Study in South Korea: the ultimate guide for a PhD in 2024
South Korea

The Ultimate Guide to Studying in South Korea in 2024

Browse all PhD programmes in South Korea

  • Mar-Dec Academic Year
  • 2 Listed Institutes
  • 112,000 Int. Students
  • 526,000 Students
  • 51,740,000 Population

Study in South Korea

Nicknamed the Land of the Morning Calm, South Korea is a unique blend of old and new, ancient and modern, nature and technology. You can experience a long historical landscape, full of natural beauty, with the plus side of seeing a major tech and entertainment hub in the city of Seoul.

These days, South Korea has achieved popularity among international students – and for good reason! There is a wide variety of universities and programmes for students everywhere to pursue their Master’s and Bachelor’s degree programmes. Plus, living and studying in South Korea is relatively inexpensive for most people. So, going to South Korea would ensure both stunning surroundings, interesting friends, and great value.

Why study in South Korea?

1. Affordable tuition fees

A cool thing about South Korea is that it doesn't differentiate between local and international students. Both categories pay the same fees. And these fees aren't even that high, especially when compared with how much you'd pay in the US, Canada, or Australia.

For most Bachelor's and Master's programmes, costs start at 1,000–1,500 USD and can reach 21,000 USD per semester. This may not sound exactly cheap, but remember that at American universities tuition can easily jump over 50,000 USD per year.

Engineering, Medicine, and Humanities are often the most expensive academic disciplines.

2. Plenty of scholarships are available

Many South Korean universities offer scholarships to international students. The requirements for each scholarship are different, but many such prizes are often awarded based on your previous GPA or academic performance.

3. The education system is excellent

South Korea prides itself with some of the best universities in both Asia and the entire world. Its schools are often ranked among the best higher education institutions, and South Korean students occupy one of the top 3 places in the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) Survey Results.

4. South Korea is an Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) leader

When it comes to ICT, few countries can match the impressive progress and contribution of big South Korean companies like Samsung, LG, or SK Hynix. It is also an important player in the automobile industry, thanks to Hyundai and Kia.

5. Explore the beauty of South Korean culture and history

While studying and living in South Korea, you can discover its unique culture and history by visiting amazing monuments and sites, such as: the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the N Seoul Tower, the Bukchon Hanok Village, the Lotte World adventure and water park, the Nami Island, Everland, Seongsan Ilchulbong, etc.

What it is like to study in South Korea?

Two words: constant excitement. If you find yourself studying and living in South Korea, you’ll have endless chances for adventure. Major technology hubs like Seoul, alongside wonderful countryside and mountain regions – you can spend all of your time outside of classes exploring and soaking in the scenery.

Apparently, in South Korea, there is a reputation of students dressing nicely to all of their classes. Several international students and locals have reported on this tradition, and it has come to be a stereotype of Korean university life – every student dresses up as if they are going to a job interview.

This is a stark contrast from, say, American universities, where students roll immediately out of bed in their pyjamas and slippers. In South Korea, it’s all about the professional look that compels everyone to think: ‘this guy must be important.’

What to study in South Korea?

South Korea is a place known for embracing technology, entertainment, and media. It’s a place where you can go to be inventive, bringing new and fresh ideas into the world. But, it’s also a place with a long, interesting, complicated political history, making it a great place for social scientists and history geeks.

Here are some ideas for subjects to find in South Korea:

Where to study in South Korea?

By ‘major cities’ we mostly mean Seoul. And can you blame us? It’s such a wonderful place. It’s surrounded by mountains, it’s a bustling city full of life, people, and entertainment; and it’s got some excellent university options.

Seoul has started to turn into a hugely diverse city, welcoming more and more international people every year. Plus you’ll have a legendary nightlife in Seoul, with plenty of places to meet people and have fun after your classes.

Which universities and colleges to attend in South Korea?

South Korea has really started to boost its offer of English-taught study options for international students. Universities there are starting to gain a widespread reputation for producing some of the sharpest minds in the world, and bringing brilliant students into contact with the careers of their dreams.

Here are some universities to keep an eye out for:

How to apply

Each university in South Korea has its own system on their website that allows future students to apply for and enrol in their degree programmes. So, once you select the university of your choice, you can go through their application and submit your materials there.

Here are some of the basic requirements you’ll need for every application:

  • A scan of your diploma (high school or Bachelor’s degree)
  • A transcript/record of your previous courses
  • A scan of your passport and/or birth certificate
  • Your CV
  • Testing scores
  • Evidence of scholarship or funding
  • Letters of recommendation (between 2-3)
  • Portfolio and/or writing samples 

Helpful ways to make sure you qualify for a university in South Korea

Take Preparation Courses

These kinds of courses enable degree-seeking students to get an extra educational boost just before they start their Master’s degree or other post-graduate degree programmes.

Try a pre-M.B.A., pre-Law, or pre-Medicine programme, as well as any other foundation or preparation courses that will allow you to study in the degree programme of your choice.

Improve your English through an English-language prep course

If you’re attending a degree programme in South Korea you will need to prove that your language skills are good enough to participate in the classes and understand the lectures. These courses will also prepare you for any of the English-language tests that universities require.

English-language tests

To apply to study in South Korea, you’ll need to provide proof you have a diploma for your English proficiency.

The certificates generally accepted by the universities in South Korea are:

Living in South Korea

Let's take a closer look at tuition and living expenses in South Korea:

Tuition fees

Like most countries around the world, South Korea separates their universities into public (government-backed) and private universities.

Yet, one of the unique things about South Korea is that they don’t charge a different price to international students; instead, foreign students have the same fees as their local South Korean classmates.

Tuition fees at public universities

  • 1,600–10,800 USD/semester for Bachelor's degrees
  • 1,100–20,900 USD/semester for Master's degrees

Engineering and Medicine degrees are usually the most expensive.

International students who enrol at private universities should expect to pay higher tuition fees.

Cost of living in South Korea

South Korea can be a rather expensive place for your studies with average living costs of 900–1,400 USD/month. But, you can find plenty of ways to save money and budget properly while you’re there.

Here is a breakdown of costs in South Korea:

  • accommodation (university dormitory): 600–1,400 USD/semester
  • accommodation (private rent): 300–400 USD/month plus the security deposit (3,000–5,000 USD)
  • food and groceries: 300–500 USD/month
  • medical insurance: 20 USD/month
  • monthly transport pass (train, metro, bus): 40 USD
  • 3-course meal for 2 at a midrange restaurant: 34 USD
  • Milk: 2.10 USD
  • Loaf of bread: 2.45 USD
  • Cappuccino: 3.80 USD

About South Korea

South Korea, officially called The Republic of Korea, is an independent state in East Asia, covering the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The country is fenced in by the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan, the closest neighbouring countries are North Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan. With an overall population of over 50 million, the capital Seoul- a vibrant city, second largest in the world, is home to almost 20 million people.

Interesting facts about South Korea
  • When Korean’s write a name in red ink, it means that someone is dead or is about to die.
  • In 1999, South Korea passed a law requiring all online shopping and banking to be done using Internet Explorer. It is still in place. Probably why they miss out on so many deals.
  • South Korean wedding garments are usually red, which is a symbol of good fortune
  • When taking a photo, South Koreans say “kimchi” instead of “cheese.”

Universities, colleges and schools in South Korea

Interested in scholarships for South Korea? Check out our scholarship search page.

How to Apply to a Master's in South Korea

If you've decided to study a Master's degree at a university in South Korea, you will have to gather the right documents to prove that you fit the university requirements. Provide complete personal information, previous qualifications, financial information, and a personal statement.

What documents do I need to provide to apply in South Korea?

To apply to a university in South Korea you will likely be asked to provide some of the following documents:

  • birth certificate;
  • recent photos;
  • your passport or national identity card;
  • one or more reference letters from past employers or teachers;
  • copies of past diplomas or certificates, including your graduated Bachelor's degree;
  • academic transcripts;
  • letter of intent;
  • Curriculum Vitae;
  • Some form of proof that you can support your stay in the country during your studies.

Depending on the subject or specialization of your chosen Master's, you might also be asked to provide scores for additional tests like the GRE, GMAT or LSAT. Check if your programme requires any of these, or others.

The list of documents depends on the specific requirements of universities in South Korea so you might be asked to include additional documents. It’s also likely you’ll have to provide official English translations of your documents, or translations in the local language.

Prove your English skills

Because you’ll study an international degree in English, you'll have to present a language certificate. Some popular options for international students are IELTS, TOEFL or C1 Advanced language certificates. You’ll have to meet a minimum language score set by the university, and your test scores shouldn’t be older than 1-2 years. If you don’t meet the minimum language requirements, you will have to improve your skills and scores by taking an English preparation course.

Application deadlines for South Korea

The deadlines for applying to a Master's in South Korea are usually during summer (June-July), or in winter (January-February). Keep in mind that some universities don’t have application deadlines, which means you can apply whenever you are ready.

To avoid delays or missed deadlines send your required documents with plenty of time in advance.

Interesting programmes for you

Find PhDs Degrees in South Korea

Recent international policies promote international university cooperation and student exchange between countries worldwide. High-quality study and PhD degrees are made more available to students in order to create a global educational network, achievable through student and staff mobility. Career and research oriented programmes support international student development.

University cooperation enables students study worldwide, for instance in Australia, Asia, Europe and the United States and provides ways of recognizing previous degrees. Different study options offer appropriate alternatives to students, depending on their preferred mode of study.

Many study programmes in Australia, Asia, Europe and North America are English-taught. The most popular international student destinations include the following countries: Australia, Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, the United States, and more. However, these are not the only countries offering English-taught education. The rest of the world is full of endless study choices, from highly ranked to smaller, more specialized, universities.

PhD (postgraduate) Degrees

If you want further education beyond the undergraduate level or if you want more personal development or a career in academia, you could obtain a PhD degree. PhD degrees are postgraduate programmes that usually follow a Master's, MPhil or MRes, but there might be additional requirements depending on the university. Students are required to do their own research in a chosen topic. With the help of a supervisor, you develop knowledge and analytical skills in a specific or multidisciplinary field and you carry out independent research. The duration of a PhD degree differs per country and institution. Sometimes your own research is accompanied by work for the department such as giving seminars or small group teaching.

PhD students are required to study on campus under close supervision, but there are universities that accept students enrolled into a part-time distance education PhD degree. Studying on campus can also be full-time as well as part-time, in which case the part-time variant is normally twice as long as the full-time study.

Discover other countries

The Netherlands is a very popular study destination. Internationals choose this beautiful country because Dutch universities are some of the best in Europe, the living standards are high, foreigners are always welcome, and you get to live in one of the happiest and safest countries in the world. The Netherlands is also renowned for innovative technologies and engineering solutions, which is reflected in the wide range of Engineering degrees offered by universities. English is spoken by around 90% of Dutch citizens, so forget about language barriers. Also, bike lanes and the “cycling culture” will help you to stay fit and healthy, and there are diverse job opportunities and internships for international students.
Finland is an excellent choice for all internationals and especially for EU/EEA students who can study at local public universities for free. The beautiful Nordic country has one of the best education systems in the world and ranks among the safest and happiest nations in the world. You can also choose from over 400 English-taught programmes. In your spare time, you can explore the breathtaking Finnish nature and landscapes, as well as the numerous lakes that give the country the nickname ‘The Land of a Thousand Lakes.’ From here, you can easily travel to neighbouring countries like Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, or Estonia.
Ireland is among the top countries in the world in terms of quality of life, peace, safety, and development. It represents an appealing blend of beautiful landscapes, English-speaking environments, and a strong, welcoming, and rich culture — of which the Irish people are very proud. International students also enjoy the full support of Irish universities, which hire and train staff that are able to help with accommodation, studies, visa details, or any other challenge.
Norway is a paradise for anyone who wants to study abroad for free. Public universities don’t charge any tuition fees. This policy applies to all international students, regardless of their nationality. The academic standard is very high, and professors are easy to approach, always willing to go the extra mile for their students. Additionally, classes are organised in small groups, which further improves learning and cooperation. You can choose from a wide range of English-taught programmes, and you don’t need to worry about language barriers outside of classes either, because most Norwegians speak English as a second language. Internationals should find it easy to adapt to Norway’s society, which is based on equality and fair opportunities — reflected both in the legal system and in people’s behaviour.
Greece is the cradle of European civilization and the birthplace of philosophy. Greek universities and colleges have a long history in academics, attracting international students from all over the world. Classes are not typically formal, so you can expect open discussions between students and professors, in line with the classical philosophical debate tradition. EU/EEA students don’t pay any tuition at public universities, while non-EU/EEA citizens pay low fees. In Greece, you’ll also enjoy the well-known local hospitality and the wonderful Mediterranean climate. There are many landmarks and monuments waiting to be explored, including the Acropolis, Delphi, the Parthenon, and many others.
Sweden is a very ambitious, eco-friendly, and visionary country. For example, by 2040, it aims to produce all its energy from renewable sources. Universities play an important role in achieving development goals, thanks to their world-class research facilities. If you’re from the EU/EEA, you can study at public universities for free. As a student, you will discover and easily adopt the three main values of Swedish society: freedom, equality, and sustainability. These values are reflected in every aspect of the local society, and you’ll quickly learn to appreciate them. Language barriers are also almost non-existent since around 80% of Swedes speak English.
Switzerland has one of the most advanced free-market economies, which is reflected in the high living standards and the satisfaction of people living here. In terms of higher education, Swiss universities are constantly ranked among the best in Europe, and they shine in areas like Business, Tourism, Culinary Arts, and Engineering. When compared to Western universities, tuition fees in Switzerland are affordable, and all studies — especially PhD programmes — are world-class. You’ll have the opportunity to develop in a multilingual environment and try learning international languages like German, French, or Italian. If you settle down here, the unemployment rates are low, and salaries are well above the European average.
United Kingdom
United Kingdom
Universities in the UK are some of the most highly regarded in the world, and for good reasons. Some of the world's most highly regarded research takes place in British universities, which are regularly featured in international rankings. While studying in the UK, you will be able to develop in a highly multicultural environment with high chances of pursuing lucrative careers after graduation. The teaching in the UK is designed to encourage new idea generation, encouraging individual research and group cooperation, through class discussions and creative assignments.
Canada is one of the most popular study destinations in the world due to its high focus on the quality of its universities and its emphasis on attracting international students who can later immigrate. Canadians are very welcoming to international students and they invest a lot into making sure students are safe, treated fairly, and enjoy their stay in the country. Study in one of the strongest economies in the world while enjoying a high living standard and a flexible study environment. Classes have smaller student groups ensuring everyone gets the attention they need, and encouraging group assignments and debates.
United States
United States
The United States is home to some of the most prestigious universities and colleges in the world. With over 150 universities featured in international rankings, the U.S. has some of the best business schools, medical schools, and engineering schools. Universities and colleges in the U.S. are well known for academic flexibility and ways to customize your study experience with optional studies and extracurricular activities. Depending on where you will be studying, you will be able to visit iconic places like the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Goldengate Bridge, The Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Disney's Magic Kingdom Park, and much more.
Israel attracts international students through high standards of education and a wide range of English-taught degrees. Local universities shine in areas like Technology, Sciences, Business, and Entrepreneurship. In fact, Israel is a renowned land of innovation, having earned itself the nickname ‘Start-Up Nation’. While living and studying here, you will discover a wonderful culture developed throughout 4,000 years of history; different cultural influences are noticeable everywhere, especially in Israeli food, art, and history. In major cities, English is widely spoken, so communication shouldn’t be a problem. In your spare time, you can visit one of the over 400 nature reserves and 80 national parks.
By studying in Australia you will take advantage of the great student environment both inside and outside classrooms. In addition to some of the best business and engineering schools in the world, you will be able to explore a greatly developed country that still retains its wild side with its warm climate, beautiful beaches, and the Great Outback, with over 500 national parks. Many Australian universities provide internships and work placements, preparing students early on for the job market.


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