Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ask a Korean! Wiki: ESL Certificate Programs?

Dear Korean,

I really want to teach ESL in Korea (crazy, yeah, I know). I've been following a couple of blogs and whatnot, but recently I found out about certificate programs for teaching ESL. I'm graduating soon and I'm wondering if I should enroll in one of these programs before making my way to find myself a job. The one that has especially piqued my interest is the certificate program offered through the UCI Extension (Teach English As A Foreign Language). My questions are: Are these certificate programs any legit and do they help in snagging a sweet job in the ROK? As in, does it really give an one-up advantage to those who have one versus those who don't? Keeping in mind that I'll be fresh out of college with no previous teaching experience.


Have at it, ESL teachers in Korea -- does having a certificate help? What kind of certificates are in high demand?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I don't know which ones are in high demand in Korea (my understanding is that they prefer something else to CELTA, which is what I have) but I would say that it (or the CELTA at least) is worth it.

    1. It's useful pedagogical training and has made me a better teacher.

    2. It helps you stand out in a sea of job applicants who are fresh out of graduating college as well.

    3. It opens up to slightly/much better paying jobs.

    4. It's generally in-demand/well-respected around the world, which is useful if you decide you want to do ESL elsewhere outside of Korea.

    My FOB job in Korea was 2.0/month; my post-CELTA job is 2.5/month. Mine may be an exceptional case, but it's still something to consider.

    If I were you, I would do it. And one of the in-the-flesh courses, too, with the practice teaching: that is what I found to be the most helpful.

  2. Not sure about those specific places and names. But as for 'sweet teaching job in ROK', can't really beat the safety of ROK government sponsorship:

    Teach And Learn in Korea - elementary

    English Program in Korea - middle/high

    I did TALK and I enjoyed it very much. Personality+the people at school are critical to how much you enjoy it.

    Requirement is University/College degree. EPIK requires that you have finished it completely (can't apply whilst you're finish-ing). Pay is reasonable, comparable to other academies or private tuition places that offer the similar deal (airfares, accom etc).

  3. It used to be for Gyeonggi-do teachers that a 100+ hour online cert of any kind would add 100,000 extra won a month. But now, most of us don't have jobs next year anyways.

    I'd say it's pretty useful just to have. The market is getting more competitive. Go with an online 100+ minimum for a good sense of what to do, and maybe get a CELTA if you're interested in more than one year. Also, a master's degree will help you get university gigs after a couple years, which are the best jobs here for foreigners.

  4. If you are blonde with blue eyes and attractive, don't waste your money on any ESL certificate programs of any kind. Once they see your photo with your resume, you'll be hired.

    Doesn't look like you want to apply to work for any public schools. Their funding is in limbo, and is currently axed.

    If you do do a program, don't waste money on anything where you don't actually teach students with supervision.

  5. I did a TESOL minor in college which included TESOL methods and programming, English grammar and linguistics courses and best of all, hands on, in class experience working with international students. It's helped prepare me for my job in Korea and most of all, taught me that TESOL/TESL is something I want to make a career out of. If you're looking into on campus courses, I highly suggest doing it.

    BUT...if you're going the online certificate route, I would say skip it and save your money. You can study online and yes, you can learn a lot but nothing helps more than experience when it comes to teaching ESL. And if you plan on going to teach ESL in Korea just for fun and don't plan on doing it for a career, again, save your money and don't waste your time.

    Like that person said, looks matter. If you look "very American," or have a good, clear, understandable accent, getting a job will be easy enough. I don't know it for a fact but I feel like the number of people teaching in Korea without TESOL experience outnumber those who have studied it in getting a certificate would not really increase your odds of landing a good job.

    To put that into perspective, the hagwon I work for has very competitive pay, all the benefits, good working environment, really a dream ESL job. I have a TESOL minor; the other English teacher came with zero experience. We get paid exactly the same. So a good job, good pay, good's possible and easy enough to get certificate/experience or not.

  6. I got two good jobs without having any certificate. However, although I had some teaching experience, I would have been a much, much better teacher in the beginning if I had done some sort of good program to get experience and knowledge of langauge teaching methods. If you don't have experience with language teaching, I would encourage you to get some somehow. It can make a big difference in your initial happiness.

  7. You're definitely more likely to get accepted to a program if you have some sort of background in TESOL, CELTA, or any other ESL cert, or if you have a strong background (i.e., your degree is) in English, Linguistics, ESL, Education/Teaching, or if you have an upper level (Masters or PhD) degree. Will it guarantee you a job? No. Will not having it mean you can't get a job? No. Your choice.

  8. What Kokoba said about the CELTA.

    I took a month-long CELTA course fresh out of university just so I felt prepared at least a little for moving abroad to teach. It definitely helped improve my confidence and gave me tonnes of guidance in terms of how to approach teaching stuff like reading skills and grammar. It also, like Kokoba, upped my wage a fair bit. For me, by about 250 pounds ($400 dollars) a month. Finally, it helped me land a university job in what was only my second year here. If you're looking at your time in Korea/abroad being more than just your average twelve-months-in-a-foreign-country jobby, then I'd recommend it.

  9. The previous two comments sum up what I wanted to say. I just want to add that I actually finished my CELTA a couple of weeks ago at the British Council in Seoul. As far as I know, the CELTA is not so popular in Seoul compared to TESOL and some of the more common certifications. That said, I did it for professional development as much as anything else. If I had done the CELTA before coming to Korea a few years ago, I think it would have made a huge difference in the path my career took. Not that I'm in a rut now, but it was definitely one of those experiences that made me think "Why didn't I do this sooner?" several times.

    I know this may come off like a CELTA plug, and it is to some extent. But when it comes down to it, you're going to be expected to perform as soon as you land in the classroom, possibly with little or no training. I'm with Noona on this one...I highly recommend a CELTA or any certification through which you can obtain some useful experience (and not just theory). Hope that helps.

  10. I got an online 100-hour TESOL certificate after already working one year in Korea, and I wish I had done it earlier. Here's why:
    1. I'm not a career teacher. The info I got in the TESOL course was useful because it taught me how to organize my lessons and my lesson planning, saving me (and my students) tons of time and energy.
    2. You get about $100 extra every month. So, a $200 course will earn you $1200 a year. Totally worth it.


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