Are you in your 50’s or 60’s and are wondering if teaching in South Korea may be right for you? Then you’re certainly in the right place. Keep on reading for all the details you need to know.
How Old is too Old for ESL in Korea?
A reader question from Blair, wondering how old is too old to teach in Korea He’s tried EPIK, as well as some recruiters and has gotten the same response from all of them, “You’re too old,” or no response at all. His question is whether it is worth it to apply to unis in Korea and China, and if yes, how to go about this. He wants to work for 6 months-1 year.
Ageism in Korea: Alive and Well!
I’d deal with the age thing first. I’ve had a couple coworkers who were in their 50’s or 60’s and I’ve met some foreigners teaching in various kinds of jobs that were that old as well. So, it certainly is possible.
However, in most places, it’s the younger and the more handsome/beautiful, the better teacher you must surely be. If you’re willing to work in the countryside, then you would have a much better chance at getting a job but being the only foreigner within 50 square kilometers is not so appealing to most people.
If public school and hagwon hiring is any indication, school generally prefer to hire the fresh off the boat blond/blue eye girl from North America than someone with years of teaching experience in their 30’s, 40’s or even older.
My theory is that Koreans generally don’t see foreign teachers as “real” teachers so experience doesn’t really matter. Why not have someone pretty to look at?
Universities are kind of the exception to this and experience and qualifications actually do matter at getting the job.
Do I sound jaded? I am. But, it’s also the reality for English teachers in Korea.
Older Teachers Abroad Face Discrimination
What about China or Japan?
Well, China is certainly a much bigger place so I’d say your chances are higher of getting a job there. I would venture a guess and say that there is probably not a lot of demand for those 4000-6000 RMB jobs which you see all the time of ESL Cafe.
Learn more about teaching in China vs. Japan here.
6 Month Contracts?
NEVER say that you only want to work for 6 months on your application to Korea. This is because all places want a minimum 1 year contract. Break your contract if you must, but it’s far better to just finish the year because of the return airfare and bonus money. I have seen various places in China offering 6 months contracts so that might be a better option for you.
Some types of university jobs (unigwon for example) may be more open to hiring an older teacher than others.
How to Apply?
Blair is wondering if he should just send a package to every uni in Korea and China (there are lists out there somewhere). This is kind of a waste of your time.
For one thing, unis in Korea generally don’t hire out of country applicants. Secondly, unsolicited applications don’t get much attention (I’ve been there and done that in Korea!).
You really should read this book about getting a university job in South Korea. How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of Your Dreams. It’ll answer all these questions, and more.
Based solely on my perusing the China job boards, it seems that unis there will hire from out of country so that might be a better choice for Blair.
What Do You Think?
Are there age limits for teaching in Korea? What’s the oldest you’ve heard of? Leave a comment below and let us know.
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