The EPIK Program:
There are many ways to work abroad and many places where you can do it but I want to talk about how I was able to get a job teaching abroad in South Korea. In my opinion, South Korea is one of the best, if not THE best, country to teach abroad. You get quite a lot of perks that make saving money so easy that you have to actually work hard to be broke. And because all I want in this life is to inspire more women and women of color to travel, I am sharing with you what is probably the best way to combine working, saving, and traveling.
What is EPIK?
EPIK, or English Program In Korea, is a public school teaching program that is run by the Korean government. This program recruits, screens, interviews and recommends teachers to various cities and provinces around South Korea. EPIK is everywhere. They have the most locations and placement options for potential teachers. They have been operating since 1995 so they have name recognition on their side as well.
Should I Apply for EPIK?
Of course! Why not? But you should know that EPIK is not the only option for those that want to teach in Korea. In general, there are two routes available to people. They can work for a public school or they can work for private institutions called Hagwons. Of the public school options, you have EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE, and GOE:
GEPIK or Gyeonggi English Program in Korea
GEPIK is a public school program just like EPIK except that it recruits exclusively for the Gyeonggi province. Gyeonggi is the massive province that surrounds Seoul. GEPIK is a great option for those that want to live near the big city but not in the big city.
SMOE or Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education
This program places English teachers directly in Seoul. As you can imagine SMOE is very popular and competitive because most want to live and work in the capital. To work for SMOE you have to apply to EPIK, be accepted, and then fill out additional paperwork for SMOE.
GOE or Gyeonnam Office of Education
GOE places teachers in a province near Busan called Gyeongsangnam-do. They accept applications from teachers year-round and they have higher starting salaries. You can’t argue much with that.
What about Hagwons?
As I mentioned above, English hagwons are private institutions. They are businesses created to give students and adults a chance to receive more instruction in English outside of normal school and work hours. If you want to go the hagwon route then you should get in contact with a recruiter who will do the legwork of finding a hagwon, or hagwons, for you to apply to. This is ideal for those that want to know exactly where they will be working and living before they arrive in Korea.
Honestly, I don’t have any personal experience working in a hagwon or applying to them so I’m not going to say anything against them but I will say you should be certain this is the way you want to go before you sign on. Hagwons can be great for couples that want to be sure they stay together or people that want to take advantage of the fact that they pay more than public schools do. But hagwons have their cons too, which is why I put my focus on getting into EPIK.
The Perks of EPIK
-EPIK is a well-establish program with a good reputation.
-Guaranteed more vacation days
-Considered a government employee
-Always paid on time and in full
-10 Day Orientation**
**The orientation is great for those that have never taught before and would feel better with some tips and techniques before they start. Also, you have the opportunity to meet and befriend other foreign teachers which will help make your transition a bit easier.**
To teach in South Korea you need:
-To be a citizen of a native English speaking country such as: The USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
-A bachelor’s degree
-A certification to teach English as a foreign language. A TEFL/TESOL or CELTA certificate.
-A clean criminal record
More About The Requirements
-Your bachelor degree can be in any subject. It does not matter if you studied Early Education or Chemistry. You just need to have at least a Bachelors to qualify. But if you do have at least a Bachelors in Education, you do not have to bother with a TEFL certification.
What makes EPIK So Great?
There are a lot of wonderful things about being an EPIK teacher, a few of those wonderful things are all the benefits you receive.
–Settlement Allowance. Every new teacher receives a settlement allowance of 300,000 KRW. This is a one-time payment intended to help you get whatever you need to spice up your new living arrangements, or you can just pocket it because another perk of EPIK is…
–Free furnished housing. You will be placed in a house, apartment or a studio that will be rent-free and already equipped with a bed, a table, chairs, a stove, a fridge, a wardrobe, a washing machine, microwave, and television.
Note: You will be responsible for any maintenance fees and your utility fees but, in my case, those don’t really amount to much. I bet your bank account is getting excited at just the thought of living rent-free.
–Severance Pay. All EPIK teachers who complete their contract will receive severance pay that is equal to about one month’s salary.
–Entrance & Exit Allowance. To cover the cost of arriving in and leaving Korea when your contract is complete teachers are given an entrance allowance of 1,300,000 KRW and an exit allowance for the same amount.
–Renewal Bonus. If you decide not to leave EPIK and instead renew your contract with your Office of Education for another year, you will receive 2,000,000 KRW.
Note: This does not apply to Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. They do not give their teachers a renewal allowance.
–Medical Insurance. Last, I want to mention medical insurance. Medical insurance is mandatory and half of your insurance premiums will be paid for by the Office of Education that employs you.
Related Post: For more information on how to take advantage of these benefits and save money while in EPIK check out this post next.
So now that I’ve sold you. Here are the steps you take to become an EPIK teacher!
EPIK recruits during two intake periods. Spring teachers will begin work from between February and March and the application for this intake will open in August. Fall teachers will begin work from between mid-August to October and the application will open in February.
To apply you need a completed application, a lesson plan, and two letters of recommendation. If you make it through this stage you will be invited to participate in a Skype interview. After you crush the interview you can start collecting the rest of your required documents.
You will need:
-An apostilled copy of your diploma.
-An apostilled copy of your Criminal Background Check
-Complete Application Form with all requested revisions.
-Two letters of Recommendation
-Copy of TEFL certificate (if applicable)
After these documents are sent in, you just spend the next few weeks fretting and stressing out, hoping that you will get placed SOMEWHERE, let alone in the city or province of your choice. When you get that wonderful email stating that you have a job with an Office of Education, you can finally release that breath you’ve been holding and start packing. You are on your way to South Korea.
There you have it! This is one of the many options available to people who want to teach English abroad and it may be the right one for you. Teaching in Korea was one of the better decisions I’ve made. I’ve gotten the opportunity to explore this beautiful country to my heart’s content and already have multiple trips to surrounding countries planned. Maybe EPIK is for you too and I would be happy to answer any other questions you might have.
If you have already decided to make the move to South Korea than check out this Teaching In Korea Packing Checklist next!