South Korea has made a global mark with their fashion, food and pop culture. S. Korean films and dramas have gained an international fan base and of course, we cannot forget to mention Kpop idols BTS. But did you know that it is also a popular destination for teaching English? Here’s a shortlist of what attracts English teachers to S. Korea.
- Above average salaries
- Free housing
- Most jobs require no experience except a TEFL certificate
- Low cost of living
- Pension scheme (some countries are not eligible)
- Ability to save money while enjoying a fun lifestyle
- Culture and people
- Low crime rate
- Large expat community
Does this sound appealing to you? You can soon be on your way to the Land of Morning Calm and enjoy all you’ve only read or heard about. But it is important to plan and do your research.
Do I qualify?
While there are a variety of teaching contexts, you must first meet the minimum requirements.
- Possess a valid passport from the USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand.
- Possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in any subject
- Provide a national background check with a clear record
- Present a spotless mental & health check
- Pass a drug screening
May be required
- TEFL certificate with 100 or more hours
- Celta Certificate
- A Master’s Degree is required for university teaching positions.
What jobs are available?
There are a wide variety of teaching opportunities. You can teach at a university, international school, public or private schools or private language academies known as hagwons. Here’s a quick breakdown of the top 3 teaching contexts.
Public schools: One of the most popular teaching jobs in South Korea is a public-school position. A typical workday is 9-to-5. Pay scales are usually set per office of education area and vary with qualification and experience.
Public school teaching benefits generally include a small settlement allowance, free furnished housing or a housing stipend, severance, an entrance and exit allowance, national insurance, national holidays off, and approximately 18 workdays paid vacation. However, these jobs are competitive, and you may not end up in the preferred city of your choice.
Hagwons: Hagwons are private language academies that students attend after school in the afternoon and evenings. Unlike public schools and universities, hagwons are privately-owned which means consider the pros and cons of teaching at hagwons.
Successful hagwons can pay teachers competitive salaries, and there are many opportunities for overtime work. On the other hand, there are hagwons who expect you to work as much as possible, sometimes even asking you to work on the weekends.
You will typically work 40 hours a week in the afternoon and/or evenings and teach up to 30 classes per week. Hagwon students are elementary, middle, and/ or high school students.
Benefits include furnished housing, an average of 2.2 – 2.4 million won per month, flight reimbursement, health insurance and approximately 2 weeks of vacation per year.
To avoid the pitfall of working for a not-so-great hagwon, do your research and ask questions at the interview. AND ask to speak to a current English teacher. Reputable hagwons will happily oblige. We’ll review some interview questions later in this article.
University: English teaching jobs at universities are the most coveted positions in South Korea. A typical university contract would include approximately 14 hours of lessons per week and paid summer and winter breaks. It is, however, very competitive to get a university job in South Korea since the minimum requirements for most university jobs are a Master’s in TESOL / Linguistics and at least 2 years of teaching experience at the college or university level.
An English teacher at a university can expect to earn a salary similar to public schools (2.2 to 2.5 million KRW), but with fewer teaching hours and more paid holidays. Benefits are also similar to public schools which include a small settlement allowance, free furnished housing or a housing stipend, severance, an entrance and exit allowance, national insurance, national holidays off. Check the job description for the most accurate list of benefits offered.
How do I apply?
There are three ways you will land a job in Korea. You will either apply directly or go through a recruiting agency or apply through EPIK for public school jobs.
You can find many websites that post job openings in S. Korea such as Dave’s ESL Cafe, Waygook and ESL ROK.
The most popular route taken by teachers seeking a public-school position is through the EPIK program. (English Program in S. Korea). You can apply directly on their website, or you can find a reputable recruiting agency to assist you with the application process.
Don’t forget to ask these important questions during your interview.
- Working hours vs. teaching hours?
- Salary (including overtime salary)
- How will I get paid? Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly?
- Roundtrip air flight, settlement allowance, severance
- Vacation days provided
- Housing and what furnishings are provided (ask for photos)
- Ask about the town or city you will be living in
- Lesson planning/prepping requirements
- Will I have a co-teacher (public school/hagwons)
- Weekend work (hagwons)
- Request to communicate with a current foreign English teacher
Ask An Expat
The best way to get firsthand information about teaching in South Korea is to ask someone who is already teaching there. Join a Facebook group and ask a current teacher what their experience is like. The website offers many blogs written by current and past English teachers. There are also several YouTube videos posted by English teachers sharing their experiences. Remember to keep an open mind and you are the ultimate creator of your destiny. Who knows, after your time in South Korea, you may be the one to help a future English teacher with their question, “How to get a job teaching in South Korea”.