How to Become an English Teacher in Korea (Full Guide)

Ultimate Guide to Teaching in Korea

How exactly do you become and English Teacher in South Korea and what are your options? This guide puts together everything I know, every useful link, and over a month of additional research in March, 2015 to make sure I have up to date info. If I made any errors, feel free to add it in the comments and I’ll make sure to update ASAP. Just FYI, this is mostly useful to American citizens.

A – Pre-Qualifications


1) Do You Even Want to Teach Here?

While not a ‘rule,’ the amount of disgruntled expats in SK is alarming. Some hate their particular job, some hate everything about teaching, and some can’t stand Korea in general. Korea can be amazing, but only if you really want to be there.


2) Citizenship in an English Speaking Country

You must be a citizen of the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the UK, South Africa, or Ireland. You don’t have to be born in said countries, but it is asked that you did at least middle school and above there.


3) Bachelor’s Degree from an English Speaking University and Country

To legally get a decent job, you must have a 4-year (3 for Canadians) degree in any major. Bi-lingual countries like Canada have exceptions as degrees from French speaking Unis in Quebec are generally not accepted.


Edit: 5/20/2015 – The public school programs are now requiring a TEFL of TOEFL Certificate.


You passed the test, and are ready to go. Be aware that the process can take anywhere from 11 weeks absolute minimum to over 4 months. Long story short, don’t expect to look for a job and be in Korea by next month, it just isn’t going to happen.


B – Paperwork

Most things are relatively easy to get, but there is one limiting factor that drags the entire process to a snail-like pace, and that’s…


1) FBI Criminal Background Check (CBC)

Pre-2011ish, all you needed was a State-Level CBC, but that’s changed. Here is the FBI website with instructions. All other paperwork takes a week or two to gather at most, but this takes from 10-16 weeks (from the day you mail your fingerprints in).

Read this guide first before submitting your CBC.

When it arrives, you must get the CBC..

Option #1

      • Notarized – Go to a notary public to get the CBC notarized. To do this, you have to make a statement swearing that this is a legitimate document (known as an affidavit). The cheapest and easiest notaries are at the UPS store, which charge ~$10. (Not available everywhere)
      • Verified – After getting the affidavit, you need to get the signature verified. Every notary is registered in a county registrar/clerk that can verify that this indeed is a legitimate notary public. For this reason, before doing the affidavit, ask the notary where they are registered because you will need to go there. Make sure the notary knows you will verify the signature because they must sign the affidavit exactly as the signature that is on file. I learned the hard way, that this indeed is a big deal.
      • Apostilled – You can think of an apostille as an “internationally recognized notary public.” Their seal is what Korean officials want to see. Apostilles are handled at the state level, so every state is different. Go here to find out about your state. It should be noted that while they might say that you can skip the ‘verified’ step on their website, I have personally been rejected for not doing it.

Option #2

While I have always done it the option #1 way, doing some research on the same guide I linked above leads me to believe this getting a “Federal Apostille” is much quicker and less of a headache. There are several options on getting one, but again, read the guide before moving forward.

2) Copy of your original bachelor’s (or above) degree

You will need to make a copy of your degree. From here, follow the same process as he CBC above to get it apostilled. If for whatever reason, your English speaking University decided to get all fancy and give out degrees in Latin (which happens), you will need to get it translated first. Furthermore, if you are a recent grad and a degree is not yet available, you can get a letter from your school, which will also need to be notarized, verified, and apostilled.


3) Resume

Like any job, a resume is required and the more relevant experience the better. It should be noted that experience teaching in a foreign country, and Korea in particular, is looked on a lot better than experience back home. Exceptions, of course, are for registered teachers which are preferred.


4) Transcripts

This is not required for the visa, but both of my employers as well as many others I applied to expressed that they would like to see them. It is good to have on hand a few sealed ones just in case.


After all of these documents are acquired, you will have to mail them to your prospective employer so that they can sponsor you for a visa. Since the CBC takes forever, it is a good idea to look for jobs after you have already submitted your fingerprints to the FBI, but hopefully, before it arrives to reduce the total time wasted in this process.


C- What Are My Teaching Options?

You have three major options, and a few minor ones listed further below.


1) Hagwon / “Private Academy”

There is no real American equivalent, but the closest is something like Sylvan Learning Center mixed with a private school. Education is huge in Korea and a large amount of the population invests in these ‘hagwons’ that teach anything from English to how to build LEGOs.

English is one of the more popular hagwons, so a lot of them employ ‘native speakers’ to distinguish themselves from those that only employ Korean teachers. The benefits of this is in (hopefully) developing a natural accent and having a more speaking-oriented English experience, as opposed to the Korean style of focusing on grammar and writing. The drawbacks are that the majority of hired teachers have little to no experience, relying on a ‘crash course’ (if that) prior to beginning lessons. This is often one of the bigger complaints by first time teachers in Korea. Furthermore, this is a business and perception of success is often more important than actual progress. Be aware that there are some schools who will only employ you to be a pretty face, not to actually do any teaching. Great schools are plentiful too, so tips on distinguishing the two are further down.



  1. Higher Level Students
    • Students in hagwons usually attend for years. Unless you teach pre-school, they are rarely blank slates. From talking to teachers in the EPIK program (further down), teaching lower levels can be frustrating and a sharp difference in ability is noticeable.
  2. Higher Pay
    • This can vary, but a beginner teacher can expect to make anywhere from 2.1-2.3 million on per month (roughly 2,000-2150 USD). Salaries of 3.0-3.5 are rare, but not unheard of for those with experience.
  3. You Know Where You Will Teach
    • You will know exactly what city / province you will be teaching in prior to accepting a position.
  4. Set Curriculum
    • Different companies and franchises use and advertise a certain program which they have been using for years. While it is good to have a lesson plan, the general framework is set.



  1. The Hours are Long
    • Hagwons , are often after-school programs or a hybrid of morning (for kindergarten) and after-school. Expect to work at least 8 hours, but it is not unusual to put in 9-10 hour days.
  2. Subject to Scams
    • This hasn’t happened to me personally, but some teachers have had jobs that are late with paying, withhold things they agreed to, and basically don’t deliver on what was promised.
  3. It’s a Business
    • Most principals and directors are businessmen first, and educators a very distant second, but exceptions do exist! My first year in Korea, the boss showed up about 5-6 times the whole year and blatantly told me he’d rather gamble in Vegas and Singapore than be there.
    • Another danger is the school closing before your year is finished. In one occasion, a friend of mine arrived in Korea only to find out his new school had just gone out of business!
  4. Vacation is Shorter
    • Typically, you are allowed one week in the winter and one week in the summer in addition to 15 national holidays. Said holidays could land on weekends though, so it might be less. You will learn to love Chuseok (3 days off) and Seollal (2 days off)!



  1. Money – In my experience, FETs (Foreign English Teachers) in Korea aren’t very good with numbers and trust me, employers use that against you. Make a chart to find out how much you are REALLY being offered. Standard benefits include:
    • Paid Round-trip Flight –  for my nearest airport, this is $1200 USD or $100 a month
    • Half Medical Insurance –  It is required, equivalent to $60 a month. You usually pay the other half.
    • Rent –  My place was worth ~$400-$600 a month, but it varies. Keep in mind, if they don’t provide housing, Korea usually requires a deposit of 3-15,000 USD (more or less depending on your place) which you might have to put up out of pocket. Chungdamn (a huge hagwon chain) is one I personally find dishonest for making their pay look good by giving you a stipend instead of an apartment for their ‘hourly workers.’ Do the math, it is not worth it.
    • Severance You are due one month extra pay upon completing a year contract. This is the law and anyone avoiding this is probably not someone you want to work for.
    • Pension –  Everyone in Korea pays into a mandatory pension program (similar to Social Security). The difference is that it is actually saved money (unlike SS) and you are due to cash out if you leave Korea. Most foreign teachers don’t stay for the rest of their lives, so it is a nice chunk of change when you leave (equivalent to about a month’s pay per year, plus accumulated interest). Two possible scams here. Some just don’t offer it making some excuse. This is a red flag, so don’t work for them. Another trick is offering you 2.2% pension. Pension is 2.2%-4.5% and is YOUR choice. The employer must match it, so it’s a 100%+ investment. You’d be stupid not to. Legit employers just straight up advertise 4.5%.
  2. How To Know if your School is Good – When it comes right down to it, like any job, it is hard to know for sure. Here is my #1 tip.
    • The Interview – Chances are, you will not be hired without an interview with the director of the school or an official of some kind (if you are, red flag). Ask questions regarding the responsibilities, the students, and anything  you might be curious about. Ask for the emails of current teachers along with pictures of the accommodation. Most importantly however, think about the kinds of questions THEY ask YOU. A red flag to me is when a principal asks no questions related to education or experience. A director that cares about the education part of his business is someone you want to work for.


2) Public School System / EPIK

Students from the third grade and up are required to take an English course as part of the normal curriculum. These days, a ‘native speaker’ is hired to fill in the task in addition to a Korean teacher who teaches grammar and makes connections with the Korean language. Note that this program is gradually being phased out.



  1. Safe
    • As a government program, you won’t have to worry much about getting scammed out of your pay.
    • Hagwons can be hit or miss but the public school system is fairly stable.
  2. Longer Vacation
    • Generally, you are allowed about 4-6 weeks vacation per year in addition to national holidays.



  1. Lower Pay
    • Here is a pay scale of what you get with the EPIK program.
  2. You Can’t Choose Location
    • They put you where you are needed and you will know this upon arriving in Korea. This means that you could be in Seoul or in the country side somewhere in Gangwon-do. You are allowed to give your top 3-5 choices though and they pick from those.
  3.  Class size
    • Hagwons are usually limited to 10-15 students per class. Public schools have twice to 3 times as many students.
  4. Different Locations
    • Depending on where you work, you might be required to commute between multiple schools.



  1. Less, if any, Foreigner Co-workers
    • Personally, I liked have enjoyed having other foreigners in the work place. On the other hand, being the only foreigner pushes you to learn Korean and consequently, you probably get a grip of Korean society much faster than those who don’t leave the foreign bubble. This can go either way. At the end of the day though, it is what you make of it as you can find foreign friends outside of work and you can push yourself to learn Korean and adapt on your own.
  2. Level of Students
    • Kids in the public school system will often be of a lower English level than kids who have been going to hagwons for years. This can make teaching frustrating (or challenging), but again, it is what you make of it.


3) Universities

People who work in universities are usually what we call ‘lifers.’ The job is so good, there is really no incentive to go home and struggle to make ends meet. With tons of vacations, you could potentially be visiting family more total time than if you were actually living back home.



  1. Work Schedule
    • Usually, work is limited to about 12-20 hours a week and only 3-4 days a week. One friend of mine worked MWF but given the option to do M-Th.
  2. Vacation
    • The least vacation I have heard of is 10 weeks and the most being 5 months. Yes, that is paid five months vacation.
  3. Safe
    • Much like public schools, you will not get scammed here



  1. Requirements
    • Everyone wants this job, so the requirements are pretty high. In the past, experience was all you needed but these days, more and more schools are asking for a Master’s degree in a relevant field.
  2. Level of Students
    • Many of the students are here because they have to be as a graduation requirement. The difference is that they are college students and have much less patience or capability of learning a new language than a blank slate kid.


  1.  Pay
    • Considering how much you work, 2.1-2.4 million or somewhere around there does not sound bad at all. However, this varies too much to be considered a pro or a con.


4) Other Options

There are a few other options which I won’t go into detail because they are rather small and I have no extensive knowledge on them other than research. However, I did want to mention that you can teach in Korea without choosing one of the three above in case you want to look them up yourself.

  1. Private Schools
    • Many student who attend hagwons also attend private schools as opposed to public elementary schools. These are fewer, but also hire FET to teach English, and usually at a higher level than public schools.
  2. Winter / Summer Camps
    • You may go on vacation or watch cartoons at home. You know what a Korean kid is likely to do on vacation? Go to an intensive “English Camp!” They probably won’t be happy to be there, but some have just decided to make the best of it. Like the English Villages, shorter contracts are a draw.
  3. English Villages
    • These places are kind of like theme parks where kids come and experience ‘Life in English.’ The main benefit is that a lot of these places contract for much shorter periods than the standard one year.
  4. International Schools
    • International schools are run as if they were American schools and are usually targeted to the children of expats (like teachers, businessmen, diplomats, etc). The benefits are excellent as is the compensation, but they usually hire accredited teachers with experience.

D – Where to Find a Job

Finally, you are going to need a job, but where to look? First, there is a little warning / advice I would like to give, and that concerns recruiters. Many Korean schools can either not communicate well enough, or do not want to bother with the process of hiring someone, so they hire recruiters to hire you. Some of these recruiters handle a couple of schools as a side job, and some have grown to be full blown companies that do nothing but recruit. Despite what anyone will tell you, recruiters DO NOT have your best interests, but that does not mean you should avoid them. All that means is that whether they give you a good or a crap job, it’s all the same to them. They get paid 500-2,000 USD as soon as you get an alien registration card, which takes a couple of weeks from the day you arrive.

1) Dave’s ESL Cafe

This was one of the first and still one of the best resources for people to find jobs teaching abroad, despite the site looking like it is stuck in the 90s. Don’t just browse the job listings either, I have been offered some great jobs by uploading my resume and having the employer do the work. Certain jobs post exclusively on this site, so it should be your first stop. Dave’s also has a community of people who share resources, along with posting stuff for sale.

2) Craigslist Seoul

Although some of the ‘jobs offered’ might make you feel alright about being unemployed, it is difficult to ignore that certain schools do advertise here. In fact, the highest offer I ever got from a job was an Advanced Placement prep school I found on CL. You can also upload your resume, and again, have the school call you.

3) Korea Bridge

Kind of like Dave’s, but a bit newer.


Another expat community for finding jobs, asking questions, or buying and selling your stuff.

5) Go Overseas

An organization connecting prospective teachers and volunteers to opportunities abroad.


In my honest opinion, you should try to find a school directly and by yourself to ensure that you get the best deal. However, recruiters are sometimes that necessary evil to find more options. Do not be loyal to any of them and shop around as much as possible. Furthermore, never send your documents to any recruiter until you have been hired by a school. There are many companies and what they offer varies on availability, but here are some to consider:

Footprints, WorknPlayAppletree, Aclipse, Teach Away, Reach to Teach, and JobinKorea just to name a few. From my experience with all of these, Appletree was the most understanding to my needs.


I hope this guide was useful and don’t hesitate to ask any questions in the comments. See you in the RoK.

Julio Moreno
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49 thoughts on “How to Become an English Teacher in Korea (Full Guide)

  • April 3, 2015 at 12:16 am

    Great piece, mate! It actually had me thinking about how much I miss Korea, shitty hagwon hours and all.

    FYI, Australian (and NZ, I assume) degrees are typically three year as well. The exception is doing honours or a dual major. And obv, we don’t have the FBI :p We just need a national police check.

    • April 3, 2015 at 1:17 am

      Good to know, I’ll add that soon! How long does the check take?

  • April 3, 2015 at 6:01 am

    Some great advice here, thanks! I sent my fingerprints to the FBI several weeks ago, along with my credit card info for processing and I’ve yet to see a CC transaction. I’m well aware this is a lengthy process though. I was planning on getting the CBC notarized and apostilled, however verifying the signature is a new one to me. I’m currently a notary in the state of Texas (at a UPS store) and know there’s often a lot of rigmarole involved. Since the CBSs take so long, I definitely have time to do my homework. I have to make sure all my bases are covered because I plan to take my paperwork to Seoul and look for employment upon arrival. Thanks again for the thorough info!

    • April 3, 2015 at 11:08 am

      If you have the money to do that, you will definitely get the best deal by going there and negotiating. There is a “looking for work visa” which allows you to stay for 6 months instead of 3. If you can get the apostille without verification, it’s all good. The issue isn’t Korea on that one, its the apostille office.
      I’ll be back in Seoul hopefully by September too and am in the middle of the process myself. Good luck.

  • April 8, 2015 at 6:36 am

    Hey Julio, great post. It’s very helpful for beginners like myself, and I plan on utilizing your blogpost more! Anyways, I was wondering if you knew anything about Korvia? I plan to go through them for EPIK/GEPIK, but I was wondering if you had any insightful comments to contribute. Thanks for your help.

    • May 21, 2015 at 12:26 pm

      Sorry for the late reply John. I went on a hiatus starting April 8th :(. I have never heard of Korvia. Supplying teachers for Epik and Gepik, it should be relatively safe as those are government programs. However, I would still send my resume around hagwons just to see what your options are.

    • June 9, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      Holy crap, never heard of it. I’m surprised no one had told me about it till now… I’ve been waiting three months also. I’ll amend the guide.

      • June 10, 2015 at 9:15 am

        Isn’t that crazy? Sounds too good to be true, honestly. I guess someone realized how ridiculous it was to have to wait 3 months and did something about it…

        • June 10, 2015 at 12:50 pm

          Still useful though. If there is an issue with my CBC, I’ll just use this!

  • August 29, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Hey Julio, I just wondered how useful is you article, I decided to recommend it to many individuals who asks me about teaching English in Korea, I find your guide is more than enough, especially about the Apostille process, thanks a lot and have a nice day.

  • Pingback: Is it a good idea to teach in Korea? - ESL Teaching Online

  • September 24, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    Hey Julio,

    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…

    4. Seeing how much more competitive the situation is now than before, are there any unique pro-tips you have about getting a job there now?

    Thanks so much!

    • September 25, 2015 at 12:41 am

      Hi Rachel!
      Well, there are two major things that happened in the EPIK program. First, you now need a TEFL certificate to even apply. It is a minimum requirement. Second, as the government is trying to move away from EPIK, the better locations (major cities, and especially Seoul) are getting harder to get.
      1) I would definitely put it in my resume and it is better than nothing. You would look better on paper than someone with zero experience period, BUT be warned that most people who do come to Korea have at least tutored in the past. In fact, I don’t think I have ever met someone who hadn’t. As far as pay brackets, it would not affect EPIKs pay bracket in any way.
      2) I am Mexican-American and am clearly not white. Some hagwons will definitely hire you more often if you’re Caucasian. White or not, you definitely do NOT want to work for these institutions anyways. Aside from the racism, they do not care about actual teaching ability and just want you as a trophy. With that said, I haven’t heard of the government (and EPIK) rejecting someone based on race. There are also plenty of Chinese Americans in Korea teaching. Racism exists, but IMHO, it is WAY blown out of proportion by disgruntled teachers who maybe didn’t get hired. I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. It hasn’t affected me.
      3) I had the same issue when I first came. In 2009, I was allowed to get a letter from the school (as in, the school of engineering) saying I did indeed graduate. I then had to get a letter from my university saying the department (engineering) had the authority to make that call. Both had to be notarized, certified by the county clerk, and then apostilled. This was acceptable in 2009 and given how common it is, I would ask an EPIK recruiter. Furthermore, are you aware of channelers who can do the FBI process in a few weeks? I posted a link on it in this post.
      4) Personally, I do not agree with the notion that EPIK is the end all be all of jobs in Korea. I have always worked in a hagwon and would definitely not even consider EPIK at this point as the pay , working conditions (12 student classes of much higher level), location (Seoul), and coworkers (10 foreigners, 12 koreans who speak English) are all favorable to hagwons over EPIK. Epik is simply safer as many shady hagwons exist, and it is a trade off of working ours and vacation time, but to me, it is worth it.
      EPIK is pretty straight forward so you could volunteer or work at a relevant job in the meantime. I did an education course in my uni that let me teach freshmen and that has always been on my resume (and they always ask about it). Another thing is to do the TEFL ASAP if you havent already. For hagwons, email as many recruiters as possible but try to find schools directly.

    • October 13, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      Yeah, I am actually in a masters program right now and from the looks of it, it’s still going to be hard. I think international schools are probably more prime though.

  • November 29, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks for the article. I’m not new to this whole process but this was helpful to fill in the gaps, such as severance and pension. I think I’m going to go the public school route just to avoid legal issues that I have no clue how to handle.

    I’m currently 20 and I’ll be 20 or 21 when I get to korea, I have about 3 mo work experience at a bowling alley but that’s about it… maybe include some volunteer work at elementary schools that technically was nothing serious.

    Do you think I’ll have a problem getting a job with an online 100 hour TEFL? I’m deciding between that and a 120 hour inclass tefl. It’s 300 dollars vs 1200 dollars USD… If I’m teaching in gyeonggi or incheon, do you think im fucking myself by doing the 100 or 120 hour tefl online?

    Thanks if you can get back to me.

    • November 29, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      As a side now, I’m also white with blonde hair and blue eyes, so I thought I’d add that in there because I know it’s important. I’m moderately attractive, working on getting better.

      • November 29, 2015 at 5:48 pm

        It is…kind of important. Like any job, there is a bias towards more attractive people. In Korea, it is of course, more so than other places. However, the myth that you definitely will not get hired if you are not white is absurd. I am not white and half of my coworkers are not white. I have worked in other places that hired Hispanics, African Americans, Indian Americans, Asian Americans and so on. In my experience, those places who definitely will NOT hire you if you are not pretty and white are not exactly worried about much else but the look of their school and are terrible places to work. I am okay being overlooked by them. Since you are going the public route, this should be less of an issue, but it certainly doesn’t hurt!

    • November 29, 2015 at 5:43 pm

      The official EPIK website does not specify, and from what I have read, no it does not matter. However, in the past, TEFL was not required at all and suddenly it was required. Furthermore, many other countries do not take an online TEFL seriously, so your options would start and end in Korea. It is highly likely that if it is not required now (a non-online TEFL) it will be in a year or two so I would suggest you bite the bullet and do the in-class one. You will also be more properly prepared to teach English effectively from the beginning, instead of stumbling in the beginning.
      Also, I would definitely put in the volunteer work. I did something similar which I didn’t think was important and was pretty amazed how relevant it actually was.
      Lastly, if you are concerned about legal issues, it is a good idea to go public. I would definitely target Gyeonggi if you can as you would be at least near Seoul. Seoul city’s public system is separate from EPIK if you are set on working there.

      • November 30, 2015 at 6:00 am

        Hm okay. I was thinking that it would be possible in the next 5 years that an inclass tefl would be required. I wasn’t sure how fast or how serious it was though. I suppose I’ll just bite the bullet then. however, I thought that japan and china were okay with online tefls? I’m interested in taiwan/japan/maybe china after korea.

        So in closing, you don’t think my age or lack of work experience would be an issue?

        • November 30, 2015 at 8:51 am

          Well, you’re not going to get a top job, but you will definitely find a job. You’re just going to need to work on some experience in country. For that reason, maybe the public system (and an inclass TEFL) are for you. Yeah neither China nor Japan require it ATM, but it could change rather quickly.

  • December 28, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    I have a question. Let’s say my dream job was to be an English Teacher in Korea and stay there for like 20 years is that possible ? Also why are the contracts only up to 1/2 years ? Can being an English teacher there be a permeant job, not only up to 1/2 years ?

    • December 28, 2015 at 11:24 pm

      You definitely can. 1-2 years is the maximum for someone who wants to return to their home country, without additional studies, and seamlessly reintegrate to their own society in a field that is not tefl.
      If tefl is your life goal (as it is mine), you can do it for sure but you need to set up additional steps and back up plans. That would be getting a teaching credential in the us or home country, getting experience in home country, getting a masters in education, and using your resources to move up the ladder beyond the hagwon and public jobs 99% of foreigners experience.
      Take it from my point of view. 2.2m won, free flight and free apartment was awesome money and experience at 23 years old. Now at near 30 years old, in thinking investments and long term, but the wages don’t go up much without additional steps.

  • February 21, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Hello! I’m a Filipino citizen and born also at the Philippines, is there any other way I could apply as a teacher in South Korea?

    • February 21, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      Unfortunately, it is a legal requirement to be from one of the six Primarily English speaking countries (passport holders), so not legally. I’m not sure about other countries though, but not possible in South Korea :(.

  • March 14, 2016 at 1:30 am

    Hi Julio,

    Thank you for your informative website. I have a number of questions/concerns and I would really be most appreciative if you can provide your opinion/advice.

    I ‘m in my mid 50s and I’ll be moving on a permanent basis to Korea due to family circumstances. We’re planning to move to a medium size city or small city (in the area where my wife’s relatives reside – Andong city, Gumi or surrounding towns).

    I have completed my bachelor and master’s degrees in chemistry almost 25 years ago (Canadian universities) and I’m aware that I need a TEFL/TESOL certificate to apply for any teaching position.

    I understand that online programs might not be accepted by either public or private sector schools. Can you confirm this requirement, based on you what you know/have seen or on your experience?

    Have you come across teachers who have managed to be hired without a linguistics/education degree and by having completed just a reputable/accredited online TEFL/TESOL certificate? Should I consider 100-120 hours certificates offered only by Canadian universities or any private school’s program with a teaching component might be adequate?

    I realize that most foreign teachers are in their mid 20s or early 30s and in light of this I recognize that age may likely be a factor in not being successful at interviews/screening stages. Based on what you know, should I definitely expect to experience this situation?

    Should I have a couple of work references ready (even though they are not teaching/education related?)

    Do you think that getting a teaching position (either public or private school) may be somewhat easier (less competitive) in less known urban areas/smaller cities (as mentioned) in spite of my age?

    Are private/public schools/employers flexible? I am interested in teaching on a part-time basis (either 4 hours in the morning or 4 hours in the afternoon)

    I thank you in advance for your time and any suggestion/advice


    • March 14, 2016 at 1:44 am

      Hey Richard,
      1) Yes, age will unfortunately be a factor. Being in your 50s without experience could be a drawback. However, teachers don’t often want to be in smaller places like Andong, so there could be a demand. Furthermore, being that you’re married to a Korean, you would be on an F visa, meaning you could legally teach private lessons (at around 40-50 per hours).
      2) A certificate is required for public and recommended for private. If I were you and this is going to be your life now, I would definitely get a TEFL with an in class component. You need to think long term in your situation and even if they do hire you just without a TEFL, you will thank yourself later. Do keep in mind that it is not mandatory for private schools, but does up your chances.
      3) Plenty of teachers teach without credentials. However, they are usually less rigid on where they want to live AND they are not thinking long term.
      4) Part time positions do exist, but they are not as common as full time.
      5) Everything helps, I would do the references if I were you.

      What I would do is get the TEFL, get trained, even look for further education if you like it (CELTA, DELTA, or Masters), move to Andong, get your paperwork together (would be easier if you have an F visa, ask a recruiter), apply for jobs before moving to Korea, and bam, you arrive with a job. It is a tedious process and it will be harder than most, but if you’re flexible, it is doable. One of my friends here is in his 40s teaching university.

      • March 14, 2016 at 9:50 am

        Hi Julio
        thanks for getting back to me. Very useful info. thanks
        Cheers Rich

  • March 15, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Super helpful post thanks! ive sent it to friends who are interested in applying to work here.

    1 small thing, EPIK is not the only public school program. I am currently employed with the Jeollanamdo Language Program who hires for the South Jeolla province. Might be worth an edit for those who dont get into EPIK!

    • March 15, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      Definitely. I have some friends at smoe (Seoul) and then also at the independent gangnam district. I’ll do a major edit for the September semester.

  • November 9, 2016 at 6:12 am

    It was a really great information.
    Thank you^^
    I have a question..
    What if I got my bachelor degree in a non-english speaking university but in English language and literature major and my master at an english speaking university?
    Can I still be an English teacher there??

    • November 9, 2016 at 7:51 am

      Very unique case. You qualify. For visa purposes, you will use your masters so that needs to be apostilled etc. you can still mention your bachelors in your resume though.

  • December 30, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    HI Julio,Thanks for your great information.I like your Travel blog.I need your help can you help me?

  • March 7, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    Hi Julio,

    Thanks for your informative blog! I’ve considered becoming an ESL teacher in Korea for several years, and studied Korean in Seoul last year.
    However, there are a few things holding me back.

    First, I’m a single female in my mid/late 30s (37) with a TEFL certificate, but no real teaching experience. I’m nervous I will be discriminated against for my age.

    Second, I have two cats who are like family. I have already taken the necessary steps required to bring a pet to South Korea. However, nothing can prepare me for bringing my cats on this journey, and there is limited information online about teachers bringing their pets abroad.

    At this point in my life, I wouldn’t rule out staying in Korea long-term, as I’m looking forward to having a fresh start abroad. I don’t want my pets to be the reason I don’t take this step.

    Have you encountered any foreign teachers who have brought their pets to South Korea?
    I’m worried it will prove to be a challenge, but I’m up for it, if its been done before.

    • March 9, 2018 at 8:27 pm

      Not personally but i did read some rathwr disturbing blog posts about people having their cats in quarantine so long they died. Search cat quarantine Korea and maybe you’ll find it as I’m not having any luck. I’d probably ask the global center on a visit before agreeing to teach here so you know for sure if they will be safe.

  • May 4, 2018 at 9:14 am

    I’m 21 and next year I’ll graduate from university. My major is English-Persian Translation and I’ve been studying Korean for almost 3.5 years at King Sejong school. But the point is that I’m planning to continue studying English Education in one of universities in Korea, since I’ve been teaching English in my country for the past three years and I’m really passionate about it. The problem is that I don’t have the citizenship of the mentioned countries, yet, if I study Education in Korea will I be able to work as an English teacher after I graduate there?
    if not, will I be able to work as an English teacher after I finished a teaching program in one of the mentioned countries? In Canada for instance…



    • May 9, 2018 at 11:05 pm

      The answer is unfortunately no. It is a Visa requirement that you’re from one of those countries and hold a passport from those countries. It is a stupid rule but it is not negotiable.
      You COULD work as a real professor if you work in a university in your country and transfer in korea but thats incredibly rare and hard to do. It is not possible under your situation.

  • May 25, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    Hi Julio,
    This was very informative. I recently spent 2 1/2 weeks in South Korea. (Seoul, Busan, Pyeongtek- I hope I spelled it correctly). I fell in love with the country and the culture. So now I am on a hunt to find a job there. Thank so much for the information.

    • August 16, 2018 at 4:59 pm

      Super cool, hit me up when you get a job and maybe we can touch base :).

  • January 12, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Hi Julio,
    Thanks for sharing these useful information.
    I just finished university but haven’t had my graduation yet so I don’t officially have my transcript. Is it possible to use the transcript that I have now and apostille it? Or is there any other alternative?

    Also, I’m from a non-English speaking country but I’m an Australian PR and have been studying here since high school (I have also attended international school back in my home country since elementary). Is it possible to get a job to teach in Korea?

    I look forward to your reply.

    • January 12, 2019 at 5:55 pm

      Hello Ellen,
      The transcripts wouldn’t work until they are finalized but you have a bigger problem. You need an Australian passport. That is a legal requirement and a visa won’t be issued without it. If you gained Australian citizenship, then you could apply since the country of birth doesn’t matter, just country of citizenship.
      Furthermore, if you did become a citizen and are Gyopo (from your last name, I assumed you’re ethnically Korean or Chinese. gyopo is overseas Korean), you’d qualify for an F4 gyopo visa, which is better.

  • April 4, 2019 at 7:01 am

    Hi Julio!
    This was a super informative article! I’ve never been out of the country and I didnt get a chance to study abroad during uni so teaching in korea is something that I’d be interested in doing after I graduate in 2 months! I noticed you mentioned that tefl certification is required, if I apply through EPIK will the groupon “150 hour” tefl be enough?? Alternatively, how much worse off would I be just going the hagwon route?(In addition to this, would a cheap tefl be enough for a pay raise in a hagwon??) Thanks!

  • July 9, 2020 at 3:33 am

    Hi Julio,

    Hope you are well.

    I would like to enquire if people who are not natives of english speaking countries can apply for teaching jobs in Korea. My level of Fluency in english language is Bi-lingual. I have aced my TOEFL and IELTS exams.

    Will I not be eligible to apply for teaching jobs in Korea?

    Awaiting you revert.

    • August 30, 2020 at 6:47 pm

      In language schools, no. You’d have to be a certified teacher and join an international school.

  • April 1, 2021 at 5:00 am

    Hi Julio
    I was curious if you know about the status of Puerto Ricans applying for jobs when it comes to teaching English in Korea. We’re US citizens with US passports, and I’m personally fluent in English and working on a linguistics major… However I have read mixed responses to the question as to whether or not we can even work there based on how our schooling was bilingual or in Spanish (excluding English classes).

    Is there still hope for me to even apply in the future?
    Thank you in advance.

    • May 20, 2021 at 2:44 pm

      Good question. It’s tricky.
      For epik, you need proof of English edu since middle school. If you grew up in Puerto Rico, then epik is out.
      Hagwons is where it gets interesting. I was under the impression that Spanish uni meant you’re out 100%. However I’ve been told by two boricua recently that they did indeed go to the uni of puerto Rico and teach in Korea. Now I dunno if immigration made a mistake or they indeed could come as US citizens. Worth a shot but I dunno for sure.


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