Question from a reader: university jobs, TOPIK tests, and TOEFL certifications

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A reader writes in:
hi Chris,

i've been reading your blog for a few months now and I found it to be
pretty good...informative, attractive, well-written, unoffensive...

and then i read a few more posts today, many of them back-dated. holy
sh[!]t! your blog is awesome! as a jeollanamdo person, i've been
sweating my a[$$] off thinking of life post-brian in jeollanamdo, but
i'm really glad to find many of the same wonderful features in your
blog (although you'll never win angriest blogger).

anyway, if you have time, I'd love to know your thoughts on a few topics:
1. university jobs - finding them and any other info.
2. TOPIK exam
3. TEFL/TESOL courses

If you don't get around to it, no worries. i'll still be reading your blog.

thanks for providing such a great resource.

Thanks for reading - and thinking of me as a replacement to the excellent blogger you mentioned. Without further ado...

University jobs

While I've not had the qualifications to find a university job, I understand that there are usually some available across the internet. Most university jobs, however, don't need that sort of advertising thanks to the economy and the type of jobs they are - better than hagwon in virtually every way. University jobs are typically offered by the university themselves, not a recruiting firm.

The good news is that the jobs require a fraction of the teaching hours, yet typically pay a higher salary. Vacations are usually quite generous - expect to be talking about months of vacation time instead of weeks. Since you're teaching at a more professional level, expect quite a bit more prep time to go with the fewer official teaching hours.

If interested in a university job, start by making sure you meet the criteria of the university. While not required everywhere, a Master's Degree is usually (but not ALWAYS) a minimal degree. Having it in Education, English, or a closely related field is typically a plus, although years of experience is an absolute requirement. Be able to prove your past experience - signed / sealed statements from previous employers, or their phone numbers to serve as references. While TESOL / TEFL / CELTA certificates are a plus, the amount - and type - of experience is what may be your key factor. More than a few ads I've seen recently tend to discount one's public school / hagwon work in favor of other university-level work (e.g. 1 year of University work is equal to 2 years of public school / hagwon work).

Make some friends with people that work at universities. While they probably won't have hiring powers, they may know when a job is open - and who to e-mail before the job is publicly known. They may also be able to recommend someone to the Powers That Be - a great thing, considering how many jobs never even make it to the job boards.

Finally, expect to relocate to a university you've never heard of. You probably won't be close to Seoul, and your friends may have never heard of the university. If you're in the middle of nowhere there may not be a large foreign community to share a beer with after classes end. Turnover at the higher-ranked schools tends to be lower, and the better-known a school is the more likely the hiring will be done from within their network. Looking outside the network is usually a last resort.

The TOPIK test

The Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) is used in Korea as a way of measuring your Korean ability in the same way the TOEIC or TOEFL might test your English ability. The official website is in English and Japanese as well as Korean. This page shares the details on what sort of questions will be asked:







Multiple Choice







No. of



1 10 30 30

Scoring Range




40 100 100

A number of books are available to help you study for the TOPIK - see your local bookstore for a selection, or look around on craigslist for possibly Korean tutors.

What's in it for you / Why take the test? It can mean getting out of the teaching world, which requires few Korean-language skills, and into a more professional job here in Korea. Even the most foreigner-focused company in Korea will still have people whose native Korean is better than their learned English. If getting a job with the U.S. government, Korean is considered a critical language - along with some forms of Arabic, Russian, and Uzbek, in case you're curious - and gives you extra points in the application process. Shannon Heit from the unofficial Seoul City Blog has plenty of information about studying Korean on this recent post.

TEFL / TESOL courses
The big question itself - presuming you're interested in finding one, the good news is that they are periodically offered throughout Korea, and almost always available online. The next one coming up that I'm aware comes courtesy of Craig White (the man behind Galbijim, Daegu Pockets, and other expat-friendly projects). From the Facebook page for the course:

The course takes a minimum of 4 weeks to complete.

---1st weekend is the weekend seminar. 9am-5pm, 9am-5pm - at (Novotel VIP conference Room in DAEGU)

---2nd weekend send in your statement of classroom innovation, literature review and goals of innovation implementation via email to TESOL trainers

---3rd weekend send in action plan (lesson plan) of how to implement innovation and how you will evaluate it via email to TESOL trainers

---4th weekend send in details of class progression and interpretation of lesson plan success/failure via email to TESOL trainers

Upon completion you are given your TESOL certificate.

The cost is 690,000 won for the course - considering you may make that back in a year, not a bad price. It's fairly unique in that it may be usable in further graduate-level studies, should you pursue them. See this page for more details about the course.

As for online certificates, it's kind of hard to tell which ones are worth the time / money / effort. While most will be recognized in some fashion, not every one will necessarily merit you a raise. I'm hesitant to recommend or even mention one without personal experience - readers: any TESOL / TEFL courses that you've taken and can recommend? Please comment on the one(s) you've had personal experience with.

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe - 2010

This post was originally published on my blog, Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.



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