I think teaching English in South Korea is one of the best deals going for recent college graduates. Why teach English in Korea? Keep reading!
The Job Description
You work about 22 hours a week teaching English to – generally – elementary aged children. Curriculum is generally provided and you can add your spin/create more “fun” one-off classes.
You do not need to speak Korean. You will have a co-teacher whose job is to explain anything the students don’t get (although some co-teachers do a lot more or less).
While you are only working 22 hours a week, you will likely still be at school for the majority of the day – this down time is to work on lesson plans, learn Korean, write a blog, whatever you want really.
Why Teach English in Korea? The Pay!
The average person will make about 2.1mil won per month in their first year as a teacher. This is equivalent to around $1900 US.
You may make more if you choose a specific program like GOE or CNOE where the starting rate is 2.2mil won. I have a guide to the GOE program. There are certain bonuses you can receive like a 100k won rural bonus, or a 100-150k multiple schools bonus per month.
You will also receive free furnished housing, normally a small studio apartment. You will have to pay your own utilities but these normally don’t amount to more than 100k won a month.
Recently vacation time has been increased to 26 working days – so that doesn’t include weekends – which is insane! And all paid. Vacation time must almost always be taken during school holidays falling generally in Jan-Feb and June-Aug territory.
You will also get the Korean national holidays off (called red days) which amount to a couple three/four day weekends scattered throughout.
I‘ll also mention you get 11 days of sick leave but use this very very sparingly – often your co-teacher/principal will drop in or call to make sure you are ok. Working hard is an important trait for Koreans and skiving off to see a concert is not a good idea.
That’s not to say if you are throwing up/seriously ill that they won’t take you seriously. Many times I’ve heard of co-teachers driving you to the doctors or bringing soup to help you out (but that may not happen).
Why Teach English in Korea? The Bonuses!
This is where you can really rake in the cash and what makes this program so awesome for saving money. Korea is a very cheap place to live so saving is not difficult, and you get these lump sum bonuses.
You will receive around 300k won, or $250 when you get to Korea as a sort of welcome gift to help you buy new things for your apartment. How you receive this really depends.
Sometimes it’s in your first paycheck – which you won’t receive until around a month into your contract. I’ve even heard of your co-teacher taking you right away to get the things you need and you spend it in one go. The latter scenario seems a little more unusual these days but you never know.
You will pay in around 4.5% of your salary monthly which will be matched by the National pension scheme in Korea. At the end of your stay you will get double the amount you contribute in a lump sum that will average around $2,100USD.
Notice: I know this does not work for every country, but it does for the US so check what your situation is.
When you complete your contract you are entitled to one month’s salary as a bonus. So you’ll wind up with around another $2000 extra when you leave.
Flights to and from Korea are covered with a flat reimbursement of 1.3mil won each (so around $1150USD). Depending on where you live you can definitely make money off this by booking ahead for when you leave, etc. Even last minute flights from St. Louis to Seoul don’t seem to top $850 which is cool.
Taxes and Health Insurance
Good news! You probably won’t have to pay tax while in Korea (if you’re American). If you get a fancy document from the US Government for around $80, you won’t be taxed in Korea. As in, no tax at all, US or Korean. This document will save you around $800 in Korea (otherwise you will be taxed around 3.3%). To learn more about the process, check out this post!
You’ll also have health insurance, which is around 3% of your paycheck and will pretty much make anything you get in Korea 50% off. Even so, you’ll likely find yourself not even registering whatever you’re getting because medicine and health services are generally very cheap in Korea!