Teach English in South Korea with CIEE

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South Korea offers you the opportunity to gain teaching experience and see the world while earning a competitive salary and enjoying rent-free housing. This is a great choice for someone getting ready for a teaching career, or someone who wants to work abroad while paying off student loans, for example. Placements are available in major urban areas throughout Korea, including greater Seoul!

CIEE's Teach Abroad program will get you ready with our 150 hour TEFL Certification and Teacher Preparation course, as well as assistance with applications and job interviews. Before you go, you'll discuss cultural considerations as well as practicalities so you know what to expect, and you'll have a safety net of support from our in-country team.

Questions & Answers

So you can start applying in May, but unless it's for a special program it's not always necessary. You can easily wait until after graduation to apply to schools (one less thing to worry about at that time). Korean schools, hagwon (private academy)'s tend to hire at the end of every term. So the hiring process is fairly constant. To complete the visa and hiring process you do need your diploma to...
Unfortunatley you cannot teach English in a Korea if you are not from an English speaking country. Schools seek individuals from a limited amount of countries, all of which are English speaking countries. However, South Africans can get an E-2 (teaching) visa.
That question is a little complicated to answer. Yes, you can bring a pet overseas with you. However, the process can be very hard on the pet. If They change too much between their physical and when they go through immigration they might not be allowed in, or they will be held for observation (which is not in the best conditions for your pet). On top of that if the school is supplying the housing...
Hi Courtney, If you already hold a TEFL certification you can apply to the CIEE Teach in South Korea Basics program which has a lower cost as the certification course is not included. All the best, CIEE Teach Abroad Team


based on 67 reviews
  • Benefits 8.4
  • Support 8.5
  • Fun 8.5
  • Facilities 8.1
  • Safety 9.1
  • Instruction 9.7
  • Support 10
  • Value 9.7
  • Academic Rigor 8
  • Job Assistance 10
Showing 61 - 67 of 67
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A good option for first-time teachers

When I started looking for teaching jobs and TESOL programs, I wasn't sure where to begin. Choosing a TESOL program, finding a job, and getting a visa can be rather daunting. It was really helpful to have one source for completing all these things. The TESOL program was informative, and much more thorough than I was expecting. I took an additional 30hr CIEE TESOL course later on, which was a great addition to the main certificate. The coordinators in the US were especially helpful in keeping in touch once I was abroad. The pre-departure information was pretty good as well. Now that I am in the country, I could probably find my next job ( if I stay another year) on my own, but for my first job it was good to have help with the entire process. I think it would have been quite difficult to do this on my own. Overall I had a great experience with CIEE, and would recommend it for those who are getting started working abroad! I would especially recommend teaching abroad as a first job after college, as it is a great way to travel and gain job experience.

How can this program be improved?
There are a few improvements that could be made, mostly related to the in-country coordination. The job recruiter CIEE set me up with was not very transparent about the process. After my Skype interview with my school, all of the communication that wasn't through CIEE was done though the recruiter, and in hindsight I would have rather talked to my school directly than through him. I still get job emails from him and most of them start ASAP, which often means a teacher left suddenly because of management issues. My living situation is significantly different than what I was told, which isn't necessarily CIEE's fault, but working with a recruiter who is more open and communicative would probably help with the transparency issues, and lower the chance of someone getting a poorly managed school.
Yes, I recommend this program

My year in Asia

I am so thankful that I came to South Korea. Of course it has its challenges, but everyday is memorable when you are living in a new culture. My school and co-teachers have been very helpful. Also, the country itself is great. Transportation is easy to figure out, so traveling around is affordable and realistic. Meeting foreigner and local friends is not too big of a challenge either. The food is delicious and there is always something new to do and try around the country!

When the first semester was ending, one of my students ran up to me and asked "Teacher, will you be here next time?" and I said "Yes! Of course". She gave me the biggest hug and at the moment I knew I was where I am suppossed to be and couldnt be happier.

CIEE helped make this all become a reality and made the long application process a whole lot easier. :)

How can this program be improved?
Of course it is hard to say. I was very impressed with the program. Possibly connecting you to a willing teacher on the field or alumni who can answer questions more directly.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar

Unfortunate, disillusioning, exhausting

From my poorly communicated pre-departure, to my nonexistent dialogue with CIEE after months in Korea, CIEE is not vigilant enough to provide or ensure a great experience for their teachers.

When I chose CIEE (and paid for this program), I expected a high quality system of support from an experienced team. Instead, the issues I faced were easily dismissed. From a Skype call, the messages most prominent were: "None of [these problems] sound new." "You have to be your own person." Even further, answering questions became the teacher’s job, not CIEE’s. I was told “I’m not sure” one too many times without help or reassurance. It would seem beneficial if the coordinator researched these questions themselves…perhaps they would learn something new to help future teachers. Isn’t this their job? Are they not paid to assist teachers?

CIEE was not getting proper feedback from previous teachers, something inexcusable and careless. Getting feedback and being vigilant about a school’s condition is very important. These situations aren't able to be predicted, but there are always clues -- Blacklisting, school history, changing management etc. I am not an expert, but that's why I felt confident that CIEE would provide me with the peace of mind to get things right the first time. I should have never been placed here.

Considering the money you pay, the services you receive are not worth the expense. My pre-departure was stressful and required me to check-in on my visa's progress...even after a month of waiting. This is, thankfully, not your only option. The quality of service, attitude, and leadership are absent and empty. I cannot recommend CIEE or share positive comments based on this placement. It's simply unacceptable no matter how you spin it. Paying and studying for TEFL, paying for the CIEE program, paying for and preparing the paperwork and documents....all to lead up to ending my time in Korea six months early. It's disillusioning, it's disappointing, and saddest of all, discouraging.

Response from CIEE Teach Abroad


Thank you very much for taking the time to review our program. Your input, and the feedback from all of our participants, is vitally important to us.

We looked into the issues you brought to our attention and we are no longer placing teachers in this school. We regularly evaluate placement schools and respond when circumstances require a change. As regards in-country support for teachers, we are unique in providing that service along with 24/7 emergency assistance. When unforeseen difficulties arise, we do our best to assist, including, but not limited to, helping find alternative teaching placements.

Please reach me directly at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.

Thank you again,
Stephen Bush
Manager, CIEE Teach Abroad

No, I don't recommend this program
Default avatar

Not worth the stress and money

Overall Korea is a nice opportunity for English teachers and fairly easy to live in. That being said, this is still a big change and takes time to adapt, which was not only not helped by CIEE but made more difficult. I was not told essential information leading up to my trip. I boarded the plane and had no idea what would happen when I arrived. Once I got to my placement I was shocked to find my fellow teachers telling me to leave the school right away and later found out the school was blacklisted. However, I was not able to properly research the school because I was never given the proper name before arriving. In any case a placement at a blacklisted school with so many runners was disturbing. It became very clear this inadequate communication was a pattern with CIEE. I also soon understood why the school was blacklisted. When I reached out for help with my placement I was met with lacking knowledge of my school and situation and often had to defend myself. "That's just how things are done in Korea" and "I don't think that's happening" should not be how school issues be dealt with. When bringing up breaches of contract I was told in not so many words to suck it up. Any time I was told they would follow up with the school nothing was done. When I finally put in my resignation I was told they would help with a new placement only to find the response was delayed and riddled with contradictory information. Most of the communication was full of errors and at times not understandable despite English being their first language. Initially I chose CIEE for the support they would provide and a reliable placement, but I found neither. I cannot recommend their services. They cost too much money and are not professional at all. I really was hoping for a positive experience here, but instead am leaving Korea early.

Response from CIEE Teach Abroad


Thank you for your time spent reviewing our program. Your feedback, and that of all our participants, is of paramount importance to us as we strive to meet expectations at every step of your engagement with CIEE Teach Abroad.

We looked into the issues you brought to our attention, and want to assure you and future participants that we regularly evaluate schools, and respond when circumstances require a change. In this case, we are no longer placing teachers in that school. As regards pre-departure information, we strive to be as thorough as possible. I would be interested in learning how your experience could have been improved.

Please reach me directly at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.

Thank you again,
Stephen Bush
Manager, CIEE Teach Abroad

No, I don't recommend this program
Default avatar

I would not recommend CIEE

South Korea is great place to live and teach and I would recommend it strongly to anyone looking for a cultural enrichment experience. Regrettably however, I cannot recommend employing the services of CIEE. I am currently in South Korea, in the second half of my contracted year. Once I decided to teach abroad, I enlisted CIEE, an organization that represented that they would streamline your process, guide and support you through negotiating your contract with a school, find housing, etc. Not only did they fall quite short of these marks, they were in turns incompetent, impolite or dismissive about it. Let me tell you my story.
Before leaving the States for Korea, CIEE secured housing and set terms for a 1-year teaching contract. I was told by CIEE that they negotiated a reasonable salary for me, which to my dismay, turned out to be an utter canard. After living here for 7 months, I now know that, with my qualifications, finding a similar position at a substantially higher remuneration is actually quite easy.
The CIEE in-country coordinator, indicated that my Korean apartment would be in a newer building, which turned out to be a woefully inaccurate characterization. The building is dirty and poorly kempt. There was an undisclosed monthly 'officetel' fee in excess of $100 that charges for amenities such as parking, cleaning and security; all services that do not exist. Further, the building is
Commercially-zoned with businesses above and below my apartment. I lived above a restaurant and just below a very loud nightclub that routinely blasted through my walls. The apartment is so marginally insulated that I could feel the wind gusting through my windows, which on cold days have a frozen covering. I don’t mean a little frost but rather, a thick layer of ice. Between the surprise ‘officetel’ charge and the unanticipated and exorbitant heating bills, it was difficult for me to make ends meet. Again, CIEE was unresponsive to my problem.
Upon arrival in South Korea we CIEE recruits attend an orientation where I happily forged several wonderful friendships with other new teachers. We were introduced to our in-country CIEE coordinator who, we were told, was there to assist with various issues that might arise. This coordinator offered a phone plan, leading us to believe it the best option out there. Not long after, we each realized that this plan was of strikingly poor value. I repeatedly asked for the name of the phone company and a detailed invoice, which was never provided. We discovered that he was pocketing $20.00 a month for the 'service' he provided. He continues to take advantage of foreigners in this way, and it is a dubious abuse of trust.
And now, my biggest disappointment with CIEE: A mere two weeks before the end of the school year and three weeks before the beginning of the next one (in Korea, the school year finishes at the end of February and the next year begins the following week in March), we were quite suddenly informed that our school was closing. We were out of jobs and the school had no intention of honoring its contracted obligations to provide a one-month salary in severance and pay our airfare home.
To date, CIEE has been disappointingly unresponsive when petitioned for information or assistance. Stateside CIEE promises to help but their Korean representative does nothing. My coordinator failed to produce any viable new leads or, frankly to show much interest in doing so. Consequently, on my own I have searched for a new job and apartment. With my qualifications, every job I interviewed for, without exception, offered me my sought-after position at a much higher salary than my CIEE-procured school. For this I found my own recruiter at no expense to me (the schools paid his fee). This recruiter went on interviews with me and delineated my needs and wishes at each interview. As my new job was over an hour away, I had to move at my own expense. Not only am I earning more, my new apartment is much nicer and there are no hidden costs.
Since arriving in Korea, I have unsuccessfully appealed to CIEE for help with various adjustment bumps, particularly since I learned I was to shortly be stranded without a position. As I’ve been overwhelmed with finding a new job and apartment on my own, I enlisted the help of my family in the States to try and communicate with CIEE main office on my behalf. My mom called CIEE who denied any and all responsibility for their actions. For example: 1. They didn’t KNOW they had had negotiated a contract with a financially unsound school so it was not their fault. (Huh, you don’t properly vet your schools? And since when is “not knowing” a viable excuse?) 2. It was the school that proposed a below-standard salary, not CIEE. (Aren’t they there to negotiate a good salary for a stateside applicant who paid them in good faith?) 3. It was also not their fault if the school fails to pay severance or airfare. 4. When my mom mentioned that I got a better job and apartment on my own, their response was how could they help when I hadn’t contacted them. Regrettably, that is not the case. 5. As to the local coordinator profiting by procuring for his clients overpriced mobile phone plans…. Well, CIEE was finally stumped on that one.
I am sorry to say that not only have I lost money to this organization, it has cost me in many ways. I’d always thought that non-profit organization meant you were the good guys. I know it’s hard to believe, but you’ll do better on your own.

Response from CIEE Teach Abroad

Thank you for taking the time to provide this feedback. Your insights are valuable to us as we strive to meet the expectations of all CIEE Teach Abroad participants.
CIEE Teach Abroad is unique in providing in-country support along with 24/7 emergency assistance. We know that unforeseen challenges sometime arise and that is why we have a coordinator located in South Korea who can help participants navigate these challenges. Please reach me directly at [email protected] if I can be of further assistance.
Thank you again,
Stephen Bush
Manager, CIEE Teach Abroad

No, I don't recommend this program
Default avatar

Be careful of ciee teach abroad!

I taught in South Korea in the fall of 2011 with CIEE. Before I even left the country, CIEE Teach Abroad messed up my visa process. They actually went ahead and started processing my visa with a school I had never signed a contract with. After a few long hours on the phone explaining that CIEE had messed up on what their main service is (visa/placement), and actually caused the placement process to be more difficult than if I had done it myself, I was given a partial refund. I should have viewed this situation as a warning sign about the lack of actual knowledge of this branch of CIEE (they handle most of the teaching in Asia programs).

When I arrived in Korea, things got much worse. Most things outlined in my CIEE Teach Abroad and in my school contract were not fulfilled. I was told my work week would be 30 hours a week at a certain pay. I actually worked 40+ hours a week for the same amount of pay. Not only that, but I was told that class sizes would be small. I taught 10 classes a day with virtually no breaks, some with over 30 students. I received no training. I was paid up to 5 days late, denied my medical insurance, and paid under the table for the first 2 months. The building wasn't big enough for the amount of students, and there was a sweatshop in the basement. This is not what I expected from CIEE's main advertisement of "placement at a reputable institution". I used this service to avoid this exact type of situation, as I felt it would be a safer way to go in a country I had never been to myself.

CIEE advertises adequate housing. My apartment was dirty the day I arrived, with moldy bedding in the washing machine. Much of the furniture was broken and I found spots of mold on the ceiling. I was sick most of the time I was there. Every time a friend stayed over, she got sick as well. I asked my employer to change apartments and they said they were "working on it"up until the day i left.

When I realized the gravity of this situation a month and a half into my time there, and the effects it was having on my physical and mental health, I contacted CIEE. I asked for advice for the best way to switch schools. I had no desire to leave South Korea, I simply felt that I was being taken advantage of by my specific school. I was told by a CIEE member that its very difficult to end a school contract before 6 months, as our visa is attached to our employer. I also heard about the mistreatment of other employees at my school when they tried to leave. I decided to do my own research, and I realized the only way to get safely out of this situation was to leave the country without telling anyone so that my school would not find out. I did this to avoid being detained by customs, and being denied pay.

Because of CIEE's previous lack of organization and communication with me, I did not advise them I was leaving the country, fearing that they might leak information to my school, and therefore put me in an even more hostile situation. When I did make it out of the country, I was sent threatening messages from my school. I was told I had better come back and apologize or i would be put in jail, and be forced to pay them. They actually contacted the local police, and when they realized I was gone, they contacted interpol to find me.

Most of the things promised in the contract were not what I received.

When I came back, I asked for a refund. They told me that it was my fault for not contacting them for help. They told me that they understood that I was "homesick".
I actually was trying to change schools, not leave South Korea to go home.

If you want to teach abroad in Korea, it is an amazing place to live! Simply go to Dave ESL Cafe online and look for your own job. You will save tons of money and probably end up at a better school.

Always ask to speak to a current foreign employee at the school you are going to work at. If I would have done so, I could have avoided an absolutely awful situation.

Response from CIEE

CIEE is a well-respected non-profit that has been operating since 1947. We are a recognized leader in several fields, including undergraduate study abroad, as well as finding paid teaching jobs overseas for US college graduates. We are committed to providing high quality, safe and valuable experiences to all of our participants. We are proud of the programs that we operate and are committed to meeting our mission in every way. We are happy to share with you how we help participants overcome challenges while they are teaching abroad. Teaching abroad often isn’t easy and we recognize that. CIEE works directly with the Ministry of Education and other institutions to send people to teach in South Korea. We are happy to address anyone’s specific situation at any time, clearly as a U.S. based NGO, we do not operate these programs for the money and pursue quality experiences for all participants.
Matt Redman, Manager of CIEE Teach Abroad programs, [email protected].

No, I don't recommend this program
Default avatar

CIEE is a good resource for first-time native English teachers

My experience with CIEE has been very positive. I was placed at a public school in a small town in Yongin, a city about an hour outside of Seoul. My apartment is comfortable and in good condition. The cost of living is relatively low and my neighborhood is safe. I teach 22 hours per week, the kids are awesome, and the other teachers have been supportive and kind. I've also made a lot of good friends. Overall, I'm very pleased with how my experience in South Korea has turned out so far.

On a few occasions, I've mentioned CIEE to the teachers involved in hiring me and, surprisingly, was met with confusion and blank stares. They were completely unaware that CIEE even existed. (Because I worked with CIEE's partner recruiter, TEIK (which I don't recommend,) TEIK received a payment from the school once I completed my first three months here.) As far as I know, CIEE has limited to no contact with the schools themselves. Although I am fortunate enough to have a very helpful co-teacher, there is something to say about having a support network of people who understand the experience of being a foreigner in Korea and who speak a language that I know well.

CIEE has provided me with the kind of advice, training, and support that has made interactions with my Korean co-workers and school administrators run a lot more smoothly. At first, a cross-cultural training session sounded a little corny to me--until I blew my nose too loudly and offended an entire room full of people. That was when I understood just how important that training would be in building relationships with people whose language I couldn't speak. Coming here with barely any knowledge of Korean language or culture (I know, I know, I'm awful) was stressful. It would have been so much more stressful had I not been able, say, to go over my contract with a CIEE coordinator during job cuts or to be reassured that I could go to a Korean-speaking doctor with the flu and not be treated for shingles instead.

In the end, I'm glad that I went with CIEE. Even though the program is expensive, it has been a good resource to have.

Yes, I recommend this program


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About CIEE Teach Abroad

CIEE offers paid teaching positions in Chile, China, Czech Republic, Morocco, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, and Vietnam, and volunteer programs in Spain and Portugal, for university graduates looking to teach English abroad and immerse themselves in...