Thursday, April 26, 2012

Questions to Ask Before You Sign a Hagwon Contract in Korea

Not all English academies (or hagwons) in Korea are created equal. When deciding on where to sign up to work for a year, you must remember to interview them as much as they are interviewing you. This is where you will work every day and you should have a clear picture of what is expected from you before signing your contract.

 Don't attempt to ask all of these questions during your phone interview. These questions are intended to be used only if you are offered the job and sent a contract. Read the contract carefully and ask questions. It shouldn't be a problem to make amendments or changes to the contract.

Here are some questions you should ask before signing the contract, along with some helpful tips from me in the parenthesis. 

School and Vacation Time

What are the work hours like? Will they ever change? What about Saturdays?

How many Korean/foreign teachers work at the school? How long have the foreign teachers been there? (If lots of people re-new their contracts, you know it's a good place.)

Is lunch provided? Are you expected to eat lunch with the kids every day? (Eating with the kids every day can be tiring, especially if that time is your only break time.)

How much flexibility is allowed in planning lessons? (It's nice to have some structure but it's also nice to be able to reward your kids with games and teach them some useful things that aren't in their books. Being a creative teacher is more fun and rewarding for both you and the kids.)

How many vacation days do you get? (You should get at least all the national holidays off and 10 vacation days.)

What kind of things will you be responsible for other than teaching classes? (ex. writing monthly/weekly/daily report cards, creating a lesson plans to hand out to students, attending meetings, etc. These things are pretty standard at academies but it's good to know what you're getting into.)

How does overtime work? (I have a friend who can be told to work lots of extra hours than her normal work day before she can start earning extra pay. On the other hand, if Spencer and I teach more than our standard number of classes in one day, we get overtime pay.)

How long has the school been open? How many students come to the school? (From this, you can kind of assume if the school is doing well. Private academies are businesses and some of them fail. You don't want to work for a place that will not be able to pay you or close halfway through your contract.)

What's the relationship like between the teachers and management? (Some directors are very involved and take their employees out to dinner often and others are standoffish and can be straight up angry dictators.)

What's the best and worst parts about the job? (Ask a foreign coworker.)

Apartment and City Life

What is the apartment like? Studio? One bedroom? What's the sleeping situation: bed or floor mat? (Many Koreans don't have beds but sleep on floor mats.)

How far away from the school is it?

What utility bills will you be expected to pay? (It's standard to pay your utilities.)

What are the transportation options around town? What can you expect to be using every day? (ex. taxis, subway, walking everywhere, etc.)

Are there lots of other foreigners in the area? (It's nice to have people to hang out with who are experiencing the same things you are. Also, people who have been there a while can help you find things, give you advice, or just listen to you bitch when times are rough. Our city has a couple of Facebook groups where people can connect as well. I would search for those.)

Are there any western restaurants in town? (You're going to want at least one, trust me.)


  1. Hi, great blog! I'm just wondering if you have any experience working split shifts at hagwons? I've been offered a position at a hagwon for adults and younger aged students with hours 6.30-10am and then 18.30-22.00pm. Any advice would be really helpful. Thank a million.

    1. I haven't heard of this kind of schedule before. It's a personal preference what hours you are willing to work. This might be great for you...but I doubt it. Personally, I wouldn't take those hours. I think it would be exhausting to get off work at 10pm and then have to be up and ready to teach at 6:30am. Most people who get off at 10pm don't start until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. You need extra time after work to wind down and eat. I would keep looking, if I were you.

    2. Yeah this is what everyone keeps telling me. I know those hours would make my life in Korea really miserable!! Thanks for confirming what i already knew! I appreciate it a lot. Keep up the great blog!

    3. No problem! I hope you find something better soon. :) Let me know if you have any more questions. I'm happy to help.