It’s been a while since I’ve written a straight-up “advice about South Korea post” because it’s pretty easy to Google sources and so much of living here really boils down to commonsense things like being patient and learning as much of the language as possible. Much like dating, it seems like one of those “if you have to ask” topics.
Alas, I have sensed a great disturbance in the Korean blogosphere as of late (STAR WARS REFERENCE!) regarding how to get a teaching gig at a Korean college or university. Somebody is actually hawking a self-published book on the subject, but if the related blog-posts are anything to go by it’s full of terrible and derp-tastic misinformation.
A little history: I came to Korea in 2008. Way back then, it was still somewhat possible to network your way to a college position. However, if you wanted to teach in or around Seoul an M.A. was pretty much required.
Fast forward to 2015: All of the ESL credentials in the world (CELTA / DELTA / etc.) will not get you a college gig. There is simply a glut of foreigners with M.A.’s (and even Ph.D.’s) roaming around and it’s easy as pie for Korean colleges to pick and choose from a crop of people with graduate degrees.
I’m guessing it’s still possible to network your way up the totem pole from a hagwon or public high school job to a university, but for example at my college you will not even get an interview if you don’t already have an M.A. And my school, as lovely as it is in many ways, is far from being an academic power-house. (Last time we hired we had no shortage of M.A. and Ph.D. folks.)
Also, if you’re in America or Canada or Australia and have an advanced degree, Korean colleges are not going to pay to fly you over here. Like I said, foreigners with advanced degrees are a dime-a-dozen here (many of them have married and settled down with Korean spouses) and they are always going to have proverbial “dibs” on any open college position. (This being Korea, lots of college positions are filled without even a listing being made public.)
In fact, the cushy college gig is kind of becoming a myth. Instead of a meager 10-15 hours a week and four months vacation, which used to be standard, a lot of colleges (even the best ones!) are wising up and expecting their foreigner college instructors to do thing like adult education and summer and winter camps (i.e., kiddies).
On a more personal note remember that, like literally everything in existence, teaching in Korea has many ups and downs. I happen to love it here in no small part because I was lucky to find a job with a boss who’s good to work for. But even though your shiny E-1 visa calls you a “professor” you are not a professor. Professors have Ph.D.’s and, hopefully, tenure-track positions. As a college instructor in South Korea you are basically the American equivalent of a lifer adjunct, except you have excellent health care and an annual salary, as opposed to being paid on a per-class basis.
It sure beats the salt mines though.