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South Korea


Why Teach in South Korea?

The answer is simple: Money

South Korea is one of the most lucrative teaching locations for ESL teachers in the world. Many teachers come here out of college looking for a way to pay off student loans, some want to save, and some want to have extra money to travel! 

With your flights, housing, and medical insurance paid for by your schools, nearly every penny you make is a penny you keep. Quality of life over here is great. Work weeks average around 35 hours per week, you have an excess of income, you never worry about being able to pay your bills, there are extremely social expat communities in every city, the country is extremely safe, South Korea is a travel hub for Asia, you get to experience a new culture every day...we could go on and on.

Did we mention the extra bonus and pension that you walk away with at the end of your contract? That's an extra $4k or so, on top of that month's paycheck. When all the benefits and cash add up- it's a damn good deal. 

In short: Life is prosperous and fun in South Korea.

Qualifications to Teach in South Korea

South Korea is not messing around. You either qualify to teach or you don’t. No loopholes or ‘under the table’ shenanigans going on in this country.


Qualifications Required


Native Speaker: Required

Bachelor’s Degree: Required

TEFL Certificate, CELTA Degree or Equivalent: Highly Recommended

Criminal Background Check: Required

Health Check: Required in Country

When applying to language schools in competitive cities like Seoul, Busan, and Daegu- you really need a TEFL certificate to give you that edge.

If you're applying to teach in South Korea through EPIK, a TEFL will automatically increase your salary. 

Don't have a TEFL yet? We can fix that.

If you want to get your TEFL quickly via the clearest course online, iTTT TEFL is the way to go.

This 120-hour TEFL Certificate can be finished as quickly as 4 weeks online. 


  • Become a highly competitive candidate with a TEFL degree under your belt

  • Increase your value as a teacher and thus increase your salary

  • Open the doors to landing a teaching job in practically any country in Asia

A TEFL degree is your golden ticket to getting hired in South Korea.

Use our link and automatically get a 5% discount off your online course or a 5% discount off a 4-week TEFL course in Asia- applied at checkout!

How to Find a Job in South Korea





You’ve got 3 options when looking for teaching jobs in South Korea....


Korean recruitment agencies work to match potential teachers with Korean kindergartens and English schools that have job openings.


Understand: You pay nothing for this service; schools pay around $1,000 to the recruiters for successfully matching a teacher- sometimes the paycheck can make recruiters pushy.

Signs of a Good Recruiter: Listens to your preferences and doesn’t pressure you into working for a school outside those preferences.


Our Top-Rated Recruitment Agencies: Star Teachers, OK Recruiting, and Park English


Step 1: Go on Dave’s ESL Café and search under ‘Korean Job Board”


Step 2: Scan the job adds to understand the scope of what is offered


Step 3: Contact a couple recruitment agencies and tell them your preferences like location, age of students, start date, salary, etc.


Step 4: Your assigned recruiter will reach out to you with a) suggested jobs and b) questions about the status of your documents (see visa section below)

Step 5: Your recruiter will set up Skype or phone interviews between you and potential schools


Step 6: If you’re hired, the school will send you a contract to sign. Look over it carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Step 7: Send your completed visa documents to your recruiter in South Korea


Step 8: Wait for the green light from your recruiter and apply for your visa at the Korean Embassy in your area


Step 9: Fly to South Korea to start teaching!

You can find small Korean language schools advertising their own job openings on Dave’s ESL Café without a recruiter- and that’s totally legit.


When working with small schools, you'll still go through the above steps 5-9 all on your own- just be sure to do a little research before you sign anything!

EPIK is the government-run program for English education in Korea. There are two intake periods throughout the year: August and February (when the school sessions start).


Step 1: Visit EPIK’s Website and click “Application”

Step 2: Download the Application form and fill out your info (basics, education, experience)

Step 3: Submit your application, 2 letters of recommendation, and lesson plan (optional for highly-competitive placement areas)

Step 3: Wait for EPIK to contact you and set up a screening interview

Step 4: Upon passing, collect the necessary visa documents for EPIK and send them to the EPIK headquarters

Step 5: Collect your visa at a Korean Embassy in your area

Step 6: Fly to South Korea to begin Orientation






Option 1: Use a Korean Recruiter for a Private School Job

How to Apply with a Recruiter
Option 2: Apply to Language Schools Directly
Option 3: Apply for a Korean Public School Position Through EPIK

For a step-by-step guide on how to apply for a Korean E2 Visa, click here

Teaching in Public Schools vs. Private Schools

In other words, EPIK vs Hagwon


Public Schools


10 weeks vacation time

Will 100% find you a match if you qualify to teach in Korea

Don’t discriminate based on age, gender, race, or appearance

Do discriminate on heavily tattooed teachers and require photos in application

Includes a week-long cultural orientation and intro to living in South Korea

 Can apply to teach as a couple


Fixed salary based on experience/no negotiations

Large class sizes (up to 40 students)

No say in the school or location

Often work with a Korean co-teacher (conflicts are common)

Hire only twice per year





Private Language Schools


 Can negotiate salary

Can choose precisely where you teach

Small class sizes (max 12 students)

Hire year-round

Can apply to teach as a couple



Prefer “pretty” teachers with white skin (we’re not kidding)

Only 10 days vacation time

Typically more performances/plays/competitions to please parents

Quite a bit of "desk warming" 

E2 Visas for Teachers in South Korea

Teachers in South Korea work on E2 Visas, sponsored by their school. This visa will allow teachers to live and work in South Korea for 1 year. You will receive this visa BEFORE you fly to South Korea.


That means you must first process all of your visa paperwork in your home country (we’ll get to this in the next section).


Because this paperwork can take weeks, even months, to complete- schools want to interview potential teachers who have already started preparing their E2 Visa documents


We Suggest: begin processing your documents even before you start interviewing or writing to recruiters. If you can say “my documents will be ready by XYZ date”, then a school will be confident to hire you.


Your criminal background check must be squeaky clean. You cannot teach in South Korea if you have an arrest record.





Step 1: Gather your required documents

Step 2: Send them to your school or recruiter in South Korea

Step 3: Your school will send you a pin number to access your visa and instructions on how to collect your visa

Step 4: Send your passport to your nearest South Korean Embassy where they will add the Korean visa stamp in your passport

Step 5: Wait for your passport to be returned

Step 6: You’re ready to fly to South Korea

The whole process, from applying for your criminal background check to getting your visa in your passport, can take as little as 6 weeks and as long as 3+ months depnding on your method of document collection.


Now, let’s talk about these documents…

Documents Required for a South Korean Teaching Visa

National Background Check with Apostille Stamp

University Degree Photocopy with Apostille Stamp

E2 Medical Check Form

Consulate Questionnaire

Visa Application Form

The E2 Visa process goes like this...

Documents to Apply for an E2 Visa in South Korea

These instructions are for American citizens- congrats guys, you’ve got the most complicated hoops to jump through!


We are going to break down what documents you need to get an E2 Teaching Visa for South Korea step by step.


You need a national –not state- background check with a verified Apostille Stamp. What the hell does that mean? We'll get to it.


The process of getting your background check used to be long, stupid, stressful and took up to a minimum of 12 weeks. But not anymore.


Use our favorite FBI Background Chanelling Service, Korvia Consulting to expedite the process. These miracle workers do the heavy lifting for you and keep you from making any mistakes. You'll pay $50 for a  1-week turnaround (compared to the standard $20 for a 12-week turnaround).

To get started...follow these steps...


Step 1: Get your fingerprints taken at your local police station today. Do it now by downloading this fingerprint form and printing two copies on regular printer paper or cardstock- both are fine.


Step 2: Fill out Korvia’s Personal Info Sheet – highlighted sections only.


“Select “Option 1” on your application form and provide an e-mail address for faster FBI result. This service is provided to allow the applicant to retrieve/save/print your individual FBI response.”


Step 3: Thoughtfully place your 2 completed fingerprint cards, Credit Card Payment Form, and Personal Info Sheet in a manila envelope. Do not bend.


Mail to the following address:


Accurate Biometrics

Attn: Korvia

500 Park Boulevard

Suite 1260

Itasca, IL 60143


Step 4: Your completed FBI Background Check with Apostille Stamp will arrive in 5-7 Business Days.


On to the next document!


While you’re waiting for your FBI Background Check with Apostille, get started on Document #2. You need a notary to basically confirm that the degree is real and belongs to you. To do this…


Step 1: Get a copy of your Bachelors Degree and take it to be notarized by a licensed notary (most likely, you can find a notary working in your bank). Go to them with the following:

  • Your original University Degree

  • 1 photocopy of your University Degree

  • 1 form of photo ID

  • Type up and print a version of this document


Step 2: Send your Notarized Degree Photocopy to be Apostilled


Each state has 1 official secretary to do this job. You can visit them in person or mail in your document. Consult this list of Secretary of State offices where you can request the Apostille Authentication. Each state is different in terms of price and cost- so call ahead.


This state-level university degree apostille should only take 1 week.


When you get your apostilled university degree returned from the state, it will look like this example apostille.

Step 3: Download and Fill Out Additional Forms


Links to download the above 3 forms can be found here.



Final Step: Send Your Documents to Your School in South Korea


Your school will give you instructions on where to send all of your documents. Now you can breathe! 

Document 1: FBI Criminal Background Check with Apostille Stamp

Document 2: Apostille Copy of your University Degree

Document 3: E2 Medical Check

Document 4: Consulate Questionnaire

Document 5: Visa Application

What's Included in a South Korean Teaching Job

Private English Academies

Average Monthly Income: $1,843-$2,545+ per month

Housing: Provided

Flights: Provided

Medical Insurance: Provided 

End of the Year Pension: Pension payout equivalent to 1 month’s salary

End of the Year Bonus: Bonus payout equivalent to 1 month’s salary

Vacation Time: 10 days plus national holidays

Sick Days: Typically 10 sick days with a doctors note

Contract Commitment: Yearly

Teaching Hours Per Week: Roughly 25

Public Schools

Average Monthly Income: $1,843-$2,545+ per month

Housing: Provided

Flights: Provided

Medical Insurance: Provided 

End of the Year Pension: Pension payout equivalent to 1 month’s salary

End of the Year Bonus: Bonus payout equivalent to 1 month’s salary

Vacation Time: 21 vacation days plus national holidays

Sick Days: Typically 10 sick days with a doctors note

Contract Commitment: Yearly

Teaching Hours Per Week: 22

Cost of Living in South Korea

Since your school pays for your rent, your cost of living will be relatively low depending on how much you spend on entertainment, travel, and partying. Hard life, right?


In any given city, you can spend $500-$1500 total per month- it all depends on you!

Most teachers are able to save up a nice chunk of change, while teachers with student loans  find it very easy to pay off their debt with the salary in South Korea.

Here's an idea of what to expect as far as expenses go...

Utilities: $139.00

Taxi (1km): $1.69

Local Transport 1-way Ticket: $1.10


1 Dozen Eggs: $2.90

Chicken Breast (1kg): $3.49

Loaf of Fresh White Bread: $2.09

Draft Beer: $2.63


Restaurant Meal (average restaurant): $6.14

McDonald’s Combo Meal: $5.26


Cinema- International Release (Ticket): $8.76

Gym Membership: $55.27

City Ranking by Cost

  1. Seoul 

  2. Jeju

  3. Busan

  4. Incheon

  5. Gwangju

  6. Daegu

  7. Pohang

  8. Daejeon

Compare your current cost of living to South Korean cities here.

The Low Down on Living in South Korea

Language: Korean

Currency: Korean Won; (KRW rate here)

Type of Government: Unitary Semi-presidential Constitutional Republic

Crime:  Low crime rate! Check out the data here.

Safety Concerns: Traffic accidents, drunk driving

Public Transportation: Seoul, Busan, Daegu, and other large cities have amazing subway systems. Taxis and buses are relatively cheap!

What's it like Living in...



The heart of South Korea, Seoul is the city of endless possibilities. Connected by a extremely efficient subway system, it’s easy to get from one side of the city to the next. Jump from K-Pop shopping districts to the western nightlife area or go from the business district to the red-light district in 30 minutes. A city with a population of almost 10 million, you’ll have to search out your social circle by joining trivia nights, dance classes, or Korean language classes.



Busan is the “Miami Beach” of South Korea but with less skin. You’ll find yourself hanging out on the sandy beaches of Gwanju or Haeundae where beach bars and sky rise bars are packed every night of the week. You’ll find great fish markets, fresh seafood, and tons of BBQ joints. There are also a plethora of Jimjibangs (spas) in Busan. This city is where old meets- explore old school neighborhoods one minute then step into lavish department stores the next. The only downfall is that Busan gets crowded with tourists during the summer.




A tight community of western expats who are very involved in clubs, sports, and activities. Join the Daegu Softball Beer League; participate in open mic nights downtown; become active in the Daegu theatre troop; dance your heart out in the active Korean salsa and hip hop scene, shred the ice with the indoor ice hockey league- the list goes on. It’s very easy to make Korean friends in Daegue in your hobbies or while going out in the small downtown bar scene where everyone knows everyone.




A small community of just 500,000, Pohang is an easy city to settle into. Located on the coast, you’ve got a beach to play volley ball on in the summer, a softball league to join in the spring, and temperate weather that won’t make you freeze to death in the winter. You’ll find hiking trails and waterfalls not too far, Busan is just a bus ride away, and local prices are very reasonable. If you’re looking to a laid-back, intimate experience in South Korea, go to Pohang.


Jeju Island


Often called “the Hawaii of South Korea”, it’s easy to see why Jeju island is such an appealing location for teachers. You’ve got gorgeous waterfalls, stunning beaches, and the highest mountain peak in South Korea. The pitfall to living on Jeju is that you are isolated from the rest of the country. There are flights and ferries to the mainland every day, but it’s an effort to get there. If you’re comfortable with living in the smallest province in South Korea and enjoy a slow-paced yet naturally beautiful lifestyle, then go for it!  

What's to Love about South Korea?

The all-inclusive teacher package is rewarding and generous


Easy to save money and pay off student loans


Korea is extremely safe for foreigners


“Kong-lish” or Korean-English is an easy way to communicate


Strong English teacher community


The Bucket List of Adventures 

What's to Dislike about South Korea?



Schools are seriously hit or miss- some are amazing and some work you to death

Sick days are offered but social pressure discourages you from taking them


The hiring process can feel like a beauty pageant

Resources to Get you Excited for Living in South Korea


Learn to Read Korean in 15 Minutes here

Join the 15,000+ Community of Teachers in Korea on Facebook

Study Korean for Free on Memrise or Duolingo