The vast majority of teachers who work in South Korea are employed by either a government run public school or a private language school known as a hagwon. Both types of employer offer good salaries and other benefits but there are a few differences that might sway your decision either way.
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Most public and private school positions are filled in advance, meaning you will apply and interview for the job before you leave your home country. The hiring process for public schools generally follows a set timetable that includes two regular start dates. Online applications begin in April for start dates in August/September, and in October for start dates in February/March. A large number of teachers in public schools are hired through government recruitment programs such as EPIK (English Program in Korea). These programs offer a limited number of places, and competition can be very strong, so early application is advised. As they do not have to follow a set academic calendar and there are far more positions to fill, private language schools tend to hire year-round. Although it is worth noting that the process of applying, interviewing, and arranging a work visa can take up to four months to complete.
Although both types of school generally offer a very competitive salary, private schools typically pay slightly more than public schools. The average monthly salary is as follows. Public schools: First time teachers = 1.8 to 2.0 million KRW ($1,600 to $1,800 USD). Experienced teachers = 2.0 to 2.7 million KRW ($1,800 to $2,400 USD). Private schools: First time teachers = 2.0 to 2.1 million KRW ($1,800 to $1,900 USD). Experienced teachers = 2.1 to 3.0 million KRW ($1,900 to $2,700 USD).
If you are hired in advance from within your home country for either type of school, you should receive a benefit package that includes paid return airfare, free accommodation, and a month's bonus on completion of the contract.
Typically, private school teachers should expect to work slightly longer hours than those working in public schools. As public schools operate a standard school day, teachers normally work from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, which equates to around 24 hours of actual class time. Private language schools run classes at various times so working hours can vary considerably. Some teachers work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., while others might work from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Private school teachers may also be expected to work on weekends.
Public school teachers normally receive more paid vacation time than those working in private schools. All teachers receive between 13 and 15 national holidays per year, as well as 18 extra days for public school teachers and 7 to 10 days extra for private school teachers.
The size of the class you teach will vary depending on the type of school you work at. Public school classes can number anywhere between 20 and 30 students, while private classes tend to number under 15 students. The identity of your fellow teachers is another factor that may differ between schools. Public schools typically only have one foreign teacher on the books, while private schools may have anywhere up to 50 foreign teachers or even more.