English ESL/EFL teaching in South Korea

English ESL/EFL teaching in South Korea

If you dream of traveling around the world and making money to indulge yourself, think of South Korea. There are so many opportunities not only to realize a professional potential, but also to become an intrepid tourist. This place will amuse you with its outstanding landscapes, delicious cuisine, and friendly environment. It's a wonderful blend of ancient history and modern skyscrapers. Moreover, the population is interested in learning English, so it won't be a problem to get a well-paid job. The country seems to be one of the most powerful and advanced in terms of technology and medicine. It is likely to live the best life living here and making $1,300-3,100 teaching children or adults. Are you intrigued? Keep reading this article, and we are going to share the most important things you must know to live and teach in Korea.

Requirements for English teaching in South Korea

In comparison with other countries such as China, Japan, and Thailand, South Korea has similar requirements for ESL teachers. Obviously, some factors are flexible and depend on a type of institution. However, a list of typical neccessary things to follow is a must-have to get a visa and work permit. Whether you are going to teach in class or online, employers prefer candidates with either a higher or a college education. It has something to do with obtaining a work visa. It also comes with no surprise that most schools prefer native teachers rather than non-native speakers. However, it's not the end of the world if you aren't from an English-speaking country. We will share some secrets about it later.

Such significant check-ups like criminal record and health couldn't be skipped, so we sort them to a must-have category. As long as South Korea is an attractive place for ESL teachers to put money by, it's a cut-throat competition. You may try to get a job without TEFL or TESOL certification, but it won't help you to make a fortune.

Let's have a look at all important requirements:

  • bachelor's degree (required);
  • TEFL certification (preferred);
  • citizenship from an English-speaking country (preferred);
  • previous experience (preferred, but not required);
  • clean criminal background check (neccessary);
  • English proficiency certificate (if you are a non-native);
  • visa & work permit (neccessary);
  • local health check (neccessary).

    Course for English teachers

Teaching English by a non-native teacher

Fortunately, such a request as being from an English-speaking country is just a desire of some employers. Obviously, most people think that native speakers know English better than anyone else. Does it make any sense? Technically, it goes without saying that a native speaker is better at some details in terms of English jokes, slang, and accent, however it doesn't mean that they are better in terms of teaching. When it comes to sharing knowledge and explaining Past Perfect Continuous, the winner is that, who can explain complicated things wih simple words.

You can't be a good teacher just because of nationality. It's good for you that not all people believe that native speakers are the best teachers in the world. In order to prove your high level of the language and teaching comprehension you should provide some international certificates such as IELTS, TOEFL, CAE, CPE. Be confident and make a good first impression on an interviewer.

Teaching ESL without a degree

If you wonder how to start a teaching career in South Korea without a diploma, you should know that it's impossible. Firstly, it's illegal. And secondly, it has something to do with getting a work visa. You can't teach with a tourist visa or something like that, so you need the special, which called the E-2 teaching visa. So, the visa regulations include having a bachelor's degree. There is no another way.

Be careful, if some agencies or potential employes convince you in the opposite. Such suggestions seem a red flag. Be aware that the immigration law in South Korea is very strict. Working under the table isn't a good way to stay in this country, so we don't recommend considering it.

Teaching English with no experience

If non-degree holders don't have a chance to work in South Korea, the news for inexperienced tutors are better. When it comes to landing a job, teaching background isn't a neccessity. There are so many institutions, which turn up every year, so they are always in need of staff. You can easily replace such a prefered request with a lot of other things.

How to compensate a lack of practice:

  • 120-hour TEFL course;
  • relevant experience at school or college;
  • awareness of Korean culture;
  • enthusiasm, positive thinking, and confidence;
  • C2 level of English;
  • teaching lisence;
  • impressive accomplishments.

Average salary and benefits for teaching English in South Korea

Working in Korea you may expect to earn a decent amount of money each month. However, the sum you will have at the end of the month, depends on many factors. South Korea is so attractive because it offers well-paid terms. An ESL teacher can make $1,300-3,100 every month. It is difficult to predict the amount of money for each institution, because it changes depending on different things. It's clear that the higher salary, the more requirements you must fit. For example, working in a public school EFL teacher earn $1,200-2,000 a month, whereas Korean private institutes offer about $2,000.

Korean money

It's also important to understand the reason of making money. It will help to save some dough at the end of the month. Fortunately, employers from South Korea are quite generous and provide a lot of essentials to newcomers and foreign teachers.

You may expect to get:

  • flight reimbursement;
  • accommodation;
  • bonus for a contract completion.

If you think of it, there isn't much left to pay for. So there are plenty of ways how you can use your money here. If you think of lucrative terms to ESL teachers, we have prepared the list of the most well-paid countries. Check it out.

How to spend money in South Korea?

As long as your employer pays for your apartment and flight tickets, you have to take care of only essentials like utilities and food. When it comes to the cost of living, it is believed that Korea is quite affordable, however you just need to know some secrets. You will be short of money in a couple of weeks of eating in international restaraunts, so immerse yourself in the culture and go shopping and eat like a Korean.

There are some essential monthly expenses:

  • mobile tariff and Internet $23;
  • utilities $145;
  • transportation with a monthly pass $50;
  • food $150-200.

Usually people put money by teaching English in South Korea to do such things:

  • pay off students loans;
  • save money;
  • travel to nearby places such as China, Japan, North Korea;
  • sponsor a friend or a family member to come visit.

But before you start dreaming of spending a salary, let's figure out where you may teach and what you should expect.

Types of teaching jobs in South Korea

The population of South Korea is into learning English, so there is a constant scarcity of professional ESL teachers. Working at a public school obliges you to be a native speaker with some duties relate to paperwork. There is a low payment in comparison with private language schools, or «hagwons» (Korean name). Teaching English in a «hagwon» you will be busy with a full schedule working about 30-35 hours a week. But the payment will live up to your expectations. Parents are so anxious about attendance and progress of their children, that is why private institutions are the most well-paid workplaces.

Korean students

Needless to say that Business English is quite popular in Korea. There are many whire collars, who are interested in learning English to expand professional horizonы and speak with international partners. Definetely, you must be good at teaching Business communication. But it allows to improve critical thinking of your students and talk about everything. Let's find out the requirements and terms for each institution in South Korea.

Private schools

Most teachers opt for working in «hagwons» because of some important reasons. The salary is much higher, working about 30-35 hours a week you can make about $2,000-2,200 for the same time. That's why a lot of people come here to make some dough and pay off loans. Working hours are different as well, you start and finish a bit later in comparison with public school. Another good news, especially for newcomers, most «hagwons» provide lesson plans and neccessary teaching materials, so you won't have to spend much time on it. However, some creative and experienced teachers love searching authentic materials and making lessons.

The list of typical requirements of private schools isn't long, it includes a bachelor's degree, the high level of the language, and TEFL certification. In this case, the last point may make up for the lack of teaching experience. That's why 120 hours of studying is a minimum.

Public Schools

If you got used to typical 9-to-5 working days, job at public school is for you. You won't be exhausted, because you won't have to work more than 22 hours a week. It fits you if you love teaching young learners. As usual, there are about 30 kids in a class, but don't be afraid, a Korean co-teacher will be with you to support and help. When it comes to benefits, you may expect to have subsidised appartment, national insurance, national holiday leave, 18 days of paid vacation. You may spend this time traveling around.

It's better to know some etiquette rules in advance in order to avoid embarassing situations. Keep in mind that a bow with a head is a good way to show your respect. Try to make a good lasting impression with modest clothes and hairstyle.


If you are fond of working with adults, probably you should start your path in Korea with universities. It's not so easy to land such a job, because it takes a master's degree, TEFL or CELTA courses, and 2 years of experience. However, if you are qualified enough, you won't be dissapointed. You will have to work less than 18 hours a week having paid holidays and days of vacation, and other benefits. However, if you want to work at university, you will have to find your own appartment, so it won't be sponsored by the institution. Also, a neccessary deposit is about $5,000, which will be returned at the end of the lease period, but it's a lot of money, especially at the begining. 

Recruitment Companies

Job searching gets exgausting and boring process in a couple of hours of staring at the screen. It's important to keep in mind so many things such as requirements you fit, preferences, work conditions, and contract terms. It will become worse, when you have to apply for the E-2 teaching visa. So in order not to go crazy, leave it to experts. There are so many companies you can trust your future career. They will find appropriate workplaces depending on your experience, credentials, and desires. It's not free, but it's worth your saved nerves. 

We have sorted out some trustworthy recruiting agencies:

  • Adventure Teaching;
  • Canadian Connection;
  • Chung Dahm;
  • The EPIK (English Programme in Korea);
  • Go abroad;
  • CIEE;
  • TravelBud;
  • GeoVisions;
  • TeachAway;
  • Flying Cows is a UK-based recruitment company;
  • Gyeonggi English Programme in Korea (GEPIK);
  • Gone2Korea;
  • TEFL Job Korea;
  • Online Advisor.

Be careful with unfamiliar agencies, there are a lot of scammers, which may promise you everything in order to get your money. Check the reviews and program description on a website. Also, a top-notch support speaks volumes.

Government-sponsored programs

Korean government really cares about literacy and education rate of the population. It is ready to attract foreign professionals in order to improve language skills of youth. It's not the same as volunteering, because you will get paid and required. It's a good chance to get international practice for rookies. There are many reviews on such programs, this fact proves its good system. However, when it comes to preferences, you can't choose a city or a place to work. Depending on your skills and experience you will be sent to a place, where you will come in handy. Despite the difference of programs names, all of them work as the one.

  • SMOE (English Teaching Program in Seoul) is looking for ESL tutors to teach young learners and teenagers in elementary and middle schools. There are such duties as making lesson plans, preparing materials, assessment, playing games, making reports. You will work with co-teacher, a Korean native speaker, who will help you to manage a class. Now the program renamed and called EPIK-Seoul.
  • GEPIK (Gyeonggi English Program in Korea) has been employing more than 1,100 ESL teachers from such countries as the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA, South Africa. The main idea is to improve education system and English level of students.
  • EPIK (English Program in Korea) is organized by the Education department of South Korea in order to improve English level of the population and employ foreign ESL teachers. Both of previous programs are incuded in EPIK now. So, there is the only application. Depending on your hard and soft skills you will be sent to a certain part of South Korea to teach underprivileged children or teenagers.

As usual, they hire staff from March to September, and offer $1,300-2,700 a month. That's important to know that you may be sent to a rural area as well, there is no way to choose a place to work.

There are some requirements to qualify government-sponsored programs:

  • Candidates must be from one of the 7 English-speaking countries such as, USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa.
  • Applicants must be degree-holders and TEFL certified.
  • It's neccessary to prove mental and physical health and clean criminal record.

Teaching English Online in South Korea

Teaching online lets save time on commuting and work from everywhere. There aren't so many duties in comparison with public or private schools. You may set convenient working hours to have a flexible schedule. And finally, it's possible to choose a category of students you like to work with. As you see, the list of advantages of online teaching can be endless. You should try it if you aren't ready to work at a small stuffy office. There are some platforms to teach Korean students online.

  General information Wage/Salary Working hours Requirements
Skybel It focuses on IELTS preparation. $20 an hour. Evenings are prefered. TEFL certificate, a degree, experience of passing IELTS.
Preply Most students are adolescents. $20-25 an hour. There is no minimum of working hours. A bachelor's degree, completed 120-hour TEFL course, Proficiency level of English, 2 years of teaching experience
Bla Bla In order to apply you need to shoot a video answering a question about teaching English. You set your own price. Flexible schedule. High school diploma, TEFL certification.
Global IT Teaching adults. $14 an hour. Any time. A degree, 2 years of teaching experience, TEFL qualification.

In order to start a career in online teaching you need:

  • a powerful laptop;
  • stable Internet connection;
  • headphones and microphone;
  • a quiet place to work from.

How to find ESL/EFL jobs in South Korea?

There are many ways to find a proper teaching job in South Korea. Fortunately, it's not neccessary to go to nowhere and search a job on the spot. Everything you need is already online. You may search advertisements or turn to recruiters to get help. After reading this article you know what to pay attention to. And you should make a list of your priorities and preferences before making an important decision.

Cityscape of Busan

Let's recall what you need to keep in mind:

  • requirements;
  • contract terms;
  • salary, benefits, and duties;
  • students' age and goals;
  • startup costs.

Don't forget to pay attention to your CV and resume. Even if you can't boast about many years of experience or impressive professional accomplishments, you still can improve your profile to make a good impression before an interview. Check out our article to find trustworthy companies and websites to land a job in South Korea and whole Asia.


South Korea is a wonderful place to settle down for a while and make a fortune. Also, there are many professional opportunities to teach English and pursue a career. It's a welcoming place even for newcomers. However, as long as Korea is such an affordable and generous workplace, it is also a cut-throat competition. So, if you are a beginner, it's not the end of the world, and it's quite possible to get international practice here, but it has nothing to do with high salary. Probably, you've noticed that almost all companies from our article mention that having TEFL certification is important. Even if you see it as preferred rather than requested, keep in mind that it may tremendously increase your chances to be hired.

TEFL certification replaces a lack of practice and even education for most employers. The thing is that 120-hour TEFL/TESOL course provides useful information about teaching and allows to practice new knowledge.

After the course you will know:

  • how to improve students' receptive and productive skills;
  • how to assess and motivate students;
  • how to manage a class;
  • where to find authentic materials;
  • appropriate activities for students;
  • approaches of work with people of different ages.

At the end of the course you will get an accredited certification, which proves your competence to teach English as a second language. And as we know, such a certificate is one of significant documents to apply for a job, and also it helps to get the teaching visa. Also, TEFL Certification helps new teachers to find a job abroad. Now you have a chance to purchase the online TEFL/TESOL course at a nice discount. 

We hope you found this article informative and inspiring. If you have some relevant questions, leave them in the comments section below. We are always glad to help.

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