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How to find a job at a Hagwon (pt. 1)

February 20, 2012

This post is about how to gather documents together (for Americans, I’m not really sure how it works for everyone else) and start the application process for getting an English teaching job at a hagwon in South Korea.  Don’t know what a hagwon is?  Look here first.  Public school jobs for foreign teachers are getting phased out in Seoul over the next few years, so if you want to live in Seoul, a hagwon job is probably your best option.  This post will be pretty dry and boring unless you are an American thinking about teaching in South Korea.

I’m writing this because I remember that I had a hard time finding consolidated information on exactly what documents I needed, and how to obtain them, when I was trying to apply to teach in South Korea.  The rules for documentation changed relatively recently, so a lot of the available information is out of date.  Because of this, I’m hoping that this post will draw at least half as many Google searchers to my blog as those who search for “why do Koreans eat live octopus” and “SNSD sailor uniforms.”

Later, I’ll write another post about how to choose a decent hagwon out of the ones that make you job offers.

You need to start gathering documents at least four months ahead of the time when you want to start teaching.  You definitely need an accredited university degree and a passport, of course.

Step 1: E-mail some recruiters

Recruiters are the link between you and the Korean hagwon.  You do not have to pay recruiters.  They get paid by the schools for finding you. (If a recruiter asks for payment from you, something sketchy is going on). Send an e-mail to a couple different recruiters, expressing your interest in teaching, and see what they say.  Some recruiters will start looking for jobs for you immediately, but others will want to wait until you have all of your documents ready.  Feel free to be specific about what kind of job you are looking for (age group of students, location, etc.)  Stick with the recruiters who seem like they are actually taking your stated preferences into account.  There are a lot of hagwons and a lot of recruiters, so you can be choosy.  Most recruiters won’t be seriously looking for a position for you until you have all of your documents together, but it’s helpful to start a good relationship with a recruiter early on.


Step 2: FBI Criminal background check

This one is really time consuming.  First, you should go to your local police station and have a set of fingerprints made.  Next, you should mail the fingerprints, application form, payment, and a note requesting that a division officer signs and seals the document, for obtaining an apostille.  If you don’t get them to actually sign it, you can’t get the apostille on the background check, and you will have wasted a lot of time.  More details, and the application form, here.  Mail it to:

FBI CJIS Division – Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306


Step 3: University transcripts and notarized copy of your degree with Apostille.

Schools in Korea are paranoid about the possibility of someone coming to teach based on a “fake degree,” so you have to jump through some hoops to show that you really went to college.  Request that your school sends you at least two sealed copies of your transcript to you, through your university registrar.  Next, you need to get a copy of your degree notarized and stamped with an apostille (these are not the same thing).

A notary simply affirms that a copy is genuine.  Usually, your local FedEx/Kinko’s will have a notary around.  You should take your original university degree to the copy shop, make a copy, and get the notary to sign, affirming that you didn’t photoshop a college education for yourself.

Once you have the notarized copy of your degree, you should mail it off to get an apostille.  You should mail the copy (not the original degree) to the Apostille office in your state capital, with an application fee and form.  Google “Apostille [your state]” and you should be able to find it.  Within a few weeks, the state will mail you back a lovely notarized, apostille’d degree copy.

Step 4 -FBI, pt. 2

By now, maybe the FBI has mailed you back a clean (hopefully) criminal background check.  It took them about two months to get back to me.  Unbelievably, when you get the background check in the mail, you have immediately send it back to Washington DC to get a Federal government apostille on the background check.  Make a few photocopies of it before you send it out again, in case it gets lost.

Send the signed FBI criminal background check, application form, and $8 to:

U.S. Department of State
Authentications Office
518 23rd Street, NW  SA-1
Columbia Plaza
Washington, DC 20520

I had to wait about two more months until I finally received the criminal background check in the mail again, with the apostille stamp, bringing the total waiting time for this one document to four months.

But now that you have it, recruiters will seriously try to sell you to different schools.  You’ll need a few more things to send off to your school after you get hired (passport photos, etc) but these can be obtained in a day or two.  Next time I’ll write about how to pick a decent one.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Aunt Jackie permalink
    February 29, 2012 11:00 am

    Love to read your blogs. Hope to see more photos and adventures soon. Have fun with your mom’s visit. Love you, Aunt Jackie

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