Everything in this post about how to get a job teaching English in South Korea is based upon my knowledge of teaching English in South Korea, which may not be completely up to date. Some of the information may be dated or incorrect and if it is, please tell me so that I can correct it, as I try to keep this page up to date. If you are simply looking for a job in Korea, you can apply through my agency contact in Korea.
One of the most commonly asked questions I receive via email and on my FAQs about teaching in South Korea is, ‘How can I find a job teaching English in South Korea?’ I only taught English in Korea once, thus only went through the application once, but I found it very easy to get a job, and the following information is based upon my application process and hearing about the application processes of others. As I now help recruit English teachers to South Korea, it is of great interest to me at this time.
Step One: Get Qualified To Teach English in South Korea
Firstly, are you qualified to get a job teaching English in South Korea? In order to be able to be granted a visa (and this changes from time to time), you need:
- A passport from UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa
- A bachelor degree (in any subject) from a university located in one of the above mentioned countries
- A clean criminal record (verified by a police / FBI / whoever does it in your country background check)
- 120+ hour TEFL certification (to work in government schools)
If you do not meet these requirements, the Korean government will not grant you an E2 visa which is what you will need to teach English. It’s a silly rule because many non-native English people speak excellent English, better than most natives, but it is the rule of Korea. I repeat this because I get emailed about it multiple time a week: If you do not meet the prerequisites above, you cannot teach in Korea at this time.
A Note On TEFL Certification
You need a 120+ hour TEFL certificate to be granted the E2 visa if you wish to work for a government school. If you want to work for a private hagwon, you do not need a TEFL certificate, but it will make it much easier to get a job, might increase your salary, and will hopefully lead to you being a better teacher. If you do not have TEFL certification, I advise you to read this post about choosing which TEFL course (if any) is best for you: It has a short quiz that assesses whether or not you need to do a course and suggests which course you should do.
How Did I Get a Job Teaching English in Korea?
I often get asked, ‘How did you find a job teaching English in South Korea?’ In short, I sent out lots of applications to job agencies and responded to direct adverts that I found on TEFL forums. Torrents of phone interviews then occurred, sometimes in the early hours of the morning – a time when I was not at all suitable to be interviewed for a job – when agencies didn’t even bother to check what country I lived in. I didn’t pay much attention to any of the interviews I did, but I soon started receiving firm job offers. I weighed the pros and cons of each, then settled on teaching for a school named Yale in Daegu. I believe that the chain no longer exists, but they were lovely people and I am lucky to have worked for them. My application process was very haphazard because I wasn’t too fussed about where I worked, what age students I taught, or if I would even go at all.
Step Two: Get Your Criminal Background Check
If you get offered a job in Korea, there are certain things that you will need, such as apostilled or notorised copies of your degree, sealed transcripts, and a few other things depending upon which country you are from. It might be worth requesting sealed copies of your transcripts in advance, but it normally doesn’t take too long anyway. However, the one thing that everybody needs that can take a while is the criminal background check. In the US this is done by the FBI and can take months. If you do not have this, you will not get the E2 visa, simple as that. They are generally valid for around six months, so if you know roughly when you want to go, make sure that you apply for the criminal background check in plenty of time.
Step Three: Start Applying For Jobs
If you are eligible and you have your criminal background check (or it is being processed), you can now find a job. So, how can you find a job teaching English in South Korea? I would advise doing two things:
- Register directly with Korean recruitment agencies that recruit teachers. I have teamed up with an agency (that you can apply to easily by clicking here so that is a super easy first step), but Googling ‘teach english in Korea agency’ or something similar yields hundreds of thousands of results. There are literally hundreds of agencies that you can register with and I registered with loads of them. They do the hard work of matching you with jobs and the phone calls should start pouring in (hopefully) – they get paid good money for successfully recruiting teachers. The good thing about doing it this way is that it is easy, the bad thing is that some of the jobs you get approached with will be a load of rubbish.
- Apply directly to jobs through TEFL forums. This way you speak directly with the school. This is a little time consuming, but you get to apply to specific jobs that you are interested in and the schools get to speak with you, thus avoiding a middleman. When I was applying in this way (and how I found my job), I applied through Dave’s ESL Cafe and TEFL dot com. The industry may have changed, but these were by far the best two global sites when I was looking for work as a teacher.
Working For Government Schools
If you wish to work for the government, you will need to obtain a teaching qualification and apply through EPIK. You will also need to get a TEFL certification which you can do here. Having a TEFL may increase your wages by around $100 a week, although this varies from job to job.
That’s it. Answer calls from unknown numbers, be professional, and see what happens. And keep applying for more jobs if you aren’t finding what you like. If you are pretty flexible on where you want to teach, I would advise applying to teach English in China for the simple fact that there are loads of jobs there right now. I have partnered with a Chinese recruiter to help you find jobs teaching English in China – you can apply here.
When you are considering job offers (in Korea or China), I advise that you consider the following:
Daegu was fun, but it wasn’t the best place for me to live (although I did go back to visit). I should have lived on Jeju (which I eventually did, but not as a teacher). Korea has huge, busy cities and very chilled out rural life. It is incredibly diverse and you must consider if you will be happy in the place that you are going. I loved my time in Daegu and I am grateful for it, but I found it overwhelming. Then again, I might have got bored if I was more isolated. Ultimately I stopped teaching because I wanted less comfort in my life (which makes no sense to most people). Teaching English offer a very comfortable life which made me uncomfortable…! You have lots of money, you have a place to live, you have good people around you… I gave all this up to hitchhike around Europe and live in a tent, but that’s just the sort of person that I am.
I taught from elementary through to high school, with occasional adult classes. I liked the younger kids best and wished I had only been teaching them.
You should never have to work more than five days (without significant financial incentive) and you should not have to work more than eight hours a day. In my job, I generally worked from 3 or 4 pm to 9 or 10 pm, four days a week, and between 1 and 3 hours on a Wednesday. In total, I rarely (if ever) did a 30 hour week and didn’t teach more than six classes a day. Some teachers get sucked into tiring 8-6 days, totalling 50 hours a week, double what I was doing. My teaching deal was particularly easy going which I am grateful for.
Korea is a very lucrative country to teach English in and when I was looking, I wouldn’t have accepted a job that paid less than 2.2 million won a month (although I wouldn’t have taken less than 2.3 if I had a TEFL). 2.2 was the typical starting salary when I was applying and I heard some horror stories of people getting paid much less and being made to work ridiculous hours. You should also be given a one month salary bonus upon completion of a twelve month contract. That last paycheck is a nice one – for me it was two months’ pay plus the reimbursement of my airfare and additional pay for not using any of my sick days. I used the money to pay some debts I had, then had a little left over that I decided to hitchhike around Europe with. This journey lasted six months and I wrote a book about it. Life is a curious journey.
Your school should pay for a return flight from your home country (although this is not a certainty in the current market). It is typical that you pay for the one way flight there and they reimburse you after six months. This stops fake teachers from getting schools to pay for their holiday flights. If you are lucky, your school will offer to pay for your flights up front.
All teachers should be provided with a fully furnished flat. These vary from tiny, single room apartments, to what I was given – an apartment with a spacious bedroom, living room, and kitchen, just two minutes bike ride from my school. Find out what you are being offered and make sure that it is to your liking.
Speak to other teachers
When you are considering a job offer, request the email address of a foreign teacher currently working at the school, or of a teacher who has recently left. Ideally, speak to multiple teachers as this is the best way of finding out more about your school. This should allow any red flags to be waved and ensure that you work for a reputable school that will do as they say they will do. If a school decides not to pay you for any reason, you have almost no legal standing in Korea. One of my friends had worked for eleven months when her school turned around and fired her because she had taught a private lesson. Almost every teacher I have ever met teaches private lessons while in Korea, but doing so is not allowed and if your school finds out, they have every legal right to fire you as it is against your contract (or your visa, I’m not sure). My friend ended up working one more month, completing her twelve months, but did not receive her month bonus for completing the contract and did not have her flights paid for. This essentially meant she lost around £2,000 which is kind of a pain in the bum. Another friend got screwed over because he missed a few days of work after being hit by a taxi while on his bicycle. The taxi was travelling at 70 km/h and he was lucky to have survived, but his school didn’t think he should have missed work because of this. Truly, the best way of avoiding these horror stories is to speak to other teachers and see what they have to say about the school. You may also be able to find information about your school on job forums. My company was lovely and they did everything and more that they said they would do. When they found out about my private classes, they swept it under the carpet and they gave me gifts on holidays and when leaving.
Once You Have Been Offered a Job
If you get offered a job, now is the time to make sure you get all your documents in order so that everything goes smoothly. Either the agency or the school should guide you through this process. It might also be advisable to consider getting travel insurance (it is the one thing I never travel without) and to learn Korean. If you are interested in learning Korean you can learn Korean with this course or learn ANY language using this method of learning. If you want advice on travel insurance, here it is.
There it is, every jibbling bit of nonsense I have to offer about finding a job teaching English in South Korea. Korea is lucrative and there are many benefits of teaching there. I hope my advice works for you because it worked for me. And for someone else I advised. And now my little brother is teaching there too! If you have any questions, check out the FAQs about teaching in Korea as you will probably find the answer there. Here are some more useful links about teaching English in South Korea and teaching English in general:
- How To Teach English Abroad
- Teaching English In South Korea
- The Benefits Of Teaching English In South Korea
- FAQs About Teaching English in South Korea
- Get Qualified To Teach English
- Why I Stopped Teaching English in South Korea
- How to Learn Korean
- How to Learn Any Language Quickly and Efficiently
- Apply For Jobs Teaching English Around The World
- Travel Insurance Advice (The one thing I never travel without)
Note: If you are applying to teach in a private language academy (hagwon), you can apply anytime and it is possible to secure a job very quickly. If you are applying through the government program EPIK, you must begin your application many months in advance. Semesters begin in March and August. The best time to apply for the Spring hiring session is July through September of the previous year and the best time to apply for the Autumn hiring session is January through March of the same year. You can increase your employability and salary by obtaining a TEFL.
If you looked at the image for this post and found yourself asking, ‘what is the educational benefit of making kindergarten children eat burger rings from a string without using their hands?’ I would have to say that there is none. I was volunteering at a friend’s kindergarten for a morning and this is one of the games we played. That kid in the white t-shirt is using his hands – he’s a cheater.
hey, thank you so much for the info. I know that i am not even in college…yet, but i know I want to do something like this . It may be challenging, but it looks like fun, hopefully everything works out like fun
I hope you get to do it if it is what you want to do.
Thank You for the information. I was wondering since I’m a Mexican -American that will love to teach English in South Korea do I have the requirements that they require to teach in Korea.
P.S. I’m still in college.
If you get a Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) and hold a US passport, you will meet the requirements. I hope that helps.
Hello Jamie! First of all, thank you for all the information you have provided on this wonderful website. I have a question for you and I really hope you have the answer T_T.
I am ethnically Korean, but I spent the majority of my life in Canada. I am fluent in both English and Korean. I have a Canadian passport and I believe I meet all the necessary requirements to be eligible for the E2 visa (however, I currently do not hold any teaching qualifications). I was wondering if it is difficult for a Korean-Canadian to find teaching jobs in Korea? I heard through the grapevine that many institutes prefer to hire Caucasians over Asians (and I really hope this isn’t true).
Do you think I won’t be able to find jobs in Korea simply due to the fact that I am Korean? I am definitely capable of teaching English and I have the credentials to back it up.
Thank you so much in advance and I hope to hear from you soon~!
Hi Joe. I actually don’t know the answer to this, but I would think you can still find a job as you meet the requirements of holding a Canadian passport. It is definitely true that most of the English teachers in Korean are caucasian, but I don’t know if that is due to the hiring policy or not. Try applying for a few jobs and see what happens – good luck.
I think an important thing to note is that working for a government sponsored program like EPIK, GEPIK, etc., is going to be much more stable than working for a private language center. They tend to have lots of issues with paying on time, odd living situations, etc. even though they do promise high salaries and great benefits.
The EPIK / GEPIK jobs do offer great security. Hagwons can definitely be good or bad – I was lucky with mine and they were excellent with me. It is worth doing some online research about future employers before starting a job.
Hi, I like the article! Instead of applying from home I want to vacation for a couple months in the Philippines starting in November and then apply around mid-December. Do you think this will work? Do I have to be in my native country (Canada) to have everything sorted out or can I just do a bit of pre-travel work to make sure I have the documents? Once I start applying for jobs do you think I can do this in just a few weeks? Is this an appropriate time of year to try and get hired?
You can get the documents you need in advance – most are valid for six months I think. You could always apply for a job in advance, then spend some time travelling in the Philippines before going to your job in Korea. This way you would know it was all sorted. Private schools recruit year round, so you can normally apply any time.
I live in New Zealand and graduate from uni this year (my degree is TESOL) and plan to teach in Korea next year sometime. My only concern is the actual TEACHING as I know i will enjoy living there and the whole experience, but I am a really anxious person when it comes to work as I always think I should work my butt off in case people think I am not working hard enough and get mad, lol. But I hear in Korea you can be kind of chill about teaching and drag lessons out quite a lot and they don’t mind..? Is this true? I’m really worried that if I teach lots of lessons a day (I assume different English levels) I would get mixed up between them all and not be sure how to organise all of the lesson plans/activities for each class. Did you find this difficult? I am really excited but also worried because of that and also about medical insurance issues and sick days as I get sick quite often..
Love your blog though and thanks for the info! 🙂
Most ESL teachers in Korea have never taught any classes before. You generally learn as you go along and find your own way of working with regards to organisation and classroom activities. I worked in a few different schools here and there, and found all of them to be pretty relaxed.
I liked your post. I am indian.
Previously, I wanted to apply for a teaching position in South Korea.
Now,I understand I can’t.
It’s a silly rule, but there are other countries that you can teach in instead. Best of luck to you.
Great site, I appreciate all the advice. Do you know anything about briging a small dog along for the journey? cheers
No I don’t, but Leah from The Vegetarian Traveller will be able to tell you more. She wants to bring her small dog to Europe next year, so I will soon learn what it means to explore with a small dog.
Totally agree about the Daegu thing! Busan or Seoul is way, way better. But, I think living on Jeju would have the island fever thing going for it after a few months and might not be the best option.
Jeju is a big island with so much going on. Despite being there for six months, there was so much more for me to see there. I love the outdoors though, so I would recommend it for anyone who feels the same, but maybe not for city people.
I am very thankful for your information and advice. I am very interested in teaching English in South Korea. I graduate in may of 2016. I wanted to ask, do you know if I can apply for a job for the Autumn term? You mentioned that for that session I have to apply starting in January, but I
don´t graduate until May…
And another question! 🙂 I live in Puerto Rico.. I have a US Passport and I am fluent in English…does that affect the possibility of me teaching?
I hope to hear from you soon! :)) and again thank you for the info.
I’m not sure of the ins and outs when applying for work with regard to dates, but try contacting agencies and see what they say. As for eligibility, your US passport is quite enough, you don’t need to mention that you are living in Puerto Rico. I’m not sure about the eligibility of studying outside an English speaking country either – again, you would be best to check with an agency. Good luck.
Thanks for all this information! I’m trying to get a job through EPIK or GEPIK for Fall 2016 (though I prefer Seoul) and I’ve been a bit discouraged because everything I read is about how much harder it is to get a job there now (as compared to a few years ago). Can I ask you a few questions? Any help would be appreciated 🙂
1. I have some experience teaching english, though it was private tutoring and not for some big institution – do you think they’ll still consider it?
2. I hold a US passport and am a native speaker of english but I’m Chinese and look appropriately so. I’m told Korean schools are quite biased when it comes to foreign-looking teachers – how much of a deleterious effect do you think this will have?
3. I’m in my last year of university and I won’t get my diploma officially until May 2016. If I’m looking to apply for the August 2016 semester, I realize I’ll need to get started on my application far earlier. Will they consider my application if my diploma isn’t included? I’m sure I could get some sort of letter from my university sent to them stating an intent to graduate but they won’t have a physical copy until it’s too late…
Thanks so much!
I know almost little or nothing about the government programs, so please take my answers with a pinch of salt as I am only guessing based upon the little that I know.
1. Any experience helps. Most teachers (such as myself when I went to Korea) have none.
2. I don’t think this will be a major problem. While they do request a photo before offering a job, I met many teachers who were not typical caucasians – the passport is the main thing.
3. I would be guessing if I tried to answer this – best to try contacting the EPIK / GEPIK programs directly or getting in touch with a recruiting agency.
Best of luck to you.
I maybe even thinking of taking up an English course like TEFL just to obtain a teaching job in South Korea, but I think I will have no luck. I am not a native English speaker. I am a holder of a Philippine passport. Sigh. Will i have a chance to, at least, teach in kindergarten or elementary schools in South Korea?
Unfortunately you cannot be granted a work visa to teach English in Korea if you are a non-native speaker. There are many other countries which will allow you to teach in them however. I hope you can find something in a place that you will enjoy.
Great post, thank u. Could you please write sth like that about jobs in Istanbul. I’ve red you have been there for a while so u probably know how foreigner can get job there 🙂
Hi Karina, when I went to Istanbul I used Craigslist – that was the only place I could find jobs. To get a job in Istanbul, you only need to speak English – no degree or teaching qualifications are necessary (in my experience). Good luck.