Why TEFL Now?

Most expats living and teaching ESL in Korea are pretty comfortable.  In my personal opinion, having only worked for Private English Language Academies (or “Hagwons”), I think the much easier way of life is through the public school system.  I have had days in the private sector where I have taught 9 classes a day.  I’ve scoffed at friends in the public school system who moan about their “long day” where they have 5 classes to teach.  While the pay tends to be higher at a Hagwon, we get a comparatively low number of vacation days, too.

The main reason why I would like to have additional certification is that the market in Korea for Native English Teachers is saturated.  Millenials have extreme wanderlust!  With the current cost of a University education in North America, most of us have the choice of entering the workforce immediately and building a nest egg at a snail’s pace, or starting a little bit ahead of the pack with a Bachelor’s Degree (a requirement for most professions), but a mountain of debt.  How are we supposed to see the world and have an international education without a trust fund?  Korea, China, Japan, and Taiwan are the best bets with the highest salaries.  When I started teaching English a year and a half ago (my, how time flies), there was no requirement for Native English Teachers at Hagwons to have TEFL/ TESOL certifications.  When I arrived in Korea I found that while it wasn’t a requirement, a lot of my Hagwon teacher friends had certifications as high as CELTA.  Some even specialized in TESOL at University!  I like to think that I have a strong command of the English language and its intricacies.  My gateway to the East has only just started in Korea.  To be competitive in this industry and to qualify for the GEPIK/EPIK programs (or other public school programs beyond Korea) it’s about time I pull my socks up, complete a course, and get a certification to teach ESL.  I certainly need to update my skills and certifications, but where to start?


What are the differences among TEFL, TEYL, TESOL, TESL, CELTA, etc.?  In the simplest of terms, they are different levels and methods of teaching English to non-native English speakers.  TESL certifications are widely regarded as methods for teachers of non-native English speakers and immigrants to English speaking countries.  TESOL and TEFL are geared more toward those who want to teach English in non-English speaking countries.  Bingo!  That’s me!

I should have taken a 120 hour in-class certification with a practicum while still in Canada, but hindsight is 20/20, right? I have officially begun my journey with a Canadian company based in Toronto (hey, homies!) called Ontesol.  Through this organization I will be completing a 120-hour specialized TEFL certificate course inclusive of TEYL (Teaching English to Young Learners).

The reason that I decided to take this course in particular was that not only will I get the 120 hours of education required by the ministry of education (and the industry standard in most countries) there’s also a component for teaching young learners, which is what I already do!  It’s always important to upgrade your skills regardless of how well we believe we may create lesson plans or explain complex grammar.  As native speakers we often take for granted the “why” behind the “what”.  Just because something sounds wrong doesn’t mean we can explain why something is incorrect to a new English speaker.  I also personally liked that the company is Canadian, I can take the course at my own pace, and I have one-on-one support throughout the duration of my studies.  It doesn’t hurt that the course is an affordable $299.  It’s worth it to bundle TEFL ($245) and TEYL ($199) as you end up saving $145!

Ontesol provides a variety of accredited programs and certifications and helps with recruitment/ job placement, resume-building, and interview preparation once your course is complete.  Although I’m already employed, this is a great resource to broaden my horizons once my current contract is over.

#Canada #Seoul #Canadian #CanadianEmbassy #Korea

A photo posted by Kate Carter Hickey (@thatgirlcartier) on

I’ll be updating you all with my thoughts and feelings over the course of the next 6 months as I complete the course.  So far, my personal tutor has e-mailed me a welcome message listing his availability, credentials, and responsibilities to me.  So far, I’m very impressed the rapid communication with corporate as well as with my tutor.  My tutor has not been alerted to the fact that I’m partnering with Ontesol for my certification, so I’m especially impressed with the tutor-student service.  These next 120 hours will certainly not be easy, but I hope that first and foremost my students benefit from my additional knowledge, and that I’ll be a more marketable candidate as my journey teaching ESL globally continues.

Female Expats in Korea (3)

For all the ladies – WeeGypsyGirl has put together a guide for us in Korea.  The Ultimate Guide for Female Expats in Korea will get you all sorted once you’ve completed your OnTesol certification and are en route to the land of morning calm!

15 Comments Add yours

  1. Everyone kept telling me to go public again, but I had gotten so bored desk warming doing that in Japan I was sure hagwons were the way to go. Womp womp. I did get a TEFL before coming to Korea though and it did give me a lot of offers, so it’s a good choice on your part if you want to advance and get better positions or higher pay grades. Good on you for taking the initiative!

  2. Mitch is an international teacher and he would agree with me that Seoul would be one of the best places to not be one if you want to teach! Kids are so cute and well behaved. Good luck on your course – very helpful for those who would be wanting to get into your type of adventure!

  3. So interesting to hear the difference between the types of school systems over there and your struggles to learn more because the markt is so competitive. I have read so many TEFL blog posts but this is a more unique perspective. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Sally! I think everyone has a different perspective based on what age and where they teach!

  4. My ship has sailed for this type of opportunity but I think it is a fantastic way to see the world and experience other cultures. We have several nieces and nephews that could benefit from this experience so I will share with them.

  5. Gina Bear says:

    I didn’t know that you didn’t need a TEFL for hagwon. When are you going public? Hahaha. Had enough of the crazy hagwon life? 😉

    1. You don’t! Just for public LOL

  6. adonisabril says:

    I wanted to get my TEFL so I’ll have an easier time finding a teaching gig in South Korea but got an online gig instead. It’s cool that you’re pursuing it yourself, seems like a great way to give yourself the extra edge! Good luck!

  7. Interesting, i have never knew the difference between al these tests. My friend is considering to take one course and i think this post will be very helpful to her.

  8. Natasha G says:

    I will admit I do love public — but it does seem they up the requirements every couple of years. Luckily, I decided to get a TEFL right before I moved to Korea and it bumped me up a pay grade at the time, too. I think TEFL courses are a valuable resources — especially for those who have never taught before. Ontesol offers a lot of great options! 🙂 Great post!!

  9. Jo says:

    Oh wow I never knew the market in Korea for English native teachers was so saturated. I was under the impression Thailand was the hotspot. I am sure an added certification is always beneficial, Let me know how it goes. good luck hun

  10. You are so right! Traveling with a ton of debt is nearly impossible if not really changeling (something I specialize at on my blog). Teaching English and getting certified is a great way to stay competitive in the market and hone your skills.

  11. Star Lengas says:

    You don’t need a certificate for Hagwon, hmmm good to know! ^^ Can’t wait to learn more about your TEFL journey, I’ve been contemplating adding that to my arsenal!

  12. no wayyyyy, thought Korean and Jap kids are super well-behaved, haha stereotypes!

  13. broomerang says:

    I got my TEFL right before I came to Korea. I am glad I got mine because it got me a slight pay bump which allowed me to recover the cost of the certificate quickly. I was also looking at completing my Masters Degree before I got here but decided to wait as I did not know what my living situation and everything was going to be. I wish I had started then instead of waiting because then I would have finished already and qualified for University positions. Now I have to wait at least one more semester, and if I can get a University position, I will look forward to all that vacation time.

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