How Much Can I Earn?

Money is always a loaded question, and we’ll be the first to admit that if you look at the very simple facts, South Korea doesn’t appear to be the most profitable place to go and teach, though it is up there with the best. If you really are in it purely for the money, we’d suggest you head to the Middle East, where you can make a fortune, but you’ll also have to live with the strict social rules. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are probably your best bets, unless you’re prepared to risk teaching in a war zone. Still here? Good, now let us tell you why you should choose South Korea despite the better money on offer elsewhere.

First of all, South Korea is by far the best paying location that will take inexperienced English teachers, apart from Japan. While Japan does pay more, the down side is that the cost of living is also infinitely more, and in our experience most Korean teachers save significantly more than their Japanese equivalents, despite lower annual wages. That becomes even more true if you like to go out, travel and make the most of your stay, as the cost of doing so is significantly less than it would be in Japan.

A decent starting salary is in the region of 2.2 million Won per month (just under £1,200) in Seoul, where life is a little more expensive, or around 2 million Won per month (just under £1,100) in other parts of the country. If you get a good deal, your accommodation will also be included in that salary. To put that into context, even if you’re the kind of person who likes to eat out nearly every meal, explore the country on the weekends and spend you evenings having a beer or two, you’d have to go some not to save at least 30% of your salary every month. It’s also worth considering that Korean law requires all companies to pay employers an extra month’s salary for every year that employee works. This can be a fantastic bonus when you leave (or you can claim it yearly in most companies), especially as flights are also generally included in a full yearlong contract. It’s worth noting that some less scrupulous companies may find any excuse to terminate your contract after 11 months in order to avoid this fee (always ask for a reference from a previous employee in the job interview stages, but if you’re in with an internationally known company you’re probably safe – think Berlitz or Wall Street Institute).

Now, as you’ve probably gathered by now, you’ll be doing pretty well off your normal salary. We saved enough in an 18-month stint to travel around the world for nearly a year on the money. But there’s more. If you’re in it for the long run, South Korea becomes a real English teacher’s goldmine. The jobs everyone wants are the university jobs. You can, at least on paper, get these jobs online from elsewhere, but in reality you’re going to need several years experience and probably have to undergo a face-to-face interview in Korea as well. Should you land one, though, you can expect salaries in the region double the above, working weeks of around 20 hours per week and a third of the year off (out of term time) during which you don’t even have to be in the country.

Other positives worth mentioning include that South Korea currently has an ‘encouraging’ tax for English Teachers of only 5%, and your chances to travel around Asia will be more limited by holiday (initially) then money. If you land one of those university jobs, you’re looking at four months a year hanging out in India, Thailand or even back home and being paid for doing nothing. If you’re sensible, you’re almost certain to come back from lengthy holidays with more money in the bank than when you left. Many long-term Korean based English Teachers are amongst the best traveled people you’re likely to come across, and you could even work somewhere else for a few weeks if money really is a priority in a university job. Of course, with that kind of experience and a position that’s effectively a ‘professorship’, you’ll have highly (internationally) transferrable skills should you choose to come home, too.

In other words – while we’re not saying this will be easy – you can live in a relatively cheap country whilst earning a salary of £26,000 minus very little tax a year and working around 40% of the hours your probably do at home, if you stick at it long enough. In the shorter term, at the very least you’ll come home with a nice chunk of pay off cash in your back pocket. And sure, it might be better on a pure salary basis in the Middle East, but in terms of overall appeal, that’s pretty hard to match…