Talk to any professional in the TEFL or ESL industries, and you will discover that South Korea remains at the top of the list for teachers looking to work abroad. With so many Korean students aiming to learn English, there is a type of school or company for novice to expert teachers. With this, TEFL course options are growing ever more popular here, with companies offering services to prepare and help you navigate through your many options.
Though, once you’ve settled and found a job suitable for your teaching styles, South Korea is a country of endless exploration! Stroll through the city streets of Seoul - or visit the coast in Busan - and you will discover a place that is full of possibilities and adventure.
Photo Credit: Ellie Taylor
Demand for ESL teachers in South Korea is very high, with local public and private schools seeking certified instructors each year. There are a few TEFL options for teachers looking to spend a semester, a year, or even longer in South Korea.
TEFL + Teach:
The most common and popular option, the combination TEFL + teach program provides trainees with the skills, and later the resources, to secure a reputable job in South Korea. ESL teachers in training will learn how to teach reading, writing, grammar, pronunciation, as well as classroom management tips. In addition, many courses will leave around 10 or 20 hours for actual in-classroom practice. After you’ve covered the basics of teaching English in a 120-hour course, you will enjoy the perks of going through a combination program. The TEFL staff will assist in your job placement, as they will likely have connections or relations with local schools. Most teachers will find contracts that last for around one year, and create lasting partnerships with fellow educators.
Online Course + Teaching Placement:
Some TEFL providers offer the 100-hour course option online, which is typically a less expensive, condensed version of the 120-hour course. Drawing on practical uses of teaching methodologies, this TEFL option is great for those who are short on time or funds. While you won’t have the chance to practice in-classroom teaching, the 100-hour course still covers the essentials for teaching ESL to students abroad. After you’ve completed the online portion, the provider will assist with job placement in South Korea. Similar to the way a recruiter works, the provider will put you in touch with local schools and make sure that all the small kinks are worked out with contracts and related paperwork.
When and Where to Look:
The best time to look for jobs in South Korea is during the months of March and September, so you will likely need to begin your TEFL course during those months (or a little bit before). With this, the most popular destinations for ESL teachers are Seoul and Busan. As the capital city of South Korea, Seoul is energetic and those who end up here will find no shortage of fun. Busan is a seaside city, and noticeably quieter than the city of Seoul. While it is still the second largest city in South Korea, Busan is a great destination for nature-lovers, with its many hiking trails and well-known coastline.
To receive a TEFL certification in South Korea, it is required that you are a native English speaker. In addition, South Korean programs will prefer that you are a citizen of an English-speaking country, such as the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. To apply to the EPIK program, you must also have at least 100 hours of prior teaching experience.
Once you’ve completed your TEFL course, and feel comfortable in the ESL classroom, it is time to decide what type of teaching job you’d like. Teachers in South Korea have several options, and at times, it is difficult to sift through all the information about ESL positions. There are government-sponsored programs, private schools, and universities, all of which are looking for qualified native speakers to work with their students. If this sounds daunting to you, no worries - there are many recruiters operating in South Korea, to assist in your placement in schools of all shapes and sizes.
Through a government-sponsored program, you will likely work in a South Korean public school, often teaching elementary or secondary school students. Typically, a schedule at one of these schools includes 22 hours of actual teaching and around 18 hours of planning, totaling to about 40 hours. If you choose to go the private route, you will likely work at a private language academy, also known as hagwons, where students go to learn English after school hours. The hagwon option is great for late risers, as classes are typically held during the evenings and on weekends.
Cost of Living:
As an English teacher in South Korea, you will earn about $1,800 to $2,000 USD (give or take). However, many programs and schools will provide housing for their teachers. This is typically a small studio or a shared apartment with other teachers. In addition, many programs will provide funds for airfare (to and from your home country). Thus, the general cost of living is low due as a result of the benefits that teachers receive. Teachers can live comfortably on their salaries, and those who wish to be frugal will be able to save a decent amount of their paychecks!