Over the past few years, South Korea has become one of the most popular countries for foreigners to live in. While most people who move to the East Asian country teach English or find an office job, a career in nursing is a viable way of supporting yourself there.
Pursuing a career as a foreign nurse in South Korea is challenging. The process of recognizing a foreign university degree and learning the Korean language might take some time. However, with the right plan and plenty of determination, it can be done.

There are plenty of benefits to working as a nurse in South Korea; the country possesses a state-of-the-art medical system, and you will have to opportunity to work with some of the best doctors in the world. Furthermore, the work culture is appealing: Koreans know how to work hard and play hard.

How to Become a Nurse in South Korea

Step 1. Study Nursing (Preferably in South Korea)

To become a nurse in South Korea, you’ll need to have your university degree approved by the Korea Health Personnel Licensing Examination Institute or KHPLEI. Unlike some other countries, Korea has a limited list of approved universities, which you find on the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s (MOHW) website.

If you hold a nursing degree from an approved university, you’ll need to have it approved by the KHPLEI’s licensing board. The amount of time this takes varies, but you should budget for a few months to be sure. The board will review your credentials and notify you of their decision via email. Note that your documents will need to be translated into Korean to be accepted.

The most straightforward way to ensure that your degree will be accepted in South Korea is to study nursing there. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need to be fluent in Korean for this, although universities have recently been adding classes in English. As a nurse in Korea, your day-to-day language will be Korean. Being fluent in English is also a valuable skill, though, there are only a few foreigners in the country who might need medical attention.

Some universities you should consider are Seoul National University, Yonsei University, and Korea University. Most large universities in Korea have affiliate hospitals, giving you a real-life setting to learn about nursing and apply what you’ve learned.

See Also: 5 Best Subjects to Study in Korea

Step 2. Learn Korean

Knowing how to speak Korean is an essential step to becoming a nurse in South Korea. The Korean licensing exam, nursing university courses, and day-to-day work are all conducted in the local language. Thus, you’ll need to demonstrate proficiency to become a registered nurse.

The most popular way to validate your Korean proficiency is the Test of Proficiency in Korean or TOPIK. This test is available both in South Korea and overseas and is entirely written. In contrast to most other language tests, in which you take a different exam depending on your level, all TOPIK examinees take a single test and are assigned a level based on their score. There is no set requirement by the KHPLEI, but you should aim for at least a 4 or 5.

Korean, like many Asian languages, can seem intimidating to learn, especially if you’re from the West. Luckily, the recent popularity of South Korea’s pop culture has meant that the demand for learning the language has risen, too. There are many online and print resources available to non-native speakers.

Step 3. Take the KMLE

The Korean Medical Licensing Examination, or KMLE, is the test you need to take to practice medicine in South Korea. This test is not just for nurses but for all other medical professionals, too. It is an essential step to becoming a nurse in South Korea. This is the same test that local Koreans take. As mentioned, it is administered entirely in Korean, so be sure to brush up on your language skills first.

The KMLE was recently reformed to make it more practical. Back then, it mostly involved memorizing medical terms and procedures. While this is still a part of the test, there is now a greater emphasis on case studies and problem-solving.

Step 4. Apply for a Work Visa

To get a work visa in Korea, you’ll need to find a company to sponsor you. In the case of nurses, this is the hospital or care facility you work in. As a medical professional, you should apply for an E-5 or E-7 visa. If you’re still looking for a job, there are several short-term visas available.

Once you’ve obtained a visa and are working in the country, you’ll need to apply for an Alien Residence Card or ARC. This will allow you to get a SIM card and access other services.

Step 5. Find a Job

Looking for a job in South Korea as a foreigner isn’t as challenging as it used to be. Hospitals are increasingly looking for staff who can communicate in English and other languages, which gives you an advantage from the start.

If you studied nursing in the country, your first job will likely be with your university’s affiliate hospital. You’ll probably work there to some degree as a student, and if you do well, you’ll find many long-term opportunities. Besides this, you can also apply through regular job portals like Glassdoor, Indeed.com, and LinkedIn.

FAQs How to Become a Nurse in South Korea

How Much Are Nurses Paid in South Korea?

Nurses in Korea are paid approximately 3.8 million a month. For a single person, the salary is enough to cover housing and living costs. If you own a house, or if rent is covered by your employer, you will be able to live comfortably in South Korea and have room to save money. If, however, you have to pay rent yourself, you will not have enough wiggle room to save up. Nurses are expected to make as much as ₩56,840,996 a year (42,871.38 USD), so if you want to pursue a degree in nursing in Korea, now is the best time to apply.


In conclusion, South Korea is an excellent destination for anyone who wants to pursue a career in nursing. South Korea is renowned for the rich cultural experience it provides to those who want to visit the country or settle there. The healthcare system is very sophisticated, with health facilities equipped to the brim with the latest medical technologies.


We hope that you found this article on the steps to becoming a nurse in South Korea informative and helpful. To learn about studying abroad, visit the Study in Korea for more insightful articles! As for currently open courses, check out the Available Programs for International Students.

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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