After three years of teaching English in Thailand, I decided to interview for jobs in Korea just to see what kind of salary I would be offered as well, as what qualifications and requirements I would need to be able to get a job there. Although I did eventually receive an offer for a teaching job in Seoul, I’d already accepted a high-paying job in Bangkok so decided to stay put. If you are thinking of teaching English overseas, however, and Korea is one of the places you’re considering, here are the qualifications and requirements you’ll need to have to be able to get a teaching job in South Korea.
You must have a university degree – Like most countries that are popular for those wanting to teach English overseas, for any teaching job in Korea you will need to have a university degree. Your degree does not have to be a degree in Education, but it does have to be a Bachelor’s degree. My degree is in Political Science, and with that I had no problem getting a good job offer at a language school in Seoul.
Must be a native speaker – Unlike countries like Thailand where a non-native speaker can still get a job teaching English, in Korea that’s highly unlikely to happen. Korean authorities require you are a citizen from an English speaking country in order to be able to get a work permit. So, if you’re American, British, Australian, Canadian, a New Zealander or South African, you shouldn’t have any problem finding a job as long as you have the necessary qualifications and requirements.
Must be able to pass a criminal background check – Like many countries in Asia nowadays, Korean schools require you to pass a criminal background check before they will offer you a position teaching English in their schools and before you can get a work permit from Korean authorities. Background checks are easy to get (as long as you can pass one), and simply require you to contact the FBI if you’re American, or whichever national law organization would handle the same thing in your country.
When I submitted an application to the FBI for a background check for a job here in Thailand a couple of years ago, it took around a month from start to finish. If you know you will soon be applying for teaching jobs in Korea, you might want to apply for yours now.
Pass a health exam – Once you have a job offer and all your paperwork is in order, your school will also tell you that you will need to have and pass a health examination before the job is officially yours. This will also require a drug test as, yes, South Korea is extremely strict when it comes to who they will allow teaching in their classrooms.
TEFL certificate – While this isn’t a requirement for all teaching jobs in Korea, as I have a couple of friends who have taught there for years and say few foreign teachers at their school have one, for the job I applied for I was told TEFL certification was mandatory.
I was also informed that if I’d had an online TEFL it would not have been good enough, as the school required a TEFL certificate that involved 120-hours of instruction time as well as at least 8 hours of teaching practice. With an online TEFL, you don’t get teaching practice, so if you’re thinking of taking one of these and want to teach in Korea, you may want to reconsider.
These are just the basic requirements for teaching English in South Korea, as each school may also have additional requirements or qualifications they ask for from each new teacher. With these, however, you should qualify for a large percentage of teaching jobs in South Korea.