How to Teach English in Korea: The Ultimate Guide
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About Teaching English in Korea
If you have decided you would like to teach English in Korea, you’re in good company – Korea has now become one of the most coveted destinations in Asia and many ESL teachers choose it every year, hoping to land one of many jobs that promise a great salary and awesome benefits.
In this guide you’ll find all you need to know about teaching English in Korea, including requirements, the visa process, salary expectations and more.
What are the requirements to teach in Korea?
Korea is known for being very strict when it comes to the requirements it sets for English teachers – in order to be eligible for an E2 visa and teach legally in the country you’ll have to:
- Be a native English speaker – this means holding a passport from one of the nationally recognized English-speaking countries (USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa).
- Hold Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent – this can be in any subject and doesn’t have to be connected to English.
- Fill out a health statement and pass a health check – you’ll have to fill in a self-check prior to your move to Korea and then pass a health check once in the country, where they will check for drug use, any possible communicable diseases and other issues.
- Have a clean criminal record – Korea is extremely strict in this area and your criminal record needs to be completely clean for you to be considered for a teaching position in the country, even a misdemeanor could get in the way of you getting a job offer.
- Have a TEFL certificate (only for public schools) – while it’s always best to have a TEFL certificate in hand, this won’t be required unless you decide to apply for one of the public schools programs, such as EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE and so on.
Unfortunately, Korea is not known for making exceptions or bending the rules for candidates who don’t meet all of the necessary requirements, so, in order to avoid losing precious time and resources, make sure you fit all the required criteria before starting to look for work in the country.
You can find more information on the requirements to teach English in Korea in this guide.
What does teaching in Korea pay?
Korea is famous for being one of the best-paying countries in Asia and that, coupled with the fact that most schools offer great additional benefits, has put this nation on top of the list of many ESL educators looking to teach abroad.
The average salary for an English teacher in Korea is $1900 USD, but, with the right qualifications, this figure could go all the way to $2700 USD and possibly even more, giving the opportunity to most people to not only live comfortably during their stay but even save a good chunk of money at the end of every year.
We’ve got a detailed breakdown of teaching salaries in Korea here.
What is the visa process for teachers in Korea?
In order to cross the Korean border and teach in the country, you’ll have to have an E2 visa. This visa is specifically for those who want to teach English and it has a specific set of requirements you need to meet in order to get it.
Now, be prepared, because the whole process takes an average of 2-4 months to complete so it’s best to know in advance what the process looks like in order to get a head start.
Here are the steps in a nutshell:
- Step 1: put together all the necessary documents you’ll have to send to your school, including your degree and certificates, which need to be notarized and apostilled, transcripts of your degree, criminal background check and your health statement.
- Step 2: wait to receive your visa confirmation number from your school
- Step 3: fill out the E2 application form and book an appointment at your local Korean embassy or consulate.
- Step 4: book your trip to Korea
- Step 5: perform a health check once in the country.
If you would like more information, we’ve covered each individual step in more detail in this article.
What’s it like teaching in Korea?
What your job and schedule in Korea will look like will mostly depend on the type of school you’ll work at, which could be one of the following:
- Public school
- International school
Private schools, also known as hagwons, are everywhere in Korea and they seem to be on a never-ending search for ESL teachers. They often act as kindergartens in the morning and then welcome older students in the afternoon and evening. They represent a great choice even for less experienced teachers and they hire all year round.
Teaching hours at hagwons can vary but teachers are often asked to work around 30 hours a week, however, class sizes tend to be fairly small (typically less than 15 students per class). When working at a hagwon, teachers are usually entitled to 7-10 days vacation in addition to 13-15 national holidays a year.
If you wish to teach at a Korean public school, you’ll need to apply to be part of one of the public school programs (EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE and so on). When it comes to hiring ESL teachers, public schools are a bit more selective than hagwons while also being more standardized both in terms of requirements as well as salary.
ESL teachers at public schools are expected to teach 22-24 hours a week, from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm and classes in public schools are notoriously bigger (we’re talking 20-30 students per class).
As far as holidays are concerned, the situation looks a little brighter than in hagwons as you can expect 18 days vacation, plus the usual 13-15 national holidays.
Probably the best teaching position you can aim for in Korea would be at a university. While the requirements are often stricter for applicants, teachers are held to a very high standard. Teaching at a Korean college will get you a great paycheck, great benefits, and an awesome work environment.
As an ESL University teacher in Korea, your workload will be fairly light, with only 14 teaching hours a week, with one or two days off and, most importantly, a full 4 months of paid vacation.
More qualified teachers can aim to teach at an International school where both the environment and the curriculum will look a lot like they would back at home.
The schedule resembles the classic schedule (morning and afternoon) but the school will expect you to do some admin work as well.
Here’s a good thread you can check out if you’d like to read about the experience of someone working at an international school in Korea.
Regardless of the type of school you choose to work for in Korea, you’re likely to be offered great benefits that typically include airfare, free housing (or a housing allowance) and a severance package when completing your contract, usually corresponding to one month extra pay.
How do you get a job?
If you thought all you needed to do in order to find a teaching job in Korea was hop on a flight to Seoul and knock on a couple of doors, you might have to rethink your plan. The E2 visa application process is quite lengthy and it requires several steps that are more easily taken care of while in your home country (such as getting your documents apostilled or getting a background check), so the best thing you can do is start putting together all the paperwork you’re going to need even before you start looking for a job.
Once you’ve gotten started, you can start scouting the Internet for teaching jobs in Korea, which, rest assured, won’t be hard to come across.
Here’s a great video that gives you a little peek into the day-to-day of an English teacher in Seoul.
Resources & FAQs about Teaching in Korea
Can you teach without a degree?
No, the Korean government requires all applicants to possess a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent to be able to apply for a teaching job.
Do you have to be a native speaker?
Yes, being a native speaker is a minimum requirement to get an E2 visa and unfortunately no exceptions are made.
Do you need a TEFL?
Generally, a TEFL certificate is not required to teach English in Korea, however, if you wish to take part in one of the public school programs, a TEFL becomes a necessary requirement.