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What are the requirements to teach English in Korea? I spent 3.5 years of my time in Asia teaching English in Korea. I can tell you for starters that Korea is a bit more intensive when it comes to getting started than other countries. There is a lot of paperwork you have to do. Getting all of your documents ready can easily take 2 months or more.

For starters you need:

  1. A 4 year degree (in anything) or a 2 year degree for the TALK program
  2. To be a native English speaker from: USA, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa.

You need those qualifications to get an E-2 visa to legally teach in Korea.


1. You usually need a 4 year degree

That degree needs to be from a native English speaking country too. It needs to be a 4 year bachelor's degree. The TALK program will accept teachers with an associates or 2 years completed. Other than that you need a bachelor's degree to legally teach English in Korea.

If you don't have a 4 year degree you can read more about teaching without a degree.

2. Native English speaker

You have to be a native speaker. Citizens from India or Jamaica don't count. You need to have a passport from one of the above mentioned countries.

Before you apply...

You need to have completed your degree and all of the documents below. If you send an incomplete application to a recruiter or a school they will ignore it.

Related degrees, TEFL certification, etc.

Most schools will prefer teachers with experience and/or additional qualifications. TEFL certification is often preferred at least for EPIK which is a public school program. Hagwons (private academies) may prefer it, yet it's not required. As mentioned your bachelor's degree can be in anything, but the more related it is the better.

TEFL certification, related degrees, teaching licenses and experience can also raise your pay in the EPIK program. Hagwons are individual businesses. You can judge them case by case.

Individual schools can have their own preferences or requirements.

In a university you often need a master's degree and in an international school you often need a teaching license.

Do you need TEFL certification?

As mentioned you don't necessarily, but it's going to depend on the school. For EPIK you would probably want it especially if you don't have a related degree, teaching license or experience. In Busan you would probably want an in-class course, but in Seoul, Daegu, Gwangju and other locations in Korea many do fine with an online TEFL for Korea.

Reasons to take a TEFL/TESOL course

  1. For the job (to improve your resume)
  2. To learn

Here is an online course that specializes in teaching in Korea. It uses a lot of practical how-to videos that were filmed in classrooms (public schools and hagwons) IN KOREA. Many courses do not include practical videos like these. Some of the cheaper courses are just text based and according to some studies people only read 20% of the text on a page. 

That is boring and you won't remember much from it. 

Other than that you need to do some PAPERWORK

  • A FBI issued criminal background check (CBC)
  • Apostilled diploma
  • Transcripts

You need to do a criminal background check

This takes time. There are full instructions on how to get your criminal background check done for teaching in Korea here.

Apostille your diploma

This also takes time. There are full instructions on how to apostille your diploma to teach in Korea here.


Transcripts were formerly required for all schools in Korea. Now they are just required for EPIK. You'll need to contact your universities registrar and order 2 sets.


You need to be able to pass a health check. It includes drugs and other infectious diseases.

Reference letters

You'll need reference letters for EPIK and for elsewhere in Korea you'll need to polish your resume.


You'll need a passport with one year on it - at least.

Passport photos

I would get 10 passport sized photos. This will be plenty for your visa and other paperwork.

10 things you need to teach in Korea

  1. degree
  2. English speaker
  3. CBC
  4. apostilled diploma
  5. transcripts (public school)
  6. healthcheck
  7. passport photos
  8. passport with at least 1 year left on it
  9. TEFL certification (depending on the school)
  10. Reference letters (EPIK and it doesn't hurt at other schools)

Interested in teaching in China, Japan or Taiwan?

Here is a course that specializes in online training to teach kids in Asia (video from Korea).