South Korea is well known for its high regard for tradition, innovative thinking, and emphasis on education. Indeed, the country is considered a forward-thinking country because of its impressive educational system, which aims to promote academic excellence, holistic development, global competitiveness, creativity, innovation, cultural value, and identity.

South Korean higher education plays a significant role in the nation’s – and its citizens’ – educational development, especially with the increasing need for professionals in various sectors of the economy. The education structure builds students to the best of their capacity, thereby making them assets in the country. That said, this article provides general information about higher education in South Korea to give you an ideal picture of what attending a higher institution in Korea is like. Read till the end for all the details.

What Grading System Do Higher Education in South Korea Use?

The grading system used by South Korea’s higher education institutions is referred to as the “grade point average” or GPA system. It is also used by American schools. This system involves using letter grades, which are determined after students’ scores for each course in a semester are added up and averaged between 0.0 to 4.5 or 4.3, depending on the institution.

This grading system measures the academic performance of students and gives students an evaluation of their academic performance each semester. This system also facilitates the identification of students for certain opportunities. Students with higher GPAs are seen as academically brilliant and would be considered first for many educational benefits.

Types of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in South Korea

1. Colleges and Universities

Leading the list of South Korea’s higher education institutions are the universities and colleges, such as Hanyang University, Sejong University, and Yonsei University, which run programs that are designed to develop the mind through teaching and research of art, management, science, and other disciplines. These types of HEIs offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor’s degree programs.

2. Industrial Colleges

Industrial colleges are South Korean higher education institutions that offer both undergraduate and graduate studies. They train students to fit into the industrial economy. Courses like civil engineering and industrial management engineering ensure students can contribute to the development of their country’s industrial sector.

3. Teachers’ Colleges

Teachers’ colleges or universities of education in Korea train students to become elementary school teachers. An example is the Korea National University of Education, which offers courses like early childhood education and history education.

Students who complete their higher education at a South Korean teachers’ college would be granted a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctor’s degree, depending on the program.

4. Junior Colleges

Junior colleges like Jeonbuk Science College are post-secondary school educational institutions where students can obtain professional, academic, and vocational training immediately after graduating from high school or secondary school. Programs here typically run for two to three years. Upon completion of the program, students will earn an associate or bachelor’s degree, if they complete an advanced major program.

5. Technical Colleges

Technical colleges like the Korea Vocational College of Information and Technology are responsible for developing experts. They do so by imparting theoretical and practical knowledge in fields like applied sciences, information technology, and engineering.

Programs at technical colleges in Korea usually run for two years, after which students will be awarded an associate or bachelor’s degree, depending on the admissions qualification or program taken.

6. Cyber Universities and Colleges

Cyber colleges in Korea, like the Cyber University of Korea, train individuals in computer programming, cybersecurity, and information security. They usually run a distance learning program or online studies. Then, it will award its students an associate degree after two years or a bachelor’s degree after 4 years.

7. Polytechnic Colleges

Polytechnic colleges like Tech University of Korea, formerly Korea Polytechnic University, offer practical training that focuses on applied learning. Students who graduate from a polytechnic institution in Korea will be awarded an associate degree if they complete a course for multi-functional technicians, or a bachelor’s degree if they complete an advanced major course.

8. Distance Colleges

Distance colleges like Korea National Open University ensure students can obtain a degree without physical classes. Instead, learners attend classes through the use of information and communications media, after which they will be awarded either a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, depending on the chosen program.

9. Graduate Schools

The main purpose of graduate schools like Asia Life University is to educate students on theories of a discipline and ensure they conduct advanced academic research. Students who enroll in these graduate schools will be awarded a master’s degree or a doctor’s degree after completing their program.

10. Various Kinds of School

Various kinds of schools in Korea include schools similar to industrial colleges, teachers’ colleges, universities and colleges, cyber colleges, technical colleges, and junior colleges. Students will be awarded an associate degree if they attend an institution equivalent to a junior college, or a bachelor’s degree if they attend a school similar to a university.

Types of Degree Levels in South Korea

1. Bachelor’s Degree (Haksa)

Bachelor’s degree or “haksa” is an undergraduate degree awarded to students after the completion of an academic program at either a university, junior college, or polytechnic college. Students at this level usually study for a minimum of four years for most programs, although it can be as long as five years for architecture students and six years for medical students. Students must also earn over 140 credit points to be awarded a bachelor’s degree.

2. Master’s Degree (Suksa)

Master’s degree or “suksa” is awarded to individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent degree. These programs typically run for two years. During that period, students are expected to meet the school requirements, such as acquiring a minimum of 24 credits, passing relevant exams, and presenting a dissertation.

3. Doctorate Degree (Baksa)

A doctorate, also known as a doctor’s degree or ”baksa”, is awarded to those who have earned a master’s degree. Before students earn this degree, though, they must acquire a minimum of 36 credits, pass necessary exams, and present a dissertation to qualify for a doctorate. Doctorate programs typically run for at least one year, sometimes two.


South Korea’s outstanding higher education institutions make it one of the best places to acquire an education that suits your academic career and choice. HEIs in this country offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in various disciplines. Before you apply to one, though, it is important to do your research to find the most suitable school and program for you.


We hope this article has helped you on your path toward higher education in South Korea. If you’re eager to apply already, check out these Open Courses! Also, you can read insightful articles on our Study in Korea page!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

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