Should I teach English in a public or private school in South Korea?

Generally, there are two types of employers of TEFL qualified teachers in South Korea, government run public schools and private language centers known as hagwons. Regardless of which school you end up working for you should earn a good income and receive a range of extra benefits, but there are a few differences between the two employers that might sway your decision one way or the other.

What is the hiring process in South Korean schools?

In most cases, teachers are recruited in advance from their home country by both types of employer. The difference is that jobs in government schools are filled following a rigid recruitment process that leads to two specific start dates each year. The main start date is August/September and the application process for this begins in April. The second start date is February/March and applications for this date open in October.

A large number of these jobs are filled by a government recruitment program known as EPIK (English Program in Korea). This long running scheme is extremely popular and places are limited, so it is vital that you get your application in as soon as possible. In contrast, there are no set times for recruitment in private language centers as they do not follow a set calendar. Although jobs can be found at any time of the year in private language centers, the process of applying, interviewing, and arranging a work visa can be time consuming and it is recommended that you allow up to four months to get everything organized.

How much do schools pay in South Korea?

Salaries for TEFL qualified teachers in South Korea are generally very high no matter where you work, although private language centers typically pay a little more than public schools. An average salary in a public school is around 1.8 to 2.0 million KRW ($1,600 to $1,800 USD) per month for new teachers and 2.0 to 2.7 million KRW ($1,800 to $2,400 USD) for teachers with previous classroom experience. In contrast, a new teacher in a private language center can earn around 2.0 to 2.1 million KRW ($1,800 to $1,900 USD) per month, or 2.1 to 3.0 million KRW ($1,900 to $2,700 USD) with previous experience.

Will I get any extra benefits in my teaching contract?

One of the big draws of teaching in South Korea is most jobs that are filled via advance recruitment come with a generous benefit package, both in the private and public sector. Most contracts include free accommodation, paid airfares in and out of the country, and an end of contract bonus of a month’s pay.

What are the standard working hours in South Korea?

Overall the number of working hours are similar, although they might be slightly more in a private language center. Government schools follow a traditional timetable of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. Of these overall working hours, around 24 will be spent actually teaching in the classroom. The timetable in private schools varies depending on the students that the classes are aimed at. Your working hours could be 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or you might find you are required from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Unlike public schools, weekend work is common within the private sector.

How much vacation time will I get?

Public school teachers will usually have more paid time off than those working for private language centers. National public holidays apply to all teachers and these will number around 13 to 15 each year. The difference comes in extra paid holidays that amount to 18 days a year for public school teachers and between 7 and 10 days extra paid leave for those in the private sector.

Are there any other differences to consider?

Class sizes are one other area where there are clear differences. Public schools generally have between 20 and 30 students per class, while this number is likely to be around a maximum of 15 for private schools. Also, if you work in a government school you will most likely be the only foreign teacher on the books. In contrast, private language centers could have dozens of foreign staff working for them at any one time.

Should I teach English in a public or private school in South Korea?