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A Guide to Teaching English in South Korea

Whether you’re an experienced ESL teacher looking for a change of scenery, or someone simply interested in the culture – Teaching English in South Korea is one of the most popular choices for teaching English.

Teaching in South Korea provides a fantastic opportunity to not only save some money but help you grow as a person. Polishing up on your teaching skills while experiencing the vibrant culture, filled with wonderful food can’t be too bad, right?

Thankfully, the visa requirements for the teaching visa (E-2) aren’t too difficult. Let’s take a look at those requirements in further detail.

E-2 Visa Requirements

  • Be a native English speaker from a native English country – Now this one is a bummer for people who aren’t native English speakers. Unfortunately, there’s no negotiating this one – even if you speak English fluently (or have extensive teaching experience!) You must be a native English speaker from the following countries: United Kingdom, United States, Canada Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, or South Africa.
  • Hold a 3/4 year bachelor’s degree – You must have a degree from an accredited university to be able to teach English in South Korea. The major doesn’t matter and doesn’t have to be related to English.
  • Clean criminal background check – It’s important to not have any charges or convictions (traffic violations usually slide.) A clean record is required to receive an E-2 visa.

Sometimes required

  • Teaching Certification – It’s possible to find an English teaching job without a certificate, but it’ll boost your chances if you do. A TESOL, TEFL, or CELTA certificate is also accepted. It varies from school to school what they’re willing to accept and where you acquired the certification – you just need to shop around.

Helpful to have

  • Some knowledge about Korean – Now this isn’t a requirement to become an English teacher, in fact, most schools will ask you to only speak English in the classroom. But to make your life a whole lot easier, it’s best to learn some simple Korean phrases. It’ll benefit you greatly outside of school.

If you’re not from one of the countries listed above and you already have an F visa within Korea, then you can also teach English. Some schools and hagwons (academies) will hire non-native speakers with an F visa as long as their English skill is fluent. You can also become a private tutor or work after school gigs, but this is generally more tricky. You’ll have to find your own clients and the work is not guaranteed to be regular. That being said, private tutors usually charge up to $50 per hour.

Where to Find English Teaching Jobs in South Korea

There are tons of jobs and recruiters out there offering deals and opportunities. It is important to shop around for the best benefits and don’t accept anything unless you’re 100% sure the school is the right fit for you.

  • EPIK – One of the leading programs for finding public teaching jobs in South Korea. You can apply via their website, or hire a recruiter to help polish your resume and ensure you have the right documents. You can find opportunities in 15 metropolitan cities including Seoul, Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Ulsan, Gwangju, Daejeon, Jeju, and Gangwondo.
  • SMOE – A public office of education that sometimes posts jobs onto their job boards. It’s not impossible to find a job this way, but it’s typically more difficult.
  • Private recruiters – There are many recruiters available to find you jobs in South Korea. The most popular private recruiters are Gone 2 Korea, Hands Korea, Teach ESL, Work N Play, and Korvia.
  • Facebook groups – The expat community on Facebook is thriving. If you post a question you’re guaranteed a response almost straight away. Recruiters also post jobs via Facebook regularly. English Teachers in South Korea, GEPIK Teachers, Teach ESL Korea, Public Jobs in Gyeonggi-do.
  • Craigslist – Just like any other craigslist posting, you should always be careful when searching. Since the website isn’t monitored, it is possible a few people could be posing as recruiters in hopes of scamming you. Although, there are a handful of genuine job opportunities posted. If you can’t find any work with the above methods, try this one carefully.

Contracts, Payments, and Benefits – Public School

The pay and benefits that you can earn from teaching English in South Korea are usually what draw people in first. They’re among the best in the world!

Most public school contracts will offer around the same pay and benefits. All contracts are 365 days no matter where you go. If you wish to stay longer, there will be an end of year review. If your school likes you, you can re-sign the contract at the end of your term.

Benefits vary from school to school, but a good contract will include the following:

  1. Paid Flights to and from Korea
  2. Rent-free apartment close to your school
  3. Health Insurance
  4. Pension
  5. A Visa to live and work in Korea
  6. 18-25 paid vacation days per year (depending on your school)
  7. 10 paid sick days (also depending on your school)
  8. Korean co-teacher to work alongside you

The starting salary for most public schools is around $2,000 – $2,200. If you’re a gyopo (Korean-American, British, etc) then you can earn up to $3,000 a month. If it doesn’t sound like much, remember you have no rent to pay and you only have to cover the cost of your monthly bills.

Korea is relatively cheap, so with only $2,000, you can feel like a king! Many people come to Korea to earn and save in hopes to pay off student debt or earn enough money to travel.

Types of Teaching in South Korea

Public School

Working in a public school, usually elementary, is the most sort-after. These jobs are usually 9-to-5. These jobs are typically the hardest to get, especially if you’re picky about which city you wish to live in.

As mentioned above, most jobs available will be elementary (third – sixth grade) but sometimes middle and high schools hire too.

Private Academy (Hagwon)

Although public schools vary, most follow similar guidelines. However, hagwon jobs vary greatly. Teaching hours often exceed 22 hours per week and you may be asked to do overtime. Less vacation time is available but hagwons offer higher pay and have a higher hire rate.

Most hagwons don’t offer the help of co-teachers. Depending on your preference, this could be a disadvantage or a benefit. Young children are often taught in the morning and middle school and high schoolers are often taught at night. Teachers who teach adults will usually be required to work both day and night.

Other Positions

Many people tutor and teach in hagwons illegally. They may try and convince you it’s a good idea, but keep in mind if you’re caught teaching illegally, you run the risk of being deported and blacklisted from teaching in South Korea. Always make sure you’re doing it legitimately.


If you have your heart set on teaching English in South Korea, make sure you have a degree first. There are tons of positions out there waiting to be filled, just make sure you don’t make a rash decision. Shop around to find the best offers and always make sure you research the school to make sure it is not blacklisted.