Can you make money teaching in Korea?

Can you make money teaching English abroad?In many parts of the world, English teachers do it for the experience…with their pay barely meeting expenses in country.  

Many people choose Korea because it has the best finances for someone with my qualifications: bachelor’s degree plus a TEFL (CELTA) certificate.

My goal was to have an extra $1,000 per month. In my previous travels to Ghana and taking a year off, I ‘pre-spent’ money so want to pay that off.

Can you make money teaching English abroad? In many parts of the world, the pay for English teachers barely meets their expenses in country.

Many people (like me!) choose Korea because it has the best finances for someone with my qualifications: bachelor’s degree plus a TEFL (CELTA) certificate.

My goal was to have an extra $1,000 per month. In my previous travels to Ghana and taking a year off, I ‘pre-spent’ money so want to pay that off. Compared to engineering salaries at home, it’s a modest salary but I wanted to break out of engineering and reprogram myself… you’re a teacher! you’re not an engineer! And, Asia is the only continent I hadn’t yet visited. So, beyond salary, I had other reasons to choose Korea.

But money is (always!) important. Was I able to do it? To save $1,000 per month? 

Most months, yes, barely! This came at the physical exhaustion price of working overtime. I never asked for overtime, but most months was assigned it. Also, I pretty much lived on the cheap. I didn’t buy clothes, go to movies, travel. I stayed local: hiked, went to the beach, and ate cheap Korean food…which was all very wonderful!

A few months, the answer was no, just given my teaching salary. But I did a few extra jobs for clients at home, for an extra $400 every few months. You can lose your visa if you do private tutoring, because your contract prohibits it.

Here’s how the economics work out for a typical month. October I worked 10 hours of overtime. I taught five courses, plus Saturday and some 1-to-1 classes. I netted $1,790. This is after all taxes and my apartment too. I didn’t realize when I came that the housing payment of 250,000 that the school does pays for only half the rent for the apt I ended up with. I have another $140 in monthly expenses for all my phone and utilities, leaving $1,350.

So, to save $1,000, leaves $350 to live on. You can actually live ok on $10 a day here, eating out once or twice for $3-$4. But coffee at a coffee shop also costs $4 so you have to be careful! No money is required for transportation usually, but when you take the subway it’s only $1 each way.

The biggest bonus though comes for those who last the whole 12 months. I didn’t! People that stay for a full year, get an extra month of pay and/or your return flight paid for, plus some other refunds. I’ll get my pension contribution returned, and maybe some of my income tax.

In summary, teaching English is a good way to experience another culture. Can you save $1,000 per month doing it in Korea? Maybe, but as a first year teacher, it’s a little optimistic.  If I had decided to stay, I think with more experience now and being in country for interviews, I could have gotten a position with a public school or university with more vacation for the same or better pay.

Overall, I’m thankful for the experience. But, it’s not exactly easy money! ha ha

  Oct-10
 Regular  2300000
 Overtime  190000
 GROSS PAY           2,490,000
 Income tax  49110
 Residence Tax  4910
 National Pension  72450
 Medical Insurance  61290
 Longterm Care Insurance  4010
 Housing Cost  250000
 TOTAL DEDUCTIONS              441,770
 NET PAY Korean Won  2048230
 NET PAY USD  $1790

 



 



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