Teaching English in Korea: Start Here

The most common question I get is more or less How are you doing what you’re doing and then how can I do that? The thing that usually deters people is money. To apply to teach English and get through the first month of teaching English in Korea requires a small nest egg. Let’s break down what you need to prepare. Here’s a handy document checklist:

document checklist (1)

You can download and print the checklist pdf file here: document checklist. For items that are starred please note that this depends on the job you’re applying for. Some programs require one university transcript, some don’t require a video, others don’t require a lesson plan. It depends on the program or type of school you are applying for. I.e. Hagwons and English villages might not require these.  The residency certificate is for taxes and depends upon your home country and its tax agreement with South Korea.

Note: also have a professional Skype ID. I.e. make sure your username isn’t one you’re embarrassed of because most interviews, whether with an agency or school will be held through Skype.


The only experience I have is that of an American (USA). So prices may differ depending on your location, even within the states. (example if you live in LA flights to Korea are a bit cheaper then if you live in the middle of nowhere, or if you don’t have a Korean consulate nearby things might be more difficult)

Bachelors degree apostilled by the state in which the school resides. Between $8-$30 plus the price of the notary authenticity (~$2)

Apostilled FBI background check ($20-$70 + $8 authenticity fee)

University Transcript ($10-$63)

TEFL/TESOL classes ~$299

TEFL certificate $35

Passport photos ($5.39-$15)

FEDEX documents to Korea ~$80

Visa paperwork at nearest Korean consulate $45

Airplane ticket *reimbursed eventually depending on program ($500+ – $1,000+)

housing deposit 900,000 won ($798, will be removed from pay checks at your new job, about 300,000 won removed over three months/ aka three paychecks)

Medical check 75,000 won (you’ll need a passport photo, at least one) (~$67)

Immigration 60,000 won (and another passport photo) ($53) (possible additional fees to have your new alien registration card (ARC) delivered)*

*This is how much my last trip to Immigration cost. There are only about 4 spots of renewal on the back of an ARC card so now that it’s my fifth year I have to get a new one and have it shipped to me. This means it’ll be between 93,000- 123,000 won with an approximately 3,000 won delivery fee.  Which may in fact be closer than my 60,000 won set aside as previously mentioned.

Add on top of this any expenses you may have before you get paid, which will be awhile. This may be for public transit passes to get you to and from work, food, and anything else you may need. Going on the expensive side, just collecting documents can be well over $2,000. You also should have a couple thousand set aside for you first couple of weeks here. There’s a chance you won’t have wifi for a couple of weeks so you may end up living at the local cafe to let your family know you’re okay and everything else I’ve mentioned.

*this will heavily depend on the school and job. One of the jobs I applied for wanted to book my tickets themselves so they wouldn’t have to pay me back, some don’t pay for tickets (though most public schools do) and a lot of them have a cap on the prices for tickets. So be careful to know more before you book your ticket.


There are a couple of different types of schools to think of beyond elementary, middle school and high school, as well as a variety of programs.

Public Schools

EPIK-English Program in Korea. EPIK is arguably the largest program in South Korea as it covers the majority of the country. Through EPIK you need: 2 sealed transcripts and a sample lesson plan. (The rest of the documents are the same as the above, however the introductory video is not necessary in this case.) For EPIK you write out where you would ideally like to live in Korea, but this is no guarantee. You will arrive, attend training and then be sent off to the school you work at, without much knowledge of where you’re going ahead of time.

GEPIK– Gyeonggi English Program in Korea. GEPIK goes through the Gyeonggi province which is a huge area around Seoul. Through GEPIK you usually interview directly with schools, however the budget for GEPIK has gone down over the last couple of years and more and more schools have been switching over to EPIK. GEPIK is one of the programs that requires a self introductory video. A good example is Nathalie’s video. Remember to speak slowly as this is a good way for schools to get to know you and how well the students will be able to understand you.

SMOE– Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. This is a highly competitive branch of EPIK, specifically for placing teachers in Seoul. The documents required are about the same as EPIK, with a couple additions that are SMOE specific.

GOE– Gyeongnam Office of Education is for the southern part of Korea, closer to the city of Busan. If you’re all about warmer climates, beaches and nature this might be more for you. This is another program that requires an introductory video as well as two sets of sealed transcripts.

Private Schools

If you have a teaching degree or certificate and some experience teaching this might be more your style. Private schools and international schools are looking for teacher teachers, so they may need someone teaching science or math in English rather than teaching English as a second language. They require a lot more beyond a Bachelors degree but you will have smaller class sizes and possibly more vacation days. (Note if you have some of these extra things, like an Masters degree in teaching and are certified you may want to also see if you can apply at a university level.)


These are private academies, think of them as cram school. Students tend to go here to try and get ahead or study harder. Hagwons are usually owned by a specific person or corporation and not funded by the government, due to this their ability to hire English teachers depends upon how many students are enrolled. You may end up teaching kids or adults, it depends on the hagwon. Hagwon’s also tend to be a bit more flexible and have different hours than many public schools, so if you’re more of a night owl you may find a job that has you working evenings rather than a 9-5.

English Villages

English Villages tend to be time for students to go away to an English bubble and study and have fun. Think of it as summer camp, only a summer camp that’s open almost all year long. Your vacation days will be different than that of a public school because the busiest season for English Villages is when public schools are on vacation. Students also will vary much like a hagwon. One of my friends worked at an English village and she taught Korean students, military personnel, Russian students, and occasionally business working adults.


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Each time I’ve looked for jobs I’ve gone with an agency. I use Korvia. I’ve found them to be super helpful through every step of the way. A big thing to note is that they’re in Korea, so during the process you might find the time difference a bit jarring but staying up late to get everything done is a bit necessary. Skype’s going to be your BFF so stay online to chat with your recruitment agent.

  • Initial Interview with an agent (Skype)
  • Discount with a TEFL certification company
  • E-mailed job’s (If you e-mail them that you’re interested they’ll talk to the school)
  • If the school likes you they’ll help you set up an interview.
  • After the interview they’ll let you know if there is a job offer so stay online.
  • When a job offer is secured they’ll help you with the rest of your documents and prepping for your move to South Korea
  • Once in Korea they can offer a pick-up service that will either get you to orientation or to your new home.
  • They’re partnered with a SIM card phone company so you’re not without cell service for very long while in Korea.
  • Teacher parties- A couple times a year they host parties for teachers new and old and it’s a great way to meet people and make new friends.

Korvia doesn’t work for everyone though. While they’re forever my favorite there are other agencies out there that may work as a good middle person for you. Check and see what they offer, note that you should not have to pay for their services.  The things you have to pay for should be mostly all listed in that above breakdown under cost.  Also look for reviews before picking an agency.

If you want to try and go it alone there are a couple different options.

ESLROK is a good website to start looking to see what is available. It updates often so keep checking and it does include other recruitment agencies who may mass post all their current schools looking for teachers. They also have a Facebook group you can join.

waygook.org is also a very helpful website. While over the last couple of years a lot of the website did go up behind a paywall, the job posting section is free.

Dave’s ESL cafe is pretty old but jobs still go up here as well.

In Korea Facebook is also a very useful resource, there’s a ton of groups that you can join for job postings.  Visit the one from ESLROK and in the suggested groups you should find a lot more.

where to find job postings

If the price tag to get to Korea hasn’t scared you off but you’re a little overwhelmed with what to do first here’s what I suggest: Find a TEFL course to take. Whether you’re about to graduate or have graduated this is one of the bigger things that takes up time. Plus it’ll give you a better idea of if this is the right path for you.

TEFL/TESOL or (Teaching English as a Foreign Language certification) is required. While you can do it online it looks better to actually take in-person classes where you may have an opportunity to actually practice teaching. You need a minimum of 120 hours either way. I did it online through what was once the Global Training Academy but you can find a link for the one Korvia is partnered with here.

Next, once you’ve got your TEFL certificate or are close I highly suggest getting the FBI background check (or national background check) done. This requires extra work, as you’ll have to get finger printed at a local police station and it can take a long time to be processed (if you’re trying to go for the cheaper cost. There are ways to get it faster but they tend to be more expensive)

If you want to leave right out of college, see if you can get your BA degree early. It’s totally possible but does require you to run around and ask all your teachers to turn in your grades early. Talk to your guidance counselor and they’ll get you on the right path. But if you’ve got that diploma then you’re good, you just have to get it apostilled by the state that the college or university (or province or local governmental area) it’s in. Which if you’re not living in that state can be a bit more difficult.

You also need to visit a Korean consulate eventually to start the visa process, this’ll be later, but look up where the nearest one is so you know whether you need to fit another long trip or possible flight into that expensive budget.

Hopefully this will give you a good start into the process and help you accurate decide not only if this is something you want to do, but if it’s something you can actually afford. I feel very lucky that I was able to get through the process.


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