EPIK, korea, Life Abroad

Seven Different Ways to Teach English in South Korea

So, you want to come to Korea to teach English?

There are a lot of different ways to do so, and it can get overwhelming to compare all of them. Here I’ve listed seven of the most popular routes, and broken them down for you.

Of course, things can change. I’ll try to be as accurate as possible, but make sure to do your own research before deciding on a program!

General Eligibility

For virtually every job teaching English in South Korea, you’ll need to meet the following requirements:

  • Be from Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, or South Africa. (South Africans might have to prove that their education during middle and high school was imparted in English rather than Afrikaans, which can be done via a letter from their school.)
  • Have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from any of the aforementioned countries.
  • Be under sixty-two years old – the age of retirement in Korea (except for some university and hagwon positions).
  • Be healthy, both physically and mentally
  • Be able to use English well and instruct others in its usage.
  • Have a clean criminal record.
  • And, most importantly, be willing and flexible enough to adapt to the Korean way of life.

The Government Programs

The first five ways to teach in Korea that I’ll list are directly through the Korean government.

The Korean government hosts several employment programs to teach English, and recruits thousands of English teachers from all over the world every year to work at public schools.

There are four government programs I’ll cover in this piece: EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE, and GOE. As all four of them have the basic eligibility requirements, I’ll list them here rather than repeating myself.

The Job With Government Programs

Nearly everyone that I’ve known who teaches at a public school in Korea has slightly different duties (and some even have different numbers of schools, ranging from a single school to five – one for every day of the week!) However, I’ll list the basic duties here.

You teach for twenty-two hours per week (each class counts as an hour, so even if your classes are only forty minutes, they count as a full hour). Normally, you are at your school from around 8:30 until 4:30 or so, from Monday to Friday. (As you’re only teaching for twenty-two hours, you have plenty of time to get all of your lesson planning finished! Your duties include making lessons (normally based off of a textbook), working with a Korean co-teacher, and planning ‘camps’ during the summer and winter vacations. Each contract period is for one year, typically beginning in September or March. Remember that the Korean school year starts in March, so if you come in the fall, you’ll be coming in halfway through the school year!

In addition to this, in much broader terms, you are expected to be the “expert” about English in your school. So, go brush up on your present perfect continuous.

Note: The pay scales that I added look different than what I put as the minimum pay. That’s because it is essentially impossible to get hired at the lowest-level salary brackets on the ‘official’ lists. 

1. EPIK

I worked under the EPIK (English Program in Korea) for my first two years in Korea, and have written a  guide that you can find here.

EPIK (English Program in Korea) is the largest single teaching program in Korea; over a thousand are placed across the country each year.

There are two main hiring periods with EPIK – spring intake and fall intake, the latter being much larger.

 

Eligibility

In addition to the requirements listed above,  if you don’t have a teaching license, B.Ed., M.Ed., or didn’t majored in teaching, TESOL, Second Language Studies, or any other forms of education, you’ll need a TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate with at least 100 hours.

Benefits

EPIK is a pretty sweet deal, considering you need neither previous teaching experience nor a relevant degree. If you work for EPIK, you will receive:

  • A salary between 2,000,000 and 2,700,000 KRW each month (depending on your credentials and where you are placed. The pay scale can be found here.)
  • Free furnished housing or a 400,000 KRW housing stipend each month.
  • Entrance and exit allowance to cover your flights to and from Korea (you receive 1,300,000 for each.)
  • A 300,000 settlement allowance, to help you set up your apartment. (as it’s already furnished with basic household goods such as a bed, table and chairs, wardrobe,  stove, refrigerator, washing machine (but no dryer),  microwave, and a TV, you shouldn’t have to buy anything too expensive.
  • A renewal allowance of 2,000,000 KRW (if you stay in your province.)
  • Eighteen days of paid vacation – and you’ll get five extra days if you choose to renew your contract!
  • Nine day orientation upon arrival in Korea
  • A pension, which you can receive upon leaving Korea

 

2. SMOE

SMOE (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education) is technically an offshoot of EPIK, but still merits having its own section as the benefits and eligibility are different. As the name suggests, employees of the SMOE program work in public schools in Seoul, the capital of Korea. The government uses EPIK in order to screen SMOE teachers, and as most EPIK applicants put Seoul as their preferred location, you can guess how competitive this program is! (Note that if you choose to apply to SMOE, you have to fill out additional paperwork, on top of the normal EPIK application.) If you’re really passionate about living in Seoul, this is the program for you!

Eligibility

On paper, SMOE has the same criteria as GEPIK and EPIK, which includes the following:

However, SMOE is really competitive. You’ll probably need experience teaching, already be in Korea, rescued some orphans from a burning building, or a mix of all three to land one of these jobs.

Benefits

The main ‘selling point’ of SMOE is that you get to live in Seoul. Other than that, you’ll receive:

  • A salary between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 KRW each month (depending on your credentials and where you are placed. The pay scale can be found here.)
  • Free furnished housing or a 500,000 KRW housing stipend each month.
  • Entrance and exit allowance to cover your flights to and from Korea (you receive 1,300,000 for each. The entrance allowance is only available to first year teachers)
  • A 300,000 settlement allowance, to help you set up your apartment. (as it’s already furnished  you shouldn’t have to buy anything too expensive). However, this allowance is only available to first year teachers.
  • Twenty-one days of paid vacation
  • Nine day orientation upon arrival in Korea
  • A pension, which you can receive upon leaving Korea
  • One months’ severance pay upon completion of your contract.

Unlike EPIK, GEPIK, or GOE, you will not receive a renewal allowance if you choose to work with SMOE.

3. GEPIK

GEPIK (Gyeonggi English Program in Korea) is like EPIK’s cousin. Instead of covering all of Korea, it solely covers Gyeonggi-do, the province which surrounds Seoul.

I began working for GEPIK during my third year living in Korea. Although I loved the lifestyle EPIK had to offer me, I was tired of living out so far in the countryside and wanted to the opportunities that living in a big city could offer me.

Eligibility

On paper, GEPIK only has the requirements I listed at the beginning of this article, but in reality it prefers to hire those who already have experience teaching in Korea or an ESL environment.

Benefits

First and foremost, with GEPIK you apply on a school-by-school basis, so unlike EPIK, you’ll know exactly where you’ll be moving to. You’ll also receive the following:

  • A salary between 2,000,000 and 2,700,000 KRW each month (depending on your credentials and where you are placed. The pay scale can be found here.)
  • Free furnished housing or a 400,000 KRW housing stipend each month.
  • Entrance and exit allowance to cover your flights to and from Korea (you receive 1,300,000 for each.)
  • A 300,000 settlement allowance, to help you set up your apartment. (as it’s already furnished with basic household goods such as a bed, table and chairs, wardrobe,  stove, refrigerator, washing machine (but no dryer),  microwave, and a TV, you shouldn’t have to buy anything too expensive.
  • A renewal allowance of 2,000,000 KRW (if you stay at the same school.)
  • Eighteen days of paid vacation
  • Nine day orientation upon arrival in Korea
  • A pension, which you can receive upon leaving Korea

 

4. GOE

GOE (Gyeongsang Office of Education) is a bit like GEPIK in that it caters to the province surrounding Busan, Korea’s second-largest city located on the southeastern corner of the peninsula. It has the highest starting salary of the government programs, and, unlike the first three programs I’ve talked about, year-round start dates. So, if you want to head to Korea as soon as possible, live in the gorgeous countryside, and make extra cash, GOE is the program for you!

Eligibility

For GOE, you’ll need (in addition to the requirements listed above) a 100 hour TESOL/TEFL certificate of which at least twenty hours need to be in-class (the other eighty can be online).

Benefits

  • A salary between 2,200,000 and 2,700,000 KRW each month (depending on your credentials and where you are placed. The pay scale can be found here.)
  • Free furnished housing or a 400,000 KRW housing stipend each month.
  • Entrance and exit allowance to cover your flights to and from Korea (you receive 1,300,000 for each.)
  • A 300,000 settlement allowance, to help you set up your apartment. (as it’s already furnished with basic household goods such as a bed, table and chairs, wardrobe,  stove, refrigerator, washing machine (but no dryer),  microwave, and a TV, you shouldn’t have to buy anything too expensive.
  • A renewal allowance of 2,000,000 KRW (if you stay at the same school.)
  • Eighteen days of paid vacation
  • A pension, which you can receive upon leaving Korea

 

5. TALK

The Job

TALK is considered a scholarship program, rather than an actual job. As such, you’ll have a lot of chances to explore Korea and Korean culture during your time working through this program, and be considered as an “ambassador” between your country and Korea. Additionally, once you’ve finished your contract, you receive a “Government Scholar Certificate of Completion.

TALK scholars work after-school at Korean elementary schools for an average of fifteen hours per week, in rural areas, for the period of either six months (unusual) or one year.

Eligibility

The TALK scholarship has the lowest barrier to entry of all of the government programs I’ve listed above. You don’t need a full bachelor’s degree or a TEFL certificate – if you’ve just completed two years of university, you’re good to go!

Benefits

As a TALK scholar, you will receive:

  • A monthly stipend of 1,500,000 KRW
  • Accommodation
  • A month long orientation (much longer than EPIK’s week!)
  • Medical insurance
  • Paid vacation time
  • A settlement allowance of 300,000 to help you get what you might need for your apartment

Non-Government Programs

6. Hagwons

Hagwons are private academies in Korea. I wish I could tell you more about them, but as they vary so wildly from school to school, I can only give a brief overview.

That being said, a lot of hagwons have a bad reputation here in Korea. Some are infamous for not paying employees, getting shut down after two months, or generally being horribly mismanaged. If you’re going to take a hagwon job, make sure you do research about the school. Check out ESL blacklist sites (you can just search “ESL Blacklist and the name of the school, or your employer) to make sure that nobody has had too awful an experience. If you’re in Korea already, I would highly recommend visiting the hagwon you’ll be visiting before you start, and talking to the teacher already working there. If you’ve not come yet, try to find out who the current teachers are and see if they’re willing to share their experiences with you.

The Job

As Hagwons range from students not-yet kindergarten aged to adult learners of all different levels, it’s nearly impossible to describe what you’ll actually be doing. Some hagwon jobs are essentially glorified babysitting gigs, while others intensively prepare students to take the SAT.

Eligibility

The qualifications needed to teach at a hagwon vary as wildly as the students’ ages and abilities. Some simply require a bachelor’s degree (so the teachers can legally have a visa), while others have much more stringent prerequisites. It’s really a case-by-case basis.

Benefits

The benefits of hagwons vary wildly. Some teachers work very few hours and don’t make a lot of cash. Others tutor rich kids and make 80,000 won an hour. Some hagwons will offer you the some of the same benefits as teaching at a public school – airfare allowance, paid apartments, insurance, et cetera – but again, it’s a crapshoot. See what the hagwon you want to work at offers, and be sure to read the contract very, very thoroughly.

7. University teaching

If you can find a job teaching at a university in English in Korea, you have essentially hit the jackpot. Vacation times are generally much better than public schools or hagwons.

The Job

University jobs are going to vary a lot depending on the school and the type of job you get.

There’s very little hand-holding with most university jobs. You’re expected to be a professional by this point. Most university jobs don’t seem to have too many teaching hours, but professors might have a lot of office hours.

Eligibility

For the majority of university English teaching posts in South Korea, you will most likely need either at least Master’s in Applied Linguistics, a Master’s in TESOL/TEFL, a Master’s in CALL, or another similar field. However, much like with hagwons, criteria changes  according to each institution.

Benefits

Each university is different and the hours you work will be different, so, at risk of sounding like a skipping CD from the early 2000s, the benefits you get from working at universities will be different as well. Normally, you get much better vacation time than public school employees – I know some professors who have about four months (paid!) vacation time – but really, it’s a luck-of-the-draw.

 


 

Did I miss anything? Are you interested in teaching English in Korea? Let me know in the comments!

Now that you know about different ways to teach in Korea, why don’t you check out this packing guide?

8 thoughts on “Seven Different Ways to Teach English in South Korea”

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