you will be able to say that I have helped you to find a job as well!

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Types of University Jobs in South Korea

4-Year University Your job will often consist of teaching mandatory Freshman (and sometimes Sophomore) English courses. Schools vary in how they administer this, but it can involve one 3-hour per week course during either the student's first or second semester, or it could involve something like four 1-hour per week courses over the first two years of a student's program. You will sometimes be able to teach other classes like writing, presentations, or business English to students in majors like business, airline business, tourism or English. It really depends on the university. Student English levels range from almost fluent to very low. All of these classes involve designing a syllabus, administering tests and homework, and giving final grades.

Community College These institutions offer two-year programs in fields like hair-styling, security or cooking. The students are still required to take English courses and will likely be extremely low-level and have almost no motivation to learn English. There is usually no opportunity to teach anything besides basic conversation at these places. This job is similar to the one above in that you will have to design a syllabus, administer tests and homework and give final grades.

Unigwon These are hybrid “university + hagwon” positions, which are located on university campuses. You will teach mostly university students and some adults from the wider community, but quite likely some children as well (if not mentioned explicitly in the job advertisement, you should ask about this in the interview). None of your classes will be for official credit so there are no tests or grades and you will teach things like basic conversation or run English discussion clubs. Your students will often be quite motivated because they have chosen to be there, unlike the previous two positions where students attend your classes because they must fulfill academic requirements.

University Jobs in Korea with only a BA

In South Korea, Appearance is Everything

If you want to work at a university in South Korea, you will need to think carefully about your appearance. In Korea, it may seem unbelievable, but if you look like a “teacher,” Koreans will think that you really are a good teacher. Do your best to look like a teacher, which means wearing appropriate attire, ditching the backpack and getting a messenger bag or briefcase and grooming yourself like a professor would before class. Think carefully about your picture in the application package; you really should look extremely professional.

How do most people find their Jobs in Korea?

In order to get a clearer picture of how people find university jobs in South Korea, I posted an informal poll on Facebook on the “Foreign Professors and University English Teachers in South Korea” group asking people about their experiences. There were about 200 participants and the responses were as follows:

ESL Cafe Job Board: 36%

Through a friend: 34%

Through a job site besides ESL Cafe (people mentioned Profs Abroad and Chronicle of Higher Education): 14%

Networking: 7%

Dropping application off at a university or applying through the university website: 7%

Networking is really important

(There is a whole section in the book about how to use networking to find a university job. This is just a little taster).

Job sites are a decent way to find a university job in Korea, but many of the top jobs are not advertised and filled by word of mouth. Can you imagine if there was a job paying 3.5 million/month, in Seoul, with 9 teaching hours/week with full vacation that posted on ESL Cafe? They would probably get over a thousand applications and what administrator has time to wade through all those? Nobody. Instead, they will just drop the word to their current foreign teachers that they are looking for people and ask if they know anybody. It is the way things quite often happen in Korea, so you really need to take advantage of any and all networking opportunities. From my informal poll, if I combine “networking” with “through a friend,” 41% of people got their university job through a personal connection of some kind. A recommendation from a current foreign teacher really is the holy grail that you should be aiming for.

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