Types of teaching jobs in South Korea
There are many different types of ESL teaching jobs in South Korea, all with varying application requirements, work schedules, benefits, and pay. Regardless of the type of English teaching job you're interested in, it is required, or at least highly recommended, that you're TEFL certified.
Read on to find the option that best fits your skill level and ideal teaching environment.
Benefits such as higher job security, furnished housing, and paid vacation makes working in a public school an ideal teaching opportunity for many first-time ESL teachers. While these positions tend to be more competitive with slightly lower pay, your application will be made stronger by having a teaching certificate like your TEFL or TESOL.
You’ll work alongside a co-teacher, coordinating classroom instruction times, and even create lesson plans. Public schools hire about six months before their start dates; the beginning of March and September. Pay starts at $1,350-$2,700 USD. The various government-sponsored programs are: SMOE, GEPIK and EPIK.
EPIK program, which stands for English Program in Korea is organized by the Korean ministry of education and places teachers in elementary and middle schools all throughout South Korea. In recent years, the other major government-sponsored programs SMOE and GEPIK merged with the EPIK program and now all share the same application.
The SMOE program, renamed to EPIK-Seoul, places teachers into public schools throughout Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. GEPIK is located in the Gyeonggi Province—the rural area surrounding Seoul.
Read more: Guide to EPIK Program: Teaching English in South Korea
In South Korea, applying to teaching programs through a recruitment company, like Korvia Consulting or The Fewer Things is encouraged to secure your placement. Once you register, they will send you information about job openings, ensure you have the proper certifications, and walk you through the application and interview process.
Most people begin teaching at universities once they've taught in South Korea for at least a year and have made contacts. However, if you have a master’s degree, you qualify for teaching at the university level. Extremely low working hours and equal pay make working at universities very appealing. You can earn between $2,050-$3,100 USD per month.
However, unlike starting work at a public or private school, at a university level job, you will need to find your own apartment. You'll also have to provide the key deposit for your apartment, a deposit on average of about $5,000 USD that'll be returned to you at the end of your lease -- a potentially huge expense for teachers who are relocating from abroad.
Private schools can be a great option if high pay, easy application process, pre-planned lesson plans, and shorter work days are a high priority for you. Private schools, called hagwons, are an excellent option for teachers looking to spend a year abroad and save as much money as possible.
Starting pay at hagwons is usually about $2,000 - $2,200 USD/month with a workweek of about 35 hours. In addition to shorter working hours, most hagwons have pre-prepared lesson plans for teachers and start later in the day, typically after 1pm.
Hagwons typically hire year-round, usually through recruiters.
Average salary and benefits
On average, an English teacher's monthly salary in South Korea is between $1,350 - $4,400 per month, which is among the highest salaries for ESL teachers in the world! The salaries typically vary by teaching institution, location, and teaching experience.
Common teacher benefits
Below are some of the benefits you can expect while teaching English in South Korea:
- Flight reimbursement
- Health insurance
- Contract renewal bonus
- Paid vacation
Read more: How Much Money Can You Save Teaching Abroad?
Cost of living in South Korea
Overall, the cost of living in South Korea is affordable, but if you live in a bigger city, the cost can get a bit more expensive. However, since most teaching jobs cover your apartment's cost and all you have to take care of is your utilities and cell-phone bill, it’s safe to say that 80% of your paycheck can be used for living or traveling expenses. The most enticing part of the deal comes when you finish your English teaching contract, as most contracts provide an extra month’s bonus upon completion. This means that the last time you get paid, you actually get paid twice!
Depending on how much you want to work and how frugal you are with your money, you can travel and save during your time teaching in South Korea.
- Food: $80 - $100 (depends on how much you eat out or spend on groceries)
- Transportation: $43.28 for a monthly public transportation pass
- Entertainment (movies, bars/clubs, etc): $68 - $80
- Housing: ~$810 one bedroom apartment in the city center
Where to teach English in South Korea
Seoul and Busan provide the most popular settings for English teachers in South Korea. With its vibrant nightlife, trendy restaurants, and stunning palaces, the capital city, Seoul, offers the most eclectic mix of options in South Korea. A quieter city bordering the Sea of Japan, Busan—home to the popular vacation spot, Haeundae beach—is a bit more low-key and provides a nice compromise between busy and relaxed.
If you’re taking this year to reflect in peace and quiet, consider Gyeongju, a small city with a big lotus pond and a rich historical heritage. No matter your taste, there is a multitude of jobs to teach in cities across South Korea. Public schools typically hire at the start of their semester, March 1st and September 1st, and accept applications six months prior. Private institutes hire year-round.
Read More: The 7 Best Cities to Teach English in South Korea
How to get a teaching job in South Korea
It is highly encouraged to find and apply for teaching jobs through a recruitment company, which you can find right here at Go Overseas! Our international teaching job board is also a great place to start finding jobs if you have your certifications and/or prior experience teaching abroad.
When to apply
Public schools typically hire at the start of their semester, March 1st and September 1st, and accept applications six months prior. Private institutes hire year-round.
The qualifications for ESL jobs in South Korea may vary depending on which institution you apply for. Below are the basic, common qualifications for becoming an English teacher in South Korea:
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
- Teaching experience and training – TEFL, TESOL, CELTA (not required, but highly recommended)
- Be a native English speaker
- Clear criminal record
Read more: What are the Requirements to Teach English Abroad?
Working Visas in Korea:
Most foreigners working at public or private schools qualify for the school-sponsored E-2 visa. The E-2 visa will permit you to teach in South Korea for a year with a single entry. For a fee, you can get your single entry status changed to multiple entries, allowing you the option to travel in and out of the country.
Once all of your documents are completed and you receive your visa confirmation number, you will need to either mail or deliver your passport to your local Korean consulate so it can be stamped with your visa. When you've been cleared, your school will help you obtain a residency permit within 90 days. To learn more about Korean visas, visit VISA HQ.
Classroom culture in South Korea
As an ESL teacher abroad, it’s essential that you take the time to research the country’s etiquette and classroom culture, as it can be vastly different from what you’re used to at home! ESL teachers should be respectful and understanding while adapting to a new classroom environment.
Here are a few important tips to know before teaching English in South Korea:
- Dress professionally and appropriately! Even if you’re working with children, it’s a good idea to dress modestly. In addition, make sure to cover up any tattoos you have.
- It's common to nod your head in a slight bow to your superiors to show respect.
- Expect a lot of questions from your students – it’s not a bad thing! Though they may seem like “personal” questions, it’s out of curiosity and respect; they just want to get to know you more!
When in your new surroundings, observe how others behave to learn about appropriate etiquette. Overall, the importance of respect will make the inevitable learning process more enjoyable. And after a few months, you'll become more accustomed to things you learned upon arrival. In the end, you will come away having learned a great deal from this beautiful country and its people!
Ready to find your dream teaching program in South Korea?
Start researching and comparing teaching programs here at Go Overseas, in the Teaching Programs in South Korea section below.
Want to read more? Get started with these articles:
- How to Get a Job Teaching English in South Korea
- What It's Like Teaching in South Korea
- The Best Opportunities to Teach Abroad in South Korea
To get hired to teach English in Korea, you will need a TEFL certificate and a 4-year college degree. You must acquire an E-2 teaching visa and be a native English speaker as well. Finally, you must have a clean national-level criminal record, and a clean health check and drug test.
In South Korea, the demand for English teachers is incredibly high, and it's possible to find work in both public and private schools, as well as universities. In a public school, you might be the only native speaker working there, and the job will be fairly stable regarding your teaching hours.
At times, it's challenging and depends on your co-teachers or boss. Get to know your kids and you'll eventually learn what they like, even if their English level is very low. There are going to be a lot of awkward moments when you're questioning whether or not the students will ever get what you're teaching.
Teaching certification -- While not all English teaching jobs in Korea require a teaching certificate, most do. A TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certificate with 100 or more course hours are all equally acceptable.
South Korea is often regarded as one of the best places to teach English abroad. English teachers in Korea enjoy relatively high salaries, great benefits, and a high quality of life, especially those who teach with EPIK.
Teach English in Korea with International TEFL Academy
A typical teach ESL Korea salary includes around $1800 to $2000 a month and the job includes benefits like free or subsidized housing, paid vacation time, free return flights, and bonuses.
Working in South Korea without a degree
It will be very difficult to find a job in South Korea without having a higher education qualification. It is necessary to have at least a bachelor with a few years of experience. However, you can try your luck with a working holiday visa (H-1).
Pros: If you choose to teach in South Korea, you'll likely be provided with free housing with furniture included. Cons: Age restrictions for teaching English overseas in South Korea begin at 65. Because this is the national retirement age, schools don't interview candidates after 65.
Under the Age of 62.
- Complete Application Form.
- Interview With Placement Coordinator.
- Collect Documents For E2 Working Visa.
- Profile Submitted to Our Schools.
- Interview with School in Korea.
- Receive a Job Offer and Contract.
- Complete the Work Visa.
Teachers are held in very high esteem in South Korea. They are generally treated with more respect than their American counterparts by their students and society and are addressed with the honorific term.
- Best for job availability: China.
- Best for job benefits: South Korea.
- Best for professional development: Japan.
- Best for teaching and traveling: Vietnam.
- Best for non-native English teachers: Thailand.
- Best for country infrastructure: Taiwan.
- Best for work-life balance: Spain.
The most recommended course is the 120 hour Master Certificate that schools in Korea deem as one of the top TEFL courses for teaching Korean students. The entire course is done online, so you are able to work around your schedule.
Do I need to have a degree to enroll in a TEFL course? For the vast majority of TEFL courses, you won't need to have your bachelor's degree to take the course. However, some countries and employers will not hire you without a degree.
Unless you have a Bachelor's or Master's in Education OR a teaching license you will need to become TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certified to qualify for the Teach in Korea program.
First-time English teachers in South Korea working in public schools through programs like EPIK typically earn monthly salaries between 1.5 to 3 million won ($1,150 - $2,650 USD). English teachers at private schools (Hagwons) earn from 1.9 to 2.4 million won ($1,600 - $2,000 USD) monthly.
Indian citizens are also eligible to teach English in Korea with proof of high English ability and a teaching license. Some private academies may hire teachers who have a high TOEFL score if you're a non-native English speaker. But you will not be eligible for the standard E2 teaching visa.
While one could technically teach English in Korea forever, it isn't something many people do for more than a few years. A lot of people who stay in Korea for more than 3-5 years tend to move up in their schools to higher positions.
*Under the CEPA agreement, Indian citizens are eligible for positions if they meet all other requirements and hold a teacher's license in English. Please inquiry with the EPIK Office at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.