Contact Hours in Korean Universities: It’s Not Important


ESL Cafe: Ahhh

There’s this ridiculous thread over on ESL Cafe which is too ridiculous for me to even link to, and a strong reminder of why I don’t really frequent there anymore except when I see some traffic from there to a blog post of mine.

Job Conditions at Korean Universities are Eroding

Anyway, in this one post, someone is saying that university jobs in Korea are not that great anymore. His main argument is that contact hours are increasing while base salary is decreasing. This may well be true and I surely wouldn’t argue with that. The day will most certainly come when Korean universities realize that paying foreign teachers what they pay them to teach “conversation” is crazy. And, job conditions will erode even further, probably starting with an increase of contact hours for the same base pay.

Contact Hours + Base Salary  = Somewhat Important

Contact hours and base salary are somewhat important and you should consider them when deciding between job offers. For example:

Job A: 9 contact hours/week, 3.0 million Korean Won/month

Job B: 12 contact hours/week, 2.6 million Korean Won/month

Job C: 15 contact hours/week, 2.2 million Korean Won/month

Job A: Not Always the Best?

Clearly Job A is the best by far at first glance and you’d be crazy to take job C over that one. However, perhaps Job A doesn’t have much overtime, winter/summer camps, nor do they give permission for outside work. If Job B did allow these things, it could be a better deal for you if your goal is to make lots of money to pay off students loans or whatever. If your goal is to chillax, write a book, do a Masters, etc., then Job A with the few working hours will be perfect for you.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “9 contact hours and 3 mill? Sign me up for that,” I wrote a book to help you out: How to Get a University Job in South Korea.¬†Clicking the link will take you to Amazon, where you can get the book in both print and digital formats.

University Jobs Teaching English in South Korea
University Job in South Korea

Overtime Opportunities = Most Important

Anyway, what I’m saying is this: Contact hours don’t really matter that much! While it’s nice to get paid more to work less, if you really want to make serious money when working in Korean universities, it’s all about the overtime opportunities, either through your school or by getting a second/third job of some sort, with permission from your primary employer.

When you’re only teaching 9-15 hours a week for 30 weeks of the year, you have plenty of free time, especially when you consider that you most often teach the same class multiple times in a single week, year after year, after year. Prep is minimal, as is grading. This most definitely leaves you a ton of time and energy to do extra work. You just need to make sure that you’ll be able to make it happen for yourself wherever you’re working.

Job conditions at Korean universities may be eroding, but it doesn’t matter. There will always be opportunities for those who are good teachers willing to hustle and scare up some extra work for themselves. See: How I turned 10 years in Korea into $220,000 USD.

A Normal Kind of Scenario

What I’m talking about here isn’t so crazy. It’s in fact what a lot of university teachers in Korea do. Perhaps they make a base salary of 2.5 million. Then, they either get a housing allowance or free housing. Then, maybe they do 10 hours of overtime a week at an average of 40,000 Won/hour. Since their base hours are only 12, it’s not really serious, heavy lifting to be doing an extra 10. By the end of the month, they’ve pretty easily cleared their 2.5 million base salary + 1.6 in OT. Total = 4.1 million.

Then, they do an optional camp in both summer and winter. An average camp length is 3 weeks, for about a million Won a week. When you get 10 weeks vacation, it’s not such a terrible burden to be working for 3 weeks of it. Those months, they clear 5.5 million. Then, the other month, they’ll just get their base salary of 2.5.

Here’s what it looks like:

January (camp) = 5.5

February = 2.5

March = 4.1

April = 4.1

May = 4.1

June = 4.1

July = (camp) = 5.5

August = 2.5

September = 4.1

October = 4.1

November = 4.1

December = 4.1

Total = 48.8 million

Not so Bad!

As you can clearly see, almost 50 million Korean Won for not a lot of work is a pretty good deal, at least in my world. And this is only an average job with 12 contact hours for 2.5 million. There are much better jobs out there (including my own) that have 9 contact hours and a base salary hovering around 3 million.

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