korean kindergartener

Cute kid eh? If you end up teaching in a kindergarten in Korea you might end up teaching a kid like him. Are you wondering what's the best TEFL course for Korea? Or if an online TEFL course will be accepted in Korea?

Are you getting overwhelmed with all of the information?

I understand as I was there once too.

I spent about 3.5 years teaching in Korea. I taught in both public schools and in hagwons (private language schools). I also taught in China and Taiwan.

Anyways, before we get into the TEFL course discussion...

Do you have the right requirements to teach in Korea? 

So for starters the requirements to teach in Korea are that you need a degree, some paperwork, and to be from a native speaking English country. Those are the basic requirements to teach in Korea to get an E-2 visa.

So what about a TEFL course?

It depends on where you want to teach. Each school is a little different and may or may not require TEFL certification.

Should I take an online or an onsite course?

To teach in a public school with the EPIK program you might want to take a TEFL course with 20 in-class hours if you don't have experience, a master's or a related degree AND want to teach in Busan

But otherwise online TEFL is fine. Many have gotten into EPIK with just an online TEFL.

But that's for EPIK.

For other jobs in Korea it's up to you. What are the other jobs? They're mostly in hagwons.

What's the best TEFL course for Korea?

I think you have two factors to consider.

  1. Getting the job
  2. Actually doing your job - teaching

If all you care about is getting a job then well probably any TEFL course online or onsite will do for 98% of the jobs out there that don't require experience.

As mentioned before that if you want to teach in Busan or if you are a traditional learner then you can take an in-class course. But just know that the training you get in that in-class course is not that authentic, because it's not going to be with real students or like the students that you will be teaching in Korea.

Doing your job well is another matter.

If you want to do your job well then you should pick a course that is probably focused on teaching kids (young learners) in Korea. Because chances are kids are the ones who you are going to teach.

But if you are going to teach adults then most people won't argue that CELTA is best.

If you want results...

...and you are planning on teaching mostly kids then take this online course.

Taking an in-class course can be good, but it really depends on the course as I took a combined in-class course and thought it was a waste of money. I spent a $1000 and pretty much felt clueless, helpless and up the creek without a paddle when I started teaching.

Online courses are a cheaper TEFL qualification option. Instead of spending a $1000 or more for an in-class course you could spend $100-500 and maybe fair just as well.


Yep. Again it depends on the course. Some people think online courses suck. These are often people who took a CELTA, some other in-class course or they might be a TEFL course provider of classroom based courses. They complain that there is no in-class component of observation and feedback so how can someone learn how to teach?

Well, in my experience...

The best way to learn how to teach is by watching other teachers. You can do that online with videos or by sitting in the back of a classroom.

Information is information and you can obtain it in a variety of ways. You can learn from reading books, watching videos, taking a course or by watching other teachers. That's how I learned.


They say some employers don't accept them. But the truth is that the majority of employers that don't accept online courses also don't accept teachers without qualifications like experience, related degrees, master's degrees or possibly those without a teaching license.

Those are higher end schools and universities who are typically looking for seasoned or career orientated ESL teachers. They don't usually hire first time teachers with or without an in-class TEFL.

So what are these results?

Take this course if you want to:

  • Have more fun teaching
  • Feel more confident
  • Increase student attention (no more yawning students)
  • Feel in control of your classroom
  • Improve your resume
  • Avoid horror stories
  • Have a better year abroad

You'll find several courses there, but the one I am recommending is the advanced course (formerly 120 hour) course. This course is the most thorough.

See EXACTLY what it is like and learn how to teach English in Korea

You'll do that with videos that were filmed in both public schools and hagwons in Korea. These videos will take you right into the classroom and teach you what you need to know.

They will:

  • Make learning faster
  • Make learning easier
  • Make learning more fun

Yes, I want these results teaching in Korea

The difference between the in-class course that I took and this online course

I mentioned before that I thought that the in-class course that I took was a waste of money. I thought that because I didn't learn much that I could actually use in the classroom.

I learned a few not so useful activities, some theory, met some people and got a bunch of books packed with English grammar.

It lacked practical applications.

Over the years I learned what actually works.

The course contains many videos that were filmed in Korea.

They were filmed in both hagwons and in public schools. That context will help prepare you. You'll get an idea of what it's really like to teach in Korea.

Even if you take an "in-class" course it's usually a pseudo class that does not resemble the classes that you will actually teach.

In an in-class course your students are like you (other people taking the course) and English is their first language. I am not saying it's not helpful, but I don't think it's all it's cracked up to be.

korean elementary kids

Most jobs in Korea are for teaching young learners aged 6 to 14 or so.

"Teaching young learners under the age of 10 is a much different experience than older: make sure your program has a young learners focus, or at least doesn't pigeon hole you into a certain way of teaching." - Comments on Reddit

The benefits of working in a hagwon


If you search the web for info on teaching in Korea you'll find some negative stories about teaching in hagwons.

If you are going to teach in Korea chances are you will be in a hagwon or a public school. You could also teach in a university if you have experience or higher qualifications like the ones I mentioned before. Public school can be good too, here's a poll on it (you have to be logged in to see it).

Private language schools (called hagwons in Korea) really make up the majority of ESL teaching jobs abroad.

Anyways here are some benefits of working in a hagwon.


You tend to have more autonomy working in a hagwon. You don't usually work with a co-teacher. They may be around, but you don't typically share a class with them. If you work in a public school in Korea with EPIK you have to work with a co-teacher.

This can complicate your job and if you like freedom and autonomy then this might kill it. Here you are considered an assistant teacher.

In my experience I think that they interfere with classes more than help them. A co-teacher will probably be looking over your shoulder, so if you prefer to work alone then teaching in a hagwon might be for you.

Some co-teachers can be envious of the fact that you are making more money than them and doing less work.

Some people say your co-teacher can make or break your experience.

Teachers in hagwons typically make more money

If you are a first time teacher then if you work in a public school in Korea it's pretty likely that you'll make anywhere from 1.8-2.1 million Won a month (depending on the city). In Busan that's 1.8 and in other cities that's 1.9.

Unlike the EPIK program there is no set salary for all hagwons. Each school can set it's own salary. In a hagwon I'd say you would be making closer to 2.1 million a month. See for yourself here or here.

In my first year in Korea I made 2.3 for the first 6 months and then I got a raise to 2.4. I even got offered 2.5 million to sign on for another year.

How did I do that?

Well, I did have experience, but I also negotiated it. That's something that you can do in a hagwon that you can't really do in a public school.

Learn more about the benefits of teaching in a hagwon in Korea.

How much did I make in the public school?

So after my first year in Korea I took some time off, traveled, worked part time and then like 6 months later got a public school job. I got offered 2.2 million Won and that was with 3 years of experience and a TESOL certificate.

Will a certificate make me more money?

It depends on you and the school. Basically what it does is give you an edge over someone who has no training. Some schools have a set wage they pay regardless of experience and others may pay more for better qualifications.

Having the certificate will help with negotiation.

You'll probably work less in a hagwon

If you teach in a public school then you will work 8 hours a day. The work hours there are from about 8:30-4:30. Teaching hours are about 24 and the rest are office hours.

The hours in a hagwon vary from school to school. Hours are sometimes 2-9, 2-8, 3-9, or maybe 3-10pm. There are also daytime hours in kindergartens teaching from around 9-5 or with usually some break time in there. There are even adult hagwons that can have early morning hours as well as evening.

For me I never worked much more than 30 hours a week in a hagwon in Korea. For my first year I usually taught from about 3-8 or 3-9 depending on the day.

Smaller classes

In a hagwon class sizes can range anywhere from about 1 student to maybe 20 or so. In my experience most were around 10 or so students. In a public school you are looking at about 30-45 students.

You pick the school

If you teach in the EPIK program you usually have no choice about which school you work in. You will not have the opportunity to visit or even talk to the school, your boss or fellow co-teacher before you arrive.

With a hagwon you can talk to the school via phone or go there in-person to see for yourself.

The bottom line benefit of teaching in a hagwon

You basically have more personal power if you work in a hagwon.

But don't get me wrong. That's not to say it's a free for all or that hagwons are perfect. You still have responsibilities, it's a job, and some hagwons are no good. But as mentioned above in the results the 120 hour course will also teach you how to avoid problem schools and get a good job.

So again you'll have more freedom in choosing the school that you work for and how you teach.


If you are planning on teaching in Busan with EPIK then you might want to take an in-class course, but otherwise you can take an online course. However, if you want to actually learn and be better prepared then I wouldn't take the cheapest or just any one.

"I just completed the 120 hour online TEFL course. I am an experienced teacher, having taught Science and Gifted Education in the US for ten years prior to coming to Taiwan. Although teacher prep programs will help, many aspects of teaching EFL are unique. I wish I would have taken this course BEFORE I started teaching here three years ago.

The methods and insights given in ESL Insider's 120 hour TEFL course could have saved me a lot of grief and disappointment. Now I am optimistic about starting a new school year armed with better lessons and a realigned perspective. Thank you, ESL Insider!"


If you actually want to enjoy teaching in Korea here's how to do it

Instead of a pounding head and noisy kids and thinking to yourself they didn't teach me how to deal with this in that course - Imagine feeling excited as you walk to work, confident in the classroom, and your students grinning from ear to ear.