Has the thought of teaching English in Korea been popping up more often than not lately? Then you have found the correct page. We’ve put together an awesome guide with all the tips you will need to get started on your teaching journey in South Korea. We will talk about who can teach and what the requirements are, as well as the opportunities on offer and the kind of salary and benefits you will earn as an English teacher.
South Korea, nicknamed "The Land of The Morning Calm", is a country in East Asia with China to its west, Japan to its east and North Korea to its north. There are four distinct seasons in South Korea. Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. You can expect hot weather around June to August and cold weather around December to February. The best times in Korea are in Spring and Autumn. However as a developed country, there is no shortage of floor heaters and air conditioners so English teachers can enjoy a comfortable living environment all year round.
If you have ever heard of K-Drama, K-Pop, or K-beauty, then you should know that Korean culture is taking the world by storm. As a homogeneous country, nearly all native residents identify themselves as Korean and speak the Korean language. As a result of the Korean Wave there has been an influx of tourism, resulting in an interest western culture and English language proficiency. In the cities, like Seoul most natives should have at least a basic understanding of English as they have learned it since elementary school. However, this is less common once you travel away from the cities.
English teachers pick South Korea because it’s easy to save money while teaching here. Popular teaching locations include Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Incheon and even Jeju if you want to explore the Korean version of Hawaii. If you live in a city like Seoul you would earn enough to save if you spend wisely, but you could save even more if you teach in a small town outside of Seoul like Gyeongju where the cost of living is less. We all know that saving more means travelling more and exploring more of what the world has to offer. As an English teacher in South Korea you will be able to experience one of the most rewarding jobs in the world and earn a good amount of money. What is there not to love about that!
English teachers in South Korea come from all sorts of backgrounds. Some are fresh university graduates, and others have come from years of teaching experience or even working in a field completely opposite from teaching and looking for a new experience.
So maybe you have been thinking about teaching in Korea, but don’t know what the requirements are, or think that teaching English is something too different from what you have experience in, or even think that you have no experience and won’t be able to secure a job. The good news is that, English teachers come from many different backgrounds. English teacher roles have been filled by students and fresh graduates to sport coaches, baby sitters, authors, travellers, marketing managers and accountants.
The most important requirement is to be willing to learn and be a team player. You need to be a friendly and patient person and want the best for your students as your students will look up to you and respect you as their teacher. Experience is always a plus, but it is preferred not required. There might be a few exceptions but here are the basic requirements to legally teach English in Korea:
If you were wondering how much money you would earn in South Korea, we are happy to let you know that Korea is one of the highest paying countries in terms of overall salary and benefits provided to English teachers. Here it is easy to save some money while teaching! The salaries might not always seem high at first, because in South Korea, it is common for schools to provide free housing and reimburse flights. Because of this, teachers usually earn enough to save or enjoy a very high quality of life here.
There are a few factors that might affect what you earn. Your qualifications and experience would be something that schools would look at when deciding on what salary they can offer you. The location you teach is also relevant. Are you going to teach in a big city like Seoul or Busan or a small rural town, where the cost of living is considerably less. Also the type of school you will teach at will also determine your salary as an English teacher. Here are some examples of average salaries of English teachers:
|Public Schools||1.5 - 3 million Won per month|
|Kindergarten||2.1 - 2.6 million Won per month|
|Private academy (Korean Hagwon)||2.1 - 2.5 million Won per month|
|International Schools||2,5 - 3 million Won per month|
|Universities||2.3 - 3.5 million Won per month|
|Private English Lessons||25 000 - 50 000 Won per hour|
To teach English at a public school in South Korea you need to apply to one of the government sponsored programs. Applications for the programs start up to 9 months before starting and these jobs start at the beginning of the first semester in March and the second semester in September. These jobs are very stable options and include decent pay, benefits and vacation. One thing to note is that there is only have 1 foreign teacher per school. If you would like to work alongside foreign teachers you might want to consider other options, but this is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in Korean culture and you can meet up with other foreigners in the community outside of working hours. You will have an co-teacher that will help you with anything you might need. Besides the free housing benefit that teachers get they can also expect to earn 1.5 to 3 million Won per month. The main government programs you can teach English in Korea with are:
SMOE teachers are recruited through the EPIK Program or hired directly if already located in Korea through local job posts. Similarly with GEPIK, most public schools hire teachers through EPIK, while only a small amount hire directly.
As of July 2021 the TALK program has ended.
Dissimilarity to public schools, where you are the only foreign teacher in the class, hagwons will have many foreign teachers around which might make transitioning into Korea a bit easier for you. Depending on school your work day might start in the afternoon and go into the evening, when students come for classes, but some may also offer kindergarten classes in the mornings. So this gives you a bit more flexibility on your working hours. Theses jobs are easy to find as they are abundant and hagwons hire all year round.
Hagwons are a great place to earn some experience and you will usually be given lesson outlines along with lesson plans and worksheets so you will know exactly what needs to be done to complete all your tasks. Work hours are typically 30-35 hours a week and teachers earn a salary of 2 to 2.4 million Won per month and can earn more depending on experience. One thing to note, is that as English teacher at a hagwon you will get about 7-10 days vacation a year, which is less than public school jobs.
International schools are schools just like those in your home country (United States, Canada, United Kingdom), just in Korea. They follow the same syllabus and semester dates. For example the school year starts in August and ends in June. Getting a job at an international school usually requires at least 2 years of experience, preferably in your home country. At international schools the standard is also high so you can expect a high out of class workload, but you will be well rewarded as the salary and benefits are really good. Teachers here typically earn a salary of 2.5 to 3 Million Won and they usually also include housing and travel reimbursement.
Universities are a big status symbol in Korea and working at one is a very well respected job and hence well paid. These are not the easiest jobs to find as they usually require you to know some people in the industry in Korea or to be well qualified with a Master's or Doctoral degree. A big positive for a university job is the low workload and paid holidays. University teachers work on average around 14 hours a week. At universities, teachers typically earn a salary of 2.3 to 3.5 million Won per month.
So other than the great work environment and respectable status, you will also have a heavy wallet with this well paid job. One thing to note is that housing is typically not included as a benefit for university jobs and you will need to find your own accommodation. When renting a place in Korea, there is a bit of a high upfront cost. A Deposit of about 5 Million Won is required and will be returned at the end of your contract. Just keep that in mind when planning your finances.
Private tutoring is another option to earn some extra money. When you get your visa to work in Korea, it is tied to your employer so tutoring extra students in your free time is technically against the law. This is however largely ignored by the authorities and many teachers do it to supplement their income. Some students might want you to meet at their home, workplace or online but it is common practice to meet up at a café or other meeting place and teach from there. The going price for tutors is around 25,000 to 50,000 Won per hour but some very experienced teachers can charge 75,000 Won. It's always best to start on the lower end of the scale and work your rate up as you gain experience and a strong client base.
As a private English tutor you will have to prepare all of your lessons by yourself. You can find great resources online for lessons and worksheets. Some students might want to study with you to prepare for exams but most students will want to learn how to speak English so your focus will be on teaching conversational so it can be more casual than the regular classroom.
If you are looking for a place to teach English and earn a good salary then Korea is for you! Here you will earn enough salary to save or enjoy eating, shopping and travel in your free time. If you decide not to save anything from your monthly salary you will not leave Korea empty handed as most yearly contracts include a one month salary bonus on completion. When looking at salaries in Korea compared to other countries like Japan, you need to factor in that many jobs in Korea include free housing so your main cost would be food and entertainment. Korea is also extremely affordable, and you will find that food at supermarkets and markets are often a fraction of the cost back in your home country. Living in a bigger city like Seoul, Busan and Daegu will be more expensive than a smaller city or more rural location. A single persons estimated monthly costs are 1,000,000 Won per month without rent. The currency used in Korea is called "Won" or KRW and according to Numbeo here are some basic costs to consider in South Korea:
|Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre||659,427.44 Won|
|Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre||452,342.25 Won|
|Monthly basic utilities (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage)||174,497.09 Won|
|Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)||27,736.14 Won|
|Water (1.5 liter bottle)||1,308.82 Won|
|Chicken Fillets (1kg)||10,686.77 Won|
|Potato (1kg)||4,018.83 Won|
|Rice (white), (1kg)||4,505.22 Won|
|Banana (1kg)||4,007.69 Won|
|Local Transport (One-way Ticket)||1,250.00 Won|
|Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult||61,723.00 Won|
When you first arrive in Korea you will notice right away, that you are definitely no longer in a western country. Korean culture is one of the oldest in the world despite it's neighbours best efforts to abolish it. Because of that, it can be overwhelming to teachers, especially if it's your first time abroad. Taking the time to understand and respect the culture will make your experience much more rewarding. So let's take a look at some cultural norms in Korea that help ease your transition to an English teacher.
You don’t need to speak Korean at all. You will actually be asked to not speak Korean in classes even if you can speak it as schools want students to be an English environment. However you will have an awesome change to learn about the language and culture.
Being from a country where English is the national language is unfortunately a requirement to teach English in South Korea. The reason for this is because it is a requirement for the E2 teaching visa. The countries included are Australia, Ireland, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. There is talks of this rule being relaxed in the future if the candidate can prove their English skill, but no updates right now.
On the positive side, you can still find work in South Korea if you are not a citizen from those countries, but using a different visa. Some teachers teach with an F2 long-term resident visa or even an F5 spousal visa. By using this visa you can work legally and then the school can decide for themselves if they want to hire you depending on your qualifications, experience and English proficiency.
If you Google anything about the requirements to teach in Korea, most websites will say that a TEFL certificate is a requirement. However, this is not necessary true. In fact, it is not a legal requirement to obtain the E2 teaching visa, meaning you can teach without one. Some schools might make it a requirement just to work for them though, which could limit your opportunities.
A TEFL course is only as good as the school you get certified from. As a formality, a minimum of 120 hours is often required, but not all courses are created equally. When looking for a good course, the important thing to look for is practical teaching time. If a school or program deems a TEFL certificate as necessary for the job, practical teaching time is something they usually look at when considering candidates.
To legally teach in South Korea, a minimum of a bachelor's degree is required. There are many schools that would hire teachers without a degree, but the reason they don't is because in order to get a work visa you need a degree. There are schools that will hire teachers without a degree and those teachers work on a tourist visa. If you are comfortable doing that, that's fine, but do understand the risks involved. If you are caught, you will get penalized and deported back to your home country. This is not ideal as you will get a mark on your passport that might make visiting other countries more difficult and returning to Korea very difficult.
You also need to know that when working illegally, you are not protected by any contractual agreements. If your employer decided to change the terms or not pay you, there is nothing you can do about it as you should not have been working in the first place. There are also costs involved as you will need to leave Korea to renew your visa every few months and the flight and visa costs will add up quickly. Korea also offers a working holiday visa, but you cannot teach English with this visa as you cannot work in a skilled profession or full time, but if you would like to try tutoring English part time, it could be a good opportunity to travel South Korea.
However, there is some good news for non degree holders. The Korean government has a program that is open to currently enrolled college students who have completed at least 2 years of their college or university studies, called the Teach and Learn in Korea (TaLK) Program. If you have an Associates degree, you are also eligible for the program. It is also required that you are a citizen of a country where the national language is English: Australia, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and South Africa. Koreans who are residents in the above countries (or lived there for 8 years and plan to get their permanant residency) and have completed both their primary and secondary education there are also eligible to apply.
South Korea has visa dedicated to those who want to teach English. It is called an E2 visa and only English teachers are eligible for it. The visa issued will be linked to your employer (educational institutions such as public schools, private academies (hagwons), and at universities) so you can only legally work for them unless your visa is processed again. An E2 visa is valid for 13 months and must be renewed with each new contract of continuation of a current contract.
Once you are offered a job by a school and provided a contract, you can send them all the required paperwork. You will then receive a visa issuance number which you can use to apply for the physical visa. You can then take your documents along with your E2 visa application form to the Korean consulate or embassy and apply for the visa. In Korea you will need to pass a health check which looks at your overall physical health, drug use, and diseases such as TB and HIV. If you fail this test, your visa will be denied, so if you feel unsure please talk to the school about it. Once you've passed the health test you will have your E2 visa and can teach English in Korea. Here is a list of the documents needed for the process:
In South Korea, the first semester starts in March and the second semester starts in September, so these months will be the months where the most teachers are hired. Public schools hire for these dates and start accepting applications 8-9 months before the start date so starting the application early will increase your chances to get a job. New teachers will arrive at the schools 7-10 days before starting to complete training and orientation. So mid February and mid August is when teachers travel to Korea to start these jobs.
Besides the 2 semester starts dates in March and September, there are also mid way breaks in May and November. March, September, May and November are the biggest hiring periods for private academies (Hagwons). Private academies, do however hire teachers all year round as they hire multiple teachers per year and it would be difficult to fill all these positions on specific dates.
Teaching in Korea is a very attractive option for many teachers so knowing how to apply is important if you want to get the best jobs. There are an abundance of jobs and a shortage of English teachers so it is relatively easy to get a job, but not all jobs are equal and making sure you get the best job you can find, will go a long way. You can check out our Korea job board to see the latest teaching jobs in Korea, alongside Facebook groups, Craigslist, Dave's ESL Cafe, ESLROK, and Waygook. The best schools and recruiters receive many applications from teachers so here are a few tips to stand out from the crowd: