What is the EPIK programme in South Korea? Everything you need to know

South Korea has long been a popular destination for EFL teachers and it’s easy to see why.

Offering some of the highest entry-level wages in the world often alongside great benefits, teachers can easily save a substantial portion of their wage each month. One blogger has even claimed to have saved $22,000 in a year teaching in South Korea!

A variety of jobs can be found across the country, in cities such as Seoul, Busan, Incheon, and Daegu, but you’ll also find positions in smaller areas more off the beaten track. Demand for qualified EFL teachers is high in South Korea with the government investing heavily in English language education. And part of this investment has been into a scheme called EPIK.

What is EPIK?

EPIK (English Programme in Korea) is a programme affiliated with the Korean Ministry of Education that aims to improve the English-speaking abilities of Korean students and teachers. EPIK places English speakers on one-year teaching contracts (52 weeks) in Korean public schools throughout the country to share their knowledge and language with both students and teachers.

What are the requirements for the EPIK programme?

To be eligible for EPIK, you must:

  • Be a citizen of one of the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, or South Africa.
  • Have at least a BA degree in any discipline from a university located in one of the above countries.
  • If English is not your first language you must provide proof that your education was conducted in English from junior high level (7th Grade).
  • Have a 100-hour TEFL qualification from an accredited provider (this is not required if your degree was education-focused)

What’s included?

  • Salary of 2 to 2.2 million KRW per month (£1,370-£1,500/$1,800-$2,000)
  • Accommodation
  • Settlement allowance (300,000 KRW/£200/$270)
  • Severance pay at end of contract (equal to one month’s salary)
  • 50% of your medical insurance paid (the rest deducted from your salary)
  • Entrance allowance and exit allowance (1,300,000 KRW/£890/$1,170)
  • Renewal bonus if you decide to renew your contract after a year
  • Orientation on arrival

Korean rooftops

What do teachers do on the EPIK programme?

The role of EPIK teachers can vary and, while most teachers will be placed in schools, this isn’t always the case. EPIK teachers can be placed in a variety of educational institutions and may be required to work across several locations.

As an EPIK teacher your role will mainly involve supporting a Korean English teacher and conducting lessons alongside them. You’ll prepare and develop teaching materials, conduct conversational classes, and carry out other duties as specified by the Ministry of Education where you’ve been placed.

Does my TEFL training need to include a classroom course?

At the moment EPIK does not list a requirement for classroom training. However, historically it has shown a strong preference for applicants who have completed at least a 20 hour classroom course. Places on the EPIK scheme can be competitive, so bear in mind that just meeting the basic requirements is no guarantee you’ll secure a position.

We would strongly recommend, to be in with the best chance of securing a place on the EPIK programme, that you opt for a course that includes at least a 20-hour classroom course. With TEFL Org courses you can choose to do this in person or virtually.

Do you need a TEFL qualification for EPIK?

A TEFL qualification consisting of at least 100 hours is required for all applicants who do not hold a degree in education. This qualification must be gained through an accredited TEFL course provider, so be wary of budget TEFL courses – they may not be recognised. As the most accredited TEFL course provider in the UK, TEFL Org courses are recognised by EPIK and many of our graduates have gone on to secure a place on the programme.

It’s possible to apply for EPIK before finishing your TEFL course. However, you need to ensure you complete it and provide evidence at least 1.5 months prior to your contract start date.

Can non-native speakers participate in the EPIK scheme?

For the most part, non-native English speakers are not eligible for EPIK. The nationality requirements – UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa – rule out most non-native speakers but even those with citizenship from one of the aforementioned countries may not necessarily be able to apply.

The only non-native speakers eligible to apply for EPIK are those who meet the nationality requirements and received schooling in English from junior high level (around the age of 11/12).

A cityscape shot of Seoul, South Korea

Can I choose where I’m placed?

When applying you can list one preferred location, but there’s no guarantee this is where you’ll be placed. While EPIK will do their best to accommodate your choice, some locations are more popular than others.

It should be noted that the sooner you apply and supply EPIK with the necessary documentation the better chance you have of being placed in your preferred location. So if your heart is set on a specific area get in early.

Do I need a degree for EPIK?

Yes, a BA degree is an essential requirement. What’s more, it must have been gained from a university in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa. Degrees issued by universities elsewhere will not be accepted.

If your degree was in education or in an area focused on education then you aren’t required to have a TEFL qualification, although it can still be very beneficial.

What does the application process for EPIK involve?

There are two intakes for EPIK each year. Applications for Spring need to be in by the start of August the previous year, and for the Autumn term they need to be in by the start of February. So, from applying, you can expect it to take roughly 7 months before you’ll start.

You can either apply directly to EPIK or via a recruitment agency that has been certified to recruit for EPIK.

Once you’ve sent off your application you’ll be invited for a Skype interview if successful. The next stage involves getting all of your documents arranged and sent over as well as your contract. Once that’s all done you’ll then apply for an E2 visa via the Korean embassy in your country.

What documents are required for the EPIK application?

  • Your passport
  • A photograph of yourself
  • Apostilled criminal background check
  • Apostilled degree
  • Sealed university transcripts
  • 2 letters of recommendation
  • TEFL qualification
  • Apostilled birth certificate (UK and Australian applicants only)

For more information and to apply, visit the EPIK website

If, once you have completed the EPIK program, you wish to stay in the country, check out our Job Centre for the latest jobs in South Korea.

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