Korea rocks the world for fashion, entertainment, and culture. Who needs Billie EIlish when you have BTS. Love eating bowls of spaghetti? Try a bowl Naengmyeon. In short, Korea is a great place to live. If you’re not sure about teaching English in Korea, I say do it. Make that leap. You won’t be disappointed.

Not only will you make a difference by teaching, but you will make friends for life, gain a new language and grow exponentially.

A stack of english books

I will go over everything you need to know when you apply for an English teaching position in Korea.

Having taught in Korea for five years, I should be able to answer questions you have and give you a great insight.

Things To Know Before Teaching English In Korea.


What are the requirements to teach English in Korea?

  • TEFL (120 hours)
  • Apostilled Bachelor’s Diploma
  • Apostilled National Criminal Background Check
  • Unopened University Transcripts
  • Passport picture
  • Two original Reference letters
  • For UK/Australian Citizens: Apostilled Birth Certificate
  • For South Africa/Quebec/etc. Applicants: Proof of English Education
  • For Korean Citizens: Proof of Residency/Citizenship & English Education
  • For International School Attendee Applicants: Proof of English Education

TEFL South Korea

If you want to work at a Korean academic institute, then you will need to get a TEFL or TESOL certificate.

How do I get a TEFL certificate?

There are many places around the world where you can study and gain a TEFL certificate.

A place that I want to recommend is the internationally accredited and market-leading TEFL provider:

Tefl. org

Go for their 120 Hour premier TEFL course, it’s worth the money.

They divide the course up into 4 courses each requiring you to study for a specific time period. For example, they have a 30- hour online grammar course which brushes up on your sizzling English skills. Forgotten the difference between irregular verbs from auxiliary verbs? Fear not, you have over 30 hours of exceptional learning material to go through. Seriously, the course has enough material to make you competent; heck, even an expert.

How long is the course?

The course is 120 hours.

I know 120 hours might seem a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t. They don’t expect you to finish this in one sitting, which would be 5 straight days. Thankfully, they give you 6 whole months, which is easily double. Just don’t leave it until the last minute. Like me.

How much is a TEFL certificate?

You’re looking at around £300, but the price fluctuates depending on the time of year and sales. As I’m looking at it now, they have a special discount until next week. The course is £128, which is an absolute steal.


What are my teaching options in Korea?

a photo of an empty classroom

Okay, let’s get down to it. The real nitty-gritty, the bread and butter, the reason you’ve come. The all-important teaching options for teaching English in Korea.

So before you look for a job, know what type of job you want. There are several jobs you can apply for. I will summarize them and list the pros and cons of each.


Public Schools In Korea

EPIK:

What is EPIK?

It’s the government-run program in Korea. Some call it the holy grail of teaching jobs, others might disagree and think you are at the mercy of your school and co-teachers. It’s hit or miss. Just like most jobs in Korea.

If you love volleyball and you’ve got a principal who loves volleyball and insists on all the teachers playing on, say, Wednesday afternoon, then your experience will likely be positive. However, if you detest the sport, then you’ve got to explain why you don’t like it and make excuses, possibly in Korean, which could upset the co-teacher and principal, and suddenly your life becomes difficult.

Working at the public school can involve a lot of politics and hierarchy, not always, but it’s something you might want to bear in mind when choosing an English teaching job in Korea.

What’s EPIK like?

Nobody has the same experience, and therefore it’s all case by case. On the whole, I’ve heard mostly positive things from public school jobs.

Without a doubt, they look after you. You get lip-smacking lunches, teach 22 hours a week- which is usually over by 1:30 pm- and you have over 26 vacation days a year, excluding weekends and national holidays. They also provided a fully furnished apartment. What more could you ask for?

Your timetable is consistent unless the students are having exams or you are unaware of the school plan for the year.

You will either work from 8:40, 4:40 or 9:00, 5:00 Monday to Friday. In bigger schools, you can have over one co-teacher, which I think is great. It means you don’t have to work with the same person all the time. However, for some, it might not be all plain sailing. You might get a co-teacher who wants you to do nothing, while another co-teacher demands everything from you. It can get a little taxing not knowing what to expect at first, but you learn to ride the wave and adapt quickly to their teaching styles.

They also require you to do summer and winter camps, which can be up to 2 weeks long. Bare that in mind as it could conflict with the time you can take off.

A photo of hopscotch chalked on the school playground

Is EPIK a stable job?

It’s a relatively stable job, meaning you will not lose it. Unless the MOE makes sweeping cuts across the country and terminates positions, which is unlikely. It has happened a few times, for example in Incheon in 2014, but they opened positions right back up in 2015.

How to apply?

The whole process of applying to EPIK is a lot more rigorous than say applying to an English academy. You need to get all your documentation in order, which can be a costly process. Send them off. Have an interview. Attend a two-week orientation somewhere at a university in Korea. From start to finish, it can take up to 6 months.

How much will I spend a month in Korea?

Your expenses are likely to be similar to the example:

Electricity and gas, 30-50,000krw a month, for an unlimited data phone plan you’re looking near 70,000krw. You might have to pay maintenance building fee which could be around 50-100,000 krw a month, and then you might have other expenses such as internet and other amenities to pay for.

Whatever you spend after that is up to you. Food, vacations, clothes. You will probably end up saving around 1 million krw a month. Not too bad when you compare it to back home.

From your monthly salary, you’re also deducted pension, school lunch, health insurance and possibly taxes. Which could be around -250,000 Korean Won.

Korean teacher salary

You can find the pay structure and benefits on the website.

Where will I be placed in Korea?

On your application, you have the option to choose where you want to teach. For example, Jeju, Ulsan, Daegu. The bigger cities and the ones closer to Seoul are the more competitive and therefore with less experience you are more likely going to be rejected and placed in your second choice. Try not to be let down if you pin all your hopes on Seoul as this is the most competitive. Second trier cities like Ulsan and Daegu are also fun!

A photo of Seoul at night

You can choose what grade you prefer to teach.

You also have the option to teach at an Elementary, Middle or Highschool. The elementary jobs are more abundant and I think more fun. At the middle and high schools, you have more freedom over your classes, so you can dictate the pace and material you teach.

The bottom line

Epik has a lot to offer, but only if you come at with an open mind to try new things.

TALK:

What is TALK?

The TALK program is a little different from EPIK. It’s like the little baby brother of EPIK. Still government-run, but lower pay, fewer responsibilities and more time to explore.

How do I become a TALK teacher?

For students who have completed 2 full years of university education and are looking to take a break from studying then, this program might before you. On a 6-12 month contract, you could be teaching English in an elementary school in the middle of the Korean countryside.

What’s it like?

With fewer responsibilities and time spent teaching in the classroom,  gives you an opportunity to travel around Korea and explore the country. I have only ever met one person who has done this but he didn’t enjoy his time. For the most part, he was fed up with his location.  If you don’t like the countryside then maybe this isn’t for you. If you want to spend a lot of time in Seoul you might be living on the busses and trains that link the cities up. It can get lonely in the evenings and weekends especially in rural places so if you’re from the big city and a gregarious person this might not be the right job for you.

Like EPIK you will have an orientation to do with all the other teachers. The training can be intensive and expect to be in class studying from 9-5 Monday to Friday. The government wants to teach you all about Korean culture so they will give you a TALK ID card which can be useful if you love exploring. It can be used to gain you free entry into most museums and cultural sites in South Korea.

How much will I get paid?

The TALK program is the lowest paid teaching job you can get in Korea so don’t expect to save much money. You probably could if you lived like a hermit but don’t do that;  live life and enjoy your time here!

You are expected to teach 15 hours a week, you still get a fully finished apartment but in a rural location.

Like EPIK you will have co-teachers, and they might or might not expect to work hard. it’s all case by case. 


Teaching English at Private Academies in Korea

a photo of multi colored  aprons in a classroom

The Hagwon business is a big deal in Korea. A great majority of Korean parents believe their children’s academic success is paramount to their future. With that in mind, crammer schools- Hagwons- sprouted up in the early 2000s and began teaching: English, maths, piano- anything and everything to please parents, and maximize student potential.

As demand grew, businesses began capitalizing. The number of these private institutions shot up. The number is bewildering. There are over 100,000 private academies littered throughout South Korea. As you can see, education is not taken lightly. It might explain why South Korean children, particularly in maths and science, are some of the brightest in the world. 

What’s it like being an English teacher at a Korean Hagwon

Any teaching job in Korea will depend on how your boss treats you. Just like pleasing your co-teacher in public schools; in Hagwons you have to suck up to the owner. Previously there was a trade-off. If you worked at a public school you would work fewer hours and get paid less. Nowadays this has changed. Hagwons and public schools pay relatively the same, but if you work in a hagwon you will be expected to work a lot more. The work and pressure can lead to some serious burnout, and that is why I would recommend teaching at a public school.

Should I work at a Hagwon?

If you want a Hagwon job, your top priority is finding a reputable school one that has good reviews

Don’t settle for low pay and long hours. Low pay would be around 2.1krw/month. Once you sign the contract you will find it a painful process trying to quit. Get someone to go through your contract and compare it to other contracts on the web. You can find these on Reddit or waygook.com. 

Generally, you will also get a fully furnished apartment, and because you’re not applying through EPIK, you can choose where you want to go.


Universities in Korea

A picture of a korean university

Trying to find a university job with no university expense is not impossible but it’s very difficult. 

Most job requirements require you to have an MA with two years. This includes English teaching experience, and a year or two teaching at a university. Your best bet is trying to make connections with other teachers working at universities throughout Korea. That way, you might be able to get personal recommendations, which go a long way.

Universities won’t hold your hand like in public schools, or sometimes in Hagwons. You will be left to your own devices. This means you should be able to set up a bank account, phone and other things you might need.  Generally, your teaching hours will be far less, and you won’t have to stay at the university to warm the desk when you have no work.

Your pay will likely be more, but in some instances, you might not be offered free accommodation. You will have a lot of freedom to teach and create what you want. 

If you’ve got the qualifications and experience try and look out for these jobs and apply. 


International Schools in Korea

If you want an International school job in Korea you will need to get a PGCE or an equivalent from your home country. The workload will be similar to what you have experienced back home minus the Ofsted reports and ridiculous testing. 

Work can be more rewarding working at an international school as you manage the progress of your students day by day. The pay is generally a lot higher than public schools and hagwons too. You might start off at upwards of 3 million krw a month. You will also receive a pension, full insurance coverage, and a huge apartment. 

The school year mirrors similarly to back home. You will start in August and end in June. 

To find these jobs you will need to look for job advertisements directly on their website. Or through the website:

Search associates


Others

Summer / Winter camp:

If you’re strapped for cash you might pick up a summer or winter camp job during the vacations. For legal reasons, you would need a visa to work at these. Generally, they re up to 4 weeks long and can pay around 3 million for the whole month of working.

Private Schools in Korea:

Private schools are for rich kids in Korea. it’s a regular school but they are privately owned. Parents pay thousands of dollars to send their children to them.

Generally, these schools are much sort after, as there are fewer schools like these around Korea. More often than not, will get the same perks as working at a public school and probably more vacation time. Sometimes up to 12 weeks a year!

What’s more, you will be working with experienced teachers, won’t have to desk warm and have a lot more freedom. When your classes finish, you can go home.

Pay is a little higher than public and all if you can find a job like this then you’ve hit the jackpot.


When To Find English Teaching jobs in Korea.

  • February – largest intake with Hagwons
  • August – more positions at Public schools
  • May- you can find a few decent jobs at reputable hagwons
  • November -decent job counts with private schools

Where to Find English Teaching Jobs in Korea

Dave’s Cafe has been going for years. It’s been tried and tested many times over and people looking for jobs teaching English in Korea.

https://www.eslcafe.com/

ESL rock is also a great place to find jobs in Korea. It’s mobile-friendly and jobs are posted every day.

https://www.eslrok.com/en/

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of looking for jobs you could always go through a recruiter who will find jobs for you.

There are many to choose from. You can go to ESL rock cafe or waygook.com and email them directly to try and find you a job.

Otherwise, you can go through Korvaia

Facebook has a whole host of groups you can join to find English jobs in Korea. Just search English teaching jobs in Korea and you will be indicated with a great selection.



Is teaching English in Korea a good idea?

Teaching English in Korea Is so much fun. Without a doubt, you will have some of the best experiences you’ve ever had. Just make sure you find a job at a reputable school, which has good reviews, decent pay and all the benefits you expect to receive.

If you come to Korea with an open mind and immerse yourself in the culture your experience will be immense.

If you like what you see, please check out some of our other reviews including:

A brief history of Hangul

A review of the best Korean instant coffee