How To Land a Top ESL Position in Korea

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Moving to Korea is the biggest highlight for me this year. Mostly because it’s going to be a huge change in my life and in the relationship with Jeongsu. We’ve been in a long-distance relationship for over 1 year and it was starting to get onto us. Therefore, I decided to try my luck and find an English teaching position in South Korea! I had numerous interviews with all kinds of schools and gathered the information in this post to help future ESL teachers who decide to move abroad. The following tips don’t only apply to Korea but to any other country where you can teach English!

photo by Republic of Korea

Know Where You Want To Be

The first step is to take a look at what you want and where you want to move to. Do you want to be in the big cities like Seoul and Busan or do you dare to move to a smaller Korean city? In my case, I was not flexible at all and wanted to move to the city where my fiance is at: Cheongju. It’s a mid-sized Korean university city and the capital of Chungcheongbukdo Province only 1.5 hours from Seoul. I knew it was going to be much harder to find a good position because the city isn’t as big as Seoul and the English schools are limited. However, I still made it and was able to snatch a great job teaching in the city center of Cheongju!

Tip: The more flexible you are in terms of location, the better are your chances in finding a great job!

Hagwon or Public School?

The second question should be if you want to work in a Hagwon or a public school because they quite differ from each other. A Hagwon is basically an afterschool training school for students of all ages who want to further their English skills and the public school is, well, public.

The difference is that Hagwons might have weekend and late working hours. Working from 1pm to 9pm is quite common in a Hagwon. But you can also be lucky and get regular working hours from morning to late afternoon. Another difference might be that students at a Hagwon might be slightly better in English because they are exposed to it a lot more compared to kids who only go to a public school. Also, Hagwon students might be upper-class kids whose parents can afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars per year to send their child to a Hagwon.

Public school working hours are usually morning to late afternoon and the salary at public schools tends to be a little higher than at Hagwons. In general, a new teacher with no or little experience makes around 2.1 million won per month  in a Hagwon and can make up to 2.4 in a public school (for newbies).

If you want to go for public schools, there are special programs that help you get into the schools. These are  EPIK (English Program in Korea), GEPIK (Gyeonggi English Program in Korea) and SMOE (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education). Which program you should choose basically depends on the area you want to live in.

photo by watchsmart

Get a Teaching Certification

Competition is very fierce for teaching English in Korea. Each year, there are thousands of people from English speaking countries who decide to move to South Korea to teach English. To raise your chances of landing the dream job, you should get a Teaching Certificate, for example TEFL. Bear in mind that the minimum is usually a 100+ hour certification for public schools and certain privatee academies.

Becoming a certified English teacher doesn’t have to be expensive! You can save 20% on TEFL courses if you use my special code for the TEFL school ITTT. Enroll in a course and use dicount code LINDAblog to save 20% on your course! That’s the best deal you can possibly find! You’ll see your discounted price on the ‘thank you page’, right after submission of the application.

The Right Recruiter

The easiest and smartest way is to work with a recruiting company. There are tons of them out there and you need to be careful which one to choose. If you decide to get into one of the three public school programs mentioned above, Korvia seems like a great choice. They promote themselves as “The #1 Recruiter to Teach English in Korea, with over 10,000+ teachers helped.”

Since I work for a private English academy, I don’t have any experience with Korvia directly. I only watched some of their helpful videos on teaching in Korea. Check out their YouTube channel for detailed information on teaching in South Korea.

For private institutions, it’s relatively easy to get interviews. I have worked with a number of recruiters and was able to get between 10-15 job interviews and several job offers as a result. I can highly recommend Job Hunt Korea for their great service and knowledge on teaching ESL in Korea.

Interview Preparation

I have to admit, the first few interviews for teaching jobs in Korea I had were pretty terrible. This was because I was not fully prepared and didn’t set up the greatest resumé and portfolio possible. If you do an interview and you get the job and even the contract sent to you immediately afterward, there’s probably a catch – a big one.

I was offered a few positions that turned out to be total scams. Not cool – and nothing you want to worry about.

Therefore, in order to get the best job possible, you need to be the best candidate possible. This means to have an outstanding resume (with photo) and be prepared for the interview. I basically searched for possible questions online and came up with this list:

  • Why do you want to become a teacher?
  • Why did you choose to work in South Korea?
  • What is your teaching philosophy?
  • What makes you a good teacher?

The next big thing is to record a short introduction video about yourself. This has become really popular among Korean schools hiring foreigners and is usually a requirement for many recruiting agencies out there. It’s not a big deal though. It’s simply a video to sell yourself and answering the questions mentioned above. Some schools even require a short “demo class” video of you teaching.

To record the video, I simply used the video function on my iPhone and then edited everything in Windows Movie Maker and iMovie for iPhone.

To get an idea of what an introduction video is, take a look at my version:


Connecting with Potential Coworkers

Once you received a job offer from a school you feel is the right workplace for you, don’t sign the contract right away. I highly recommend connecting with teachers who already work for that school. Ask them about how they like working there, how the work environment is, the location of the school, what kind of benefits they get, etc. It’s very common for schools to give out foreign teachers’ contact information to their new hires.

You’re Good to Go!

When you spoke to some foreign teachers at your new school and everything seems great, go ahead and make the move and accept the offer! Remember that the first few months are usually on probation and if you don’t like the school, simply quit. Nobody forces you to stick to a job if it’s not satisfactory. Since you need to look for a job while you are in your home country or another country but not South Korea, it’s impossible to know everything about the school beforehand. Great job offers can turn out to be much worse than you assumed. However, if you consider the tips mentioned above, you’re less likely to make a bad choice.

Do you teach in South Korea?

What would you add to this list?

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Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.


  1. Autumn Ashbough on June 8, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    That is a very comprehensive post with some great advice. Fantastic resource!

    • Linda on June 9, 2015 at 5:42 am

      Thank you so much!

    • Linda on June 23, 2015 at 12:01 pm

      Thank you Autumn <3

  2. Emily Hock on October 5, 2017 at 8:29 am

    Hello! My husband and I are considering teaching in Korea and loved this post! We want to teach in public schools and have heard great things about EPIK. Would you suggest still using a recruiter like Korvia to apply to EPIK? Or just apply to EPIK directly?

    • Linda on October 9, 2017 at 9:49 pm

      Thanks for that, Emily. I am glad to hear you liked the post and found it useful! I think applying through Korvia will be a lot less stressful for the both of you, especially since you’re a couple! Good luck to you in Korea. Maybe we can meet up someday?

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