You Should Get a TESOL to Teach ESL in Korea

Is teaching English abroad, specifically in a country like Korea, cool? Yes, it’s cool.

Is it challenging and frustrating at times?  Yes, it is. Does it make you want to go back home at times? Yes, that too.

By and large, though, being able to work and live abroad is an experience that not everyone has the option or fortitude to do. Even if it’s for only one year, it’s something that anyone should do if they have the chance.

Having the chance to do it these days is becoming just that – a chance. The global economy has decided to take a long vacation and many people are out of a job. Also, the countries that are in the ESL game are now requiring more of their teachers as the competition to succeed in English increases. Not only that, because of the increase in jobless individuals in English speaking countries, the sheer gene pool of applicants has shot through the roof, and along with the increased volume is the increase in credentials.

ITA - Photo LogoGoing by the wayside are the days where any Tom, Dick, and Hank can just go teach ESL. Nowadays, teachers need experience, or a certificate of some sort – or BOTH.

There is a multitude of certificates to choose from like CELTA, TESOL/TEFL, IELTS, teaching licenses, and others. To teach in a country like Korea, you can get away without having a certification if you are open to private school (hagwon) jobs, but even they are slowly coming up the curve as they learn they can now ask for it and get it.

For Korea’s public school program, a TESOL certificate is becoming a mandatory requirement. More cities are asking for it, and some are even taking it a step further and asking for it to be done in-class (as opposed to online).

That said, an online certificate is still fine, and it’s something that everyone should look to obtain. It will prepare you for teaching ESL better than coming in cold. Some certifications require an in-class practicum and this will help get your feet wet at a minimum. When I taught my first class, it was my FIRST class. EVER. That was a perspiring endeavor to say the least.

Nonetheless, I went on to obtain a 120 hour TESOL certificate, a 50 hour Business English certificate, and a Florida State Teaching License. It’s been a tough road, but worth it now that it’s all behind me.

If you want to teach abroad, it won’t kill you to put in a few months to get a certificate. You’ll find my words here are true in the long run.


  1. Hi Tom,

    I’m thinking about getting a Business English certificate, and I was wondering where you got it through. When I google it, most of the results are from Cambridge English, and I’m not really sure what to look for. Your guidance would be really appreciated!!

    I also love your website and it’s been very useful for me as I am looking into teaching in either Korea or Japan. Keep up the good work!


    • Hi, Alexis. I got a TESOL (120 hr) and as a package deal I received the Business English course (50 hrs) through ITTT. I’ve spoken about them on a few occasions in my older vlogs so they are offering a 10% discount for those that come through my site. You’ll see the link in the side navigation bar of my site.

      When I did it I happened to use the deal with a tutor so I could get some useful feedback seeing that I did it online. I found them to be a great company and they seem to be well-recognized from my own experiences.

  2. I’d love to be able to travel abroad and do something meaningful, like teach English. I’d like to be able to have options with positions, so maybe I’ll have to look at getting a TESOL certificate like you suggest. Plus, I’m sure that it would make me a better teacher and I can do more good. Thanks for the post.

    • Nick, teaching abroad is a unique, enriching experience. I highly recommend it. It would be very beneficial to obtain a TESOL/TEFL certificate to help you land a decent job. ITTT is who I used to get 120 hr TESOL and Business English certifications. On my side bar you’ll see their link. Good luck.

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