Answering The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching in South Korea

This blog contains affiliate links and is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. If you make a purchase using one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps keep this content free.

I seem to get emails about teaching in Korea almost daily now, and while I am happy to help future teachers find their way, I find that I am repeating myself a lot, so behold, a post for anyone thinking of teaching English in Korea. Here are the answers to your most frequently asked questions about getting started as an ESL teacher in South Korea!

Answering The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching in South Korea: Teaching English at a hagwon in Korea

FAQs: Teaching in Korea

Do I need a degree to teach in Korea?

Yes, you do need to hold a bachelor’s degree in order to be able to legally teach in Korea.

What you studied in university doesn’t really matter, so long as you earned your degree from an English speaking institution.

I have met people with degrees in English, Music, Theatre, Law, International Studies and even German – so all subjects are welcome.

What if English is not my first language?

Most employers are looking for native English speakers, which means you must be a citizen of an English-speaking country like Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, or the United States.

It’s okay if you were born overseas, but you’ll need to show a passport from one of these countries to get the application process going, and you should be fluent in English.

Do I need any teaching experience?

No, you do not need any prior teaching experience, but of course, it helps to have an interest in working with children.

Have you led summer camps, tutored students, or worked as a babysitter?

Include that in your application.

Do I need to have a TESL/TEFL certificate?

No, you don’t necessarily need to have a TESL/TEFL certificate, but having one certainly makes you a stronger candidate as it shows that you have invested time and money into becoming a better teacher.

Travelling while teaching ESL in Korea visiting famous temples and pagodas in the Seoul, South Korea

Where should I start looking for a job?

Dave’s ESL Cafe and ESL Employment are two of the most popular sites with new job openings posted daily. However, if you want to make things easier for yourself, I would suggest going through a recruiter.

Did you go through a recruiter?

Yes, I went through a recruiting agency and let them do all the legwork for me. I used Teach Away, but there are plenty of other reputable recruiting agencies including Footprints, Korvia, and Work N Play. (While I haven’t used all of these agencies, I have friends who have and they were satisfied with the results.)

Going through a recruiting agency is free because your future employer will be the one paying the recruiter for finding them a teacher.

Do I need to get a job in advance or can I just show up in Korea?

No, you cannot just show up in Korea and land a job.

If you want to teach, you first need to secure a visa that will allow you to legally work in the country. This visa can only be issued in your own home country, which means the job hunt is done online.

Once you have a job offer to teach English you can begin the visa application process.

Exploring Seoul while working as an English teacher in Korea visiting Olympic Park

Where can I teach?

There are many different types of schools looking for native English teachers.

Let’s start with hagwons. Hagwons are private language academies and different hagwons cater to students of different ages. There are hagwons for kindergarten students, elementary school students, middle school students, high school students, and even adults looking to perfect their English for personal or business purposes.

You can also teach at public schools, including elementary, middle and high school. These positions are best sought out through EPIK (English Program in Korea) though you can also go through a recruiter.

Keep in mind that while hagwons hire year-round, public schools only hire twice a year so you need to monitor the application window closely.

There are also university teaching jobs available, but these positions are highly coveted, which means you’ll often need a Masters degree as well as many years of experience in the teaching field.

Should I teach at a public school or a hagwon?

There are pros and cons to teaching in a public school versus a hagwon, so it all depends on how much teaching experience you have and what type of setting you’d feel most comfortable in.

Hagwon PROS:

Hagwons have smaller class sizes than public schools. My classes ranged from 2-14 students, which I felt was a manageable number for a first-time teacher. Lesson planning was also quite minimal; I had to follow a strict curriculum which I supplemented with a few games and activities. The hours were a bit odd since we had to wait for our students to finish their regular public school hours. This meant that I worked from 1:30 pm to 9:30 pm.

Hagwon CONS:

The cons about working at a hagwon are that it’s a business first and an educational institution second – you want to keep the parents (who are paying customers!) happy. You may sometimes be required to work the odd weekend for special events, and your vacation time is quite limited (mine was 10 days per year but I couldn’t take it all at once).

Public School PROS:

Classroom sizes in the public school system are much larger than those at a hagwon, but you also work alongside a Korean co-teacher which makes it less daunting. You get about 4 weeks of vacation time during the year which means you are free to jet off to South East Asia or even fly back home for a visit.

Public School CONS:

The cons about working a public school job are that you’ll often be the only foreign teacher there, so you’ll want to work on your friendships during your first week of orientation and keep in touch with people. Public school hours mean you don’t have the luxury of sleeping in in the mornings, but it also means you’re done with work fairly early in the day.

Audrey living and teaching ESL in Korea visiting one of Seoul's palaces in winter.

Will I be the only foreigner at my school?

That depends on your school.

If you are teaching at a public school, you’ll likely be the only foreign teacher there unless you teach at a very large school (in that case there may be 2 of you).

If you are teaching at a hagwon, there should be a few foreign teachers working at your school, but again, it all depends on the size of the hagwon – there could be 2 foreign teachers or there could be 10! My hagwon had 6 foreign teachers.

How much can I save teaching in Korea?

How many bottles of soju are you planning to kick back? How many noraebangs are you planning to hit up on the weekends? How many trips are you planning to take? There are so many factors!

You can save a lot of money teaching in Korea, or you can leave penniless at the end of the year – that will depend on how you spend/save your money.

I was able to save $17,000 teaching for 1 year, but I was pretty determined to pay off my students loans and be able to travel.

What will my school cover?

If you are teaching full time, your school should provide you with return airfare from your home country, a fully furnished studio apartment for the duration of your contract, and a severance package (contract completion bonus) equal to 1 month’s salary at the end of your contract.

They should also cover 50% of your medical insurance, and they should make monthly contributions to your National Pension Plan (American and Canadian teachers are eligible for a lump sum pension return at the end of the year).

If you decided to renew your teaching contract for a second year, you should also receive a contract renewal bonus.

Learning about Korean culture while working as English teacher viewing Korean wooden sculptures

What if I don’t like Korea – can I leave early?

No one is going to hold you prisoner to your job, but you should seriously consider whether you are ready to commit to a year overseas or not.

While contracts will vary from one school to the next, the general rule is that if you leave before the 6-month mark, you will be required to pay back the airfare your school covered to get you to Korea.

If you leave after the 6-month mark but before the 1-year mark, you will not have to pay back the airfare that was covered by your school, but you also won’t be receiving the return airfare back home – you’ll be flying yourself back out of pocket.

Keep in mind that leaving halfway through the semester, or even worse, doing a ‘midnight run’, is a huge inconvenience to your students and your coworkers.

Do I need to speak Korean to teach in Korea?

No, you do not need to speak a single word of Korean.

As a native English speaker, you will be expected to speak to the students in English only.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to learn to read the Korean alphabet and pick up a few phrases to help you get by in your daily life.

I want to move to Korea but I’m scared!

You’ll be fine!

Moving to a foreign country is a big step, but all the other teachers are in the same boat as you, so you will make friends and you will have a memorable year!

Do you have more questions for me?
Leave them in the comments below.

Join the Conversation


  1. Very informative post. At one stage I considered going to Korea to teach after spending 7 weeks travelling there. While there I met countless teachers through couchsurfing who were all extremely hsppy. The pay is great and korea is a magnificant place to travel in. Whether its the food, the people or the landscape it’s great and I can’t wait to get back there!

    1. says: Audrey

      Glad it was useful, Francis! If you’re considering teaching English overseas, Korea is one of the highest paying countries you can choose. Let me know if you have any other questions about the process along the way. 🙂

      1. says: Toby

        Hi Audrey,

        I am hoping to teach english in Korea as soon as I complete my degree and without a doubt your post was really encouraging and helpful.

        Although just wondering, I was speaking to my dad and he heard from his Korean work friend that they are super selective in regards to your “foreign appearance”? I am born and raised in Australia, however my parents are Indonesian and Chinese so therefore I have olive/dark(ish) skin and dark hair.

        I was wondering what it is actually like in regards to appearance? My dad said they prefer people who are obviously more foreign looking like blonde hair and light skin etc. simply for marketing purposes. Although, I respect his efforts to give me some insight in regards to what I want to do my first year out of university, I am curious to know if I actually have a chance, because I am super keen to move abroad, haha.


    2. says: safoora ahmed

      Instead of a furnished apartment , am I allowed to ask the employer for an Airbnb studio ? one of my choosing and they just help with what I think is called a ” stipend rent”

    1. says: Audrey

      That’s a tricky one because salary depends on many factors – whether you hold a TESL certificate, whether you have prior teaching experience, and whether you are teaching in the city or taking on a rural placement.

      The general rule is that if you’re a first time teacher, you’ll be able to earn more money at a hagwon rather than at a public school.

      For public schools the salary starts at 1.8 million won and can go as high as 2.7 million won (though it’ll likely be on the lower end for most teachers), and with hagwons the entry level salary is usually around 2 million won.

      1. says: Tracey

        I am retiring at the end of this school year and really want to get a job in S. Korea. I will be 60 years old. I have 22 years experience and 3 degrees. Will it be difficult to get a job with EPIK at 60?

  2. says: Emy

    Very detailed and straight to the point post, it was nice!
    I am french and considering teaching in Korea once I have my degree, I am studying literature&french linguistics in order to be a french teacher for foreigners and I was wondering if you knew anyone who is a teacher in Korea but not an english teacher. Because it seems that 90% of the travel/blog community is english !
    I’m well aware that you can only talk about your own experience and you’re a native english speaker but if by any chance you have friends of acquaintances who aren’t and are teaching abroad especially in Korea I’d love to hear about it!
    Wish you all the best!

    1. says: Audrey

      I honestly don’t know anyone who has taught French or any other languages aside from English in Korea. I’m sure there are positions available, but they are definitely not advertised a lot. I think the best thing you can do if you’re interested in teaching French in Korea is to research academies that offer French classes, and then contact those schools directly. They might be able to shed more light on the whole process.

    2. says: Cole

      Emy, there are French immersion schools in Seoul. I only know this because one of my students from last year now goes to one of said schools. Also, some foreign language high schools offer French. Best of luck!

  3. says: Zhu

    You should make it a sticky, it’s really informative!

    I have always wondered if I could be hired as an ESL teacher considering that I have a Canadian passport, even though English is not my mother tongue. “Back in the days” in China (in the late 1990s when I first studied there), universities were desperate for English teachers and anyone from abroad was hired, regardless of language/teaching abilities. It was just weird! I think it changed a lot now (supply, demand and all).

  4. Thank you very much for this post. I previously emailed you with questions and I was very happy with the information you provided. I really found this post helpful and it makes me even more determined to teach in Korea. Thank you again!

  5. says: Maria

    Fantastic resource you’ve created here and I’m happy to read you give the good/bad, ups/downs of each scenario. Also give you kudos for listing the agency you used and others that can help prospective teachers.

  6. says: Jemma

    That Backpacker is such an excellent resource, I’d already perused all of your previous Korean blog posts!

    I have a pretty burning question, but it’s a weird situation. My partner is a marine engineer and works at sea for three month periods, followed by two months at home. I want to be able to have him with me in SK when I eventually go but I’m obviously concerned. I’d need a flat with a double bed and from what I can find it’s usually only singles. I would also need the school to be aware of the situation and be comfortable with it. He wouldn’t need a permanent visa or anything, I should imagine.

    Did you know anyone with a situation like this at all? In your experience, do you think this will present a problem?


    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Jemma,

      I don’t think it would be a problem at all. I know Canadians and Americans visiting Korea get 90 days on arrival, so depending on what passport he holds, his visit shouldn’t be an issue.

      In terms of the bed, studio apartments can come with single or double beds, so you would just need to let your employer what you need in advance. Many couples who come to Korea live together, so it certainly wouldn’t be a problem for your husband to stay with you even if he wasn’t working at your school.

  7. Really helpful post Audrey. I have often thought about teaching English, but never gave it a go since English is not my mother tongue. Do you know if people whose first language isn’t English need to do some kind of test? Or perhaps doing a TEFL will do the job actually.

    1. says: Audrey

      If you speak at a near fluent level it shouldn’t be an issue. I think they would be more interested in what passport you hold and where you went to university. Keep in mind that if you’re teaching kindergarten or elementary school, the English you’d be using would be quite basic anyway. 🙂

  8. says: Jessica

    Awesome post! It was definitely a mission for me to figure all of this out when I was first thinking about teaching in Korea. I ended up going to Thailand instead, but on the plus side, most of this stuff applies to all teaching jobs in Asia. Once you do the research for one country, figuring all the other ones out is a lot easier!

  9. says: Shaun

    Answered a lot of my questions about actually getting the job rather than getting the certification. A lot of travellers consider this option. Great job saving $17K, you’re a rockstar!

  10. says: Rachel

    Hey Audrey, I loved your post! It made me curious…I’m an English native speaker and have a TEFL degree but I have a German passport… will that be a problem, although English is my mother tounge?

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Rachel, I’m not sure about EU passports in Korea because I didn’t meet anyone in that situation while I was there. However, I do know that it is possible to teach in China with an EU passport because I have a few friends who have done that. I think as long as you have a university degree and are a native English speaker it shouldn’t be a problem, but that all depends on your employer…

  11. says: Mariah

    Great resource Audrey! Thanks for putting this together. I’m considering teaching abroad in the fall of 2014 and I’ve heard Korea is a great place to start. How did you find the food and the people in general? How long is the teaching contract, i.e. does the school term start in September and go through May like in the States? Thanks a lot!

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Mariah, that’s exciting that you’re considering teaching in Korea! The contracts are 1 year in length but the start dates vary. If you’re planning to teach at a public school, the terms start in September and March (which means you’ll want to apply well in advance), but if you’re planning to teach at a language academy it’s a lot easier since they hire year round. In terms of the food, I really enjoyed it – many of the dishes are rice based, and of course, kimchi is a regular dietary staple, but there are also lots of unique dishes to try while you’re there. Best wishes with the whole process! 🙂

  12. says: Brittany

    Great post. I keep going back and forth thinking about teaching abroad for Fall 2014. I want a change and something different but I am so afraid it will be toooo different for me. Glad things worked out for you.

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Brittany, if you’re looking for a change of scenery and a little adventure, I think South Korea is a great place to be. I honestly never experienced any drastic culture shock while I was there – plenty of people spoke English, I had a great group of coworkers, and there were plenty of opportunities for weekend trips. If a 1 year commitment is too long, maybe consider looking at countries where you can sign a 6 month contract and extend from there if you like it. 🙂

  13. says: Kaye

    Hey Audrey, thanks for the info. It is super helpful. I just recently graduated from university and thought of teaching English in Korea; but my problem is, I am not a native speaker. I came to Canada when I was 15 years old from the Philippines. Now, Im a citizen of this country and hold a Canadian passport. My question is, does that affect my application if i were to apply a teacher’s visa (E2)?
    Also, I have been reading articles about teaching English in Korea and I read something about Asian people not getting teaching jobs there. Is it true that I have a slim chance of getting hired because I’m Asian and wasn’t born in Canada?
    I am so frustrated!

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Kaye,
      I honestly don’t think it will be a problem for you to get a job teaching in Korea. If you hold a Canadian passport and you’ve gone to university in Canada, then it sounds like you are set to go. I have a few friends who weren’t born in Canada but moved there as kids and teenagers, who have been able to secure jobs overseas. Even if you have a slight accent, it shouldn’t be an issue so long as you have a near native proficiency. In terms of people not getting the job because they are of Asian descent, I have heard a few first-hand accounts from people looking to teach in China (which is quite unfortunate), but not in Korea. I would give it a shot. You honestly don’t have anything to lose.
      All the best with your application,

  14. says: Kasey

    If you could do it all over again, knowing what you know now, would you still choose South Korea? I’m considering teaching abroad in Fall of 2014, and originally was thinking of Thailand but i came across Sam’s blog about how he wouldn’t go back… which led me to you! Any advice would really be appreciated.

    Love the blog. So helpful :]


    1. says: Audrey

      I guess, I should start off by saying that I worked at a hagwon, which was a business first and a learning centre second – there were times when that proved problematic in terms of disciplining – however, it wasn’t all that bad. I had a great group of coworkers, I had some classes with really fun students that were a pleasure to teach, I got to spend a year exploring a new country, and the savings were also pretty great. So, yes I would still do it all over again. 🙂

  15. says: Kristen Woodward

    What was the school name you worked for? I just want to find a good Hagwon if I don’t get into teaching in a public school but I’ve heard horror stories! And did you boyfriend work for EPIK or GEPIK? Did he use a recruiter or apply directly?

    1. says: Audrey

      I worked for a company called Avalon, but they have branches all over the country so it’s hard to say what your school will be like. My boyfriend did work for GEPIK in the past, however, his most recent placement was at a public school he applied to directly. It was one of those random hires halfway through the school year.

  16. says: Sabrina Deshaies

    I’m thinking of teaching english as a second language in korea in the future. Does the fact that French is my mother language, not English, can keep opportunities away from me? I’m from Canada, planning to finish University and do CELTA.

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Sabrina,

      It all depends from school to school. Some employers will want you to have a degree from an English speaking university, while others may not care if you went to a French speaking university. If you’re at the near native speaker level, I’d say you have a good chance of getting a position. A CELTA or TEFL/TESL certificate would certainly be an advantage. Just do you best during the interview – that’s your chance to convince them that you’d be great for the position. Highlight your experiences and tell them why you want to be a teacher.

      Best of luck!

  17. says: Billy

    Hi Audrey,

    First of all great blog! probably one of the best I have found (and in my excitement I have been reading loads!)I have been offered a job with Chungdahm learning however I haven’t got any previous experience teaching and am very nervous about starting. After reading what you said about Hagwons and their curriculum you have settled my nerves some what! One question I do have though is the level of English you need. I am obviously a native speaker of English but do you need extensive knowledge into all advanced grammar?

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Billy,

      That’s great that you’re setting off to South Korea. Don’t worry too much about the grammar, you’ll have time to read over the lessons and go over the grammar points before you teach. If you’re a native speaker it’ll be a piece of cake! The classes are usually quite varied – reading, writing, speaking – so you won’t just be teaching grammar points.

      Wishing you the best with your new job in Korea!

  18. says: Jilly

    Do you know how many times you can renew? And is it possible to teach in Other East Asian countries afterwards too? I would love to teach in other countries aswell.

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Jilly,

      Yes, it is possible to renew your contract. If the school is happy with the work you’ve done, they’ll often ask if you’d be interested in staying a 2nd year. And of course it’s also possible to teach in other East Asian countries. You just need to figure out where you’d like to teach and either find a recruiter or start applying to jobs directly.

  19. says: George

    Hi, Audry,

    I am retired military (28 years) and 53 years old. I have a BS degree in Health Sciences and a Masters degree in Public Health from Trident University, Cypress California, an online school but regionally accredited through WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) which completing online was the only way for me to get my degree due to military obligations. I have extensive teaching experience in the military. Would I be a candidate? Would I be able to use the American military facility in Seoul for health care if necessary. I have a medical condition called Dystonia; however, it is under control albeit with medication that are controlled substances. I am healthy and bike 70+ mile a week, to give you an idea of how mobile I am. Thank you for any info you can provide.

    Sincerely, George.

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi George,

      Thanks for your message. The only requirements to teach English in Korea are to hold a full bachelors degree, to be a native English speaker (or near fluent), to pass a criminal background check, and some schools (but not all) may also require you to hold a TESL/TEFL certificate. Since you already hold a BS and Masters degree, plus you have extensive teaching experience through the military, it sounds like you would be a great candidate to teach in Korea. With your experience you may want to try teaching adult classes or even business English, as opposed to teaching basic English to young learners.

      In terms of health care in South Korea, you and your employer will pay into the national health care system every month (50/50). Hospitals are very efficient and affordable. I do have to mention that you will also be required to pass a medical check when you first arrive in Korea to ensure you don’t have any serious health problems. You need to pass this test in order to get your ARC card and stay in the country; it’s a regular check up that involves x-rays, blood/urine test, and checking your blood pressure. I’m not sure if Dystonia would play any kind of role in the results…

      I hope that helps a bit!

  20. says: Megan

    I love your blog. It’s very informative 🙂

    I plan to go to Korea and teach english once I finish my bachelors degree (been set on it for years). I want to bring my dog with me though. I’ve heard of some people doing this. Did you know anyone that brought their pets or have any info on bringing one with you?

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Megan,

      I’m not entirely sure about the process of bringing a pet. I know people who got pets in Korea and then brought them back to North America once they finished their contract, but I don’t know anyone who did it the other way around. I’m sure it would be possible, it’s just a matter of ensuring your building welcomes pets and finding an airline that doesn’t charge a fortune to bring your pet over. Perhaps chat with your employer about it and also scour some of the Korea forums for more info.

  21. says: Alex

    Hey Audrey, thanks for all that info! Definitely very helpful.

    Do you know if non-married couples wanting to teach in Korea can live together?


    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Alex,

      Yes, I know a few couples who weren’t married but were able to get apartments together. If you’re applying through a recruiting agency, you’ll want to make a note of that in your application so that they can either try to find you jobs at the same school or at the very least in the same neighbourhood.

  22. says: Tania

    Hi Audrey!

    This article was great! However; I just have one question. Is it against the law for a hagwon to make you pay back your airfare if you have passed the 6 month mark?


    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Tania,

      It all depends on the contract you sign. Most contracts clearly state that if you quit your job before the 6 month mark, you’ll be required to repay the airfare that the school spent flying you into the country. However, once you’re past the 6 month mark, you no longer owe them that. Keep in mind, though, that if you quit after the 6 month mark, the school won’t be paying your return airfare for you to fly back home. You’ll have to do that out of pocket. If you’re thinking of teaching in Korea, it’s honestly worth staying the full year because that’s when you get your completion bonus and your tax refund – it’s a nice chunk of change.

      Hope that helps you a bit!


  23. says: jody

    HI Audrey,
    Great feedback! I was wondering what kind of interview process does one have to go through? i.e., what is required of you?

    Thank you,

    1. says: Audrey

      It’s a fairly straight forward job interview. They’ll ask you why you’re interested in teaching, what kind of experience you have, how you would handle problems in the classroom, how you would discipline students, how you would structure your lessons, etc.

  24. says: Francis

    Hi Audrey,
    I’m both English and French teacher but not an English native. I’m Bachelor in Finance and Management and currently staying in Hangzhou/China. I’d like to know if I can teach anyone of them in Korea. If yes, how will I get the visa since I’m not in my home country?
    I have an experience of 2 years at teaching lesson.
    I hope hearing from you soon.
    Best regards

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Francis, I would suggest you get in contact with a recruiter and see if they have any job openings that fit your skill set – I’ve mentioned a few different ones in this post. I really can’t guide you in terms of visas since my situation was quite different from yours. (I have a Canadian passport and I also applied from my home country.)

    2. says: rosa

      Hi Francis,
      I’d like to know if you had been able to find a job in Korea not being an English native?
      I’d like teaching English (or maybe French) in Korea but like you I’m not an Enlish native, I’m afraid that it would be really hard finfing one job…
      I hope hearing from you soon.
      Best regards

      PS: thank you Audrey for that blog

  25. says: Serenity

    I’m going to be teaching in Korea with a TEFL certificate in a few months. I have a few questions for you.
    1) I’m thinking of bringing my bicycle. I know how to lock up a bike thoroughly. But how is bike theft in some of the bigger cities? What are your thoughts on bringing a bike? If I can’t bring my own can you rent a bike there?
    2) How much did you have to pay in taxes? I’ve heard it can be quite high over there.

    thanks! 🙂

  26. says: Mia Mclean

    Hi Audrey
    Thanks for the informative post.
    I’ve been thinking about teaching in South Korea for the last 3 years (as I’ve been travelling there every year for 4 years) and finally feel I can make the first steps. I’m researching information on what I need to teach from September 2015.
    I have a Architectural degree and 70% into my TEFL qualification. My only concern is apart from my ethnicity which I heard can be a small factor (I am Black British)but mainly my age as I will be 39 next year.
    I know this may be considered a silly question and I don’t wish to pull darkness on a great possibility but realistically do you think this might be an issue for me finding work? Or is it a little paranoia on my part?

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Mia,
      Don’t let your age or your ethnicity deter you from applying! I met teachers of various ethnic backgrounds teaching in Korea and their appearance was never an issue during the hiring process. As a foreigner in Korea you will get a lot of random questions and comments from the students based on your appearance, but that goes for teachers of any race. I heard everything from, “Teacher, you tall like giraffe! Teacher, your hair look like straw. Teacher, no make-up today?” They are very observant and they blurt out whatever is on their minds, but it’s often more funny than hurtful. As for your age, while most teachers seem to be in their mid-20s to early-30s, I did also meet a handful of teachers who were in their 40s and had been working in Korea for several years. It’s not completely unheard of to have older teachers.
      I’d encourage you to give it a shot! 🙂
      Best wishes,

  27. says: Neysha

    Hi Audrey!

    I was wondering what your packing list looked like for Korea. Did you end up taking 1 or 2 suitcases? I’m curious to know what you did with everything after the year was up and you were ready to set off on a backpacking adventure. What is your advice when it comes to packing for all the seasons, to look presentable in school, and still take a minimal amount?


    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Neysha, I ended up taking 1 large suitcase and a small backpack. I was a bit of a minimalist when packing, and I just went shopping in Seoul whenever I needed something. At the end of the year I shipped by belongings back home so that I could go backpacking. Mailing stuff from Korea is really cheap – I think I paid $40-$50 for a very large box that was packed with shoes, books, and all kinds of souvenirs.

  28. says: Rhiannon

    Thanks for the useful information Audrey!! I’m also planning on teaching English in Korea starting next March! 🙂 I’m really excited but the only concern I have is that I’ll be teaching in a public school instead of a hagwon and that would make it difficult to make friends with other foreign English teachers as I’ll most likely be the only foreign teacher there. Do you know if there are usually opportunities outside of school to meet other foreigners teaching in your area? I’m really excited to go I just don’t want to feel super isolated in a new country.

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Rhiannon,
      Don’t worry, meeting people in Korea will be easy! If you’re teaching in public schools through EPIK, then you’ll be attending orientation the first week, where you’ll meet lots of other teachers who will be working in your area. Also, if you use Facebook, you’ll find that there are a lot of expat groups that like to meet during the week to go to the pub / have quiz nights / try karaoke – you might be able to find these in your city. And then you have your Korean co-workers who will likely invite you out for food and drinks. There are a lot of young expats living and working in Korea, so you’ll find it’s relatively easy to meet people there. 🙂 Wishing you all the best on your Korean adventure!!

      1. says: Rhiannon

        Thanks Audrey!! That really helped reassure me and I can’t wait to start my Korean adventure. 🙂

        P.S. Congrats on getting married!

  29. says: Carmen

    Do you have other suggestions of how to go to Korea without breaking the bank, or other job opportunities if you don’t have a degree?

  30. says: Christine

    Hey Audrey!

    My hubby and I want to move to Korea but we really want to take our dog (German Shepherd) with.
    Any experiences relating pet dogs in Korea? Are they allowed on public transport? Will our dog be in danger there?

    Christine x

  31. says: Diaana

    Hello I am curious is it possible to work as English teacher if you are not native in English language?
    and also what if English is not my first language? .

    Best regards,

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Shania,

      Most people working in hagwons or for EPIK are teaching English as a Second Language. There are jobs at private schools and international schools where you can teach actual subjects like math, science, geography, etc., however, these jobs require you to hold a Bachelor of Education.

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Margaret, it’s kind of difficult getting a lot of time off, so if you and your partner are planning to get married and go on honeymoon, it might be best to do so either before or after you take on the teaching contract. Also, keep in mind the language barrier – who would officiate the wedding, how would you go about obtaining the right documentation, etc.

  32. says: Mathieu

    Im not a native english speaker, but im french canadian( quebec) so im technically from a native english country. I would say im pretty solid solid in english but obviously not as good as a real american. Do you think i still have chances to teach there?

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Mathieu,
      If you’re able to function at a near-native speaking level then you shouldn’t have a problem. (My native tongue is Spanish, but I’m fluent in English, so it’s not necessarily an issue.) The next question is, did you go to an English or French university in Quebec? Some schools do require you to have a university degree from an English-speaking university, so that might be something to consider when you’re applying for jobs.

  33. says: Don

    Great article! I’m currently teaching English in South Korea (my 2nd year) and I love it. If you find the right hagwon or school, you’ll be fine. You should really find a reputable recruiter to help you through the process. I went through and their website and service was amazing. It really helped me make the decision to go.

  34. says: rashidat

    hello, am Rasheedah from Nigeria, I really wish to teach over there ( Korea) but I don’t if Nigerians has really got the Chance to teach there. am very d
    fluent in English but will they not turn down the application since we are not a native English country. what should I do please?
    I hope to hear from you soon .

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Rasheedah,

      Unfortunately, this option is only open to passport holders from one of the following nations: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, or the United States. That’s a requirement placed by South Korea in order for them to sponsor your visa.

  35. says: Nate

    Hey Audrey,

    First off, very informative post, keep it up!

    I finished a six month contract last year but want to go back for an extended time.
    What is your opinion on possibly making this an actual career option, based on
    either your opinion or experiences of people you have met.

    I am not looking to just party my way through, but just fallen in love with
    teaching and the culture. Cheers

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Nate,

      I’m glad to hear you’ve enjoyed your time teaching in Korea! There are definitely a lot of opportunities in the ESL job field. Teaching in public schools and at hagwons is a great way to try it out and see if you want to pursue teaching as a career, but if you’re ready to commit to it long term I’d recommend getting your Masters in TESOL. That will open up opportunities to teach in technical colleges and universities. Another option is to earn your Bachelor of Education so that you can teach internationally, but this would involved more than teaching ESL.

  36. says: mou


    Thanks for all the info. I just opened my account with teach away a week ago. I have not heard back from them yet. I am anxious to go overseas to teach. Is there a strict selection process? Or whoever applies with a degree get a job? What is usually the turn around time for recruiters to get back to us?

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Mou,
      It’s the holiday season, so that might be the reason for the delay. I think I heard back from them fairly quickly (within a couple of weeks), so if you haven’t heard back from them by next week maybe you can give them a call and see if they received your application. If you have a university degree and have some relevant experience either teaching or working with children, I think you’re as good a candidate as anyone. Don’t stress too much – there are a lot of teaching jobs available overseas, so I’m sure you’ll find one! 🙂

  37. says: Vivi

    Hey Audrey,
    I came across your website and I found it is very informative. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.
    I am wondering if you could help me to answer a few questions. I am not sure if I am eligible to teach English in Seoul. I am fluent in English (although of course not as great as those native speakers) and completed my Bachelor Degree in Australia. I am definitely not a native speaker as I was born in Indonesia, however I hold an Australian passport. I earned my bachelor degree from a reputable university in Australia majoring in Engineering, and I decided to change my nationality to become Australian in 2010. Do you think it will be easy for me to find a job considering I do not have any prior teaching experience? I also do not hold any teaching certificate. Some people have suggested me to do 1oo+ hours ESL course as it might help me to find job easier. What would you suggest me to do first? I am 35 years old this year, hopefully it is not too old to start a new career path.

    Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon.

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Vivi,
      It sounds like you have all the documents needed: an Australian passport and a degree from an English speaking university. As long as you’re fluent enough to pass the interview (which it sounds like you are!) then you shouldn’t have any problems. Where you’re born isn’t as important as the passport you currently hold. I worked alongside teachers with Canadian and US passports who had actually been born overseas. I would get in touch with a recruiting agency and let them know your situation, but it sounds to me like you meet the requirements. As for the TESL course, it’s worth it! It makes you a better candidate for the job, plus it bumps up your pay scale. And 35 is not too old – I met teachers in their 40s and 50s.

  38. says: Julianna

    Hi Audrey!
    First of all, thank you sooo much for this! I’m a junior in high school (am I really young? XD), and I am planning to go to Uni to Major in English as a Second Language and Minor in Korean. I’m at the point in a lot of my classes where the teachers are asking us what we want to be when we grow up, and since a princess, mermaid, etc. is no longer acceptable, I’ve decided on that.
    Is there any more advice that you can give to a high schooler like me about teaching in South Korea?
    Thank you again!

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Julianna,
      There’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to teaching in Korea. If you want to teach in public schools or at hagwons (language academies), you only need a university degree (in any discipline) and perhaps a TESL certificate. If you’d like to eventually teach at the college/university level, then a Masters in TESOL or Linguistics is required. And you can also teach at international schools with a Bachelor of Education. But you’ve still got plenty of time to figure it out! 😉

  39. says: Angelica

    I really liked your post, thanks for sharing your experience. I am also looking foward to making a change in my life, my situation is a bit different than what i have heard, I am a natural born US citizen, have a daughter also born in the United states, yet I am about to get married to a mexican cititzen, I am about to start getting his papers to become a US resident. He is a Dentist in Mexico and is currently doing his masters in education in a international well recognized university in Mexico. We are looking to make a change in our lifes and that is when we thought of moving to another place.
    My question for you is, by any chance have you heard of anyone with kids that move over there, and by any chance opportunities for spanish speaking to teach abroad? Would they allow me to move in with my husband and my daughter.

    My education: hold a 4 year bachelor in Bilingual Education EC-6th , about to finish my masters in Curriculum design and instruction with emphasis in Digital literacy. Currently in The kappa delta pi honor society. and currently working as an online educator in elementary.

    I would truly appreciate your opinion on my situation. Thank you very very much !!
    hope you have a wonderful day!!

  40. says: Angelica

    I am sorry i forgot to also ask, if aborad and accepted are there all english speaking schoosl for students? for my duaghter I ask? and my other question if only one parent works in case there are no opportunities for my husband will the salary be good enough for the three of us? I just want to make sure I ask enough questions 🙂 thank you once again.

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Angelica,
      I can’t say I know about any Spanish teaching opportunities in South Korea. When it comes to languages, most Koreans are interested in learning English, Chinese and Japanese for business opportunities. If you hold a 4 year university degree and speak English as your first language, you can teach ESL. However, I have to tell you that one ESL salary would not be enough to support a family of 3.

  41. says: Bernard

    I’m a Singaporean who have no difficulty in communicating in english. In addition, I had taught elementary school students english before. However, I’m not from a country of native english speaker. So, is it possible to apply to be english teacher in Korea?

    Thank you

  42. I am planning to begin teaching abroad next year, but I am at a loss as to what TEFL/TESOL/CELTA course to take. I already have a degree in English/English Literature, although I graduated 5 years ago. I have pretty much been focusing on travelling ever since I left uni. Only now have I realised what I want to do – and that’s teach in Korea. However, do you think a 20hrs contact time/100 hours online TEFL course will help me get a job, or would you advise a more expensive (in the UK it’s 3 times more expensive) TEFL course than has 120 hours of contact time and no online content? There’s a big difference between £360 and £1100, so I need to know if spending more money will actually help me.

    1. says: Audrey

      It really depends on how much you’re looking to get out of the course. If you’re looking to teach ESL longterm, then the CELTA might be a good idea. A TEFL/TESOL/CELTA isn’t required to teach in South Korea – it just makes you a better candidate for the job and it bumps up your pay. The month long course I took in Canada was around $1200 – a bit of an investment – but I also walked away a new set of skills and it made me a more confident teacher.

  43. says: Aj

    Helpful article. :)I’m currently teaching Korean students now here in Phil and I’m thinking of teaching in Korea, however, i’m not a native English speaker, so I might having a hard time then. esh.:)

  44. says: Andrea

    Hello Audrey,

    I am currently in the process of going through interviews and preparing (fingers crossed) to move to teach in Korea. Your posts and articles have been incredibly informative and I have gone back and read them a second and third time. Can you advise whether you know or knew of any teachers who were able to bring their dog– small dog– with them on the journey? I have read mixed reviews and am very interested in bringing my pup, as I do anticipate a longer stay in Korea, and not simply one year.

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Andrea, I’ve also heard mixed opinions in regards to bringing a pet. My suggestion would be that you make it clear to your employer from the very start. It’s important for them to know because they will have to find you an apartment that is pet-friendly, and they will also have to book you a flight on an airline that allows pets. I heard a story of a girl who was not able to bring her pet at the last minute because the school booked her on the wrong airline even after they’d already had this discussion.

  45. says: Emily

    I’ve been looking for a good way to go back abroad while still making money and reading your articles I’ve started to seriously consider ESL in Korea. I have no teaching background – do you get guidance as far as lesson plans and expectations and all or do you have to sort of figure it out as you go? How did you connect with other ESL teachers during your stay?


  46. says: Michelle

    I’m a Korean citizen but I was only born there and have spent most of my life in the US, so I speak very little Korean. I’m interested in teaching in Korea but my limited Korean means the only thing I can probably teach is English. This might be the wrong place to ask but I can’t seem to find any information on the internet for Korean citizens wanting to teach English, so I was hoping you might be able to help.
    My question is, being a non-US citizen, is there any way for me to apply to be an English teacher through a US program?
    And if not, and I choose to search for a teaching position in Korea by myself, would you happen to know the educational requirements (preferred major in college etc.)/exams I would need to take in order to apply?

    Thank you.

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Michelle,
      That’s cool that you’re thinking of teaching in Korea. As outlined in the post, you don’t need to speak any Korean to teach there. Classrooms are English only environments. You will need a US passport to be considered (it sounds like you’re good on that front), as well as a 4 year university degree. If you have those two items, you can apply through EPIK/GEPIK or apply to hagwons directly through Dave’s ESL Cafe.

  47. says: Suzee

    I really loved your FAQ here. I’m planing on applying for public school positions starting next March within the next few months. I’m really looking forward to it but I’m nervous too so these blogs are really helpful. One thing I’m wondering (and I’m aware how superficial it sounds) I have pink hair and I’m not really interested in dying it back to brown anytime soon. I’ve had it many colours; red, purple, white, turquoise and orange. Do you think this would be an issue in South Korea?
    The other thing that’s causing me stress is curriculum. Do they actually have it? From what I’ve read I can’t work out if the schools expect you to have “practice time” English classes with the kids or if you’re supposed to provide a start to finish “this is how you learn English” schedule of what you intend for the kids to learn in their entire year with you. Do the schools provide a textbook to work from that you would then develop your own lessons from i.e. in weeks 2 – 3 children should be learning about colours, in weeks 4 – 5 they should now be learning about seasons etc? Who decides what they should be tested on? I’m just feeling very overwhelmed.

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Suzee,

      I do recall when I was filling out the application forms through the recruiting agency, that they had questions about whether I had piercings, visible tattoos, or bright hair colours. I don’t want to say that one of these would automatically disqualify you, but they are a bit more conservative in terms of appearance…my nose ring was even a big deal there. (My director pulled me into the office and said I couldn’t wear a hoop because it might “fall out of my nose and pierce one of the students”…ridiculous, so I ended up trading it for a little stud.) I guess it will depend on your school and your director.

      Since I worked at a hagwon, I had a curriculum to follow, but my boyfriend who was working at a public school had to plan his own lessons. That being said, he was teaching the same lesson over and over again throughout the week to all the classes he had. That’s something that you’ll want to ask the director when you have your Skype interview – they’ll be able to give you more details and explain how things run at their school.

      I hope that helps!

  48. says: Suzee

    Thank you for such a quick response! That’s also really helpful. I did wonder if I’d end up just teaching the same lesson a few times over as if it works for one class it should work for them all depending on what level and age group they are obviously. I just find it really strange that the public school system wouldn’t have some kind of structure in place so that they can effectively grade students at least on a district scale if not a national scale of proficiency. I guess I’m just really worried I’d do a bad job and would love it if there was a manual that literally went “On day one you should cover…” all the way up until the end of their school life! No such luck though haha! My first year is going to be hell 🙁

  49. says: Kim

    This was super informative! I plan on going to Korea to teach as well this year. You mentioned some recruiters in this post but have you heard anything (good or bad) about Adventure Teaching?

    1. says: Audrey

      I can’t say I’ve heard anything about Adventure Teaching. Try looking up the company’s name in some of the ESL forums – that’s probably your best bet.

  50. says: Deanna M.

    Like many of the comments above, I’ve been taking a serious look at teaching ESL in Korea.

    I have limited teaching experience, as I was employed as a substitute teacher for a few months after graduating with a degree in International Affairs. As someone else asked before, did you receive any guidance in the way of lesson plans and activities? Looking at a TEFL cert from Uni. of Toronto, I see where they try to include classroom management techniques.

    Also, if you were a person with no prior experience of the area, is there time to get acquainted to your surroundings? Is the agency or recruiter able to be reached if you have any basic questions about life in Korea?

    Your posts have been AMAZING, by the way! Thank you!

    Thank you!

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Deanne,

      When I was working at my hagwon in Korea, we had textbooks for Reading/Writing/Grammar/Listening, and we would follow the lesson plan. The only planning I had to do aside from that was come up with a fun icebreaker and see how I could incorporate a game that reinforced the points covered in the lesson. My husband who taught at a public school had a slightly different experience – he had to actually plan his lessons, but since he was teaching different classrooms at the same grade level, he was able to reuse his lesson plans.

      In terms of adjusting to Korea, you usually have about 1 week in the country to attend orientation and settle in before you start teaching your own class. In the meantime you attend workshops and observe a few classes being taught. It kind of is sink or swim, but you figure it out quickly.

      I didn’t really have contact with my agency once I arrived in Korea (I didn’t feel like I needed to). At that point my school and my coworkers showed me around and helped me get settled. The recruiter’s role is to help find you a job in Korea, so once that’s done and the papers are signed, there really isn’t much they can do for you from overseas.

      I hope that helps answer your questions,

  51. says: Eboni S.

    Very informative post. I have been researching and I have decided that I would like to teach in S. Korea. I was wondering how difficult it was for you to secure a job. I will have a Masters (not in teaching), TEFL certificate and some volunteer tutoring experience when I apply. Also, what is the best timeline to apply for the beginning of the school year through Teach Away if you want a preferred location like a larger city?

  52. says: raylan

    Just a quick question, but does one really need a University BA degree? I have a College diploma, would this work or no?

  53. says: Mo

    Hey Audrey,

    Thanks for the informative post! I have one question. What is the minimum time i can sign a contract for? I really want to teach over in Korea, but one year is too much of a commitment for me. Thanks!

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Mo,
      One year is the minimum commitment to teach in Korea, and honestly, the year goes by really fast. Schools invest a lot of money finding teachers, flying them to Korea, and then securing housing for them, so it’s not something they want to be doing every few months.

  54. says: Natalye Leake

    Hi Audrey,

    I am in the process of gathering all my materials to apply to the epik program but I am hesitant because I have a husband and child whi I will end up leaving for a year. As you can gues..this is a really tough decision for myself. I wanted to know how often would one be able to visit back home? I know that I’ll have to pay for my plane ticket to do this but I just wanted to know if I would be able to and, if so, how often.

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Natalye,
      That’s a decision that only you can make, but to be honest, I’m not sure if it would be worth it. That’s a long time to be away from family, and any money that you are able to save up will be eaten up by the plane tickets to fly back home. Also, realistically speaking, you wouldn’t be able to fly home that often… When I was working at a hagwon I only had 10 days off a year, but I could only take 2 days off at a time. Public schools tend to have a longer vacation time, but ultimately your employer decides when you can take your holiday. In my case, it wouldn’t have been enough time to fly back home for a visit. If you end up deciding that teaching in Korea isn’t for you and you return home before the 6-month mark, you’ll also have to pay back the money your employer paid to fly you into the country. It’s something you’ll want to consider carefully.

  55. says: Chris

    Hi Audrey,

    Your post has been very informative for me. I am currently in my second year of teaching high school special education (co-teaching rather than self-contained), and I have a bachelors degree as well. I am considering moving to Korea to teach, but I have a couple of questions.

    1) As far as lesson planning goes in the public school, how similar would they be to lesson plans here in the United States?

    2) I realize that you are required to do a criminal background check. I got a DUI but had it dropped to Reckless Driving last year. I was fortunate enough to maintain my position teaching here. Do you have any information on how that may affect my decision to try and teach in Korea?

    Thank you very much!

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Chris,

      I’m not sure what your lessons plans are like in the US, but I found teaching ESL quite different from teaching primary school back in Canada. The biggest challenge was that my students spoke very little English so in order to convey my point, I often had to simplify my vocabulary and eliminate filler words. Teaching ESL will make you very conscious of the way you speak and share information.

      As for criminal background checks, that’s something you may want to talk about with your recruiting agency and see what they have to say. When I did my background check, they were mostly interested in the vulnerable sector since the position requires working with children. I can’t say if they may be willing to overlook the reckless driving charge, but a recruiter should be able to answer those questions since they review and process thousands of applications every year.

      I hope that helps!

  56. says: Bri

    Hi Audrey!
    I’ve been researching places to teach English around the world and came across your blog and had a few questions. Starting off, I do not have my 4-year degree. And I know you answered that you need one to teach but I was hoping you had some insight that could help me with the research I have come across. I am only 30 credits away from my 2-year. From what I have read the TaLK program while only part time allows people to teach grade school. I was wondering if you know anyone who has done this/saved money doing so/had housing allowance etc..? Also, I have read that without a 4-year degree you’re at risk of being fined or deported! I was curious if this applies to all schools/teaching positions? While I would love to teach in many parts of Asia I have also read that teaching in China/Russia have different requirements? Not sure if it is true? English is my native language and I’ve taught children swim lessons for about 5 years (I don’t know if that helps at all). A staff member from ( has contacted me about the TEFL certification and I am not 100% sure if they are legit or just out for money (the pricing for the certification is over 1K) I have come across other certifications that are under $100. If you have anymore information that could help me out I would really appreciate it! If I need to get my 4-year degree so be it, I was just hoping to find a way to travel longer and sooner! All I ever wanted to do was travel the world but so far I just read about it.
    Vicariously living through your travels,

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Bri,
      To be honest, I’m not very familiar with the TaLK program and I don’t know anyone who has done it. Just from having a quick look at the TaLK website, it appears that you only need to be enrolled in a BA program (it doesn’t have to be completed) and the positions would be to teach 15 hours per week in rural areas. This is their website: I’m sure you’ll be able to find more details reading through it and if you have any questions just send them an email through the contact form.

  57. says: Ro

    Hi Audrey!
    I am just about to finish my BEd in Primary Teaching, and am very interesting in spending a year teaching in Korea. I would love my fiance to come with me, but he doesn’t have a degree, and so couldn’t get a teaching job there. Is there any way you know of that would allow him to come with me, even if we would not yet be married? Totally open to applying for different visas or whatever if that’s what it would take!
    Thank you so much!

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Ro, I guess it depends on what passport your boyfriend holds. I know that Canadians can stay in Korea for up to 6 months without a visa, but then for Americans it’s only 3 months…look up the travel restrictions with your passport because your boyfriend might be a able to join you for a period of time without requiring a visa. If he wants to come for the full year, you’ll have to chat with your recruiting agency and see what kind of suggestions they offer.

  58. says: JOSE VELAZQUEZ

    So basically I’m starting my journey as a teacher fairly late, I been going on and off to community college since graduating high school in 2010. I have a pretty good rubric set in front of me that I want to follow now , which was lacking in years before. I’m planning on teaching two subjects at a high school level in new york (im from southern california) ; history and spanish. My plan is to finish my bachelors here in fullerton, ca and have a major in history and minor in spanish. Once im done with my bachelors the next step would be to go off to korea and teach english (not only because it would be a great teaching experience, but an amazing life opportunity.) I would do this for a full year and then go immediately after to NYU Madrid to get my masters in Spanish, once I’m done with that I would begin teaching in New York. My question then is, what is the process like in terms of determining how fast you can find out if you are qualified to teach over seas, my plan is to graduate in the summer, that same summer apply for teaching esl, then that same fall being in korea. Is this an ideal plan?

  59. says: Ian

    Nice work. I taught and lived in Korea for 3.5 years as well as China and Taiwan. Last I knew you could go to Korea to find work and that you didn’t have to interview in the consulate in your home country. That’s how I did it the first time back in 2007. Then I knew it changed for 1st time E2 visa holders and then last I knew it went back. If possible going there to see the school and talk to the other teachers there is a great idea.

    I have also taught in both hagwons and public school. I’ll tell you this about public schools. You have LESS control. Less control over where you teach, when, how you teach and who you teach with. As mentioned they can be easier jobs since your work load can be less. But you don’t know who your co-teacher will be. I didn’t get along with mine. The program places you where they want.

    You also have less autonomy as a teacher.

  60. says: Casey Hartley

    Hello, I am going to University now for a BA in Linguistics (TESOL). I plan on teaching in Korea or Vietnam, however I have been doing some research which is kind of disparaging. I have a family (Husband and 2 kids) and I have read a lot of blogs saying that this is impossible. Do you have any thoughts? I mean i feel as though I can make my own way with paying for a flat and bills and things if the company I am working for is unwilling to pay for a larger accommodations. That and do you have any input on international schools in regards to working for them and having a child attend at the same time? THANK YOU

  61. says: Maria Julia Ortega

    Hi! I have a question for you… I have tried to apply for various jobs in Korea (got request for interviews and everything) but turns out I can’t apply for a visa because I have a bachelors degree from another country and not American (bummer!) I am about to start a masters degree in an American university… Will I be eligible for a visa then? I wrote to the Korean embassy in the states asking this but they haven’t replied yet… Do you have any information on this? Thanks!

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Maria Julia,
      Here’s a link to the requirements to teach as part of the EPIK program in Korea:
      I know you mentioned you’re not born in the US, but are you a US citizen? One of the requirements is that you hold a passport from one of the following countries in order for your E2 visa to be processed: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States or South Africa.

  62. says: Jarrod

    Hi Audrey

    Great blog post, thanks!

    I was wondering if you had any advice on getting the letters of recommendation or on doing the lesson plan?

    Also, I have a Masters degree in psych and my wife (who’ll be teaching in Korea as well) has a Bachelor’s in English. Do you think we could get well-paying jobs, in either Hagwons or public schools?


  63. says: Ash

    Hey! Im looking to leave next Fall to teach in SK!! I know that there are certain days that I will have to teach camps but do you know if taking vacation the second week of June is an option for public school teachers?? hagwon??? Thank you so much!!

  64. says: Mikki

    I read a forum that says southeast Asians has slimmer chance in getting a job as an English teacher in Korea. Well what I got is a rotten luck as I’m from Malaysia, but English plays a pivotal role in my life, and is considered as a first language to me. English is my passion, and teaching English is an honor! Therefore I wonder whether there is hope, a light at the end of the tunnel perhaps? :1

  65. says: Victoria

    Thanks for this great information. I’m wondering if you know what the process is for applying with someone else? My boyfriend and I are both Canadian with university degrees and would love to teach in South Korea for a year. I looked into “EPIK” and their website specifically stated that unless people were married they would not be housed together. I’m wondering if you know of agencies that allow or guarantee placement together?

    Thanks again!

  66. says: Marina

    I loved your post! I have a questioned though, I’m not sure if you will be able to answer me but do you get to choose what classes you teach? For example I’m thinking about going to teach there next year but I don’t know if I would be put to teach high schoolers or elementary students?

  67. says: Paula

    Great write up. Is it possible to over think teaching English? I taught some classes in Vietnam last year but I couldn’t get it together, I felt I didn’t know how to make a lesson plan or anything. I did the TEFL, but a few months before. So many people go with no qualifications and get on fine, earn money etc. It’s not hard? Right?

  68. says: Caroline

    Wow so helpful! I really want to teach in Korea but I don’t know if I want to make a year commitment. Do they have just 6 month programs? I am graduating a semester early and was hoping I could do 6 months teaching instead of a year.

    1. says: Audrey

      I had the same concern; I was a bit hesitant to accept a 1 year placement, but trust me, the year goes by so fast! Once you get there, meet people, start exploring the country, and develop a circle of friends, you’ll be glad you have a year there. To be honest, most schools won’t hire if you say you want a 6-month placement because it’s not worth the investment. The schools have to pay the recruiters, pay for your airfare, spend a few weeks training you, so that’s why they want the commitment from teachers.

  69. says: Sherrell

    Hello. I love your post. I am just beginning the process of researching teaching English in Korea. I have a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and am certified in Elementary and Middle School Education. I plan on taking an onsite TEFL course and will then look into recruiters. My situation is a little different. My husband will be retiring from the Military very soon and we have 2 children. My concern is whether we will be able to survive financially with his retirement and my teaching English with a family of 4, as well as how housing would work as I don’t think we would be comfortable in a studio apartment. Also, is purchasing a car necessary? Thanks.

  70. says: Maya

    This is very informative. I’d like to know if it is possible for an Indonesian (without native english speaking country passport) to be accepted as an english teacher in korea. I’d also like know if it is okay to bring our family (in my case, my mom) along.
    Thanks 🙂

    1. says: Maya

      I was so excited I didn’t even write any greetings before asking 🙁 So Hello Audrey, I really love this article. I’m Indonesian and 25 at the moment. It would be really helpful if you could answer my questions above. Thanks 🙂

  71. says: Jocelin

    Thanks for this article because it helped a lot. But i have another question. So they provide an apartment for you and the school pays but can you also live with one other person? And if you can will the school still pay or will that person need to pay seperate?

    1. says: Audrey Bergner

      Hi Jocelin, I’m not sure if this has changed in recent years, but when I taught there 3 years ago, it was unusual to get an apartment with someone unless you were married. Korea is a more traditional society, plus I think they were also worried about boyfriends/girlfriends splitting up halfway through the year. If you’re applying to come and teach as a married couple, you’ll be able to get an apartment together, especially if you’re at the same school. If you are at different schools, then one person could ask for the apartment and then the other could ask to be paid an accommodation credit. That being said, this can vary from one school to the next, so chat about it with your recruiter and the school directly to make sure it’s the right fit for you.

  72. says: Afsheen

    Hi Audrey,
    It doesn’t matter if we hold a degree from an asian country, right? Can you help me?
    And.. I’m not a native speaker .Btw I’m from India. Will this affect my dream of teaching in Korea? Please help.Thanks in advance.

    1. says: Audrey Bergner

      Hi Afsheen, there have been some updates regarding the nationalities that can apply for the E2 visa to teach English in Korea. According to this article, applicants from India, Malyasia, Philippines and Singapore can now teach English, but they must hold a degree in English studies and have a teaching license from their home country. Depending on what you’ve studied, it might be possible.

  73. says: Bhavisha Shah

    Hi there! This article is simple amazing Audrey! Almost all of my questions were answered by you, although I do have one query. I’m an Indian citizen, and although English is the official language of India, I want to know if this could be a problem in landing a job? Thanks so much!

  74. says: Gabby White

    Hi, I’m about to finish my degree in History and would really like to go to Korea to teach before applying for acceptance to a Korean Studies graduate program. The only problem is that I’ve never been to Korea before, and I don’t exactly have the money to go and see but I’ve studied it enough and been fascinated with Asian cultures since I was very little. I feel confident that this is the right step for me but I’m still nervous.

    1. says: Audrey Bergner

      Hi Gabby, I think there’s no harm in trying! It would be a great way to test out the waters, learn more about Korean culture, and travel around the country. I don’t know if you’ve also studied the language, but I have a lot of friends teaching there who signed up for weekend language lessons – this might even strengthen your application to the graduate program.

  75. says: Tiffany

    hi Audrey, I’m Tiffany from Malaysia and I’m really into linguistic fields, especially teaching English in Korea. Its a dream of mine. But unfortunately, the more I search info about it, thet only accept native speakers, or have passport of those following countries. Which saddens me so much cause even tho I’m from Malaysia, I speak both English, Chinese as my mother language.I won’t say I’m perfect in speaking English but I can speak fluent English. After knowing the qualification, it discouraged me so much..

  76. says: Dina Gomez

    Hi Audrey,
    I have a year left to finish my degree in psychology and this was definitely very helpful! I think the only thing that is holding me back is saving up money for tuition for grad school but your article on how you saved money in Korea was also interesting.

    I am however a latina american, with Salvadorean parents and I was born and raised in the states. I don’t know if speaking Spanish as a first language will be hard on the application process? I do have a slight Spanish accent but consider myself bilingual and fluent in both languages

  77. says: Stephanie Bartolo

    Hello Audrey,

    Thanks a lot for this article! It is very helpful. I have few questions though.. I’m a Filipino, fluent in using English language and have a bachelor’s degree. I know at this time that South Korea prefer teachers from native-English speaking country which unfortunately I’m not. I’m planning to go first in New Zealand and plan to study or work there. My question is, what if I became a permanent resident in New Zealand so usually I will have New Zealand citizenship when that happen. If that happened, is there a chance that I could apply as an English teacher in Korea even though my nationality is Filipino? I hope for your response or please e-mail me on Thanks! 🙂

    1. says: Audrey Bergner

      Hi Stephanie, there have been a few updates regarding the nationalities that can apply for the E2 visa to teach English in Korea. According to this article, applicants from the Philippines can now teach English, but they must hold a degree in English studies and have a teaching license from their home country. However, if you hold/are planning to hold NZ citizenship and study there, that might help your application. That being said, I would recommend chatting with a recruiter to see how you should proceed.

  78. says: Kristianelli

    Hi audrey!
    Thanks for the information. I am a Filipino and I really want to consider working in Korea as an English teacher. I am an English major and currently teaching at a government school. I also have my license as a professiinal teacher. But I am still wondering if I am qualified or atleast have an edge to teach there? Please give me ny idea. Also, am I be able to get my family once I got the jib? Thanks a lot!

  79. says: Daniel

    Audrey Ive been scouring the internet for an answer to my question to no avail.

    I have a passport from Canada, four year degree from University of Toronto, and a good TESOL . I am white originally from Russia with a slight accent. I lived in Canada for the last 19 years. I am 37 now.
    Teaching English in Korea requires being “native” english speaker. My pre-university education was in Israel in Hebrew. Korea wants you to have middle/high school education from grades 7 to 12 in English. I dont have that. I talked to Korean consulate, a few recruiters including Canadian Connections in Toronto (where I live), emailed EPIK, and all told me I am ineligible for E2 visa to teach in Korea and they all refused to work with me.

    EVERY form/blog/site I read talks about being a citizen of one of the seven english speaking countries, having a university degree from there and so on. I have that.

    But: I HAVE NOT FOUND ONE SINGLE SITE ADDRESSING THE PRE-UNIVERSITY EDUCATION COMPONENT TO BE A REQUIREMENT TO BE A “NATIVE” ENGLISH SPEAKER TO TEACH IN KOREA. It seems like no-one talks about that. EPIK application specifically asks you if your education from grade 7 through university was in English. Then they ask you to list your primary and secondary institutions. Applications for JLP programs are done through recruiters as well because JLP does not have a site of their own.
    This requirement is at the visa level. It means that even if I apply to a private school outside of the government programs, they wont be able to get me the E2 visa since I dont fit Korea’s native English speaking requirements. It seems like even if I have a masters in education and 10 years of teaching experience, I wont ever be eligible to teach in Korea. Not on E2 visa anyway because of some stupid grade 7 to 12 requirement. It seems that even if I get masters in education and 10 years of experience, I am not qualified to ever teach in Korea.

    It also seems that Korea has opened its doors to some Asian countries (I know Vietnam is one of them?) if you have a bachelor of Education and a teaching licence from your home country. I am not a 100% sure on that, but it seems that if I am competing against someone from these countries with the same qualifications and experience, me being a white guy from Canada, is going to lose (I am just the messenger, not a racist).

    Anyway, after compiling the above knowledge, I am looking at other visa options. I was wondering if you know anything about the C4 short term employment visa requirements or the E7, which I think is required for international school employment in Korea. Although, I think international schools also want “native” english speakers and my university degree from Canada and 19 years of living here may not cut it.

    In general, besides marrying a Korean girl :)), do you have any suggestions for me to crack the English speaking market in this country? Is my information correct?


  80. says: Phoebe

    Hi Audrey
    Thank you so much for your helpful information about moving to Korea.
    I love Korea and I want to challenge myself to move there to live and work there as well. As so said that we have to hold at least a B.S in any subject so Im going to school right now to achieve my B.S degree in Radiography. I can wait to finish and go abroad.
    You mentioned that you would be able to save up 17,000 for your student loans. So is there any problem to leave the country while you are still owning the loans? I meant to ask if we had to be present in U.S because we still owning money either from school or any credit company? Can we pay them even we are out of the country? how do you pay tax while you are out of the country. I hope I will get more advises from you.
    Looking forward to your response. Thank you Audrey.

  81. says: Kenelia

    Hello, Great post. One Question I have been looking everywhere for an answer but i can’t find it. I am afraid I already know the answer, but I am from the Caribbean, a fully native English-speaking country, and I know a lot of times they incorporate the Caribbean with the Americas, is this one of those times or am i ineligible to apply? I am so sorry if my question is difficult to understand.

    1. says: Audrey Bergner

      Hi Kenelia, that would depend on the passport you hold. In order to have your work visa sponsored, you need a passport from one of the countries on this list.

  82. says: Dolly Chakraborty

    How many years Can we prolong our contact ?
    Can we teach English permanently there?
    If we go through the EPIK programme ,does the gov.will fund the expenses ??
    Or is there any money required for taking the EPIK programme

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *