South Korea is undoubtedly one of our fave destinations for teaching English as a Foreign Language abroad – as it is for many people. There are so many reasons to put South Korea on your bucket list of TEFL destinations. The juxtaposition of ultra-modern cities, spectacular natural scenery, fascinating historical sites, interesting culture and outrageously good food make this country a popular choice for tourists and TEFL teachers alike. Luckily for us, there are more than enough jobs to go around for us TEFL teachers!
Why you should teach English in South Korea
- The jobs
There are more EFL jobs in South Korea than there are chopsticks in China. You can work in a public school, private school, university or teaching private students – whichever teaching situation suits you.
- The salary
In South Korea you can expect to earn between 1.8 and 3.5 million won a month, which is between $1 500 and $3 000 a month. With this salary, you can live well and save money to pay off your debts back home.
- The packages
But it’s not only your salary that makes these jobs so appealing. In South Korea, your job will typically include a very generous package besides your salary. Schools will generally pay for an annual return flight home. They will offer you accommodation or a housing allowance. They will pay for your visa and cover your health insurance. All of this makes your salary much more attractive than just the number on your cheque.
Read more: English Teachers Make a Break for the East
But do you actually know what it’s like to teach English in South Korea?
Let’s look at the different options available to you as a TEFL teacher so you can make sure that South Korea is the right choice for you.
There are a number of government programmes which place you in a public school. These placements differ from working in the private sector in a number of respects. First of all, your working hours are fewer. You are paid slightly lower than in a private school but you are given a lot of paid vacation. You co-teach with a local teacher, and will most likely be the only foreign teacher in the school.
There are a few government programmes you can apply to:
SMOE places you in a public school in one of the 25 districts in Seoul. You teach for 22 hours a week but you work 40 hours a week. Each month you will earn approximately 1.8 million to 3 won, depending on your qualifications and experience. You are provided with accommodation or a housing allowance, flight reimbursement, a settling-in allowance and a severance package on completion of the contract. You need a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate or a teaching qualification, as well as a clean criminal record. Furthermore, you need to be a citizen of South Africa, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia or New Zealand. You must be below 62 years of age. An SMOE contract is for one year.
GEPIK places you in a public school in the area surrounding Seoul known as Gyeonggi. You work 22 hours a week but your working hours are 40 a week. You can start either in March or September. Each month you will earn approximately 2.1 million won, but your pay is dependent on your qualifications. You are provided with accommodation and reimbursed for your flights. Contracts are for a year, with 20 days of paid vacation. This programme prefers experienced teachers.
EPIK is the English Programme in Korea and it is sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Education. It places you in a public school anywhere in South Korea. You teach 22 hours a week but your working hours are 40 a week. You can earn from approximately 1.8 to 2.7 million won a month, dependent on qualifications. Accommodation is provided and you are given a severance package at the end of your contract, as well as a settling-in allowance on arrival. You need a TEFL qualification and at least 100 hours of teaching experience. You also need to be a citizen of (and graduated school in) Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States or South Africa.
TaLK is the Teach and Learn in Korea programme. It allows you to teach Elementary school children in rural areas of South Korea. You work 15 hours a week, and your lessons are after school. You will earn approximately 1.5 million won a month. To be eligible for the program you must be a current tertiary student and commit to teaching for at least 6 months. You need to be a citizen of South Africa, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand or Australia.
These programmes all require you to go through a recruitment agency. These agencies will help you through the rigorous application process. They will ensure you have all your paperwork in order and know how best to tackle the interview. They will also provide you with more information on your placement so you are well-prepared to go to South Korea.
Hagwons are private schools in South Korea. They provide a lot of structure for inexperienced teachers, in the form of lesson plans. Recruitment takes place throughout the year, so you don’t need to wait for the beginning or middle of the academic year to apply. You will work about 35 hours a week, though your lessons only take place in the afternoons or evenings. You can earn about $2 000 a month, with ten days paid holiday a year. Most of the teachers at a hagwon are foreigners.
There is quite a difference in experience in teaching in a public school and a hagwon. The lifestyle you lead will be quite different, so make sure you make the right choice for yourself. While South Korean students are under a lot of pressure in general, hagwons are also known as cram schools, so this can give you a good idea of their purpose. What this means for you is that often your students will be tired, stressed or unmotivated. Also bear in mind that hagwons are private businesses so your experiences will be different in different hagwons. Some hagwons have bad reputations for their working conditions, so do your due diligence when choosing which hagwon you’d like to work in.
To teach at a university you need a Master’s degree and preferably some teaching experience. You can earn approximately 2.5 – 3.5 million won and you work very few hours. To be sure, working in a university is a very good job but you need to be well-qualified and experienced.
Can I teach English in South Korea?
In order to teach English in South Korea, there are a few requirements you need to fulfil. You need to have a Bachelor’s degree (in any field) as well as a TEFL certificate, preferably from an internationally recognised provider. Some programmes or schools may have additional requirements but this will be communicated to you during the application process.
All we can say is, if you think you have got what it takes to teach in South Korea, then don’t hesitate – do it!