South Korea has it all: state-of-the-art technology, enchanting traditional palaces, incredible street food and striking snow-topped mountains.
10 years ago, you might not have even considered South Korea as a TEFL destination but in recent years, its popularity has grown enormously – and for good reason.
Living in this extraordinary country, you’ll get a veritable feast for the senses; breath-taking scenery as far as the eye can see, super-modern cityscapes intertwined with high-speed trains and delectable cuisine that you’ll love as soon as you try. But not only this, it’s got a growing demand for teachers, with great salaries on offer and some great programmes to apply for work through, so what are you waiting for?
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£1,400-£1,500+ per month
Cost of living
TEFL certificate needed
120 hours +
Main job types
Public and private schools
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There are two main types of teaching jobs offered in South Korea – public and private school work. Working at a public school, you’ll probably have bigger classes but you’ll get help in the classroom from a local teaching assistant so it won’t feel overwhelming. Private schools will come with smaller classes and more working hours on offer, plus, you’ll also be working alongside a whole bunch of other foreign teachers who you’ll probably make friends and socialise with.
The application process for public school TEFL jobs is normally pretty rigid and they’ll only employ a couple of English teachers per school, whereas, private schools are much bigger and they’ll employ up to 50. No prizes for guessing where most of the TEFL jobs in South Korea are.
Your contracted hours and class sizes will vary depending on the type of job you accept. For example, if you work for a public school, you might work up to 40 hours a week (although, you’ll only be teaching for around 22 hours of that) and you’ll run classes with around 20-30 students.
In a private school, you’ll teach for more hours each week but you’ll also have fewer students in your classes. Because the busiest times for English classes are in the afternoon and evenings, you’ll probably be working between the hours of 1pm and 9pm during the week.
As a public school teacher, your salary will probably start at around £1,400-£1,500 a month, although it might be higher if you’ve got any teaching experience and/or you’ve got a higher level of qualifications. Alternatively, if you’re TEFLing as part of a course, you could apply to a scheme who’ll arrange everything for you but you’ll earn a slightly lower wage.
In general, most public schools will fund your flights to and from South Korea and it’s not unheard of for some schools to deposit a lump sum of around £800 into teachers’ bank accounts for flights, no questions asked. On top of that, many will offer you a completion bonus of one month’s salary once you’ve completed your contract.
Private school teachers can expect to earn about £1,500+ with all of the same benefits as public school teachers – again, it’s dependent on how much experience you have and your qualification level.
If you want to apply at public schools, it’s likely that you’ll need to use a government-funded programme like EPIK, TaLK, SMOE or GEPIK through which you’ll submit an application form on their website and follow it up with a Skype or phone interview. We’d recommend starting on filling out your applications around three to six months before term starts (at the end of August and the end of February) to get in there fast.
As private schools run classes all year, you can apply for a job at any time which is really handy if you’re arriving there outside of term times. By far, the best method of finding private school jobs is via online TEFL jobs boards, such as LoveTEFL Jobs. Here, you can search, view and apply for TEFL jobs in South Korea quickly and easily – just make sure you research any schools you apply to.
In South Korea, the cost of living is relatively high – similar to that of Amsterdam or Toronto. Particularly in the bigger cities like Seoul and Busan, accommodation, transport and eating out will cost you more but you’ll be able to live comfortably and even make some savings due to the great teaching salaries on offer.
In Seoul, the bustling capital city, it can be difficult to find an apartment due to the high competition, large deposits requested by landlords and rent being up to £800 per month. However, if you’re willing to live a little outside of the centre, a one-bedroom apartment will cost you around £250 upwards. Busan is slightly cheaper, with apartments costing around £150-£400 a month, depending on the size and location.
Generally, though, both public and private schools will either provide your accommodation or at least offer some assistance with finding you somewhere to live. (Pro tip: keep an eye out for mentions of accommodation when you’re applying for jobs).
Firstly, you’ll need a passport from a native English-speaking country, such as the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand. If you’re not from one of these countries, unfortunately, you won’t be eligible to teach in South Korea.
On top of that, you’ll also need a bachelor’s degree – this can be in any subject, not necessarily an English or teaching degree. Plus, you’ll be expected to have a clean criminal record, so you’ll need to provide a police certificate confirming this, and health and drug tests are compulsory.
TEFL certificates are a must (120 hours +) and for some of the highly sought-after TEFL jobs in international school and universities, you may also need to have some prior teaching experience and a teaching license.
It’s very important to show respect in South Korean culture, as they maintain some quite traditional attitudes towards social etiquette. A few things to remember are to bow your head when meeting bosses or superiors, eating loudly is respectful as it shows that you’re enjoying your food and use both hands when you shake hands with someone. You’ll pick these things up as you go along but it doesn’t hurt to do a bit of research so that you’re familiar with the basics before you arrive.
If you’ve never experienced Korean food, you’re in for a treat. As an Asian country, you can expect plenty of rice, meat and vegetable-based dishes but it’s cooked and served in quite different methods than you might be accustomed to. For example, you can eat out at bulgogi grill restaurants where you’ll be seated at a circular table that has a grill in the middle – and you’ll be given beef and chicken to cook on the grill, and sides like noodles and kimchi (fermented vegetables) to eat with it.
Plus, there are the delicious little dumplings – mandu – filled with minced meat and vegetables, a rice dish called bibimbap which consists of rice, vegetables and minced meat with a fried egg on top (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it) and kimbap, which is Korean sushi.
The working visa you’ll need is an E-2 visa and it’s best to apply for this once you’ve been offered a job. It requires you to have a bachelor’s degree and a certificate proving you’ve got a clean criminal record, both of which will need to be legalised (notarised) to prove they aren’t fake. In addition, you’ll need your passport to have a least a year of validity left on it, a few passport photos and your official offer of employment.
Once you’re approved, you’ll get a one-year single-entry visa which can be updated to a multiple-entry for an additional fee, if you want to go on trips in and out of the country.
TEFL teachers demand
South Korean won
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