Teach English in Korea

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Teach English in Korea
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Teach English in Korea

Korea is a highly-developed nation famous for its well-educated people, vibrant pop culture and art scene, and of course exporting cutting-edge technology like the latest smartphones to the rest of the world. Its beautifully varied landscapes, rich history, and compact size make the country a great base for ESL teachers to explore a new culture and travel around easily. It’s a great place to live, meet other expats, and get to know an ancient culture. In the 2000s, Korea was the go-to for teaching jobs. Many seasoned teachers talk about a “golden age” of teaching in Korea culminating around 2005, similar to the earlier peak that happened in Japan in the 1990s. The ESL industry has since shifted, and while we still offer great teaching opportunities in Korea, the neighboring giant China is developing much quicker. With its rapid growth and insatiable demand for foreign English instructors, there are simply more ESL jobs now to be had in China and you should definitely consider it as an alternative. It’s also worth noting that living costs in China are far lower, while salaries and benefits have largely caught up to the Korean standard.

Salary, Benefits and Types of Jobs Available in Korea

The going wage for foreign English teachers in Korea is $2,000-$2,500. While the Korean costs of living are high compared to those in China, the higher pay on the lower end of that salary scale somewhat balances the discrepancy. Fear not – if you come teach in Korea, your earnings will still give you a comfortable life and ample opportunities to save. Your apartment and flight to Korea and back will be covered by the school, which means you’ll have a large part of your salary left over after bills to save or put towards travel. An extra month’s pay often paid out as a completion bonus at the end of your contract helps your travel/savings fund even more. Work here is mostly with private schools (hagwons). There is a large variety of schools – make sure you do your research and go with a reputable recruiter. Korea is densely urban and positions are available all over the country, though Seoul has a particular concentration of schools. In the past decade, many foreign teachers came to Korea under the auspices of the government-run program for English instruction in public schools called EPIK. However, numerous government budget cuts in recent years and increasingly strict requirements placed on foreign teachers have made the EPIK intake much more competitive than it was in its heyday.

Qualifications for Teaching English in Korea

All you need to work in Korea is a degree and a passport from an English speaking country. While pay goes up with how much teaching experience you have, certified teachers aren’t in special demand and don’t get higher salaries that reflect their professional qualification above the general applicant pool (for that, we strongly suggest the UAE). Having a TEFL certification is now a requirement for teaching in Korea. You’ll usually be expected to complete a course of 100 hours or more, but you can get that done after you’ve applied and before you’ve arrived in Korea. We recommend a course with an in-class component to make sure you have some classroom experience with non-native speaking students. You don’t need to speak any Korean for work, as schools expect you to communicate almost exclusively in English - but spending time learning the basics will definitely help enrich your experience outside of school hours.

Lifestyle in Korea

Korea is a big expat centre. Most likely, soon after landing here, you will make lots of international friends that are going through a similar experience. Living the expat lifestyle and partying is easy here. This gives a certain comfort, but try to make sure you’re also getting out there to see the country’s sights and meet Korea’s people. They are among the most hospitable in the world, if a little shy with foreigners.

Visa Process

You will need to apply for a visa yourself, but a reputable recruiter like Footprints Recruiting can make the process painless to make sure you get to Korea without any snags. Korean consulates are widespread – it’s a good idea to locate your nearest one as you’ll be dealing with them often. You should note that trying to work in Korea without a valid E2 visa can lead to serious trouble with the authorities and is not recommended.