Living and teaching English in Korea is an exciting adventure. The East Asian country is well developed industrially as well as economically. Korea offers a quality of life that is comparable to the advanced nations in the world. At the same time, in spite of all the modernity seen on the streets of Korea’s mega cities, the country is proud of its heritage as one of the oldest cultures in the world making it one of the top performing best countries to teach English.
While teaching English in Korea you can immerse yourself in the Confucian way of life which is still prevalent in the country. But even as old practices and traditions continue to hold sway, Korea’s famous Kpop and KDramas have an incredible cult following across the globe! Perhaps, it is this mix of the old and the new in the country that makes searching and securing teaching jobs abroad teaching English in Korea a unique alluring adventure.
Korea has always been a thriving market for English teachers. The country has a long tradition of encouraging its citizens to develop their English-speaking skills. The government has several programs aimed at making English more popular and wide-spread in the country. Under these programs, teachers and professionals from native English-speaking countries are invited to work in Korean schools and institutes. There are also opportunities in the private sector.
So, if you are keen on teaching English in Korea, here are your options:
One of the better-known routes to get a job teaching English in Korea is to apply to the government’s English Program in Korea (EPIK). The program was established in 1995 with the goal of improving the English-speaking abilities of Korean students and teachers, developing cultural exchange between Korea and abroad, and of introducing new teaching methods into the Korean education system.
Every year, the government recruits between 1000-1500 teachers under the aegis of the EPIK. There are sub-programs which come under the EPIK banner. These are run by local or provincial governments. This includes SMOE Korea and GEPIK. Teachers selected under SMOE and GEPIK are placed in public schools in Seoul and Gyeonggi province respectively.
The hagwon are Korea’s rather infamous private academies which students attend before or after regular school. They offer private coaching and their single-minded, rigorous focus on their students’ academic performances has led to their being often dismissed as cram schools. Hagwons are spread across the country. Some of them are professionally run. But there are also plenty of anecdotal nightmarish experiences narrated by those teaching English in Korea’s hagwon institutes.
You can also apply for teaching English in Korea’s universities. Several universities have language departments. There are also opportunities in corporate houses where teachers are hired to brush up the English speaking skills of their employees. There is also a market for private tutoring and online teaching in Korea.
Recruitment for Korea’s public schools takes place twice a year before the fall and spring semester. The application process for the fall term lasts from February to July, while that for the spring semester is from August to January. As per the fall semester timeline, you have to put in your applications by February. Interviews are normally held in April.
If your application is accepted, the documentation for your visa will be sent to you by June. For the spring semester, the applications are accepted in August. The interviews are normally completed by January and the documentation is processed by February. EPIK recruits teaching English in Korea will start the fall semester by late August and the spring semester by late February.
You can apply to public schools in Korea either directly via their job postings on our international teaching jobs page or EPIK. You could also go through recruiters. The advantage of bypassing recruiters is that your application is likely to be processed faster.
If you have missed the deadline for the EPIK recruitment, but are not keen to put off your plan until the next semester, you can send in your applications to the hagwons scattered across the country. The private academies accept applications throughout the year.
Before you apply to hagwons, it is important to research their background. This is because there are mixed reports regarding their work environment. There are hagwons which are part of well-known Korean chains, where professional standards are high. Others are stand alone, smaller organizations. While not all the smaller and relatively less known hagwons can be categorized as unprofessional, it is advisable to check into their background thoroughly.
One of the advantages of applying to hagwons is that you can choose the cities/towns where you would like to live and work during your stint in Korea.
University jobs are highly sought after. If you are qualified and experienced, you can apply for the openings which are often notified on the websites of various Korean universities. Private tutoring is a very lucrative business in Korea. However, the government takes strict action against expats who take up work other than that specified in their visa. It might be better to avoid taking up such assignments.
EPIK has spelt out the qualifications required for teaching English in Korea very clearly on its website. They include:
You can make up to $3000 teaching English in Korea at a University, however the majority of ESL teachers will earn approximately $2000 dollars at Hagwon or EPIK program in Korea teaching English
Teaching English in Korea contracts are for 1 year. The good news is these can be extended year after year with no maximum time in which you have to leave. So The questions, how long can you teach in Korea is as for as long as you wish to stay (as long as you renew your contract)
You can teach English everywhere in Korea. You just need to decide what you are looking for whilst staying and teaching in Korea. Our 5 best places where you can teach English in Korea are:
In addition, most schools require a criminal record check from the authorized agency in your country. For US citizens, this will mean a clearance from the FBI. You will also have to submit a medical certificate stating that you are physically fit to take up the job. You have to submit the results of a drug test too.
Hagwons in Korea more or less follow the same guidelines while recruiting teachers. A Bachelor’s degree is mandatory to get a job teaching English in Korea. Can you teach in Korea if you are not from a native-English speaking country? It is difficult but if you have the required experience and qualifications, the smaller hagwons may consider your application. Also, unlike the EPIK jobs, you have to apply to each hagwon individually. Each of them will have their own application/qualification requirements.
The minimum qualification for getting a job in a Korean university is a Bachelor’s degree with a minimum of four years of work experience or a Master’s degree with two years of work experience. Your chances of getting hired are higher if you have academic credentials like publications and workshops to your credit.
You can apply for a visa after you get a formal offer letter or employment contract. If you have been accepted in a Korean public school or hagwon, you must apply for the E-2 visa. However, if you have got a job in a university, you are eligible to apply for the E-1 visa.
The documents required for the E1 visa for university professors are more or less the same.
The salaries and perks for teaching English in Korea are attractive. Depending on your degree (Bachelor’s/Master’s) you can earn between $2000-$2200 per month as an EPIK recruit teaching English in Korea. Other benefits include:
Most hagwons match the salaries offered by the government. They also offer perks like accommodation and air fare.
University professors earn between $2200-$3000. In addition, if you take summer classes, you are eligible for overtime payments. This ranges from $16 to $40 per hour. The package also includes housing allowance between $250-350 per month. Other benefits include round trip air fare, end-of-the-year bonus and health care. However, private universities may not offer all perks included in the employment contract of public universities.
If you are working in a public school, work hours will normally be from 9 am to 5 pm. Teaching hours are around 22 hours per week. As an EPIK teacher, you are expected to assist Korean teachers with their English classes. You will also have to conduct conversation classes for Korean students and teachers, prepare teaching material and assist in extra-curricular activities. You have to organize and conduct English camps jointly with Korean teachers.
In hagwons, teachers are allotted either morning or evening shifts. Teaching hours normally exceed 22 hours, which is the norm for EPIK teachers. At hagwons, you will be expected to handle the English class on your own. There will be no co-teacher unlike the public schools.
University teachers in Seoul have very comfortable teaching hours. Classroom teaching is just around 10-12 hours per week. However, student counselling and administrative paperwork could take up an additional 5-6 hours per week. One of the biggest perks is that you may get up to four months of paid vacations!
cost of living in Korea is comparatively low as compared to developed nations. However, salaries for teachers are high. In addition, with perks like housing, medical insurance, bonus and air fare reimbursement, you can expect to save a substantial amount of your take home salary. Even if you take the time to travel around Korea and neighboring East Asian countries, you will still finish your stint with a healthier bank balance.
Of course, the cost of living is higher in the cities. Seoul is the most expensive city in Korea – but it is still much cheaper to live here than comparable cities of the world. Busan and Jeju Island are also expensive places to live. If you are teaching English in Korea under the EPIK program, it is possible that you will be located in a semi-urban or rural area. The cost of living will be much lower and your savings potential much higher.
Rent is not an issue when you are working in South Korea as accommodation is normally provided. Private academies will give you a housing allowance. Rents in Korea normally account for 21 percent of your monthly outflow, so this is indeed a substantial perk! However, you will have to pay maintenance charges and utility bills. The bill for utilities – which includes electricity, water, heating, cooling and garbage collection – normally amounts to $140-$150 per month. Internet and mobile bill payments will be at least $25 or more depending on the plan you opt for.
The delicious Korean cuisine will tempt you to the restaurants and eating joints which are always buzzing with activity, especially in the cities. A meal in an inexpensive restaurant will be around $6. A three-meal course in a mid-range restaurant will be around $35.
Setting up your own kitchen and indulging in home cooked food can be a fun experience given Korea’s abundant and fresh produce.
If you are posted in a city, then you have the option of travelling by Korea’s excellent subway or bus system. A monthly transport pass is $45. Taxis charge around $0.65 for a one km ride, with a base fare of $3. Inter-city bus travel can be between $15-$50 depending on the distance. If you plan to buy a vehicle while in Korea, one liter of fuel will cost you around $1.27.
A comfortable lifestyle in Korea – which includes eating out and entertainment – will cost anything between $800-$1400, depending on your personal tastes and shopping ability!! Given that the salaries are in the range of $2000 and above, it is possible to save substantially during your stay in Korea.
As a teacher earning a substantial salary, you will be saving a handsome amount every month. Take the opportunity to travel and explore this fascinating country thoroughly. Korea is small country. If you are located in a city, it takes just an hour or two to leave behind the busy urban sprawl and reach the beautiful ambience of rural Korea.
From climbing mountains to spending time in a quiet fishing village, from zooming down ski slopes to strolling through emerald paddy fields, from night clubbing till the wee hours to sleeping soundly under the stars in a traditional inn, Korea offers several rich experiences.
The kimchi is, of course, now a staple in homes across the world. But here is your chance to delve deep into an ancient cuisine that reflects the Korean philosophy of the yin and the yang balancing and complementing each other. Each dish is developed to ensure that the flavors and textures so carefully incorporated into it stand out separately, even as they jell together beautifully. From the staple lunch of Bibimbap to the unusual chicken and beer combination in Chimaek, your Korean culinary journey will be an unforgettable aspect of your stint here.
Living in South Korea is an exciting adventure. The Land of the Morning Calm has several fascinating facets. There is a 5000-year old culture to study, a youthful modern buzz to be experienced, scintillating landscapes to be explored and an amazing cuisine to savor.
With well paying jobs, professional work atmosphere, great quality of life and substantial savings potential – teaching English in Korea ticks all the right boxes. If you have an opportunity to move abroad and teach in Korea, go ahead and grab it!