South Korea has long been one of the most popular places to teach English abroad for both new and experienced teachers. There is a good standard of living in Korea and an English teacher’s salary is decent. English teachers in Korea also receive extra benefits such as free housing, free return airfare, health insurance, pension, and vacation days.
This guide to teaching English in Korea covers everything you need to know, including the salary and benefits of being an English teacher, requirements to teach English in Korea, the different English teaching programs in Korea such as EPIK, how to find English teaching jobs in Korea, and much more.
First, let’s take a look at the minimum requirements to teach English in South Korea.
Requirements To Teach English In South Korea
The requirements to be eligible to teach English in South Korea can be divided into visa requirements and qualifications. Let’s take a look at the visa requirements first, because without a working visa, you cannot legally teach English in South Korea.
To teach English legally in South Korea you will need to apply for an E-2 visa from your nearest Korean Embassy before you come to Korea. To qualify for an E-2 visa you must be from one of the following English-speaking countries: U.S.A, Canada, U.K, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa.
You must have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. You may see this referred to as a ‘4 year degree / diploma’ but if you are from England, don’t worry, your 3 year bachelors degree is fine.
You must get a national level criminal record check which shows that you do not have any charges / convictions. To see the specific criminal background check you must get for your country, check this useful guide from Korvia.com.
Finally, to qualify for a teaching visa for South Korea you must be able to pass a health check and drug test. Within 30 days of arriving in Korea you must complete a health check at a designated hospital before you can get your E-2 Visa. The health check will include urine and blood samples, a chest x-ray, blood pressure test, and a simple Q and A with a doctor.
As was mentioned above, you will need a bachelors degree in any subject from an accredited university. If you do not have a bachelors degree you will not be able to get a teaching visa and so will not be able to legally work in South Korea.
Another important qualification is a TEFL / TESOL qualification. Although you don’t technically need a TEFL qualification to teach English in Korea, many jobs require it, and you will struggle to find a decent job without one.
The kind of TEFL certificate you will need will depend on the type of job and location in which you wish to work. In the next section we will go through the different types of English teaching jobs in Korea, and the best TEFL qualification to get for each type of position.
Types of English Teaching Jobs In South Korea
There are generally 3 types of English teaching jobs in South Korea. These are public school jobs, private school jobs, and university jobs. Each kind of teaching job has different conditions and minimum requirements.
EPIK Public School Jobs
EPIK stands for English Program In Korea and is one of the main English programs that hire English teachers for public schools. EPIK places teachers all across the country, including big cities and rural provinces. They place English teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools. However, most EPIK jobs these days are at elementary schools.
A public school English teacher will typically work 40 hours a week between 8:30 – 4:30 and teach 22 classes per week. Classes are 40 minutes long at elementary schools and 50 minutes long at middle and high schools. At public schools, you will teach with a Korean co-teacher in class and plan lessons together.
Currently, EPIK are not accepting applicants without a TEFL certificate of at least 120+ hours. This can be an online course or an offline course. However, some offices of education require that part of your TEFL qualification be ‘in-class’.
Positions in Seoul require that your TEFL qualification includes at least 20 hours in class, and positions in Busan require at least 50 hours in class.
Private Academy (Hagwon) Jobs
Hagwons (학원) are private language academies that students attend after school in the afternoon and evenings. A hagwon teacher will typically work 40 hours a week in the afternoon / evening and teach 30 classes per week. As a hagwon English teacher, you may be teaching elementary, middle, and/ or high school students.
Although there are more lessons per week, compared to public school, there is typically less lesson planning in hagwons as all the materials are usually provided.
Each English language academy has its own requirements, but hagwon jobs would typically require you to have a 120+ hour TEFL certificate. An online TEFL course is perfectly fine for private academy jobs.
English teaching jobs at universities are the most sort after positions in South Korea. A typical university contract would include approximately 14 hours of lessons per week and summer and winter breaks would be paid vacations. That’s 8+ weeks of paid vacation!
It is, however, very competitive to get a university job in South Korea. First of all, the minimum requirements for most university jobs are a Masters in TESOL / Linguistics and at least 2 years’ teaching experience at the college or university level.
Some universities in rural provinces in Korea may accept applicants without the teaching experience, but the masters qualification is a must.
If you would like to continue working while studying for a master’s in TESOL there are many online master programs that you can complete from anywhere in the world. For a list of distance learning Masters in Tesol, check out this list from masterstudies.com.
English Teacher’s Salary And Benefits In Korea
The salary of an English teacher in Korea varies depending on the type of job, your qualification, and your years’ of teaching experience in and out of Korea. An English teacher in Korea can also expect many additional benefits, which we will detail below.
English Teacher’s Salary
An English teacher in Korea can expect to earn anywhere between 1.8 and 2.7 million Korean Won per month. However, an English teacher would typically earn approximately 2.1/2.2 million Korean Won per month (approx $2000).
EPIK Public School Teacher’s Salary
As an EPIK public school teacher with a TEFL qualification you can expect to earn 2 / 2.1 million per month in your first year. Then, after one year with the same public school, your salary will increase to 2.1 / 2.2 million.
After 2 years at the same public school, you can expect to earn 2.3 / 2.4 million per month. The exact amount you can earn depends on the city or province you work in, your qualification, and your years of teaching at the same school. To see the full EPIK pay scale, click here.
Hagwon English Teacher’s Salary
There is no definitive pay scale to look at for hagwons as they are privately run academies. However, a typical hagwon English teacher can expect to earn between 2 and 2.5 million a month.
A hagwon teacher’s salary can vary widely and will depend on your qualification, experience, and the type of students you will be teaching. You may see some jobs which pay 1.8 / 1.9 million per month, but this is very low pay and I would advice not to take less than 2 million per month for a hagwon job.
University English Teacher’s Salary
Again, each university English teaching job is different and the salary can vary widely. Typically, an English teacher at university can expect to earn a salary similar to public schools / hagwon jobs (2.2 to 2.5 million KRW), but with less teaching hours and more paid holidays.
As well as a decent salary, English teachers in South Korea can expect to get many great benefits which can help you save a lot of money. Additional benefits may include free housing, resigning bonus, severance pay, and pension.
One of the best benefits of English teaching jobs in South Korea is the free housing. Most English teaching jobs provides a rent free apartment for the teacher to live in. That means you can save all the money you would usually spend on rent.
You would usually have two options when it comes to housing benefit. You can choose to live in the housing provided by the school or you can take a housing allowance of around 400,000 KRW.
Finding your own apartment can be quite difficult if you are new to Korea, so if it is your first time teaching in Korea it is probably best to take the school provided housing. The school would usually provide a furnished ‘one-room’ studio apartment close to the school.
The majority of English teaching jobs in Korea, including EPIK, hagwons, and university jobs, will provide a re-signing bonus if you decide to stay at the same school for a second year.
This re-signing bonus is typically 2 million Korean Won. If, however, you quit within the first 6 months of your new contract, you will have to pay this bonus back.
This 2 million won ads a great boost to your savings at the end of the year, and one of the reasons you can save a lot teaching English in South Korea.
Another great additional benefit English teachers receive is severance pay. All full time employees in South Korea are legally entitled to this benefit.
In Korea, every full time employee who works at the same company for at least 12 months is entitled to one months additional salary for every year he/she has worked.
This is also applies to foreign English teachers who complete their initial 12 month contract. For every year you work at the same school you will receive an additional months salary.
For example, if you work at the same school for 3 years, at the end of the 3 years you should receive an additional 3 months salary bonus.
Many English teaching jobs in Korea also provide teachers with free airfare to travel to and/or from Korea.
This is usually in the form of a reimbursement after you arrive in Korea and begin teaching. With EPIK teaching jobs, airfare is provided to and from Korea in the amount of 1,300,000 KRW.
For other teaching jobs, the free airfare provided is different in each contract. Most contracts will provide at least one-way airfare.
Where To Find Jobs Teaching English In South Korea
When trying to get a job teaching English in South Korea, you essentially have 2 choices. You can either use a recruitment agency to help you find a job, or apply directly to an employer.
Recruitment agencies can help finding a job teaching English in Korea a lot easier. Not only can they put you in touch with many employers, they will also guide you through the complicated E-2 visa process and make sure you have all your documents in order.
Here is a list of reputable recruitment agencies which can help you find both public school and private school jobs.
Best Korea Recruitment Agencies
Websites To Find Teaching Jobs In Korea
If you do not want to use a recruitment agency and would rather apply direct with an employer, here are some places where you can find job postings looking for English teachers in Korea.
- EPIK – You can apply directly with EPIK for public school jobs.
- Dave’s ESL Cafe
Teach English In South Korea FAQ
What are the minimum requirements to teach English in Korea?
- Be a citizen of the UK, U.S.A, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or Ireland.
- Have at least a bachelor’s degree in any subject from an accredited institution.
- Have a clean criminal record.
- Be able to pass a health test and a drug test.
Can I teach English in South Korea without a degree?
The short answer is, no. In order to legally work in South Korea as an English teacher, you need an E-2 visa. Without a university degree you will not be eligible for teaching visa.
Furthermore, all public school teaching jobs require a degree to qualify, and the vast majority of private school jobs do so, too.
If you are currently at university and have not yet completed your studies, you may be eligible for the TALK program.
Can a non-native speaker teach English in South Korea?
Currently, The Korean Ministry of Education only permits citizens from 7 designated countries to teach English in South Korea. These are the UK, U.S.A, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or Ireland. If you are not a citizen from one of these countries, you can not teach English in Korea.
Do English teachers get health insurance in Korea?
Yes. All full time English teachers will be enrolled in the National Health Insurance Service. Your employer will enroll you and deduct the insurance fee from your monthly pay.
How much money can you make teaching English in South Korea?
The amount of money you can make teaching English in South Korea largely depends on your qualifications and years’ of teaching experience in and out of Korea.
A first time English teacher can expect to earn at least 2 million KRW per month, plus housing benefit (equivalent to 400,000 a month). An experienced teacher who has been teaching English in Korea for many years can expect to earn 2.5+ million per months plus housing.
Is it expensive to live in South Korea?
Everyday things like taking public transport or eating out at a restaurant are relatively cheap compared to other affluent countries. The biggest expense for most people is rent, which can be quite high in cities like Seoul. If you plan on teach English in Korea, however, you are usually provided with a rent-free apartment as part of your benefits package.
Can I save money teaching in Korea?
Yes. You can save a lot of money teaching in Korea. Most English teaching jobs will pay at least 2 million won per month and provide rent-free housing.This means it is relatively easy to save $1000 per month.
How much is rent in South Korea?
Rent for a small ‘one-room’ studio apartment starts at around 400,000 KRW per month. There are, however, many variables which determine how much rent you will pay.
In Seoul and other big cities, rent will typically be higher. Also, another factor to consider is ‘key money’. Key money is a large upfront deposit that you must pay to rent an apartment. The higher the key money you can pay, the lower the rent. Key money typically starts at around 5 million per month for a small apartment.
Do I need to speak Korean to teach English in South Korea?
No you don’t need to speak Korean to teach English in South Korea. Most schools would prefer you only speak English in the classroom, and your co-workers will likely speak some English. That being said, learning how to read Korean and learning some Korean phrases and expressions can make life outside of school a lot easier.
If you’re interested in learning some Korean, then check out the fantastic free Korean lessons and resources for LearnKorean24.com.