Taking a short holiday is one thing. Moving abroad to a country like South Korea to teach English for an entire year - well, that is is a whole other story.
For many people, the idea is incredibly enticing. Whether you’ve just graduated university and are looking for an adventure or you’ve been in the workforce for a while and need a mid-career switch, moving to a new country is an exciting proposition. At some point, though, you may start to come up with excuses. “The process is too daunting!” “I have no idea what to do!” “How do I even get a job teaching in Korea?”
Excuses. They are always there. No matter what idea you come up with, no matter how exciting or beneficial, I promise that you’ll always be able to find some excuses to not do it. What I also promise is that if you do make the leap to teach in Korea, your life will be forever changed - for the better - because of it.
Because you are reading this article, at least some part of you wants to take advantage of the opportunity to teach in Korea! So, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t be worried, because I’ve been in your shoes before. I completely understand that moving to a foreign country like Korea can be a very intimidating idea. The advice below will tell you exactly what the process of becoming an English teacher in Korea is like and how to prepare, so you can start battling those excuses ASAP!
4 minimum requirements for English teaching jobs in Korea
Before going any further in the process, you must make sure that you are legally allowed to teach in Korea. Luckily, the teaching industry in South Korea is quite standardized, so what applies for one English teaching job in Korea applies for all.
- You must be a citizen of: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, or the United States.
- You must have graduated university with at least a bachelor’s degree.
- You must have no criminal records involving drugs or alcohol.
- You must be able to pass a drug test and medical exam proving that you are not taking illegal drugs or anti-depression/anxiety medication.
If each of these four points describes you, then you will likely be able to apply for teaching jobs in Korea!
Also, keep in mind that most schools expect applicants to have some form of teaching experience, be it teaching in a formal setting in a classroom or tutoring. Experience with children, whether professional or voluntary, is also a major plus, be it is as a babysitter, camp counselor, or otherwise. If you have none of these experiences, then at the very least you should consider getting a TEFL certification, which has become the status quo for many schools in Korea.
How to teach in Korea in four easy steps
Meeting the basic requirements doesn’t automatically guarantee you a teaching job in Korea. Nowadays, Korea is an immensely popular destination for teaching English, thanks to high salaries and benefits, a unique and vibrant culture, and a convenient location in the middle of East Asia. That is all great news for those who end up teaching in Korea, but it also means that positions are increasingly competitive. So, here’s how to teach in Korea:
1. Identify your employment priorities.
There are thousands and thousands of schools in Korea. While there is a lot of uniformity, there are still a few variables that you should consider when searching for teaching jobs in Korea. Since English teacher jobs are competitive (and getting more so each year!), it’s best that you identify your priorities. It may be impossible to match everything that you want, but if you narrow down your preferences, you should be able to get what you’re looking for. Here are three important priorities to consider before teaching in Korea:
- Location – Where do you want to teach in Korea? Though it is a small country, there are many cities to choose from. Seoul and Busan are popular destinations for teaching jobs in Korea, but don’t overlook other lively and unique locations, like Daegu, Daejeon, or Gwangju, just to name a few. If you’re heart is set on Seoul (for real reasons, not just because it’s the capital), make sure that you are patient. It is possible to find teaching jobs in Seoul, but positions can be hard to come by and are typically filled by highly qualified applicants.
- Hours – Not all teaching jobs in Korea have standard hours. While many have the typical schedules of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. or 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., others are after-school academies, so you’ll be working from, perhaps, 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. or 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (My personal opinion: I worked the late shift, from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m, and I was initially weirded out by that idea because I had never had that schedule. However, I quickly learned to love it, as my mornings were completely free and many other teachers were on that schedule anyway).
- Salary – Salaries for English teaching jobs in Korea are not really negotiable. The industry average hovers around 2.1 million Won per month. However, you might earn more, depending on what qualifications and experience you have.
It’s best to keep your options as open as possible, so keep your priorities and preferences for English teaching jobs in Korea flexible. You’re likely going to teach in Korea for the new experience, so why limit yourself? It’s completely understandable if you have an unswerving priority or two, but just remember that the pickier you are, the harder it will be to find a teaching job in Korea.
2. Fill out applications for English teaching jobs in Korea
You can choose to scour job boards for available opportunities or hire a formal program or agency to connect you with pre-established / vetted relationships and employment opportunities at different schools in Korea. Choosing between teach abroad programs isn't as easy as say, ABC 123, but it will be a lot easier since you've already done the hard work of identifying your preferences (from step 1).
The best way to enter the job application portion of working in Korea is to arm yourself with as much information as possible. To that end, we wanted to share a few more resources and articles for you to gobble up before you jump headfirst into the application process:
- 5 Best Places to Teach English in South Korea
- Pitfalls to be Aware of Before Teaching in Korea
- 8 Best English Teaching Jobs in South Korea in 2018-2019
- Teaching English in Korea Will Make You Rich (& Other Helpful Info)
2. Tackle the visa process
Once you’ve gotten extra experience and been offered a teaching job in Korea, you still have to conquer the dreaded visa process (cue scary music), with all of its intimidating forms and documents...just kidding! Although there are a slew of necessary documents, you shouldn’t be worried.
Hundreds of thousands of people have tackled the visa process in order to teach in Korea before you. As long as you go through a reputable recruiting agency, you will be assisted and guided throughout the entire process! Recruiting agencies will tell you exactly which documents you need and how to get them for every step of the visa process.
Heads up! The major documents you’ll need are: your university diploma, a criminal record check, university transcripts, and passport photos.
3. Finalize your plans & head to the peninsula!
You’re almost fully prepared, and the final step is a fun one. If you’ve ever done some international traveling, you’ll know that it is incredibly useful (and fun) to be able to speak a bit of the local language. Because you will be LIVING in Korea for an entire year (at least), you will definitely want to learn some basic Korean phrases. The alphabet, Hangul, is phonetic and can be learned in a few hours. Besides making a strong impression on your director and co-workers, knowing some Korean has some very practical benefits for those who teach in Korea. You’ll need it to order food at restaurants, give directions, navigate grocery stores and other shops, and so on. You don’t necessarily need to be fluent, but having some Korean under your belt before you arrive will go a really long way!
Beyond mastering a bit of Korean, you'll also need to figure out what to pack for teaching abroad—if you're using this big trip as an excuse to invest in new high quality travel equipment, gear, or teaching materials, then we have a hunch you'll love our newly released Teach Abroad Gear Guide.
You're ready for English teaching jobs in Korea
After reading this, hopefully you feel a little bit more confident in your understanding of how to find teaching jobs in Korea! Luckily, the path is a well-paved one, so if you take the necessary preparations, get some useful experience, and follow the required visa process, you can definitely teach in Korea!
Don’t give into the excuses, because if you do all of these things, you will be able to embark on a truly special adventure as an English teacher in Korea.
This article was contributed by Travel & Teach Recruiting, an agency focused on placing English teachers in Korea in a variety of teaching positions.