Complete Guide To Teaching English in South Korea: Salary, Budget, Visa & Vacant Jobs
Teaching English abroad is an exciting career path that attracts more and more people and South Korea is just the country to head to! When I first moved to South Korea in 2015, I started out teaching English at a private English language academy and loved the experience. Now, years later, I still enjoy living in South Korea and have created this comprehensive guide to teaching English in South Korea, including real-life info about salary, budget, visa, vacant jobs and much more!
What are the qualifications needed to teach English in South Korea?
Most English teachers coming to South Korea work under the E2 teaching visa. The teaching English in Korea requirements for this type of visa are as follows:
- You must be a passport holder from the following countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand University
- Bachelor Degree (the university degree (or copy of) must first be notarized and then apostilled)
- Three sealed university transcripts
- Clear criminal background check
- Passport photocopy
- Signed copy of the school contract
- Four passport-sized photos
- Two letters of recommendation
How Much Can I earn teaching English in Korea?
South Korea has a huge demand for English teachers and positions are available all over the country. Most teachers work for either a public or a private school in South Korea and the salary varies accordingly.
As a guideline, teachers in South Korea can earn anywhere between 1.8 and 3 million Korean Won per month (currently around $1,600 to $2,675). First-time teachers without prior teaching experience usually earn between 1.8 and 2.0 million Korean Won. The teaching English in Korea salary also depends on where you are teaching. Teachers in Seoul often earn a higher salary than those in other parts of the country but the cost of living in Seoul is also higher than elsewhere.
How can I earn extra income while teaching English in South Korea?
A great way to top up your Korea teaching salary is by taking on private students in your free time. The demand for English tutors (especially native speakers!) is huge all over the country and you can charge between 30,000 and 50,000 KRW per tutoring hour ($26 – $45 USD).
Is teaching English in Korea a good way to pay off debt?
Many people are moving to South Korea to teach English with the goal to pay off debt back home and many of them definitely succeed! Truth is, you earn a good salary when working as a teacher in South Korea and can easily save $1,000 and more a month, depending on your lifestyle. There are many success stories of teachers in South Korea who have paid off their students loans and other debt:
- How I Paid Off $10,000 in Debt While Teaching English in South Korea
- A college grad paid off her loans 5 years faster and saved $10,000 by going abroad — here’s how you can too
- How I Paid Off My Student Loans in Korea
- I Taught English in South Korea for 1 year and saved $22,000
How can I find a job teaching English in South Korea?
There are many different ways you can find vacant teaching positions in South Korea. For me, I’ve always used TEFL recruiters to find teaching jobs in Korea (and China too) and it’s always worked out very well. What many don’t know is that the recruitment services are completely free for the teacher; the school pays the recruiter upon hiring a teacher. Another benefit of using a TEFL recruiter is that they know exactly what paperwork you need and will help you gather all the required documents. They also are the experts when it comes to the local job market in Korea and have access to thousands of vacant positions all across the country.
Is teaching English in Korea a stable job for long-term?
It definitely can be! If you find a good school and you are happy living and working in South Korea, you can definitely make a stable career long-term. During the first year or two in Korea, you will make a lot of connections allowing you to find better positions with higher pay and great benefits. The more experience you have and if you have a TEFL certification, for example, you’ll also earn a higher salary in South Korea. I know several teachers who’ve taught English in Korea for 5 or even 10 years and are very happy here.
What is better: Teaching English at a Hagwon (private language schools) or Public School in Korea?
This is not an easy question to answer as it depends on your own preference, lifestyle and also the school itself. Public schools offer a few more vacation days and fewer teaching hours but you might be the only foreign teacher working in the entire school. When searching online you can easily find lots of Hagwon horror stories but not all private institutes are like that. Private language academies might have more foreign teachers and pay slightly higher salaries but the working hours might start after lunch and end around 9 PM – but this is not true for all private schools.
Can I teach English in Korea without TEFL or TESOL?
While a TEFL certification is not required to obtain the E2 teaching visa, employers nowadays usually only hire teachers who are TEFL qualified. Based on my personal experience, almost all the teachers in Korea I know are TEFL certified and those teaching English in Korea without TEFL earn lower salaries compared to those certified.
I recommend starting your TEFL/TESOL course at least 1 year before your desired start date in South Korea. If you take an in-class TEFL/TESOL course, you receive your certificate within around 4 weeks. An online TEFL course takes between 2 and 6 months depending on how much time you have and how quickly you work through the course units. I needed about 4 months to complete my own TEFL certification course online. Online certificates are nowadays just as valued as in-class qualifications; plus they are a lot cheaper!
I’m a partner of ITTT (International TEFL and TESOL Training) through which you can get a 20% discount on your TEFL certification course and recommend the following TEFL course options:
- 120-hour TEFL/TESOL course
- 220-hour Master Package (the course package I took)
- 470-hour Professional Package
How can I get a job through the EPIK Program for teaching English in South Korea?
EPIK stands for “English Program in Korea” and is a government-sponsored scheme that offers foreign teachers the chance to work as English instructors in South Korean schools. Teachers may state their preferred teaching location but positions are assigned at random.
EPIK teaching salaries are very competitive and EPIK teachers also get a good range of extra benefits, such as paid housing, health insurance, airfare und bonuses. The requirements for EPIK English teaching Korea are as follows:
- EPIK teachers must be from one of the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.K, or the U.S.
- You need to hold a university degree
- You must have a clean criminal background (English or Education majors are preferred)
- TEFL/TESOL certification of at least 100 hours (teaching practice is a bonus)
For more information on the requirements and how to apply, visit the official EPIK website.
How can a non-native English speaker get a teaching job in South Korea?
Non-native English speakers from countries other than the ones mentioned above aren’t eligible for the E2 teaching visa. However, you can still find work as an English teacher in South Korea if you aren’t a citizen of the countries above under a different visa. A lot of teachers I know, work with an F6 spousal visa or an F2 long-term residency visa. Both of these visas allow you to work and live in South Korea and it is up to the individual schools if they want to hire you based on your qualifications.
Are there jobs in South Korea for foreigners that aren’t teaching English?
Yes! More and more foreign professionals are hired into South Korea companies or work for international companies with an office in South Korea. If you are looking to work for a company in South Korea, you most of the time have to be fluent in Korean. International companies placing employees to Korea often do so from their headquarters, so you should look into getting a job at a company with offices in South Korea first and then tell your employer that you are interested in working in Korea.
There is also a large number of American military stationed in South Korea. Many people also head to Korea as international students and then obtain work visas upon graduating.
There are also many jobs in Korea for foreigners in the local entertainment sector; but again, most of the time you have to be fluent in Korean in order to get hired in this field.
Can you teach English in Korea if you graduate from Korea University for example?
You certainly can – if you meet the English teacher in Korea requirements from above. A four-year degree is one of the requirements, as well as being a citizen from one of these countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. If you are not from one of these countries, see question: How can a non-native English speaker get a teaching job in South Korea?
F6 Visa and Teaching English as a Non-Native Spouse, is that possible?
Yes, it certainly is. As mentioned at “How can a non-native English speaker get a teaching job in South Korea?”, I know plenty of people married to Koreans who aren’t from an English-speaking country but work as teachers in Korea. The F6 spousal visa in Korea allows you to live and work in South Korea and you are eligible to apply for teaching jobs as well. If you aren’t a native English speaker, I highly recommend getting TEFL certified. This will increase your employability immensely.
When teaching English in Korea, do you need to know how to speak Korean to qualify?
No, you do not. In fact, many schools, mine included, have an “English Only Policy”, where teachers and students are encouraged to use only English on school premises. In my experience, it’s even easier to teach when you either don’t know any Korean or the students think you don’t understand the language. Oftentimes, when students know that you understand Korean, they get lazy and just speak Korean instead of English. This isn’t very beneficial for the learning process, which is why most schools have the “EOP” policy.
What’s it like to be an English teacher in Korea?
It’s a great experience and allows you to explore a unique country from a local perspective! But, it’s also a job and not always fun and games. Koreans take education very seriously and this sentiment is often a big difference compared to Western cultures. Korean also work hard and have a hierarchical structure in their society. While you are a valued employee at a school, you might not always enjoy similar benefits as peers who’ve worked at the company longer than you, etc.
Also, consider that you aren’t only there to teach English. Depending on what level of students you teach, you’ll also have to enforce classroom management and discipline your students. When I was teaching kindergarten students in South Korea, I spent pretty much half of the teaching time teaching the children how to be good human beings. It’s all part of the job.
Adding to that, teachers enjoy a very good reputation in South Korea and are considered authority figures. At the Hagwon I worked at, I would constantly get presents from my students and their parents, ranging from simple snacks to Chanel No. 5.
Is it difficult to live in South Korea without knowing how to speak Korean?
It depends where you live. In Seoul, where there are a lot of tourists, for instance, you’ll find that a lot of people will speak English and you can easily get around by speaking English. If you teach English in a smaller city or town in South Korea, this won’t be the case. It’s not impossible but being able to communicate in the local language will definitely make your life easier. I learned Korean at my local YMCA, where classes are offered at a very cheap price. After a little while, I also took up classes through the government-sponsored KIIP (Korean Immigration and Integration Program), which has helped me tremendously.
Do you prefer teaching English in China or Korea?
This is a question I get asked a lot and after teaching English in China and Korea, I can say that I enjoy teaching in Korea a bit more. The only reason for this is that I had bad luck with my school in China, where management was in money trouble and wasn’t able to pay the staff on time and things like that. Still, I think that teaching English in China is just as rewarding and fun and also definitely worth thinking about. If you are interested in teaching English in China, I recommend checking out EF English First.
What I prefer about teaching English in Korea is the higher salary and the benefits, such as the national pension scheme, the paid roundtrip airfare and paid housing. You also often get a severance bonus at the end of a completed teaching contract, which is usually the same as your monthly salary.
You can read more about my experiences teaching English in China here: 5 Things I’ve Learned From Teaching English In China
Can I get a Working Holiday Visa for teaching English in Korea?
No, you can’t. Working holiday visas in South Korea do not include professional work; part-time, untrained work only. You can work in a restaurant, wash dishes, work in a shop, etc.
However, depending on your educational background, you may be eligible for the TalK program. This program allows you to teach English in (usually) rural schools. The pay is modest but you also work fewer hours compared to regular English teaching jobs (like EPIK). You get an opportunity to live in Korea and make a liveable wage along with paid housing.
Die Besten Reiseerfahrungen in Seoul
Once you are in Korea and working, don’t forget to enjoy your time! Here are the most popular travel experiences in South Korea:
- Everland 1 Day Ticket (QR Code Direct Entry)
- DMZ Tour to the border of North Korea
- Nami Island, Petite France, Garden of Morning Calm, & Gangchon Rail Bike Day Trip from Seoul
- AREX Incheon Airport Express Train One Way Ticket in Seoul
- Lotte World 1 Day Pass
- Korea Rail Pass: Discover South Korea by traveling on over 80 routes
- Bukchon Oneday Hanbok Rental Experience (4 – 24 Hrs)
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