I get asked an awful lot of questions about teaching English in South Korea and on this page, I have tried to compile my answers into a coherent list so that it helps people to get the job they want in South Korea. All of the advice from my How to Teach English Abroad is still applicable to South Korea and I highly recommend reading that post before you go into the specifics of applying for a job in South Korea. If there is anything missing below or my answers are incorrect, please contact me or comment at the end of the article and I will amend this page accordingly. I hope that you find it of some use.
I spent a year teaching at a hagwon in Daegu and all of my advice is based upon my own experiences. I got the job by applying directly to the school though an advertisement that I saw online.
How Can I Get a Job Teaching English in South Korea?
Read this post about finding teaching jobs in Korea.
How Did You Find a Job Teaching in Korea?
Read this post about finding teaching jobs in Korea.
Where Can I Find a Job Online Teaching English in South Korea?
- Apply through agencies by Googling ‘Teach English in Korea (Agency)’ and various combinations thereof. You can also very quickly apply through an agency I have begun working with by clicking here.
- Apply directly through TEFL / ESL sites (such as TEFL.com and Dave’s ESL Cafe).
Is it Better to Apply for a Job Directly or Use an Agency?
Is ketchup or mayonnaise better? Both have their benefits. If you apply for a job directly, you may be able to negotiate working conditions with the employer while if you apply through an agency, they do most of the hard work for you, but are less flexible. Try both, see which works out.
How Much Should I Hope to Get Paid Teaching English in South Korea?
As a first time teacher, try to aim for 2.1 million won a month (or more). I got 2.2 as a first timer with no teaching qualifications. If you also have a TEFL, aim for 2.3.
Is There an Agency That You Would Recommend?
I am currently working with this agency to help place potential teachers in Korean schools. Fill out the form or take a look around the web by searching on Google and then judge based on how efficient they are and how professional they seem.
Do I need to speak Korea to teach English in Korea?
No, not at all. If you want to learn Korean, it will help with your day to day life, but it is not necessary. Here is a Korean language course to help kick start your learning if you so choose.
How Do I Avoid Being Scammed by a School / Know That it is Reputable?
Search through forums online and see what other people say about it. Also ask if you can have the email addresses of previous teachers so that you can email them and ask about the school. If you can’t find any information online, it may be a dodgy deal. If it’s a chain, it will have a reputation to keep up and is likely to be reputable.
Is South Korea Dangerous?
South Korea is one of the safest countries I have ever been to (I don’t keep a list, but I move about a lot). Although I had two bikes stolen, I never felt threatened and as far as I am aware (I may be wrong), South Korea has a very low rate of violent crime.
How Much Money Can You Save in South Korea as an English Teacher?
This depends completely on your lifestyle and whether or not you teach extra private (illegal) classes. See my .pdf detailing pay for English teachers across the world and how much they can save. In summary, Korea is one of the best places to go to save money (THE best in my opinion if you don’t have teaching certificates and years of experience). Here’s a rough estimate: You get paid 2.2 M a year, plus a bonus of 2.2M upon completion of contract and your tax is around 3.5% (assuming you cancel your medical insurance and pension payments- note: get travel insurance to cover your medical expenses). Your apartment is free, as are your flights. That means you will earn around 27.6 M in a year (over £16,000 as of September 2013). You will save as much as you don’t spend on eating, drinking, and going places. How much beer and soju are you going to drink?
Will I get a Free Apartment?
Yes, you should. I wouldn’t take a job that doesn’t offer either a free apartment or a housing allowance (you may have to pay a large deposit if you sort the apartment out yourself).
Will the School Pay for My Airfare?
Yes (unless they aren’t worth working for). However, you may have to pay it in advance and they will refund you as you reach the 6 and 12 month marks. This stops people turning up for a week, deciding that they don’t like Korea, and then disappearing again.
Where is the Best Place to Live in South Korea?
Do you want chocolate or cheese with that?
Are There Many Other Foreign Teachers In South Korea?
Hundreds. Maybe thousands. In most towns, they are very easy to find (easier outside of Seoul which is MASSIVE).
I’m a Non-Native Speaker: Can I Get a Job Teaching English in South Korea?
With a lot of difficulty. The problem lies with the visa issuing office. Contact agencies and see what they say. This is a silly pre-requisite and I hope that it changes soon.
Can I Get a Job Teaching English in South Korea Without a Degree?
In short, I don’t think so. However, I know of one person who turned up at the age of nineteen, without a degree, and found work for a couple of months.
Will My Job Be Safe?
Do research about your company online. If you do this properly, you can find a safe company. Most people keep their jobs for the duration of their contracts although I had a few friends who were screwed over by their schools.
As I’m Only Signing a 12-Month Contract, Will I lose My Job in One Year?
Probably not. If everything is going well, they will offer you a new contract. However, most people choose to change schools every year for better working conditions or for variety.
Do I Need a Teaching Certificate to Teach English in South Korea?
No. But it helps (a little). I don’t have one and most people I knew in Korea didn’t have teaching certificates.
Do I Need a TEFL to Teach English in South Korea?
Yes and no. You need a TEFL to work for a government school, but you don’t need a TEFL to work for a private hagwon. However, having a TEFL might improve your chances of getting a job and increase your salary. I missed out on an extra $100 a week because I didn’t have a TEFL. You can get a TEFL here.
Should I Get a Job in Advance or Just Turn Up in Korea and Find One?
If you have the money, just turning up (while applying online) will offer you the best pay opportunities and working conditions as you will be in the country and can meet schools in person, so they will take you seriously… however it may take time to do and you may end up running out of money if you don’t have a good grounding. Applying in advance is the safer way to do it. If I had the cash and wanted to go back again, I would just turn up and use my friend network to find out about new potential jobs. Teacher community pages in SK on FB have some awesome people who might be willing to help you out.
When Is the Best Time to Apply for Teaching Jobs in South Korea?
If you want a government job (lower pay, but stable job), you have to apply through EPIK or GEPIK at the right time of the year. If you go for a hagwon (my preference), you can apply anytime as they take teachers on year round, depending on when the previous teachers leave.
Do Potential Employers Prioritise Younger Applicants Over Experience?
As far as I am aware, no, but most of the people teaching in Korea range from early twenties to thirty something. The demographic may simply be due to the lifestyle choice of moving half-way across the world to teach English suiting younger, ‘more adventurous’ people.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Job Teaching in South Korea?
It depends how lucky and picky you are. You could have a job within days if you’re flexible.
How Long does it Take to Get a Korean Visa?
When I had all the documentation (criminal checks, notorised degree, invitation from the school, etc), it took less than a week. These times may vary, so check with the Korean embassy in your part of the world.
I’m Vegetarian / Vegan: Will it be Difficult to Live in South Korea?
Yes. However, I am also a vegetarian and lived in Korea for a year without giving it up. Check out this really useful page about how to be vegetarian / vegan in South Korea.
Is There Anything That You Would Recommend Doing in South Korea?
What Are the Benefits of Teaching English in South Korea?
They are so numerous that I wrote a whole separate article about them. Here is my selection of ten benefits of teaching English in South Korea.
Would You Go Back to Teach There Again?
No. My life has changed and I am pursing a different path. However, I did originally write an article titled Why I Will Never Go Back to Teach English in South Korea although my reasoning now is different: ‘I don’t want a regular, stable job’ now sums it up in the fewest possible words. UPDATE: I am going back to Korea (but not to teach).
Will I Get Taxed by Korea or My Home Country?
As you are granted a work visa, you are treated the same as everyone else in Korea so you pay Korean taxes. Typically this amounts to about 4-7% of your salary. Certain countries allow you to register as a non-resident and therefore become tax exempt, but I don’t know very much about this.
Can I Choose Which Currency I Get Paid In?
You are paid in Won, direct to your Korean bank account (which your school will help you set up when you arrive). To transfer it out of the country, you simply go to the bank and pay the transfer fee. With the bank I chose, I got charged about 30,000 Won each time I made a transfer and the money would take a few days to reach the UK.
Can you get me a job teaching English in South Korea?
No. I have lost count of how many people ask me this.
Should I go to South Korea to teach?
Only you can decide.
I hope that this page has been of some use to you. Once again, if you feel that any of the above information is inaccurate or that there is something missing, please comment below. As I was only a teacher for one year in South Korea, my knowledge is limited.
If you are interested in learning more about teaching English in South Korea, you may also be interested in reading Steve Bass’ books about teaching English in Korea – Please note, I am not responsible for any of the content of these productions, I merely offer links to them as a resource in the hope that they answer questions and provide information that I cannot:
Teaching English in South Korea Warnings and Cautions – Pitfalls and Opportunities – Know Before You Go!, Guidelines for Conducting Background Investigations, Language Institute and University Employment Contracts. All 3 books are available for US$24.95 individually or together for a total of US$28.95