The Complete Guide to the EPIK Program in South Korea
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About the EPIK Program in South Korea
EPIK (English Program in Korea) is a teaching program sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Education. The aim of EPIK is to improve the level of English of Korean students and teachers, as well as progressing the cultural exchanges between Korea and abroad.
Teachers are placed in public schools (either elementary, middle or high schools) across Korea with location ultimately determined by EPIK. Contracts are for one year with the opportunity for renewal. Requirements are strict and the application process is extensive, but with competitive salaries and added perks like free housing, paid vacation days, medical insurance and flight reimbursement, the EPIK program could be an attractive option for foreigners looking to teach in South Korea.
The EPIK requirements are strict, and you must meet ALL of the following in order to be eligible for the program:
- Native English speaker
- Bachelor’s Degree or above (in any subject)
- Clean criminal background check
- Meet the requirements for a Korean E2 visa
- Be in good mental and physical health
- Be under the age of 62
On top of these requirements, you must also have ONE of the following teaching qualifications to qualify for the EPIK program:
- Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree in Education
- Teaching license
- TEFL/TESOL or CELTA certificate
- Bachelor’s degree in any subject AND one year TaLK scholar experience
If you don’t meet these requirements, you won’t be able to apply to the EPIK program. If this is the case, don’t let this put you off teaching abroad, there are other countries that are more lenient on their requirements.
Native English Speaker
You must have citizenship from either Canada, USA, UK, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand to be eligible for the EPIK program. Canadian citizens from Quebec must have been taught at English spoken schools from junior high school up until university.
Bachelor’s Degree or Above
A Bachelor’s degree (either 3 or 4 years) or above, in any subject, is an essential requirement. If you’re in your final year at university you can still apply to EPIK, but you must submit a letter of expected graduation.
Clean Criminal Background Check
As part of the application process, you will be required to obtain an Apostille National Level Criminal Record Check (CRC). It must be completely clear with no criminal record being stated – misdemeanors and felonies will disqualify you. If you do have a criminal record you cannot apply to the EPIK program.
Korean E2 Visa
In order to teach on the EPIK program, you will need a Korean E2 visa which is granted after certain requirements are met. The E2 visa is only available to residents from Canada, USA, UK, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand. It’s linked to your employer, so you can’t job-hop or work anywhere else legally.
You can only apply for the E2 visa once your placement has been confirmed by EPIK. They will send you a Notification of Appointment (NOA) number which you will need when applying for the visa.
For a much more comprehensive insight on the visa, and links to the visa application form, read up on our Understanding the Korean E2 Visa Process for English Teachers section.
Good Mental and Physical Health
The EPIK program will only accept applicants who are in good health and have no major health problems. You’ll be required to fill out a self-medical check survey as part of the application process and complete a physical once in Korea. If you do have a clinical medical condition, you’ll need to submit a note from your doctor or physician stating that the condition won’t impact on your ability to teach in a foreign country.
Under the Age of 62
This one is pretty self explanatory – if you are over the age of 62 you will be disqualified from applying to the EPIK program.
On top of the essential requirements, you must also have a teaching qualification. If your Bachelor’s or Master’s degree is in education, then you qualify for the EPIK program. You don’t have to complete a TEFL/TESOL or CELTA course.
If your degree is in a field unrelated to education, you will need to either have a teaching licence or a TEFL/TESOL or CELTA. Both online and offline certifications are accepted, but it must be a 100-hour or more certification program. Another route in is to have a one year TaLK scholar experience on top of your degree.
Salary and Benefits
“We saved $22,000 US dollars EACH during one year of teaching in Korea… Just over $44,000 between the two of us.”
Teaching on the EPIK program in South Korea will allow you to live comfortably, with the very appealing bonus of being able to save money. The salary for the program is competitive, dependent on your qualifications and experience. Teachers will earn between 2 and 2.7 million South Korean Won (KRW) a month (between $1,800 USD and $2,400 USD). You will also receive a pay rise every year you teach on the EPIK program.
The following table is a guide to the EPIK pay scale, courtesy of Reach to Teach Recruiting:
Want to know how much the South Korean Won is worth? Check out XE’s currency converter.
There are numerous perks to teaching on the EPIK program. Not only are these benefits highly appealing, they mean that saving money while teaching in South Korea is a viable option.
Within the first month of your contract, you will receive a one-time payment of 300,000 KRW (approx $270 USD).
One of the biggest perks of the EPIK program is free furnished housing, either a leased house, apartment or studio type room. This will be kitted out with basic household goods (bed, table and chairs, a wardrobe, a gas stove, refrigerator, washing machine, microwave and TV). The size and location of your housing will vary depending on the region of Korea you’re assigned.
Utilities and maintenance fees aren’t provided for. Typically, you’re looking about 40,000 KRW a month (approx $35 USD) to cover electric and gas, depending on your usage and the time of year.
EPIK teachers receive a flight allowance of 1.3 million KRW ($1,162 USD) each way. Your entry flight allowance is given to you in your first month’s pay, and the exit flight allowance in your last month’s pay. If you find a flight that’s cheaper than your allowance, you’ll still receive the full amount!
Paid Vacation Days
On top of the weekends and national holidays, you are given 18 paid vacation days. How flexible schools are with these vacation days will vary, with some having a window where you are expected to take them.
The EPIK program will provide severance pay to all teachers who successfully complete their contract. This is equal to approximately one month’s salary. In a way, you are being paid for 13 months, yet only working 12!
EPIK teachers who choose to renew their contract after successful completion will receive a bonus of 2 million KRW ($1,800 USD). You should also get a pay rise.
The EPIK program will pay 50% of your medical insurance premiums. EPIK teachers pay the other 50%, which means you are looking at roughly 2.95% of your salary being deducted each month for medical insurance. This will allow you to receive medical attention and prescription medicine at a fraction of the cost.
EPIK Orientation and Training
Upon arrival, you’ll receive compulsory orientation and training related to living and teaching in Korea. This will take place prior to your contract start date and is unpaid. This is a great opportunity to meet fellow EPIK teachers and get your bearings.
Application Process, Timeline & Location
EPIK Application Process
The application process is extensive and you should only apply if you meet all the requirements. Any mistakes or missing documents will mean your application won’t be considered. EPIK hires in accordance to the public school calendar, with contracts starting 1st March and 1st September. The EPIK program is competitive so it is recommended to apply for the program as soon as doors open – February for the September start and August for the March start.
You can apply directly with the EPIK offices in Korea or through recruiters. The process for both is pretty similar; fill out the application, have an interview, submit all your documents, receive a contract, apply for a visa. Going through an agency, everything is checked by the recruiter first before it is sent to EPIK. Directly applying means that everything goes straight to EPIK.
EPIK states that direct applications are accepted and processed earlier than applications sent through recruiters. Recruiters, on the other hand, will likely guide you through the process. There are pros and cons to both processes, so it’s worth while researching which pathway suits you.
- Reach to Teach
- Canadian Connection
- SeoulESL (also known as ESL Consulting)
- Goldkey Education
- Korean Horizons
|Procedure||September start||March start|
|Submit an application directly to the EPIK office or recruiter working with EPIK||February – July||August – January|
|Have an interview with the EPIK office or recruiter||April – July||October – January|
|EPIK screen documents||April – July||October – January|
|Final review by Members of the EPIK Committee||April – July||October – January|
|Receive original contract and the Notice of Appointment (NOA) from EPIK by mail for visa application purposes||June – July||December – January|
|Apply for Korean E2 Visa in home country||July – August||January – February|
|Applicants book a flight||July – August||January – February|
|Applicant attends orientation (for 10 days)||Late August||Late February|
|First day at work||September 1st||March 1st|
When filling out the application form, you’re able to list one preferred Office of Education (location). EPIK locations are ultimately determined by administrators, you aren’t guaranteed your preferred location. Where they choose to place you depends on the availability of positions and the needs and requirements of each Office of Education. The timing of your application makes a difference – the earlier you send your application, the more likely you are to get your preferred choice (it’s still not guaranteed though). Applications for popular locations will close earlier when positions are filled. A list of the different cities and provinces where you can be placed are listed here on the EPIK website.
You won’t find out your location until after arriving in Korea and completing the mandatory orientation. You also won’t know which school or grade level until then either. Be prepared that it may be a level that you haven’t taught before. Just because your experience is in a high school, it won’t stop EPIK placing you in an elementary school. It’s safe to say that you will need to be pretty open-minded about where you end up to apply for EPIK.
What’s it like teaching for EPIK?
EPIK teachers are expected to work 8 hours a day, Monday to Friday, with 22 hours of actual teaching time. You will be working alongside a co-teacher (usually a Korean teacher), and your duties will range from teaching and preparing materials to extracurricular activities (like English camps). The number of students per class ranges from 10 – 40. You may be placed in one school or multiple schools, sometimes with long commutes.
Working within the public sector, there are school holidays (in the summer and winter), but EPIK teachers are expected to work these. This will involve either ‘desk warming’ (being at your desk even though there may be no students) or teaching at an English Camp. Some schools will give EPIK teachers some additional paid time-off during these holidays.
EPIK Program Reviews
When researching EPIK, we came across mixed reviews. Some teachers loved the program, highlighting how it’s a great opportunity with good perks, while others had different experiences, with tricky principals and co-teachers. It seems as though your experience will depend on many factors, such as where you’re located, the school you’re working at and what your co-teacher and principal are like. As Two Wandering Soles say, the famous words about the EPIK program are, “Everything depends!”