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Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

James Robinson

Second Advisor

Kim Choonkyong

Third Advisor

Mark Love

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings



This thesis explores the experiences, opinions, and levels of job satisfaction of South Korean public school NESTs (native English-speaking teachers) vs. hagwon teachers (a Romanized term from the Korea term denoting English academies). By investigating the effects that workplace settings have had on the experiences of various English teachers in Korea, I was able to determine that public school teachers were more likely to have preferable personal and professional experiences. Additionally, individuals that accumulated work experience from both work settings were more likely to stay in the profession of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Almost none of the participants viewed either EPIK or hagwons as viable options for long-term career opportunities. The experiences were recorded and observed through ethnographic interviewing of 15 participants who had TESOL experience in South Korea. The data also revealed the intricacies of each type of work setting, possibly elaborating as to why the findings were so. 15 individuals were interviewed; while 5 such participants worked at public schools, the balance consisted of 5 that have worked at hagwons, and 5 that have worked at both of these types of institutions. Job satisfaction was heavily varied, depending on the individual, the place of employment did not have a significant impact on contentment of the participants. Both hagwon and public school teachers had worries and experiences with job security, though hagwons carried a worse but not necessarily true reputation. Only 3 out of the 15 participants stated that it was possible to make a long-term career out of TESOL positions in Korean hagwons and public schools. 9 out of 15 individuals indicated that they would pursue a future in TESOL pedagogy.



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