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Teach English in South Korea

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Teach English In Korea

Why Teach English in South Korea?

South Korea is one of the largest ESL job markets. A modern, high-tech economy combined with breathtaking palaces and landscapes, South Korea is an ideal choice for TEFL Certified teachers.

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Teach, Travel and Experience Korea

Contents

Teach English in South Korea: Fact Sheet

Header ColumnData Column
Education RequirementsBachelor Degree
TEFL CertificationRequired
Citizenship RequirementsUSA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa
Typical Contract Length12 months
Peak Hiring SeasonsFebruary, August
Hiring ProcessOnline audio/video interviews
Visa RequirementsE2 Visa
Typical StudentsChildren, Business Professionals
Average Monthly Salary$1,600 - $2,100
Average Monthly Cost of Living$600 - $1,000
Types of JobsPublic Schools, Private Schools/Hagwons, Universities, International Schools
Teaching Hours Per Week30 - 35 hours
Other BenefitsHousing, Flight Reimbursement, Contract Completion Bonus

Top 5 Reasons to Teach English in South Korea

1. South Korea is a Modern and Innovative Economy

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South Korea is the world’s 12th largest economy and one of the most advanced, modernized countries in the world. Its path to development has been remarkable, and its influence on Asia and the world has been nothing short of impressive. Today, names like Samsung and LG are no strangers to people around the world, attesting to this country’s drive to establish itself as a leader in innovation.

Living in Korea as an ESL teacher means you get the benefit of experiencing life in one of the world’s most modern countries, with access to incredible infrastructure like high speed trains to travel between cities, the award-winning Incheon airport, urban transit systems in Seoul and Busan that connect you to almost anywhere in the city, and some of the best shopping experiences, both above and below ground!

2. English Language Education is a High Priority for South Koreans

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South Korea has been a popular destination to teach English since before the millennium. ESL teachers have been drawn to the country not only for the modern lifestyle that it offers, but the opportunity to earn and save. The Korean government has been proactive in creating an English language program known as EPIK, enabling Korean students to learn English with native English teachers at their public schools. An entire industry of private schools also exists in Korea, too. Due to the high priority the government and families have placed on English language education, a high demand exists for ESL teachers in the country. Be prepared to work hard. Teachers with a good work ethic are rewarded with the potential to earn a very respectable income and standard of living.

3. South Korea is One of the Best Destinations for ESL Teachers to Earn and Save

Dadaepo Beach Korea.jpg

ESL teachers in Korea typically earn between $1,600 and $2,100, and often more. Don’t be dismayed by what appears to be a low salary range, though. Foreign teachers working in Korea are typically provided with a furnished single person apartment and paid airfare for the duration of their contract. That’s not all, either. Foreign teachers typically receive a bonus of one month’s salary at the completion of the contract. As well, the school you work for is legally required to cover 50% of your medical plan, and your contribution is about 1.5% – 2.5% of your salary. If you teach more than 120 hours per month, you will usually receive overtime pay. All of these benefits, coupled with Korea’s low tax rate, enable foreign teachers to save a substantial amount of their incomes.

4. South Korean is a Haven for Foodies

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If you’re an adventurous foodie, you will absolutely love the endless food options and opportunities in Korea. Similar to neighboring countries, rice form the backbone of every Korean meal, though noodles can occasionally replace rice in the meal. One distinction with Korean cuisine is the inclusion of pickled, salted, or fermented side dishes, and the element of spice. Korean cuisine is savory, flavorful, and often spicy. Korea is a peninsula, so seafood is very common in Korean cuisine. More recently, meat has become a popular part of the meal.

And while you might be familiar with popularized Korean dishes like bulgogi, bibimbap, and kimchi, in Korea, your culinary curiosity is going to be tested with local favorites such as Beondegi, a street food made with silkworm pupae. 

5. South Korea Has a Rich History and Culture

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Koreans are a proud people with a colorful culture and history. It is one of the oldest continuous cultures in the world, yet much of its cultural narrative has been influenced by more recent events such as World War II, and the split between North and South Korea. Though South Korea is a modern, developed country, you will find palaces, temples, tombs, and gardens blending in with skyscrapers and buildings, large, bright screens and lights, and beautiful coastlines and beaches.

Korea also shares some traditional similarities with China. Much of Korean traditions and customs are founded on shamanism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Climate also influences Korean culture. Much of the Korean peninsula is characterized by extremely cold winters and hot summers, and this impacts Korean traditions.

Requirements to Teach English in South Korea

Recommended TEFL Certification to Teach English in South Korea

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Bridge Education Group

120 Hour Online TEFL Certification
Accredited by ACCET U.S.A.

The TEFL Academy

168 Hour Level 5 Online TEFL Certification
Accredited by Qualifi UK and DEAC U.S.A.

Opportunities to Teach English in South Korea

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South Korea is one of the most popular countries to teach English abroad, and has been since the 1990s. ESL teachers earn good incomes and benefits, opportunities are vast, taxes are low, and teachers can save a substantial amount of money. South Korea is the second largest ESL job market, after China. Opportunities to teach English in South Korea exist in:

  • Private Schools / Hagwons
  • Public Schools
  • Universities
  • International Schools

Public Schools

Due to South Korea’s popularity as a destination to teach English, competition is high for public school positions. The Korean Ministry of Education has established a program known as English Program in Korea (EPIK), which is intended to improve the level of English of both Korean students and teachers, and to foster cultural exchanges between Korea and the world. Another program established by the Korean government is known as Teach and Learn in Korea (TaLK), which is intended to provide a scholarship opportunity for undergraduate students who want to teach English in Korea, and support English language education in Korea’s public education system in rural areas of the country.

EPIK Program

To apply for a public school teaching position through the EPIK program, you must meet strict requirements, and the application process will require time and effort on your part. However, the salaries offered through the EPIK program are attractive. In addition to higher salaries, foreign teachers hired through the EPIK program can expect to receive excellent benefits such as paid housing, paid vacation days, medical insurance, and flight reimbursement.

Teachers employed through the EPIK program will be contracted to perform 22 teaching hours per week. Teaching hours vary between 40, 45, and 50 hours per lesson, depending on the school level. Because this is a full-time position, teachers must be present at the school during normal school hours (typically weekdays 8:30am – 4:30pm, or 9am to 5pm).

To be eligible under the EPIK program, you must meet ALL of the following requirements:

  • Be a citizen of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Unites States, or South Africa
  • Hold at least a bachelor degree from an accredited university from one of the above countries
  • Clear criminal record in country of citizenship
  • Be mentally and physically healthy (medical check)
  • Have a good command of the English language
  • Be under the age of 62

Additionally, you must satisfy ONE of the following requirements:

  • Minimum 100-hour TEFL Certification
  • Bachelor or Master degree in Education or TESOL
  • Teaching license
  • Bachelor degree and one year of TaLK program experience

Note:

  • If you are from Québec or South Africa, you will need to prove that your education from Grade 7 through to university was conducted in English. Letters of proof from your schools must be submitted with your application
  • Indian citizens can also apply to the EPIK program if they hold a teaching license in English and meet the other requirements

If your application is successful and you are offered a position, you will be placed in an elementary, middle, or high school in Korea.

TaLK Program

The TaLK program is designed to hire native English speakers to teach in Korea’s public schools located in rural areas and improve the English proficiency of students living in these areas. It is targeted towards current undergraduate students who want to take a gap year and gain both teaching experience as well as a cultural exchange.

Similar to teachers in the EPIK program, TaLK program teachers will receive benefits such as provided furnished housing, medical insurance, and flight reimbursement. Additional benefits include a settlement allowance of 300,000 KRW (approximately $250), and 7 paid leave days per semester.

One distinct feature of the TaLK program is that candidates are not required hold a university degree, though they are required to have completed at least two years of university education.

The salary is lower than what is on offer via the EPIK program. However, foreign teachers employed via the TaLK program teach an average of 3 hours per day, or 15 hours per week, whereas EPIK program teachers will work full-time hours.

To apply for a public school teaching position through the TaLK program, you must meet ALL of these requirements:

  • Be a citizen of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Unites States, or South Africa
  • Have completed an equivalent of no less than two full-time years of undergraduate education
  • Clear criminal record in country of citizenship
  • Be mentally and physically healthy (medical check)
  • Have a good command of the English language
If your application is successful and you are offered a position, you will be placed in one of Korea’s primary schools in a rural location, to teach mainly in after-school English lessons.

Private Schools/Hagwons

Private schools in Korea are known as hagwons. Hagwons have similar requirements as public school positions in Korea, but getting hired into a Hagwon is a much more straightforward process. Here are the requirements:

  • Be a citizen of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Unites States, or South Africa
  • Hold at least a bachelor degree from an accredited university
  • Clear criminal record in country of citizenship
  • Be mentally and physically healthy (medical check)
Although a TEFL certification is not required to teach in a Hagwon, the employer may still require you to have one. It is recommended to complete at least a 100-hour TEFL certification to legitimize your English teaching qualification and open up your opportunities to teach English in Korea or elsewhere.

Work hours at hagwons vary from one school to the next, but typically will be in the range of 30 hours per week, plus 1 to 1.5 hours per week for lesson planning. Most hagwons offer lessons after school for children, and in the morning and evenings for Business English and adult classes. This means hagwon teachers can expect to work during mornings and evenings, and sometimes have split shifts on weekdays. While split shifts might seem like significant downtime during the middle of the day, some teachers prefer this split so they can use their day time hours for personal time. Some hagwons also offer classes on weekends, and teachers may be required to work during weekends, which are usually paid at an overtime rate. Teachers working at hagwons can expect to have their schedules changed frequently at short notice.

Paid vacation days also very between hagwons, but the usual number of paid vacation days is 10 per year.

Because hagwons are operated by private owners, it is important to check your contract carefully, and confirm all details of employment, salary, and benefits, including paid vacation days and public holidays.

Universities

University teaching opportunities for foreign teachers can be attractive in terms both in terms of pay and benefits, but they are not easy to obtain. To be hired into a Korean university, you will need to have higher academic qualifications and relevant teaching experience.

University teaching positions are attractive for several reasons:

  • Higher salaries
  • Fewer contract teaching hours (3 – 5 days per week, with 15 – 20 teaching hours per week)
  • Paid furnished housing or housing allowance
  • Long paid vacations during semester breaks (often 4 – 5 months, or well-paid summer camps)
  • Opportunities for overtime work
  • Medical Insurance

In addition to relatively high salaries, university teachers receive paid furnished accommodations, or a housing allowance that can range between 300,000 – 600,000 KRW (~$250 – $500). As well, university teachers can earn a lot of extra income with overtime teaching. Other benefits such as paid or reimbursed flights may also be included.

To be considered for university teaching positions as a foreign ESL teacher, you will typical need to meet the following requirements:

  • Be a citizen of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Unites States, or South Africa
  • Hold at least a master degree with a relevant major for the subject to be taught
  • Teaching experience in a university or college
  • Clear criminal record in country of citizenship
  • Be mentally and physically healthy (medical check)

International Schools

Legitimate international schools in South Korea will almost always consider applications from licensed teachers. Teachers may also be required to hold a TEFL certification. Anyone considering a teaching position at an international school should first verify that it is a legitimate international school. Some schools add international to their names, though they are not legitimate international schools.

International schools typically have the following requirements for employing foreign teachers:

  • Be a citizen of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Unites States, or South Africa
  • Hold a bachelor degree or higher in any subject
  • Hold a teaching license in country of citizenship
  • Clear criminal record in country of citizenship
  • Be mentally and physically healthy (medical check)

Typical Salaries to Teach English in South Korea

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Salaries for English teachers in South Korea typically range between $1,600 – $2,100 per month, but can go higher based on a number of factors such as the type of school you work for, your qualifications, experience, years of service, and jurisdiction of the school.

Public Schools

EPIK Program

If you are employed in a public school through the EPIK Program, your salary will be determined by the city or province you work in, as well as by your teaching qualifications and experience.

LevelMonthly Salary (million KRW)Monthly Salary (USD)
1+2.5 - 2.7~$2,000 - $2,200
12.3 - 2.5~$1,800 - $2,000
2+2.1 - 2.3~$1,700 - $1,900
22.0 - 2.2~$1,600 - $1,800

There are four levels of qualifications for the EPIK program that are applied in each jurisdiction, and that will affect the teacher’s pay:

Level 1+

After 2 consecutive years as Level 1 with the renewing province

Level 1

2 years of full-time teaching experience + one of the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Education / major in Teaching, TESOL, Second Language Studies, or Education
  • Master’s degree in Education / major in Teaching, TESOL, Second Language Studies, or Education
  • Teacher’s license
  • TEFL/TESOL or CELTA certificate

OR

After 1 year as a Level 2+ with the renewing province

Level 2+

1 year of full-time teaching experience + one of the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Education / major in Teaching, TESOL, Second Language Studies, or Education
  • Teacher’s license
  • TEFL/TESOL or CELTA certificate

OR

  • Master’s degree in any discipline with a Bachelor’s degree in Education / major in Teaching, TESOL, Second Language Studies, or Education

OR

  • Master’s degree in Education / major in Teaching, TESOL, Second Language Studies, or Education with a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline

OR

 

After 1 year as a Level 2 with the renewing province

1 year of full-time teaching experience + one of the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Education / major in Teaching, TESOL, Second Language Studies, or Education
  • Teacher’s license
  • TEFL/TESOL or CELTA certificate

OR

  • Master’s degree in any discipline with a Bachelor’s degree in Education / major in Teaching, TESOL, Second Language Studies, or Education

OR

  • Master’s degree in Education / major in Teaching, TESOL, Second Language Studies, or Education with a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline

OR

  • After 1 year as a Level 2 with the renewing province

Level 2

  • Bachelor’s degree in Education / major in Teaching, TESOL, Second Language Studies, or Education

OR

  • Bachelor’s degree in any discipline + TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate

OR

  • Bachelor’s degree in any discipline + Teacher’s License

OR

  • Bachelor’s degree in any discipline + 1 year TaLK scholar experience
Source: EPIK

TaLK Program

The pay for TaLK program teachers is much more straightforward. Teachers are provided the following:

  • Monthly stipend of 1.5 million KRW (~$1,200)
  • Settlement allowance of 300,000 KRW (~$250)
Private Schools/Hagwons

ESL teachers working in hagwons are required to work more hours than teachers placed in public schools. However, the pay at hagwons is generally higher, too. Depending on your qualifications, experience, and the hagwon you work for, you can expect to receive a salary between 2.0 – 3.0 million KRW (~$1,600 – $2,400).

Universities

University teaching positions typically come with salaries ranging between 2.0 – 3.5 million KRW (~$1,600 – $2,800). The number of required teaching hours at universities are much lower, and teachers can enjoy longer holidays during semester breaks. Because of this, there are often opportunities to earn more through overtime teaching both during the semester as well as during breaks.

International Schools

International schools in Korea offer salaries ranging between 2.0 – 3.0 million KRW (~$1,600 – $2,400). While not as attractive as university salaries, the single most benefit of teaching at an international school is the work environment. International schools will typically have state of the art facilities, international students, and the opportunity to access and socialize with the expat business community in Korea.

How Much Can You Save as an ESL Teacher in South Korea?

The glory days of South Korea were in the early part of the millennium, when teachers were able to save as much as $20,000 per year. The cost of living in South Korea has gone up along with its rapid development. Currently, it is still possible to save as much as $800 – $1,000 per month on a teacher’s salary, with some frugality.

Other Benefits

Housing

Most schools in South Korea will offer their teachers a single furnished apartment, though some will offer a housing allowance. If you are planning to teach in South Korea as a couple, this can potentially add to your savings, if you are able to negotiate a housing allowance for one of you.

Airfare

ESL teachers working in South Korea can expect to have at least one leg of their airfare prepaid or reimbursed. Every school will have its own policy, so it is important to have the terms of airfare reimbursement clarified before signing the contract.

Bonus / Severance Pay

ESL teachers employed in schools in Korea can expect to receive a severance pay equivalent to one month’s salary. The severance pay is mandated by Korean law, and is usually paid upon completion of the contract, with your final paycheck.

Popular Cities to Teach English in South Korea

South Korea is a developed country boasting modern cities and high tech industries. But it is also home to rice paddies, farmland, mountainous areas, and the sea. Due to its vast, highly educated population, Korea offers ESL teachers an abundance of job opportunities in cities and provinces throughout the country. Here are the most popular:

Teach English in Seoul

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Seoul is the capital of South Korea and arguably the most popular place for ESL teachers to live and work in the country. It is a cosmopolitan hub with the hustle and bustle you can expect from a city of nearly 10 million people. Seoul has everything from nightlife, concerts, shopping centers, and cafés. Experience Itaewon, a favorite among foreigners, or the stylish cafés and clubs in Gangnam. Take a stroll through Seoul’s university area, Hongdae. Or take a step outside of the metropolis and catch some breathtaking views in Seoul’s mountains.

Teach English in Incheon

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Incheon is the travel hub of Korea. Located between Seoul and the Incheon International Airport, one can travel easily by bus to any destination in Korea, or by subway to Seoul. Because of its proximity to the country’s largest airport, traveling abroad is convenient. You can travel to nearby countries like China or Japan, and enjoy a weekend break away from Korea. Incheon has a population just under 3 million, and is thus not as congested as Seoul, but still boasts all the modernity one would come to expect in a developed city, so if you land a job in Incheon, you can enjoy the quieter lifestyle while still being within reach of Seoul.

Teach English in Daegu

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Daegu is a popular city in the southeastern part of Korea. With a population just under 2.4 million, Daegu is a quaint city that anyone who visits comes to love. It’s not the cosmopolitan city that Seoul is, but it nonetheless has the vibe a city should have. Here you’ll find everything from nightlife, bars, restaurants, cafés, and parks. One of the perks of living in Daegu is that you can quickly get to Busan, and enjoy Korea’s beaches like Haeundae Beach.

Teach English in Daejeon

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Daejeon is one of Korea’s gems. It’s the country’s technology hub, often referred to as Asia’s Silicon Valley. You’ll find museums dedicated to science and technology in this small city of 1.5 million people, but you’ll also find a rich local culture, mountainous views, parks, and temples. Daejeon has its own blend of nightlife, markets, and culture. Plus, you can travel in and out of Daejeon at lightning speed on Korea’s bullet train.

Teach English in Busan

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Busan is located in the southeastern point of the Korean peninsula. With a population of nearly 3.5 million people, Busan is Korea’s second largest city, and is characterized by a coastline, mountains, and rivers. Living here means you can enjoy the beaches and natural wonders the city has to offer. If you’re the outdoor type, you will appreciate the opportunity to go hiking and take in the views. The city is also famous for its hot springs, which you will have no difficulty finding.

One of the most desirable aspects about living and working in Busan is that it’s not as cold in the winters or as hot in the summers as Seoul. The climate is temperate here, so if you prefer less extreme weather conditions, Busan might be for you.

Busan is definitely one of Korea’s most famous tourism destinations, and one of the largest ports in the world.

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