A Guide to Teaching English in Korea
Teaching English in Korea is how many TEFL teachers start out. There’s quite a demand for jobs and teachers seem to enjoy the lifestyle. In this guest post, Eliza tells us all about working as an English teacher in Korea, including the salary and types of jobs. Since she’s been there for nearly 10 years, she’s quite the expert. She also runs her own website and recruitment service, so have a look at The Unconventional Life too.
I have been teaching English in Korea on and off since 2009 and my time here has been amazing for so many different reasons. Each time I’ve come back for a different reason and taught in a totally different teaching environment. I’ve taught English at a private school in Korea (Hagwon), a University, in a Business English position and currently I’m working as an Academic Manager.
Each time I’ve learned something new, developed my skills and seen the changes and development of Korea over time. All-in-all I think that Korea has a lot to offer prospective teachers. You can find out more about me and my teaching experiences on my website.
What qualifications do you need for teaching English in Korea?
The most popular positions that are advertised in Korea are for Private teaching positions. The two options are kindergarten/primary school (8-5pm/ 9-6pm) or after school programs (which run anywhere from 2-10pm or 1-9pm). These jobs are the most commonly advertised. The other popular option is public school positions in Korea which you apply for through the EPIK Program.
The basic requirement to qualify to teach English in Korea is a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited University. This is the basic for your visa application. However, with the growing competition, a lot of positions will also request a TEFL certification or 1-2 years’ teaching experience.
What visas/work permits do you need to teach English in Korea?
As an English teacher, you’ll need to apply for the standard E2 work visa issued to all English teachers. Your school or recruiter should help you with this process by providing you with a step by step procedure.
You’ll be required to submit a lot of documentation for this.
A notarized/apostilled Degree (This means you have an official seal that the degree is in fact legitimate)
A Criminal Background Check
An unopened copy of your University Transcripts (I’d order about 3 copies for safekeeping)
Passport – sized photos (Stock up on these as well)
Is there a maximum age for teachers to teach English in Korea?
There is no set maximum age for teacher per se but work visas cannot be issued to people over the age of 60. Also, the teaching positions tend to attract teachers from ages 23 to about 45 at the most. The most common expat teachers are younger university graduates from 23-30, but the industry continues to grow and change and there are older people (like myself) living and teaching here.
Do you need to be a native speaker to teach English in Korea?
All teachers applying for jobs outside of the country on an E2 visa are required to be Native English speakers from Canada, UK, America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
What kind of jobs are there as an English teacher in Korea?
As I mentioned before the main positions available are Private schools (referred to as Hagwons) and Public school (EPIK) positions. Other positions that are available include adult teaching in private schools that usually have split shifts and require experience teaching adults.
University positions the holy grail of teaching positions here. It’s really difficult to get a job at a University and you need to have a Masters Degree (at minimum). Most positions are filled by teachers already in Korea. I have a lot more detailed information about teaching positions in Korea on my blog.
Which cities/areas in South Korea are most of the jobs in?
Most teaching positions are in Seoul or the suburbs of Seoul.
You can see other teachers’ experiences in South Korea in different cities around the country in our post: Teaching English in South Korea – real teachers’ experiences.
What are the typical semesters?
There are no semesters really in Private and public schools as teachers are expected to work through student holidays for desk warming.
What is peak season for hiring?
Korea is ALWAYS hiring. Because of the nature of the positions, you will always be able to find teaching positions. The peak hiring time, however, is August/September.
What’s the salary for teaching English in Korea and how does it compare to the cost of living?
Unfortunately, the salary for teaching English in Korea hasn’t changed much over the years with the increase of cost of living in Korea. I personally think this is because of the saturated teaching market. The general salary offered is 2 – 2.4 million won per month.
The cost of living obviously depends on where you live. Bigger cities will be a higher cost of living than smaller ones. The cost of living in Seoul is extremely high so compared to the salary it makes it harder to save. Overall, the pay is enough to live a comfortable life in most cities and even save a lot of money if that is your goal!
What’s good about teaching/living in Korea?
You can save a lot of money teaching English here if that’s your goal. The lifestyle is great with a lot of things to do and plenty of time to try them all out. If you enjoy Korean food and drink you can live a fairly cheap and enjoyable lifestyle.
The other great thing about living in Korea is access to mountain hiking trails and walking trails. Koreans live a very active lifestyle so you can always find great hiking routes with beautiful views, and walking trails usually built around a stream or river.
How do most people find work teaching English in Korea?
For public school positions, you can apply through EPIK.
Our friend Pete started teaching English on the EPIK scheme. You can read his story here.
For Hagwon (private school positions), University or adult teaching jobs you can find a variety of opportunities on ESL/EFL job boards such as Dave’s ESL Korea Board or Gone 2 Korea. You’ll most likely be put in touch with a recruiter who is hiring for a number of positions around Korea. Most recruiters will try to push you into any jobs that are open. Make sure to know what kind of job want and where you want to teach before beginning your jobs search. Be clear and mark these points out to your recruiter. If they can’t find you the job you want move on, there are plenty out there!
What schools do you recommend working for?
There are no specific schools or companies I can recommend. However, my biggest tip or advice when looking for teaching positions is to do your research! Get the name of the school look it up online and reach out to Korea teaching groups and ask about the school. Also, make sure to have them put you in touch with a teacher from the school.
If you can do these things first, it will help you to make a decision about accepting any position. The main thing is finding the best school for you and asking the right questions!
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