Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

Basically i was wondering if it was possible to get work even though i do not have a degree. My friend is looking into teaching as she is qualified with a BA degree but unfortunately i never finished mine due to personal reasons. Im a native english speaker but i know a little korean....are there any options for me?

Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

Hey Kac90,

More fortunately, there are better answers that some users will take the time to give you than haeundaechris. Unfortunately, you will find your share of trolls on these forums.....don't sweat it, they've go their own demons.

Nonetheless, its like this....without a degree you are going to find it extremely difiicult but thats not to say its impossible by any means. Depending on your location within the country there is a small chance of finding a school that will take a chance on paying you under the table. This comes along with a few strings. You will be here on a tourist visa which means you will be shelling out roughly 200K won every three months to do visa run to Hakata, Japan (via boat)...Plane will run about the same to Fukuoka. You will be working illegally....this in tern means that if caught you could be looking at a fine of 10mil won + deportation (although theres just a better chance you'll be booted and not welcomed back)...but thats not to say it could'nt happen. The school can drop you anytime....will not offer housing and holds all the cards with regard to your pay. You get no national pension or airfare as well. But, you could luck out. To add, private tutoring illegally is not uncommon practice here. You can offer conversational classes at hourly rates anywhere from 20k-50k depending on your skill level and what you can offer. My advice wuld be to start very low and build your rep and confidence before asking for more. Some people will ask for resumes and may be turned off that you don't have a degree so be prepared for that scenario. But this is a very real option....just know that it comes with the same risk as the aformentioned. Skype lessons are also a way to go....just post up on Craigslist and workout a payment system through paypal. Just be willing to drop your hourly down even more for those. So, to say that its impossible to work here is misguided and in all honesty just another example of someone not caring enough to take the time to give you a thoughtful answer. 

Either way, best of luck. 

Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

To the guy/gal who has just promoted working illegally to make things worse for us (qualified teachers), trying to get better jobs and wages... please do as your name suggests...HUSH.

I'm sure I speak for the majority in that we do not appreciate the promotion of illegal workers adding to the already surplus of teachers in this country.

I'm not knocking down the fact that someone may want to start a life in Korea without a Degree, but you have specifically taught him or her how to survive illegally as a teacher.

If you think you’re playing the hero by giving this person better advice than the previous commenters, you’re not…you are just making things worse.

Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

Some of the best teachers in Korea that I have met had no degree. I was one of them, and I was the go-man to come to when other teachers had a question on grammar, style, poetic verse, or what have you (sometimes).

I can understand your sense of propriety--sort of. In many ways of thinking tha I could agree with, it makes sense to have standards--but in this one, I think the all-encompassing degree-ticket is a bit faulty. It seems to be the only real criteria to judge a person over there. And yes, that is changing--but usually with the tendency toward more stringence. I think it may benecessary in some circumstances, but in others, it is silly--and cuts off a lot of opportunity and causes unnecessary pain.

Not all conversation schools should have to produce scholars, or even bachelor-degree-holders, in my opinion.

The main problem in Korea is that the institute industry is not regulated. Any fool can open a school, but the teacher is the one scrutinized, which is ridiculous. Case closed. So the result is even if you have the illusion you hope for, Mr. Smith, with a degree in English, he can wind up--and usually will--working at Mr. Kims Copy-topia. This is a placerun by Mr. Kim's seat-pants, where books are made from copying off the internet, twenty-somethings with issues are Mr. Kim's managers (more like sabateurs), and Mr. Kim's imperious wife is the director (with the school being finsnced by her insane mother), and so... the curriculum is a reflection of that of the competitors, the parents wield maniacal controling whim over same, and the contract is not worth a piece of toilet paper. I have seen it all in every way, shape and form. And Mr. Smith has his housing changed under his nose, his appliances traded around, his pay delayed (regularly), his schedule changed constantly, his private life impeded upon, and the list goes on--until he is throwing himself at soju and multiple relationships with the conniving girls he tries to date.

No one can come close to telling me what I experiencesd in seventeen years of teaching ESL (fifteen of those years in Korea) was my fantasy. This is not to say that there are not some wonderful people in ESL in Korea. But what I just described is par for the course. So what is the difference? Mr. Smith will be blamed for everything under the sun that goes wrong--including his difficulties with mixed-level classes where-in he must preside over not only wonderful children, but also those with severe disciplinary issues and mental disorders the parents and administrators refuse to recognize. And when he runs away, he is "a bad foreigner".

And more to the point of this issue, there are many who go over there--to Korea--with degrees in say, chemistry, photography or art, and they are good teachers, but just as many--logically--are not. Or, they have a fine education, but don't care much. I heard attoricous English coming from the mouth of degreed teachers all the time--in the schools, English I would be ashamed to speak.

The fact is, Korea would go virally-fluent if the rules were relaxed and a simple test of English usage and teaching skills accompanied the interview process. There are many well-spoken, consientious, good-hearted and talented people who can teach beacause they also have personality, artistic skill, and personal erudition--and these people are kept out of the loop--unless they are intrepid.

You should not fear another man or begrudge him opportunity because you are insecure of your skills. If you are not, than you don't care. These guys are not hurting anything and I certainly wasn't.

I met Philippinas and Russians teaching English in Korea and they were probably doing some harm--but the administrators either did not know or did not care.

I worked hard, parents, teachers, students, and administrators loved me (when they weren't hell-bent on only business and brown-nosing thopse involved with a princess-complex), and I helped the nation a great deal. Period.

A college degree can be helpful, but it is not necessary for people with talent and drive and integrity--to teach ESL, and the rules as they are... are hurting the situation (in some--perhaps many cases)--especially because Koreans still think a degree proves a personality, a well-rounded skill set, and a test of whether a degree reflects intellect and talent--or at least skill and integrity.

If a native-speaker cannot brush up on grammar and style, learn some educational games and some class-room management (maybe some linguistics, to boot), and then teach some of his native language, he can't really be a parent. That is what all these stuck up and fearful types are really saying, and it is ridiculous.

Not all rules and laws are sensible, helpful, or fair. Nazi Germany had a lot of rules, too.


Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

And your manner is terrible. The guy didn't ask for abuse, and how do you know he didn't leave out the punctuation because this is just a comment string? By the way, your writing is erroneous, too. And you are flat wrong, too. Even the major universities hire teachers off contract and do not ask for degrees--when it pertains to their institutes and temporary programs. It is not advisable, but it happens; in fact, I think Korea (perhaps less today, yes), even depends on a certain percentage of "illegal" teachers (what a stupid term).


BTW: You left out a pronoun and a coppula in your comment. Do you know what that means? Mr. Degree-holder?

Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

"Fortunately impossible to work here without a degree.


good thing your english is sub par, even on a soju tirade. maybe those esteemed individuals such as yourself chris should take their BA's and do this country a favor and resign immediately.


Kac90 to answer that question, yes it is possible to get a job here without a BA. I knew a guy here who came over to see his gf who worked at a hagwon (she had a BA) and he ended up getting a job (he was a plumber, no BA). But that's more of the fluke variety I would think. Some places may be more desperate (rural areas) so you may have better luck trying that route. Although I would think you would need some sort of certification (like TESOL, TEFL, etc). But if ppl like haeundae chris get jobs here that's a good thing, because it signifies there is most definitely hope for everyone.

Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

My husband has worked in Korea for 15 years minus a degree! Works in the shipubuilding and oil & gas industry. So the answer is yes you can work in Korea without a degree you just can't teach English! 

Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?


I appreciate your nobleness but your assertion that there is a surplus of teachers is a weird and very misinformed thing to say. I don't condone teaching illegally but listen, its no secret that it happens here, and in any other country you visit. I'm not telling the kid to buy and sell underaged girls out of a van, i'm letting him know that with very possible consequences (which I laid out in black and white), he/she can utilize their English ability to make a few dollars and experience this country. 

Again, Good Luck Kac90!

Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

If there is not a surplus of teachers here, then why have wages stagnated and stayed the same for multiple years?


Its easy, you want to come here with your girl, get the degree or learn to buils a ship. This country already employs far too many unqualified expats that demean the countries they hail from based on their actions; we needn't add more to the mix.

Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

hahahaha and possessing a degree simply means you won't demean the country and act in a less than desirable manner? get a grip man! trust me, many people over here possess a BA and aren't qualified to teach. That being said, teaching ESL to kids (especially in the public school sector) is something that most ppl with English as their mother tongue can do. Don't try and act like you're doing the country a favor by stating that only people with BA's are welcome/qualified to teach here. Sure it's going to be tough for him to find a job here, if you don't want to help the cause then don't. Why have salaries froze here? Well, if you compare Korea with essentially all other popular destinations it's still ranked as one of the highest paid places to teach. There are still plenty of jobs here available, but of course only for those 'qualified' and not posing a threat to Korean society.

Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

Feel free to rally for him then. I would rather people were to be ethical, but Dagger, I guess you are just not that...

Let alone the fact that to teach here you are supposed to have a BA. Does it really help? No, but it is a large investment that people made, and to cast that aside with your advice and say go for it is sad.

Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

I think the OP should be prepared to take responsibility for their actions if they get caught - and they will be caught. A friend of mine taught English in Japan under the table for about 5 months on a tourist visa, when one day he got a immigration agent in disguise... Suffice it to say that he was unceremoniously fined and deported and now has a criminal record.

I'm sure one gets in a lot deeper trouble for frauding a school or something.

That being said, no harm is being done. The worst thing to come out of it is that students learn no or poor English for their money. On the other hand, the OP could have a real talent for English and a passion for teaching  - they could really make a difference and be valued by their students regardless of their qualifications.

Do what you need to do, you're hardly selling drugs to old ladies!! Just be prepared to be looking over your shoulder all the time.

All the best. 


Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

I find this blog interesting, simply because I can't for the life of me understand why a degree is important for language teaching in the first place. In my degree I learnt to consume and synthesize large amounts of information, critically evaluate it, and form a conclusion based upon everything I’d read. I was required to ensure that comments were backed up by valuable supporting evidence and information, and to appropriately reference any sources used.

Well, in any language school I’ve worked in, I’ve never had any use for any of those skills. In fact, most schools would prefer teachers to keep their “informed opinions that are based upon evidence and respected research” to themselves. In my degree, which is not an education degree, I learnt nothing related to teaching or learning, and have used nothing from my degree in my teaching. However, my 1 month TEFL course has been useful. I learnt a lot in 1 month and pretty much everything I do in the classroom stems from what I learned in that course. I consider myself qualified because of my TEFL course, but not because of my degree. My only wish is that I’d done the Cambrdge CELTA so that my qualification would be more widely recognized.

For people coming to Korea without a degree, and being honest about it, I don’t see the problem. If you are telling a school that you don’t have a degree and they still hire you, then surely the only one guilty of wrongdoing is the person doing the hiring, and if there really is a surplus of teachers there then wouldn’t employers just wait for someone with a degree to come along to avoid any legal hassles?

Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

An alternative is to pick up your degree and work at the same time.

The following site explains how to go about studying at a university in Korea:

At the end of the article, it says that a student is allowed to work 20 hours part-time during the semester and unlimited hours during the vacation.

Though, it should be noted that it goes on to say "Applicants must have a recommendation letter from their faculty professor, have international-student status with a D-2 visa, and have been enrolled for more than six months (one semester) in a higher education institution, i.e. a two-year college or above. It is illegal for students who do not meet these criteria to work part-time in Korea."


Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?

I guess, you will come here and are determind enough too. I guess, you will do better than you expected- you will get cocky- you take on more work and risks- you will get caught- you will home just like all the others, and will have to pay for it! Goodluck! Seen them come and go.

FYI- Xmas- worked with a guy from Canada ,in Ulsan, who was here illegally working,whilst his Mrs was working here  legally. I say, it's up to you, you may get away with it for a day, week, month, year, decade. No one is looking, hunting, but some jealous Waykook or Korean you may have upset, without knowing so, will dob on ya. Immigration aren't looking for you.

Keep ya story straight an simple, you could get some fake qualification from Thailand (Masters are all the rage in Bangkok), never use the same copies, have multiple ones from different Unis, and you should be ok. Just change the qualfication, or the Uni on your resume to the job and your quids in with Hakwans. They don't care, they only care about the presence- and the cash! Tell them your a UK Female , F6 visa holder too, they'll believe you.

Tell people you work elsewhere- i.e. at the track, shipyards or something to keep them off of your scent. It's your colleagues, mates, so-called friends here that will dob ya in for a job they want. It's also the money shafter who wants to save money in the business. Do not tell people your "life story", how much you make and where you work, and you'll be safe-ish if your self-ish! Be friendly, yet aloof!


Immigration don't do much here , I think. They seem too lazy to go "Waykook" hunting, and if you ask me, you will be Ok. These guys will only find you if someone reports you, simple as that. However, I don't suggest you try it,unless you are prepared and save up for the fine. And, if you are caught , are prepared to lose all of the friends and that girl-boyfriend you might have had for a few years, months, proposed to.



Re: Is it possible to work in Korea without a degree?



Someone grossly unkind responded to you and insulted your English. Don't pay any attention to such twits. Your writing--as you know, lacked some standard punctuation--but there are plenty of teachers and even major company directors in Korea (Westerners) speaking incorrect English all the time. In fact, the second in command of the biggest, most successful English-serivices agency over there doesn't speak perfect English. I taught there for a long time with no degree because I was like you and because I arrived there in the beginning, when it didn't matter. I taught myself grammar, punctuation, and style.

I find mistakes in major media--constantly, in the publications of institutions I respect, such as The New York Times, NASA, and in others.

The second-worst situation--besides foreign teachers speaking and writing incorrectly is seeing the ubiquity of Korean "grammar teachers" and nationals from the Philippines on contracts over there, whose speech is explosively erroneous. And they think it is okay because the kids are young and correct the errors they pick up--later. Nothing could be more detrimental than a grammar teacher who does not speak perfectly.

All you have to do is get Strunk & Whit's Elements of Style. Read it through, learn its principles, and you will more usefual than a grammar teacher.

As for working illagally, I don't recommend it; is there a place for you? Yes. Are there thousands of opportunities? Yes. Are there agents who will help you? Yes. However, except in rare cases, you will be taken advantage of like a hungry hooker in a war-zone.

I was in Korea fifteen years, and I can tell you with as much certainty as you can trust gravity; Koreans can be sweet, helpful, and kind, but crafty is the middle name of the Republic, and even when you find farir people there, the situation illegal teachers are brought in to are often unstable and that means you will not get paid sometimes, you will work in shoddy conditions, people will connive around you, and when you discover poor materials, methods, and surroundsings, you will have to be mum and have no recourse. Finsh your degree and then go there, or go to China. China is like Korea eighteen years ago. Busting for teachers. And the rumor is it is far cooler. Cool is important. Uptight teaching environments turn the dream quickly to a nightmare.