Interested in seeing the world? Want to make a positive impact in the process? Teaching English in Korea may be the way to go. Fun and rewarding, English teaching positions give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a rich foreign culture while also helping build and encourage young minds. And as if that weren’t enough, teaching English in Korea can also be very lucrative. That’s partially why the competition for these positions — and requirements you’ll need to meet to qualify for them — are so steep.
But don’t let that scare you off. With the right preparation (and a few insider tips), you’ll be all set to teach English in Korea. So, let’s take a look at what you’ll need to do to make it happen.
What are the Requirements to Teach English in Korea?
If you’re planning to teach English in Korea, South Korea is probably where you’ll go. Education is taken very seriously in South Korea, and most parents want their children to learn English from a young age. Given all this, it’s not surprising that English teachers are often very well paid when compared to English teachers in other Asian countries. We’ll cover some of those other opportunities for teaching English in Asia a little later in this article, but for now, here are the minimum requirements for teaching in Korea.
To teach English in South Korea, you will (at least) need the following:
- To be a native English speaker from an approved country like the United States, Ireland, the UK, South Africa, New Zealand, or Australia.
- A bachelor’s degree in any field, but from an accredited university.
- A clear criminal record and background check. In the U.S. that means going through the FBI and also passing a drug test. DUIs and misdemeanors will disqualify you from a visa.
- An E-2 visa specifically assigned to foreign language instructors.
Can I Teach English in South Korea Without a Degree?
Very rarely is it possible to teach English in South Korea without at least a bachelor’s degree, particularly if you want to teach in a school. In some cases, there may be organizations (like TaLK) that will let you teach after-school programs with only an associate’s degree. If an organization claims to offer a teaching gig in South Korea that doesn’t require a degree, you should be wary – South Korea is pretty strict when it comes to their English teachers.
What Kinds of Korean Schools Can I Teach In?
Whether it’s a private school, public school, or university, there are several levels of schools you can teach in. The caveat is that you must meet the qualifications. Obviously, you’ll need more credentials to teach at a university than at an elementary-level school. Let’s dive a little deeper into each type of school.
Teaching English in Korea at a Private School
Interestingly enough, in South Korea, private schools are easier to get a job in than public schools. Private academies in South Korea are called Hagwons, and they’re everywhere. If you secure a job in a private school, you might expect slightly higher pay than a public school. A quicker hiring turnaround is also a possibility. But there are some drawbacks. Unlike public schools, the hours may not be quite as set. For instance, instead of teaching during normal school hours, you might teach earlier in the morning or late at night.
Teaching English in Korea at a Public School
The public school English teaching jobs in South Korea are highly sought-after. They’re also pretty tough to get. Your actual teaching hours will not exceed 22 hours per week, and you’ll teach during normal school hours. Often, public schools offer great benefits including housing, severance, insurance, and as many as 18 days of paid vacation. You will also have a co-teacher, and you’ll probably be teaching older elementary school kids.
Teaching English in Korea at a University
If you do happen to have a master’s degree, you should look into university teaching jobs. You will need a TEFL certificate and you may spend a lot of time searching. One of the biggest perks is that you’ll only have to teach around 10 hours per week. To find a university job, you’ll likely need to go through a university’s website.
How Much do English Teaching Jobs in South Korea Pay?
It’s said that English Teaching salaries in Korea start at about $22,000 USD annually. While that may not seem like a lot in the United States, living costs throughout much of Korea are pretty low. And while not the highest-paying Asian country when it comes to teaching English, it’s close to the top.
What Countries in Asia Pay English Teachers the Most?
While it can vary, a lot of people pin the same handful of countries among the top paying in Asia. Japan and Saudi Arabia are near the top, as is the United Arab Emirates. Taiwan, South Korea, and Vietnam are typically in the top ten. China and Hong Kong aren’t bad either.
When Can I Apply to Teach English in Korea?
Depending on which type of school you want to teach in, the application deadlines can vary. Private academies hire year-round, while public schools start looking for teachers more than six months in advance. The general rule is that if you want to teach English in Korea, do your research and apply early. February and March can be good months to check on private school job postings.
What Else Should I Know About Teaching English in Korea?
One of the most important things to know is that you’ll need plenty of time, qualifications, and documents. If you don’t have a degree yet, teaching English in Korea probably isn’t the best option for you. Volunteering to teach English in an another Asian country could be right up your alley though. Let’s explore some of those opportunities.
What are the Best Organizations for Volunteer English Teaching in Asia?
While South Korea offers some great opportunities for English teachers, it might be out of reach for you in your current situation. Don’t worry, though: there are so many other opportunities to explore the wonderful continent of Asia while teaching English. Here are some of the programs we recommend:
Intern Abroad HQ has some great internships in Japan, and they only require one year of college experience. Their Education & Youth Development internship enables you to provide after-school care and English language immersion to children up to 14 years old.
Plan My Gap Year has volunteer English teaching opportunities across several countries. From Bali to Cambodia, and from India to Thailand, Plan My Gap Year gives you the ability to experience an Asian country while helping people improve their English skills. Their Asia programs range in length and price, so find one that suits your needs. With programs in nine countries across Asia and the Pacific, you’re sure to find a good fit.
Alai International hosts programs in 15 Asian countries. In many of the countries, they have multiple available projects, some of which are centered around English teaching. Take a look to see which might appeal to you.
Projects Abroad has a variety of programs in Asia that enable you to make an impact in local communities and teach a little English. And the great part about it is that for many of the experiences you only have to be 16 years old to apply.
When it comes to its Asian programs, Fronteering is more geared toward animal conservation and other adventures. If you want to work on komodo dragon conservation or learn how to survive in the desert, Fronteering has some thrilling adventures awaiting. Who knows, you might just help some locals learn English while you’re at it!
GoEco has many programs in Asia. Some are focused on conservation, while others are centered around helping communities. For example, one of their programs involves teaching English in Cambodia while helping with sustainable community development.
A unique organization, i-to-i offers TEFL certifications and both volunteer and paid teaching opportunities in many countries across Asia. Whether it’s a paid TEFL internship in China, or a volunteer internship in Thailand, there are several programs available where you can not only gain your TEFL certification, but also gain teaching experience and immerse yourself in an enriching foreign culture.
A Broader View has volunteer programs in seven different Asian countries. Some of the projects involve English teaching. Whether you give your time in an orphanage in Cambodia, or teach English in India, there are plenty of ways to get involved in a volunteer experience in Asia.
Frontier offers many different types of experiences abroad. Whether you’re looking for a gap year program, environmental conservation project, or a volunteer English teaching program, Frontier can help. You can help develop communities and teach English to open up doors for people in many different countries.
Camp Thailand is a fun experience with a summer camp feel. You’ll do plenty of awesome sightseeing, but you may also spend time helping volunteering in schools and helping children learn English.
Whether you feel you’d like to further explore the opportunity to teach English in Korea, or you feel a volunteer experience would be better, there are so many opportunities awaiting in Asia. Teaching is a very rewarding experience, and if you can do it while experiencing another country, it can be even more rewarding. Check out our best teach abroad programs for a full list of teaching opportunities. We can’t wait for you to have your dream teaching experience abroad!