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Masters Study in South Korea – A Guide for 2023

Written by Mark Bennett

Studying a Masters in Korea offers students the chance to get involved with one of the most vibrant and fast-moving higher education sectors in the modern world.

Korean universities are keen to seek out more international students to help drive future innovation. Its universities have also risen up the international rankings in recent years

This page will cover what you need to know about Masters in Korea, including tuition fees, funding and visa requirements.

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Postgraduate opportunities in South Korea – what’s on offer for 2023?

It's fair to say that South Korea has taken a central place in the modern world. Its high-tech consumer goods are changing the way people travel, communicate and consume information, while its pop music conquers old and new media platforms.

Korean universities have helped conduct the research that has driven the country's advances in high-tech fields. In turn, this expertise is being channelled into highly specialised postgraduate programmes.

As such, there are plenty of rewarding opportunities for Masters in South Korea!

Here are a few of the reasons why you should think about studying in Korea this year:

  • International outlook – Universities in South Korea are keen to attract overseas students. Around 30% of courses at Korean universities are delivered in English.
  • Academic performance – South Korea takes great pride in its education system. A Masters gives you the chance to experience this first-hand.
  • Funding opportunities – The Korean government provides financial support to around 2,000 international students each year.

Masters Study in South Korea - Key Details
Universities 376
Oldest University Sungkyunkwan University (1398)
International Students 111,568
Course Length 1-3 years
Average Fees ₩2,056,932-16,229,862 (USD $12,230-1,550) per semester
Academic Year March to February

Coronavirus updates for international students at South Korean universities

For updates on the impact of coronavirus on studying a Masters in South Korea, please check the official Study in Korea website.

South Korean universities

South Korea's higher education system has expanded rapidly over the last 50 years. There are now several types of institution offering post-secondary qualifications in the country. Masters degrees are usually offered at general research universities. More specialised technical colleges, industrial universities and universities of education tend to only offer undergraduate or equivalent qualifications.

Domestic universities

Universities in Korea are either:

  • private institutions (which tend to charge higher fees) or
  • public ('national') universities administered by local or national government

Both types of institution offer high quality postgraduate programmes and are well represented in domestic and international rankings.

International universities

In recent years Korea's domestic universities have been joined by a growing number of international campuses established by overseas institutions.

Many of these are hosted at the Songdo Global University Campus, run by Yonsei University in Seoul. Songdo includes branches of the State University of New York (SUNY), Ghent University, George Mason University and the University of Utah.

Take a look at our article on international campuses for more information on this mode of study in South Korea.

Graduate schools

As a Masters student in South Korea you are also likely to find yourself based in one of the country's graduate schools. Some of these are affiliated with larger universities, while others operate independently. A large number focus primarily on Masters-level training in specialised fields, though some also offer the opportunity to proceed on to PhD research.

Accreditation

The accreditation of South Korean universities is still developing to keep pace with the rapid expansion of its higher education sector. Currently, the Korean Council for University Education evaluates the performance of member institutions. This includes most of the country's top universities.

University rankings

South Korea's universities perform very well in all three main global rankings, appearing in the top 200 of each league table. This reflects its reputation for academic excellence.

Find out more in our guide to South Korean postgraduate rankings.


Top 5 South Korean Universities in 2023
University THE 2023 QS 2023 ARWU 2022
Seoul National University 56 29 98
Yonsei University (Seoul Campus) 78 73 201-300
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) =91 =42 201-300
Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) =163 71 301-400
Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) =170 99 201-300
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

Do rankings matter for Masters degrees?

International rankings use all sorts of metrics to assess universities, but they aren't all equally relevant to postgraduate study. That's why we've put together a guide to university rankings for Masters students.

Course types

A Masters in Korea will usually require at least two years of study. Course content will vary between institutions and across different fields, but you should generally expect to complete coursework to the value of 24 credits (roughly equivalent to 48 of the ECTS credits used by universities following the Bologna system) before passing a final examination.

You will then research and submit a thesis, which must be evaluated by three or more examiners before your degree can be awarded. Masters in South Korea are longer and involve more assessments than in many other countries. The upside is that you'll come away with a qualification that demonstrates wide-ranging competence in your field! This will leave you well prepared to find work or carry out further research.

Academic year

The Korean academic year is divided into two semesters, with breaks from July to August and from December to February. This long winter break may be particularly attractive if you're hoping to travel home and visit family during seasonal holidays – or travel and explore within South Korea itself.

Be prepared though, South Korean weather can be as exciting as its landscapes and attractions! Hot summers are accompanied by a short monsoon season and temperatures drop significantly in winter.

Fees and funding for Masters degrees in Korea

University in South Korea may appear expensive, but you should balance this with the fact that no additional fees are charged to international students. The South Korean government also offers several scholarships and funding programmes specifically for foreign postgraduates.

Exact fees vary between different institutions, but courses in subjects such as Medicine or Engineering are typically more expensive (and take the longest to complete). Humanities programmes usually incur lower fees.

A Masters in Korea will typically cost between ₩2,056,932 (USD $1,550) and ₩16,229,862 (USD $12,230) per semester. Private universities usually have higher fees than national universities.

Remember that fees are often given in amounts per semester – the cost for a full academic year will be twice these amounts.

Other costs

There are a few additional costs Masters students in South Korea should factor in:

  • Application fees are usually between ₩26,540 and ₩265,410 (USD $20-200)
  • National Health Insurance (NHI) is mandatory, costing around ₩26,540 (USD $20) per month
  • A language course will typically cost around ₩1,061,650 (USD $800) for an intensive three-week course or ₩1,857,890 (USD $1,400) for a ten-week programme

For information on accommodation prices and living costs, see our article on living in South Korea as a postgraduate student.

Funding

Universities in Korea are generally keen to encourage high-quality international students and may offer full or partial fee-waivers. However, in keeping with South Korea's approach to education these may still be very competitive and you should enquire early.

The South Korean government also runs its own scholarship schemes for international students:

More scholarship programmes are listed on the Korean government's StudyinKorea website.

Applying for a Masters in Korea

The South Korean academic year is divided into a spring and an autumn Semester. Your Masters course may start in either.

For entry onto a course starting in March, you will need to apply between September and November. For entry onto a course commencing in September the application period runs from May to June.

You will usually apply directly to your chosen university, but the Korean government also offers an online service for overseas students who register at its StudyinKorea website.

Qualifications

The requirements of individual institutions may vary, but you should hold a good undergraduate degree (or expect to receive one before you start your Masters programme).

South Korea's education culture is highly competitive. Admission to some courses (particularly those at top domestic universities) may require a first class undergraduate degree.

Additional requirements

Basic admission standards for all universities are set up by the South Korean government, but individual institutions have a lot of freedom to evaluate candidates according to their own criteria. Most institutions will require you to submit the following materials as part of your application:

  • A completed copy of your institution's application form.
  • A personal introduction and outline of your study plan.
  • A letter of recommendation, typically provided by a faculty member where you did your undergraduate degree.
  • Documentation of your existing academic record, confirming (if necessary) that you are expected to receive a Bachelors degree (or equivalent) of the required standard.
  • Proof of your nationality (a photocopy of your passport will usually suffice).
  • Proof of proficiency in English and / or Korean (as required by your course).

You’ll also need to provide proof of financial sufficient funds, to cover you tuition and livng costs. The Korean government stipulates evidence of a bank balance of ₩19,905,586 (USD $15,000) for students who will be studying in the capital region, or ₩17,251,508 (USD $13,000) for those studying anywhere else in Korea. If you will be supported by a sponsor, you may need to provide evidence of their employment or other means.

Practical courses (such as those in creative arts or physical education disciplines) may also require a portfolio or other proof of your competence.

Language requirements

South Korea is keen to internationalise its higher education, and many courses are now taught wholly or partly in English. This is especially likely to be the case in graduate schools. However, some courses may still require knowledge of Korean. You should confirm in advance what (if any) the language requirements there are for your Masters programme. Where necessary you may be asked to take a Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK). The normal requirement in these cases is a score of Level 3 or above.

South Korea itself has a strong Anglophone tradition, and English is taught as a compulsory secondary language in schools. You will therefore find that many of the people you meet speak English at some level. However, gaining experience with a new language is a valuable opportunity to enhance your CV while studying a Masters abroad.

You will probably find that your university offers language education for international students. These usually take the form of intensive three-week courses or longer ten-week programmes.

Student visas for Masters in Korea

The South Korean visa system has some very specific requirements, so you'll need to make sure you have various documents prepared when you apply. It is sometimes possible to speed up your application with sponsorship from a South Korean National. Your university's international office may be able to assist with this if relevant in your case.

Visa requirements

As an international student doing a Masters study in South Korea you will usually need to acquire a Visa for Regular Educational Program (D-2). You should begin your application by contacting a South Korean embassy in your home country, with the following documents ready to submit:

  • A passport, valid for the duration of your intended stay in South Korea.
  • A completed visa application form.
  • A processing fee, usually between USD $40 and USD $90.
  • Confirmation of admission to your programme of study, provided by your institution. This should confirm your aptitude and financial capability.
  • Certification of your educational record and qualifications.
  • Financial verification, demonstrating that you have at least ₩11,730,150 (USD $10,000) available for your studies. This can take the form of a current bank balance and / or confirmation of funding or other financial support.

In some cases you may be able to apply for a Certificate for Confirmation of Visa Issuance to simplify and speed up your application process. This can be submitted in place of documents confirming admission, educational record and financial verification, but requires sponsorship by someone within South Korea. Certificates are issued by Korean immigration offices and are valid for three months.

Registration

You (or an approved representative from your university) will need to visit the immigration office that oversees your region within 90 days of arriving in South Korea.

There you can apply for an Alien Registration Card, which you’ll need to carry at all times during your stay. The fee for this is ₩30,000 (roughly USD $22). You will need to present a certificate of enrolment at your university, your passport and a passport-sized photo. You should also notify your country's embassy in South Korea of your arrival. .

If you wish to leave and re-enter South Korea during your studies you will need to submit a report form through your university.. Absence during the period of your visa should not exceed 30 days, unless you need to travel as part of your programme. In these cases you will require confirmation from a relevant member of faculty.

Next steps

A Masters in Korea will leave you well-placed to pursue PhD study. It will also equip you particularly well for work in the hi-tech fields for which the country is renowned.

Regardless of your specialism, your experiences as a postgraduate student studying abroad will demonstrate your adaptability and may be especially attractive to employers doing business in Asia.

Find your perfect Masters now

Ready to start looking for your Masters? Begin your search with us or take a look at our guide to life in South Korea.

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Last updated: 02 December 2022