What is a hagwon and are they a good place to work?

A hagwon is a specialized educational institution in South Korea, distinct from the standard public school system. It operates primarily as a private academy, catering to students who seek supplementary education, especially in subjects like English. While the public school system offers foundational education, hagwons focus on enhancing and refining a student's knowledge.

Approximately 95% of South Korean students enroll in a hagwon at some point in their educational journey, indicating their significant role in the Korean academic landscape. Given their prominence, hagwons present a vast majority of employment opportunities for EFL teachers in South Korea. However, potential educators should thoroughly research individual hagwons and their working conditions to ensure they align with their professional expectations.

Also read: What is the EPIK program for teaching English in South Korea?

Table of Contents

What is the hiring process for hagwons in South Korea?

What kind of contract will I get working for a hagwon in South Korea?

So, is a hagwon a good place to work?

What is the hiring process for hagwons in South Korea?

The hiring process for hagwons in South Korea is notably flexible, given the continuous demand for English teachers across these private academies. Unlike public schools that have specific hiring seasons, hagwons recruit year-round. Prospective teachers aiming for a position should be equipped with the following qualifications:

  • A TEFL certificate, typically of 120 hours or more.
  • Citizenship from a native English-speaking country.
  • A Bachelor's degree in any discipline.
  • A recent criminal record background check.

Most hagwons adopt a modern recruitment approach, holding online interviews via platforms like Skype. This streamlined process allows potential educators to secure positions before departing from their home country, making the transition smoother.

Also read: What is the TaLK Program for teaching English in South Korea?

What kind of contract will I get working for a hagwon in South Korea?

The process of applying for a job and then signing a contract for working in a hagwon typically takes between two and four months to complete. A typical contract will outline your working hours, which will depend on the type of school and who you teach. Kindergartens for example typically work between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., whereas for older students and adults working hours are usually afternoons until evening and may include weekends.

A typical salary would be between US$1,800 and US$2,800 per month, depending on your experience. Hagwons typically have many foreign teachers working for them and classes tend to have less than 15 students. Many companies will provide extra benefits such as free accommodation for their teachers and also provide arrival and departure flights free at the start and end of your contract.

Also read: How much can I earn teaching English in South Korea?

So, is a hagwon a good place to work?

As with any private enterprise, in any industry worldwide, there are good and bad practitioners and hagwons are no exception. One of your main resources available to you when researching a potential job will be social media. Teachers who have had poor experiences will often post about them on various websites dedicated to reviewing the working conditions at these private schools.

One thing you should do before signing any contract is to ask the institution to provide you with a contact of a current teacher that you are able to talk to. If the school is unwilling or unable to do this it should ring alarm bells.

Many hagwons are run by large teaching companies and they generally can't afford bad publicity from their teachers. Large organizations typically have back-up procedures in place in terms of accommodations for teachers, ease of obtaining work permits and so on. That is not to say you should avoid small family-owned hagwons, as there are some excellent ones out there and your experience can often be enhanced by being part of a small rather than a large team.

Also read: Are public or private schools better for teaching English in South Korea?