Every year, thousands of English speakers choose to live in South Korea as English language teachers.
South Korea’s famous cuisine, cutting-edge pop culture, natural beauty, and modern infrastructure make it one of the most attractive Asian countries to move to.
You might have noticed a lot of acronyms in the title. Read on to make sense of this mess and you’ll see that several of them are interrelated and even have the same application process!
With these programs at your fingertips, you’ll have the freedom to pursue a career that fits your lifestyle!
- EPIK, GEPIK, and SMOE are some of the top English teaching programs in South Korea.
- EPIK is a program run by the Korean Ministry of Education and offers positions in public schools in urban and rural regions.
- GEPIK falls under the EPIK umbrella, for teachers working in the Gyeonggi (Greater Seoul) region.
- SMOE places teachers exclusively into public schools located within the Seoul region.
- Hagwons are private, after-hours language schools that do not fall under the EPIK application umbrella.
- All of these programs require a bachelor’s degree, clean criminal background check, and TEFL certificate.
The Most Popular Routes into English Teaching in South Korea
The most popular routes into English teaching in South Korea are the EPIK, GEPIK, and SMOE programs. Hagwons (private after-hours schools) also employ foreign English teachers. Each method has its own requirements and perks!
EPIK is a Korean Ministry of Education program that hires teachers for public schools in urban and rural regions. It has a strict application process and offers salaries ranging from 2 to 2.7 million KRW per month as well as 18 paid vacation days. You must hold a 3-4 year bachelor’s degree or above and pass a criminal background check in order to meet the requirements for an E-2 visa.
GEPIK places teachers in public schools around the Gyeonggi region, while SMOE directly places teachers into public schools in Seoul.
For those without full Bachelor’s degrees, there was TaLK – an educational scholarship program offering monthly stipends of 1.5 million KRW to teach English in rural areas of South Korea. However, the TaLK program was discontinued in 2021 due to complications from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lastly, Hagwons are private education companies that offer additional English lessons outside of normal school hours at higher salaries – ranging from 2 to 3 million KRW per month with 10 paid vacation days – but require similar qualifications as EPIK.
We didn’t mention university teaching jobs in this article, but there are many opportunities for well-qualified academics who are looking for a professorship abroad,
No matter what route you take, South Korea can be an incredibly rewarding experience!
Government English Teaching Programs in South Korea
Most teaching programs in Korea are instituted by the government. These include the EPIK, GEPIK, and SMOE programs. You’ll enjoy the stability and security of a government-run English teaching program in South Korea, with competitive salaries, vacation days, and visa requirements.
Here are four reasons why teaching English through a government program in South Korea is an excellent opportunity:
- Stability: By joining a government English teaching program in Korea, you can enjoy the stability of working for a public school. This means that you’ll have a consistent salary and benefits package, including health insurance and paid vacation time. This security allows for peace of mind and enables you to focus on what truly matters – providing quality education to your students.
- Professional Development: The Korean government places immense value on education and invests heavily in the development of its teachers. Through these programs, you’ll have access to various workshops, training sessions, and resources that enhance your teaching skills. Not only does this benefit your career growth but also ensures that you’re equipped with the latest methodologies and techniques needed to create engaging lessons.
- Immersion: Teaching English through a government program in Korea provides an immersive cultural experience like no other. You’ll have the opportunity to live and work in some of Asia’s most vibrant cities while having ample time to explore the unique traditions, history, cuisine, and beauty of South Korea during your free time. This level of cultural exposure enriches both your personal life and professional experiences.
- Adaptability: Joining a government English teaching program demonstrates adaptability – an essential skill desired by employers worldwide today. By immersing yourself in a foreign culture and being able to navigate different educational systems successfully, you enhance your resume significantly. The ability to thrive in new environments showcases your versatility as an educator and human, opening doors for future career opportunities beyond South Korea.
These government English teaching programs offer stability, safety, competitive salaries and paid vacation days, making them one of the best routes into living and working abroad in South Korea!
Read on to learn about each specific government-instituted program for teaching English in South Korea.
The EPIK Program, sponsored by the Korean government, is one of the top options for English teachers. EPIK found positions for about 600 foreign teachers in locations across the country.
EPIK At a Glance
You’ll get the chance to experience life in beautiful South Korea as a NET (Native English Teacher) with EPIK, teaching English and enjoying an average salary of $1,750-$2,500/month.
The contract lasts 12 months and you will be expected to work 40 hours a week, including 22 in-class teaching hours.
Foreign English teachers lead classes and prepare lesson materials alongside a Korean co-teacher. Plus, you can take part in summer camps and organize extracurricular activities as offered by your school.
If you’re looking to embark on a teaching journey in South Korea, you must meet the requirements for EPIK.
To be eligible, you need to have a Bachelor’s degree or higher and be a native English citizen from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand.
Applicants must have a TEFL certificate of 120 hours or more and provide proof of a clean background check. You also need to be under the age of 62, although applicants over 45 often struggle to get accepted into the program.
To make sure you are an ideal candidate for the EPIK program, it is important that you take time to understand their eligibility criteria and regulations before applying.
Going through this process will ensure that your application stands out and gives you the best chance at success with programs such as EPIK and GEPIK.
EPIK Salary & Benefits
Experience the adventure of teaching abroad and reap the rewards with EPIK’s competitive salaries and generous benefits!
With EPIK, teachers can expect to make anywhere from 2.1 million KRW to 2.7 million KRW (about $1600-$2100) per month depending on their level of experience, qualifications, and location in South Korea. EPIK clearly states the criteria for different pay levels on their website.
There is also an additional settlement allowance of 300,000 KRW upon signing a contract with EPIK. Teachers often receive accommodation provided by the school district along with 10 paid vacation days each year as part of their contract.
Furthermore, there is a renewal bonus ranging from 700,000 KRW to 2 million KRW depending on the provincial location. Lastly, all EPIK teachers will receive 50% of their medical insurance premiums paid for them by their employer.
What Participants Say About EPIK
Now that you know the salary and benefits that come with teaching English in Korea through EPIK, let’s take a look at what current and former participants have to say about their experiences. Many participants comment on how rewarding the experience can be, especially if you are open-minded and willing to be flexible. Working in a foreign country will often require you to adjust your mindset to different cultural work practices. Be patient and you might even start to enjoy these changes!
The following table summarizes some of the key factors people consider when discussing their experiences teaching English in Korea through EPIK:
|Salary & Benefits
|Competitive; 18 paid days off; 2-2.7 million KRW/month
|Strict application process; criminal background check required
|Relationship with Co-teachers
|Sharing lesson plans, methodologies, and meals
|Might conflict due to different approaches towards teaching methods
|Relationship with Students
|Opportunity for positive impact
|Depends on environment & other external influences
|Older but well-maintained apartments offer comfort and charming antiquity
|Last minute attitude in everyday plans & schedules
The GEPIK program is very similar to the EPIK program. While both programs offer the chance to teach in South Korea, there are a few key differences between them.
GEPIK has recently merged with EPIK, so applicants wishing to teach in this province must apply through EPIK and list Gyeonggi as their preferred location.
Additionally, GEPIK typically places teachers directly into public schools around the Gyeonggi region while EPIK hires teachers for public schools throughout urban and rural areas.
Difference Between EPIK & GEPIK
Although both EPIK and GEPIK are teaching programs in South Korea, the main difference between them is that GEPIK specifically refers to schools in the Gyeonggi province.
Gyeonggi is the province that encompasses Seoul metropolitan area. Before their merger, EPIK recruited teachers for everywhere else in South Korea apart from Gyeonggi, while GEPIK solely recruited teachers for the region.
However, since their merger, all aspects of the program now come under the same banner and there is no significant difference between them.
Salary and benefits remain identical regardless of which program you choose, with 18 paid vacation days per year and salaries ranging from 2 to 2.7 million KRW per month. Application requirements are also the same: 3-4 year bachelor’s degree or above, a clean criminal background check and meeting visa requirements.
|Strict & Extensive Process
|18 Paid Vacation Days
|Salaries Range from 2 -2.7m KRW/Month
|Bachelor’s Degree Required
|Clean Criminal Background Check
|Requirements for E2 Visa
SMOE (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education) Program
If you want to be sure you’ll be living in the big city, SMOE might be the program for you.
As opposed to EPIK, which places teachers across all of South Korea, SMOE only places teachers in public schools around Seoul.
It’s a very popular and competitive program, so you should apply as early as possible if you want to be placed there!
Like GEPIK, SMOE also recruits through EPIK – just make sure to specify Seoul as your location preference on the application. If you are accepted, you will be affiliated with SMOE rather than EPIK.
Difference between SMOE & GEPIK
The main difference between SMOE and GEPIK is that SMOE places teachers directly into public schools in Seoul, while GEPIK’s teachers are hired for public schools throughout the Gyeonggi region. Both programs require a 3-4 year Bachelor’s degree or higher, a clean criminal background check, and meeting the requirements for a Korean E-2 visa.
Ultimately, both programs provide an excellent opportunity to teach English in South Korea with competitive salaries and benefits; those looking to teach in Seoul should consider applying to the SMOE program whereas those wanting more flexibility should look into joining EPIK.
TALK Program (Cancelled in 2021)
Sadly, TaLK was cancelled in 2021, leaving those without a full Bachelor’s degree unable to take advantage of the educational scholarship program. TaLK was known as EPIK’s sister program and provided an opportunity for English teachers to work in rural areas of South Korea. It offered a monthly stipend of 1.5 million KRW and required only two years of university education as opposed to a full Bachelor’s degree.
The cancellation of the TaLK Program has left those who were counting on it without an option for teaching English in South Korea without having a full Bachelor’s degree.
Though there are still many opportunities available for teaching English in South Korea, it is unfortunate that the cancellation of the TaLK Program has limited the options for those without a Bachelor’s degree.
Alternative Option: Teaching in Hagwons
If you’re looking for an alternative to the public school teaching programs, hagwons may be a great option for you.
For those considering working in a hagwon, it’s important to note that they typically require a 3-4 year bachelor’s degree or above, as well as a clean criminal background check and meeting the requirements for a Korean E2 visa.
Salaries range from about 2 to 3 million KRW per month. Vacation days depend on your employer, and typically increase as you spend more time at the company.
Teachers at Hagwons do not have a Korean co-teacher. This puts you in control of planning and delivering your lesson.
So if you have the qualifications and are willing to take on more of an independent role, teaching in a hagwon could be the perfect fit!
Hagwons require a few essential requirements to teach English, which include being a native English speaker with citizenship from Canada, USA, UK, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand; having a 3 or 4 year bachelor’s degree or above (in any subject); having a clean criminal background check; obtaining an E-2 visa; and being in good mental and physical health.
It is important to note that hagwons may set their own additional application requirements on top of these essentials. These can include having a TEFL certificate and/or teaching experience.
|Native English Speaker
|Must have citizenship from Canada, USA, UK, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand
|Must have 3-4 year bachelor’s degree (in any subject)
|Criminal Background Check
|Must have clean criminal background check
|Must meet the requirements for an E2 visa
|Mental & Physical Health
|Must be in good mental health and pass physical examination
Hagwon Salary & Benefits
Hagwons can offer salaries of up to 3 million KRW ($2300) a month, plus benefits like accommodation and reimbursed airfare.
Working in a hagwon is an attractive job for many English teachers as it offers autonomy and flexibility.
- Scheduling: Working week will vary between hagwons. Typically Monday to Friday, 2pm to 10pm. There may be split shifts with morning work and some hagwons may expect teachers to work Saturdays, giving you the freedom to choose how much you want to work.
- Class Size: Small class sizes (usually 4-15 students) mean that more individual attention can be given to each student – making teaching more enjoyable for both teacher and student alike.
- Benefits: 10 paid vacation days, accommodation, reimbursed round trip airfare, and even overtime opportunities – all make working at a hagwon very appealing!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the application process for English teaching programs in South Korea?
The application process for English teaching programs in South Korea typically requires a 3-4 year Bachelor’s degree or higher, a clean criminal background check, and meeting specific visa requirements, especially being a native English speaker.
Application processes depend on your program of choice. Applicants interested in government programs (EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE) should go to the EPIK website. Just don’t forget to specify your location if that matters to you!
Hagwon applicants should prepare all the documents that prove their eligibility for an E2 foreign teacher visa, then choose a school to apply to.
What is the salary range for English teachers in South Korea?
Salaries for English teachers in South Korea typically range from 2 to 3 million KRW per month. This is plenty to live in Korea. Outside of Seoul you can even save a decent percentage of your pay! Vacation days vary by program.
Are there any English teaching programs available without a full Bachelor’s degree?
Since the cancellation of the TaLK program in 2021, opportunities to legally teach English in South Korea without an undergraduate degree are hard to come by. Most employers require an E-2 visa, which can only be obtained with proof of a Bachelor’s degree.
Is a criminal background check required for English teaching programs in South Korea?
Yes, a criminal background check is required for most English teaching programs in South Korea. You must provide proof of a clean record to be eligible for the program.