South Korea is a popular and well-known destination for teaching English abroad. No longer an uncertain developing country, South Korea is one of Asia’s most well-developed destinations with a seemingly endless market for teaching English as second language. Similar to most Asian countries, South Korea requires English teachers to be TEFL certified. Therefore, completing TEFL courses and TEFL certification in South Korea is an excellent way to get your foot in the door to your very first ESL teaching job abroad.
Most TEFL courses in South Korea are offered in Seoul and Busan, the two biggest cities in South Korea. Seoul is the largest in South Korea with over 10 million residents. Since it is both the political capital as well as the commercial and industrial hub of South Korea, Seoul offers a high volume of English teaching positions. This makes it an excellent city for TEFL students who become certified teachers to find positions at language institutes, schools, companies, or giving private lessons. On top of the demand, Seoul offers a beautiful combination of ancient and modern culture, visible in some of the sights of the city such as Jongmyo, a World Heritage site, the exciting Namdaemun Market, and the historical temple Gyeongbokgung.
Busan is another excellent choice for TEFL certification in South Korea. For foreigners who may want a quieter, more laid-back city, and more opportunities to explore the outdoors, Busan is an obvious choice. Even though it is South Korea’s second largest metropolis, Busan is well-known for its accessibility to hiking trails, coastlines, and an abundance of nature activities. Some amazing sights for TEFL students to see in Busan include the Beomeo-Sa temple in front of the mountains, the Haeundae beach, and the Jagalchi Fish Market.
Courses & Programs
South Korea tends to be more strict than other countries in its requirements for TEFL courses. You will most likely not get an ESL position if you have a certification that is less than 100 training hours. Since gaining employment can be competitive in South Korea, especially in certain cities, you may want to consider adding a specialization to your English teaching certification, for example focusing on medical or business vocabulary or concentrating on teaching children.
Many TEFL programs in South Korea prefer citizens of countries whose main language is English, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia. This is because earning a TEFL certification in South Korea requires you to be a native English speaker as well as have a bachelors degree, although no previous teaching experience is required. Most TEFL courses in South Korea are instructed over the course of one month, but some are spread out over a longer period of time to be part time for either six or eight weeks.
TEFL courses will train you on how to successfully instruct English grammar, writing, reading, and pronunciation. In addition, you will learn classroom management and lesson planning tips as well as guidance on communication styles that resonate with Korean learners. Comprehensive TEFL courses in South Korea also give an overview of historical teaching methods, demonstrate difference classroom techniques, and include training on how to market yourself as an English teacher. You will also learn how to navigate resources to find material that resonates with Korean students, as well as how to build relationships and help learners reach their goals.
Some courses offer a TEFL certification as well as a teaching placement in South Korea, and the organization will use connections with local schools to help you get a one-year contract once you’re certified. Teaching English at a language school in South Korea will typically mean working between 25 and 30 hours per week, while teaching in a private or public school will mean you’ll have much longer hours - working long days Mondays through Fridays.
Salary & Costs
Most TEFL certification courses in South Korea cost between $1,300 to $2,000, excluding housing. It is a good idea to have an extra $1,000 to $1,500 on hand when you start your TEFL course, for rent, personal expenses, and if you’d like to travel before or after your program. Once you are certified, you can expect to earn between $1,800 and $3,000 per month as a paid full-time English teacher in South Korea, depending on your position and location. Some positions may include flight reimbursement, an additional stipend for food, and a bonus paid upon completion of your contract.
The cost of living in South Korea can range significantly depending on the lifestyle and spending habits of the individual, but overall it’s a very affordable destination for English teachers. You can expect to pay $2.25 for a liter of milk, $4.50 for a cappuccino, and $7 for a simple meal. It is possible to live a very basic lifestyle for as little as $500 per month. Most English teachers end up spending about 60 percent of their monthly salary and saving the rest, allowing them to bank a good amount over the course of the year.
Accommodations & Visas
Most TEFL participants live in urban areas, as this is where most of the certification programs are based. Many people live in small apartments, either a studio apartment on their own or a multi-bedroom apartment with other teachers or TEFL program participants. After earning TEFL certification in South Korea and becoming a full time English teacher, many South Korean schools will provide housing for international teachers.
As a U.S. citizen you will be able to stay in South Korea for 90 days on a tourist visa, which will allow you to complete your TEFL course legally. Your TEFL program provider will not help to arrange your visa in most cases, since it is just a tourist visa.
Benefits & Challenges
South Korea is one of the best destinations in the world for people who want to make a good amount of money teaching English abroad. Once TEFL certified you should not have trouble finding a position. By earning a TEFL certificate in South Korea, you will learn much about the classroom dynamics as well as the family and social structure in the country, which will give you an excellent basis for working in South Korea.
Since so many Koreans want to learn to speak English, there are a wide variety of teaching positions available in South Korea, including corporations, schools, private lessons, and institutes.
Often the greatest challenge for teachers is adjusting to the lifestyle of South Korea and dealing with culture shock. Learn as much as you can about the culture and day-to-day life in South Korea before you start your TEFL program, and try to keep an open and accepting mind once you are there.
If you’re not able to come to South Korea to take your course in-country for financial or timing reasons, you could consider obtaining your TEFL certification online. This is typically less expensive and allows you to complete the 100-hour training on your own time rather than at a set schedule each day. Getting TEFL certified online usually means you are unable to complete the in-classroom practice portion of a 120 hour course, so keep this in mind.