The basic qualification for getting a job as an English teacher in Korea is a B-degree in any subject. This will put you at the bottom rung of most pay scales, but even the bottom rung pays well. If you have a Masters, again in any subject, you can more picky about your jobs and will be offered more money. To get even further ahead with better pay and offers, you can look at getting a teaching-related qualification, especially one in English as a foreign language (EFL).
Personal note: Doing a certificate is great for gaining confidence to teach, and to learn some teaching techniques. But be warned that the training is geared towards small classes at private language institutes (called hagwons in Korea). The training is not always useful for teaching public schools in Korea, and I’ve had to unlearn some of the TEFL techniques to be able to teach effectively at my public school. I’ve been a lot happier since I stopped trying to make EVERY class “fun” and “interactive”. But, the TEFL certificate means that I earn an extra R800 a month. So over a year I will earn R9,600 extra for having a certificate that cost me R4,600. That’s a good investment.
Most people go for a TEFL. Essentially this is a certificate course that gives you the basics to be able to teach English to non-native speakers. TEFL stands for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language”. You can also go for a TESOL (“Teaching English to Students of Other Languages”) or a CELTA (“Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults”). The holy grail of all EFL certificates is the Cambridge CELTA.
These courses essentially offer the same thing, which is training in how to teach English. The TEFL/TESOL courses are pretty basic. Most are between 100 and 120 hours long. Anything less than this and you are WASTING your time and money. In Korea, a TEFL certificate from a course less than 100 hours long won’t be accepted as good enough to get a raise. And in all honesty, even 100 hours is a bit short to try and learn everything there is to know. The courses that are less than 100 hours tend to be called “Introduction to TEFL” or some such nonsense. Avoid!
A good TEFL/TESOL course will cover grammar, teaching methods, classroom management AND have a practical component. This practical side is very important. Nothing prepares you for teaching like having to actually do it in front of real students.
TEFL/TESOL courses cost between R4,900 and R6,000, depending on the school and the length of the course. Most are full-time courses, and last between three and four weeks. I have on occasion seen some part-time courses as well, though these are few and far between. None were available when I wanted to do my course in December 2007.
The CELTA course is a lot more expensive, and aimed at people who want to make a career in EFL. In my opinion, this is something to look at after you’ve already done a few years of teaching English. It’ll set you back at least R10,000, and is very intensive.
Where to do a course?
In South Africa
The EFL industry in South Africa has grown dramatically in recent years, so there are quite a few language schools around the country that also offer TEFL/TESOL/CELTA courses. I’ve included some links to a few below, with some basic information. Please don’t see this as a recommendation of any sort. Do your research before you give any of these schools your money. Make sure that the course is long enough, and that the certificate will be recognised internationally.
Cape Town has the largest selection of places to do a certificate course, mostly because it has the largest concentration of language schools in the country. I know there are schools elsewhere in the country, and this is not a comprehensive list. But I hesitate to include any schools on my list that I don’t know much about except from their websites. If anyone reads this and can recommend a school, I’ll put it on this list.
Note: This information is current as of 23 April 2008.
This is where I got my TEFL certificate. I chose it because they were the cheapest. Seriously. But I was pretty happy with the course, and felt like I got my money’s worth. My wife also did her TEFL certificate at this school, when they were still Boston Language College, and she was very happy with them. Their course is 100 hours long, and costs R4,900.
This school is near the V&A Waterfront. They offer a 120-hour TEFL course, for about R5,200. They also offer some specialty courses, like teaching business English. I’ve heard good things about this school, so worth checking out.
It seems these guys train teachers specifically for Korea. They offer a 105-hour TEFL course for R5,000, and a 125-hour course for R7,000. The additional 20 hours is some Korean language and culture course. I’d give it a skip, especially for the extra R2,000 it will cost you. Also, they recruit people to teach in Korea, AND charge a fee. As I’ve mentioned before elsewhere, you don’t need to pay any fee. Apparently they work with a Korean recruiter anyway, KorVia. Go directly to KorVia (I did) and you can save yourself some cash.
A lot of people come to Korea without a TEFL, and there are some options for getting a certificate while in the country. This means a 100,000 won a month raise in most public schools, if you get the certificate while you work for them. Also, some people end up having to be at school during the summer and winter vacations, so you might as well make the most of it. The one course that keeps on popping up is KEI-TEFL. They offer a 120-hour course for about 525,000 won. Most of the course is online, with the practical component offered over an intensive weekend. This course is endorsed by the government education departments, so no worries about getting it recognised.