The basic qualification for getting a job as an English teacher in Korea is a B-degree in any subject. This will put you at the bottom rung of most pay scales, but even the bottom rung pays well. If you have a Masters, again in any subject, you can more picky about your jobs and will be offered more money. To get even further ahead with better pay and offers, you can look at getting a teaching-related qualification, especially one in English as a foreign language (EFL).

Personal note: Doing a certificate is great for gaining confidence to teach, and to learn some teaching techniques. But be warned that the training is geared towards small classes at private language institutes (called hagwons in Korea). The training is not always useful for teaching public schools in Korea, and I’ve had to unlearn some of the TEFL techniques to be able to teach effectively at my public school. I’ve been a lot happier since I stopped trying to make EVERY class “fun” and “interactive”. But, the TEFL certificate means that I earn an extra R800 a month. So over a year I will earn R9,600 extra for having a certificate that cost me R4,600. That’s a good investment.


Most people go for a TEFL. Essentially this is a certificate course that gives you the basics to be able to teach English to non-native speakers. TEFL stands for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language”. You can also go for a TESOL (“Teaching English to Students of Other Languages”) or a CELTA (“Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults”). The holy grail of all EFL certificates is the Cambridge CELTA.

These courses essentially offer the same thing, which is training in how to teach English. The TEFL/TESOL courses are pretty basic. Most are between 100 and 120 hours long. Anything less than this and you are WASTING your time and money. In Korea, a TEFL certificate from a course less than 100 hours long won’t be accepted as good enough to get a raise. And in all honesty, even 100 hours is a bit short to try and learn everything there is to know. The courses that are less than 100 hours tend to be called “Introduction to TEFL” or some such nonsense. Avoid!


A good TEFL/TESOL course will cover grammar, teaching methods, classroom management AND have a practical component. This practical side is very important. Nothing prepares you for teaching like having to actually do it in front of real students.

TEFL/TESOL courses cost between R4,900 and R6,000, depending on the school and the length of the course. Most are full-time courses, and last between three and four weeks. I have on occasion seen some part-time courses as well, though these are few and far between. None were available when I wanted to do my course in December 2007.


The CELTA course is a lot more expensive, and aimed at people who want to make a career in EFL. In my opinion, this is something to look at after you’ve already done a few years of teaching English. It’ll set you back at least R10,000, and is very intensive.

Where to do a course?

In South Africa

The EFL industry in South Africa has grown dramatically in recent years, so there are quite a few language schools around the country that also offer TEFL/TESOL/CELTA courses. I’ve included some links to a few below, with some basic information. Please don’t see this as a recommendation of any sort. Do your research before you give any of these schools your money. Make sure that the course is long enough, and that the certificate will be recognised internationally.

Cape Town has the largest selection of places to do a certificate course, mostly because it has the largest concentration of language schools in the country. I know there are schools elsewhere in the country, and this is not a comprehensive list. But I hesitate to include any schools on my list that I don’t know much about except from their websites. If anyone reads this and can recommend a school, I’ll put it on this list.

Note: This information is current as of 23 April 2008.

EC Cape Town

This is where I got my TEFL certificate. I chose it because they were the cheapest. Seriously. But I was pretty happy with the course, and felt like I got my money’s worth. My wife also did her TEFL certificate at this school, when they were still Boston Language College, and she was very happy with them. Their course is 100 hours long, and costs R4,900.


This school is near the V&A Waterfront. They offer a 120-hour TEFL course, for about R5,200. They also offer some specialty courses, like teaching business English. I’ve heard good things about this school, so worth checking out.

Academy of English in Cape Town (AOECT)

It seems these guys train teachers specifically for Korea. They offer a 105-hour TEFL course for R5,000, and a 125-hour course for R7,000. The additional 20 hours is some Korean language and culture course. I’d give it a skip, especially for the extra R2,000 it will cost you. Also, they recruit people to teach in Korea, AND charge a fee. As I’ve mentioned before elsewhere, you don’t need to pay any fee. Apparently they work with a Korean recruiter anyway, KorVia. Go directly to KorVia (I did) and you can save yourself some cash.

In Korea

A lot of people come to Korea without a TEFL, and there are some options for getting a certificate while in the country. This means a 100,000 won a month raise in most public schools, if you get the certificate while you work for them. Also, some people end up having to be at school during the summer and winter vacations, so you might as well make the most of it. The one course that keeps on popping up is KEI-TEFL. They offer a 120-hour course for about 525,000 won. Most of the course is online, with the practical component offered over an intensive weekend. This course is endorsed by the government education departments, so no worries about getting it recognised.


17 responses to “Qualifications

  1. Pingback: Two new pages « SafKorea - For South Africans in Korea

  2. Hi there
    Thank you very much for this info on TEFL courses – the KEISIE course seems to be just what I have been looking for being here without this qualification and wondering about which courses will be recognized by the Korean Educ Board. I am also curious about the content and the extra cash will of course be welcome.

  3. Cool. The extra cash and confidence from having a TEFL really helps. Please post your experiences with the course here. I’m sure other people would be interested to know how it went.

  4. Hi TB

    I was wondering if you know anyone over there who has done Tefl at Langahead School of Languages in Johannesburg? Not serious if u dont, would just be interested to hear of others experiences there. Thanks a mill! Michelle

  5. Nope, sorry. I’ve been asking around, but most South Africans teaching here seem to come from the Cape. I’ve had trouble finding people from north of the Orange River, never mind someone who has done a TEFL in Gauteng.

    If I find out something, I’ll let you know.


  6. There’s also the option of International Schools for trained teachers. They usually take very good care of you. A quick google search will lead you to their websites. There are a number of South African teachers who have been successfully employed there. The systems are more often than not American, so it takes a little getting used to, but then moving to a new country “will do that to ya!”

    Having taught at both a hagwon and an International School, I will say that in the case of the latter, it was good to be back in a more professional environment. International schools also tend to offer better housing and more comprehensive benefits such as medical and pension. If you’re a qualified teacher, it’s definitely worth a look.

    • Hi Wendy

      Can you tell me a bit more about your experiences working at an International school.I’m a qualified teacher with a BEd and are looking for job opportunities in Korea.I googled the international schools in Korea and seems the majority are located in Seoul.At which one did you work and how do I go about in finding work at one of them?(would prefer to not be in Seoul)What’s the pay like, if you can give me an indication what I could be expecting?Are most of their contracts for two years and do they hire Saffies easily?Is it possible to be hired through a recruiter or should you already be in korea for an interview?Will greatly appreciate it if you can answer some of my many questions.

  7. I know people who did their TEFL at langahead. It sounds all above board. Interantional House in Johannesburg offers CELTA. I did mine there. It is very intensive but I learned so much. I would really reccomend it.

  8. Hi Susan

    Thanks for the info!


  9. Hi

    Read the post on the international schools and was wondering about a few things.I’m a qualified teacher(BEd) still in SA and looking into teaching opportunities in Korea.What will the minimum salary be in my case in both international and other learning institutions.How do I go about finding work at an international school,also through a recruitment agency?I will appreciate any advice in this regard

  10. Hi. Regarding qualifications: I’ve been working with a recruiter for about a month filling out an application for EPIK and SMOE and I just learned that I was rejected becaue I spent elementary school in Zimbabwe (which is not one of the english speaking countries they recognise). They require one to have been in the SA educational system for ten years and i was in it for nine. Seems unfair that I was rejected based on this technicality considering english is my first language and Zimbabwe’s curriculum is in English. Does GEPIK have the same restrictions? Also, there’s so many private schools and i don’t know where to start. Please advise me on reputable private schools that i could apply to?

    • Hi Lindi

      That seems a bit odd. I can’t recall that Gepik asked for my school record. As long as you have South African citizenship and have a degree from an accredited university, then you should be eligible to teach English in Korea. It sounds like EPIK and SMOE are being difficult. Try Gepik here: http://cge.ken.go.kr/eng/ and perhaps don’t let them know you did some schooling in Zim. They only verify your university degree.

    • Oh, and like you said, there are MANY private schools. Really, many of them are dodgy, and the quality really depends on the owner or director, and these change all the time. The best is to go with a personal recommendation from someone currently working at a private school. Try one of the facebook groups for South Africans in Korea: http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=2309967428&ref=ts and http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=127544466273&ref=ts

      My personal recommendation would be to avoid working at a private school – the hours are long, the holidays are short, and people often have issues with getting paid. Public schools generally have better working conditions.

  11. Thanks for advice Thomas – much appreciated.

  12. Hi
    Probably your not in the site anymore just trying my luck.I have been going through the information here and its very interesting and helpful, Am a teacher and thinking of going to Korea for teaching job,But i havent done teaching yet just studied but didnt get a job in my field,So i did some job here and there so now i want to do this .How can u advice me on this one cause i have made up my mind that i must go and find a way in Korea, recommended by friends who have been there already.How do i go about this.


  13. Just to let you know your web site looks a little bit strange in Safari on my notebook with Linux .

  14. Hi

    Are there any TEFL institutions in Durban that I can go to? The CELTA is really expensive.

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