Let’s talk money, and how much of it you can make when teaching in a Korean university.
How Much Money Do You Make?
A common question I get from readers of this blog is what is the average monthly salary for teaching in a Korean university. The answer to this question is more complicated than it would appear at first glance.
Tax Office= Enlightening
This question is particularly relevant to me because in preparation for my move to Canada, I went to the tax office and got statements of my income and taxes for all the years I’ve lived in Korea. It eye opening because while most ESL teachers have seen their salaries stagnate over the past decade in Korea, mine has gone up by 10-15%, year after year, after year for almost 10 years.
I guess it pays to make the connections, get the qualifications, and hustle a bit. While my base salary has definitely increased (from around 2.4 for 15 hours/week at the start to about 2.8 for 9 hours/week now), the most important thing has been overtime opportunities.
My second university is FULL of them, and quite lucrative ones too. For example, 4 hour classes @ 50,000 Won an hour. 3 of these a week and that’s a cool 2.4 million a month, almost doubling my base bay.
Plus, there are summer and winter camps as well, which is a nice way to make about a million a week. What’s 3 weeks working during “vacation” when you have 10 weeks of it? Not really a big deal.
It’s Not About Base Pay. Here’s How You Make the Serious Money
Generally, the low-end university jobs in Korea pay about 2.0 million Korean Won/month, while the high-end ones can go up to about 3.0. Then, you’ll either get free housing or a housing allowance on top of that.
The housing allowance can range from about 300,000 to 600,000 per month. Sometimes you’ll get more money if you’re married or have a family.
Where the Real Money Can Be Made in Korea
However, where the real money to be made at Korean universities is in the overtime.
If a university has lots of it floating around, you have a low number of base hours and you can pick up 5-10 hour/week of OT, it can really add up. Or, maybe your university has camps during the breaks where you can work a steady 2 or 3 weeks at a time. Finally, they may give you permission to work at outside places like a company or hagwon, which can be the most lucrative part-time gig.
It’s honestly not such a stretch to double your base pay by doing this. This ended up happening probably 6 out of the 12 months of the year for most of the years working in Korea.
One Example of OT Awesome
Just a quick example that’s happening for me at the time of writing this post. I’m working the last 2 weeks of my summer vacation for this internship preparation program. The pay is 45,000/50 minutes. This week I’m working 22 hours and next week is 14.
Some quick math shows that I just made 1.6 million won for that program, plus my regular monthly pay of about 3.0. Almost 5 million won for only 36 hours of work for the month.
Not too shabby! It should be noted that there are definitely better months than others for English teachers in Korean universities. Sometimes overtime has been scarce and I’ve just made my base pay (last month!), while other times I’ve made something wild like 7 or 8 million.
It’s often a case of feast or famine. During the feasts, sock away a lot of them money and don’t be tempted to spend widely. It’ll see you through those leaner months. This is particularly true if you’re paying off students loans or something like that.
What about Private Teaching?
If you teach in Korea, you probably already know that private English teaching in illegal, according to the Korean government. That said, many teachers certainly do it, including myself!
If you don’t get a lot of overtime at your university, make your own opportunities. The only thing I would caution is to not sell yourself too short. NEVER charge less than 30,000 Won an hour. If you have to travel, do lesson prep, etc. it just becomes a colossal waste of time.
If you’re highly skilled at things like TOEIC, TOEFL, or interview preparation, it’s quite reasonable to charge 50,000 Won an hour.
It’s a nice way to increase your income. Of course, NEVER talk about it to anyone, even good friends. Keep it on the down-low at all times to avoid getting caught.
Learn More about the Best University Jobs in Korea, Including Salary
Are Salaries Going Up?
A common question that teachers love to has over in expat bars is whether or not the Korean ESL industry is in decline. My experience? It certainly is.
Salaries at all levels of teaching (hagwons, public schools and universities) are much the same as they were 10 years ago. The entry-level base pay is still around 2 million Won. Where it’s less bad it at universities where they have cost of living increases that sometimes happen across the board, foreign teachers included.
The problem is that the cost of living just keeps going up. The result? Korea isn’t really the prime place it was to sock away 10, 20, or even 30,000 USD a year like it once was. $10,000 USD a year would be a struggle for most people.
The glory days of teaching English in Korea are certainly over.
Need some Help With the Money Thing?
Want to know how to set yourself up for financial awesome while you’re teaching abroad? The book you need is: The Wealthy English Teacher.
It’s the first and only book written specifically for English teachers abroad. You’ll learn about living frugally to pay off debts and build an emergency fund. Then, you’ll learn how to increase your salary, invest in the stock market, and get your side-gig going on.
Finally…financial freedom and you can escape the 9-5. Sounds awesome, right? It is.
The book is available in both digital and print formats. Keep a copy on the bookshelf in your office for a dose of financial inspiration. Or, get a copy on your phone or tablet and read it on your 2-hour commute to work and dream of better things.
You can learn more about The Wealthy English Teachers on Amazon. Check it out now:
Have your Say about Salaries When Teaching in Korean University
What’s your experience with salaries when teaching in a university in South Korea? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.
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