Ninety Days to a Job Teaching English in Korea, Part 2: Is a TESL/TEFL Certificate Necessary?

Posted by on Apr 11, 2011 in EFL in Korea, Teaching English in Korea, Uncategorized | 10 comments

Is a TESL/TEFL certificate required to teach English in Korea? Well, the short answer is NO. As long as you are a native English speaker, and have a degree from an accredited university, you can get a job teaching English in Korea . However, there are a couple reasons why you may want to consider adding a TESL certificate to your credentials.

If you take an off-line TESL/TEFL course, there will most likely be a practice teaching component. This can be extremely helpful for anyone who has never taught before. I came into the English teaching world from corporate Canada. I wasn’t a teacher. My expertise was sales. However, I had excellent presentation skills, and was experienced in product training. I had to see for myself that I could transition these skills into a classroom environment. I enrolled in a local TESL/TEFL program, and have never regretted the time or money I spent to become certified. I loved the practical experience, and it gave me the confidence to pursue English teaching jobs.

Hanji Paper with Chinese Characters

Public school jobs are big in Korea these days. While they do not require a TESL/TEFL certificate, teachers with TESL/TEFL certificates are on a higher pay level. The Korean government is also pushing for all teachers to be certified, or enrolled in a program at time of hire. The certificate must be 100+ hours, and can be an off-line or on-line program. I worked in a public school in 2005, and my TESL/TEFL certificate helped me bank an extra $1200.00.

There are three major programs hiring teachers for public schools. You can read more about pay scales and certification on their websites.




Private English schools generally do not pay teachers extra if they have a certificate. However, if there’s a lot of competition for a particular job, someone with a TESL/TEFL certificate may have a better chance of landing the job.

If you do decided to earn a TESL/TEFL certificate, there are no lack of programs. The most respected program is the CELTA. The four week program is taught worldwide. Click for more info. (CELTA)

On-line programs are an option. I’d recommend that you ask around to find people who have take an online course, and get their feedback.

Here are a couple of links that may help you find a program. You could also check at your local university or community college.


In Part 3 I’ll talk about where to find available English teaching jobs and how to apply.

If you missed Part 1 of this series, you’ll find it HERE.

Lotus Lanterns 2008

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  1. I don’t think I’d consider trying to teach English without some type of training. I have no idea how to teach, so I’d really be doing the kids a disservice if I didn’t learn. I’d seriously considered teaching overseas, but have decided against it – at least for the time being. It just doesn’t seem like my cup of tea.

    • Sabina, Teaching isn’t for everyone, and that’s one of the big reasons that I think everyone should take some kind of training before taking off to teach English is a foreign land. If you discover that you don’t like teaching during the training, you can change your plans. Once you’ve uprooted yourself it’s hard to go back.

  2. I’m afraid that I can’t offer any input about teaching ESl. but I’m fascinated by your bottom photo! What, where, when? Beautiful.

    • Cathy I took that shot at the main Buddhist temple in Seoul…Joygesa Temple. It was taken during Buddha’s Birthday celebrations.

  3. I’m really loving this series. I’ve been thinking about teaching overseas, and while I really don’t have the extra money to get certified, I think an in person class would be beneficial, especially for building my confidence in the classroom.

    • Randy….imo a TESL/TEFL certificate can really help you start off on the right foot. I do hope you find the funds to do your certification.

  4. I taught in Seoul for 4 years in the 90’s and I didn’t have training it took almost 5 minutes to catch on. I had my own show on T.V. after 2 years

    • Things have changed here.

  5. As you say, Nancie, having a TESOL certificate, can only be an advantage for teaching overseas. Having been through all that myself many years ago in Japan, I know it to be true. Love the photos in this series, too.

  6. I agree with Sabina. You really are doing your students a disservice if you turn up in a foreign country to teach English without any formal training!


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