Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just how much has the teaching market tightened in South Korea?

I've gotten A LOT of questions recently from people who are having serious issues finding jobs. I was wondering if any of you readers you could me help out. One of the questioners is a male in his 40s with an MA and another is a black women with with an MA and experience. From my experience recruiting (and I have seen their resumes and pictures), these two would be shoo-ins. Obviously the public schools screwed up this year and perhaps some kid hagwons could be a little tougher to crack given the power that moms have, but they should have no problems teaching adults. Or so I thought. And it's not that they're just not getting hired. It's that recruiters aren't responding to them, they're not getting interviews and overall, they're getting the cold shoulder from everyone along the way. Has the situation really gotten that bad? Is it really this hard to land a decent gig?

So, I wonder...

Those of you who teach adults (or any age for that matter), is your institute actively hiring? Do you know if they have more applicants than usual? Are you working with any non-Caucasians or people over 40?

Is it bad timing or has the market tightened that much?


Jacob said...

With unemployment and underemployment over 16% in the United States (with similar number in Canada and U.K.) this is a hagwon's hiring fantasy.

I have spoken to a few recruiters and the volume and surge in applications for public and private positions is off the charts. People need work and they have gone online and heard about teaching in Asia.

I just did a post on my blog about this and the SMOE firings...

Rowan Hall, a recruiter for ESL Planet, said he has applications for great applicants (with teaching or ESl experience) who just happen to be over 40 years or black or asain (really anything other than white), and he can't get schools to even look at their applications.

Korean mothers want their sons to have that white man's English.

It's tragic and foolish.

The Expat said...

Would you suggest doing as I always recommend for second-year teachers, which is to secure employment in-country?

I know the air-travel might not be be that easy to muster and there's always the chance that you'll be stuck here with no job (which is awful), but something's gotta give.

Chris in South Korea said...

I can't speak to anything specifically - but I've yet to hear of a school that's actively hiring beyond the minimum needed. Finding a job teaching English in Korea was never - and never should be considered - a guarantee; neither is keeping said job for the length of your contract.

While I certainly can't speak for the entire English-school industry, I wonder if some form of saturation has been reached. Demand may still be there, yes, but the parents ability to pay, combined with the rather skittish nature of hagwon owners, combined with a global recession, and topped off with more foreign teachers than schools need equals a recipe of unfavorableness for someone not already here. Even being in Korea is no guarantee.

Option A: get here and look for a job. Only do this if you can afford a plane ticket home and chalk up your time here like a tourist would.

Option B: Keep looking via the internet.

Option C: Save the teaching in Korea for another time or another person. Find something else to do with your time / effort. I don't say that lightly - especially if you have any sunk costs... But still, it is an option.

John from Daejeon said...

Are these people flexible about where they are willing to work and start out at?

My institute was recently looking at hiring two over-40 somethings who applied for the position, but one lied about his background check being clean and the other then tried a bit of extortion after he got the job because he figured he deserved it because Daejeon isn't Seoul and he has a M.A. Hell, he even had the gall to demand that he not be paid in won.

The Expat said...

I think they are pretty flexible, but everyone has some preferences. As Jacob mentioned, mothers and directors want a particular type of person who fits into their narrow definition of "English teacher" and since the market is flooded with applicants they can be as picky as they want. That pickiness, however, means that non-Caucasians and 40+ people will have a much harded time landing ANYTHING, let alone a postion/location that they desire.

I would suggest China or Japan as well. There markets are not as swamped...yet.

Bryan said...

I work with a guy who is closing in on 40, and my employer so far has no intention to fire him. On the other hand, she also isn't hiring either.

winterbookgirl said...

I was recently hired to work in a Hogwan. I have an MAT and am in my mid-30's. It seems that most of my co-workers are in their late 20's to mid-thirties. I am not sure about those in their forties, but here is what I do know, or at least have been told.

Half way through my hiring process, I was told the hogwan I am working for only needed 1/2 the people they hired, for three reasons: 1) with h1n1, some koreans have withdrawn students, so enrollment is down, 2) with unemployment numbers so high in the states, a larger number of current teachers are extending their contracts, and 3) because of the 1st reason, the company is stalling to open new schools until numbers pick up, and therefore need fewer teachers.

They told the recruits to only keep their top picks and to get rid of the rest. I was one of the fortunate ones who was hired. With so many people looking and so few jobs available, even the hogwans can be more picky than in the past. Even after being hired and flying here, our contract was dependent on passing training. Only 75% of my group made it through, with the others being told - sorry! You didn't make the cut.

Even though I did get hired, my recruiter really had to push for me. Because I have corporate work experience, and a MA in teaching, and teaching experience I was more expensive to hire. This made it very time consuming and difficult to place me. It could be, that in this market, too much experience, makes you less marketable.

That said, I wish those looking all the luck in the world - don't give up!

Alicia said...

I am an african american currently working in korea. Ive only been here a month but I was already considering year two. I wonder if I will have problems come next summer finding work?

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HazeDaze said...

I live in a small city two hours from Seoul and there seems to be new foreigners arriving all time. Naturally, some of these are replacing those who have already lef, but others are working in hagowns that never previously had any foreigners or for new after-school programmes.

However, the vast majority of foreigners in this city are under 35, white and only hold a bachelors degree. This keeps the mom's happy and keeps hiring costs down.

The market is certainly moving in the direction of employers, but it seems to me that if people are willing to be flexible with regards to pay, vacation and particularly location then there are still a few jobs out there.

JustMe said...

I recently started a position in an adult hagwon. I have an MA, experience, and am in my early 30's. We have about 10 foreign teachers at my hagwon and I would estimate that about half of them are over 40. In fact, I am probably one of the younger teachers. I was even given the impression that slightly older teachers were better when working with adults, so I wouldn't think that age would be a problem. However, we are not located in Seoul and so that may make a difference. We also don't have any teachers that are not Caucasian.

Mike said...

Interesting. I hire for a fairly up-scale institution. We only take teachers with EFL/ESL qualifications and experience of teaching English to both adults and children. Recently we've found it harder than ever to find people that meet these requirements (and we hire regardless of race).

So I'm not sure why my experience is different from that other people are describing, but I certainly am not happy with the number of quality applications I'm getting.

The Expat said...


Too much experience usually translates to more money which makes you harder to place which, of course, equals no job. Thanks for your story.

The Expat said...


Make sure you either find the job WHILE you're still in-country OR stay at your current gig. You should have no problems! Happy to hear you're enjoying your time!

The Expat said...


What city are you working in?


I agree. The quality that I've been getting has been seriously watered down. I think the sheer numbers of applicants are making it harder to find the good ones.

monarchmagic said...

I am going to be 65 when I apply for teaching English in South Korea. I am a certified teacher with experiences with K-8 and adult learners. Got my student teaching completed in Seoul American Elementary School when ex-husband was in military. Has anyone heard of retired Americans finding jobs teaching English in S.Korea?

monarchmagic said...
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