Teaching English in South Korea - the Salary and Budget Guide
The following guide will help you answer the question: How much can I earn (and save) teaching English in South Korea? You will also find information on the local cost of living in order to figure out how much to budget for when moving to South Korea.
The Typical Salary for English Teachers in South Korea
There are many different teaching positions available all across South Korea. The salary usually depends on the type of school you work at and your qualifications. English teachers in South Korea can expect to make between 1.8 and 3 million Korean Won per month (currently $1,600 to $2,675). Those teaching at a university or international school, however, can make up to 3.5 million KRW ($3,120 USD). If you are a first-time teacher, you can expect to earn between 1.8 to 2.0 million KRW per month, which equates to around $1,600 to $1,780 US dollars. Here is more information on the average salaries per school type:
The salary also depends on where you are based. Seoul traditionally pays the highest salaries but also has a higher cost of living compared to other cities around South Korea.
Other Benefits to Expect When Teaching English in South Korea
Besides the salary, most teachers in South Korea also receive free housing or a housing allowance from their employer. Additionally, most schools pay for the roundtrip airfare for their teachers. Healthcare is also very affordable in South Korea and there is also a pension scheme in place for a lot of foreign nationals.
How to Earn Extra Cash While Teaching English in South Korea
A lot of teachers top up their salaries by taking on private students for tutoring. You can easily make a couple of hundred dollars a month when tutoring students in your free time, or more when you have the time. Most parents pay between 30,000 and 50,000 KRW per tutoring hour ($26 - $45 USD).
The Cost of Living in South Korea
The cost of living in South Korea is on the rise and amongst one of the highest in Asia. However, it is still lower than in most Western nations. The high salary and attractive benefits as an EFL teacher allow you to live a comfortable lifestyle during your time in Korea. Many teachers can even afford a lifestyle they wouldn’t be able to enjoy back home, such as traveling every month, eating out on a regular basis and going out to bars and clubs regularly. Below, we break down the cost of living in South Korea for individual aspects.
Cost of Living in South Korea: Food
When you eat out at local restaurants and buy your produce and ingredients at local supermarkets, you will not only gain an amazing insight into the Korean way of life but also have more money in your pocket for fun and adventure.
- Milk (1L): 2,400 KRW
- Eggs (12): 3,200 KRW
- Apples (1kg): 7,000 KRW
- Chicken breast (1kg): 9,800 KRW
- Rice (1kg): 3,900 KRW
- Bottle of water (1.5L): 1,200 KRW
- Bottle of Korean beer (.5L): 2,200 KRW
Cost of Living in South Korea: Leisure Activities
Koreans love spending time out with friends and family and there is a lot to do around the country. Most people enjoy frequent meals out so be sure to try your way through the wide range of Korean cuisine while you’re there. You can also hang out with friends at clubs and karaoke bars, work out at the gym or get a massage and relax. South Korea’s leisure activities have something for everyone.
- Three-course mid-range restaurant dinner: 40,000 KRW
- Quick restaurant meal of rice or noodles: 7,000 KRW
- Spicy rice cakes, a common street food: 2,000 KRW
- Massage (30 min): 25,000 KRW
- 1-month fitness club membership: 30,000 KRW
- Movie ticket, international release: 8,000 KRW
Cost of Living in South Korea: Transportation
When coming to Korea, you might be surprised by the modern and efficient public transit network in the country. In fact, it is one of the most advanced in the world. Taxi prices are also affordable and buses and subways are inexpensive allowing you to explore your city and beyond.
- Metro Ride: 1,200 KRW
- Taxi rate per km: 900 KRW (start fare ~ 3,000 KRW)
- 20-min taxi ride across town: 18,000 KRW
- City bus: 1,200 KRW
- Monthly bus and subway pass: 55,000 KRW
- Intercity express bus (Seoul to Jeonju): 15,000 KRW
Cost of Living in South Korea: Travel in Korea and Beyond
While South Korea isn’t that big of a country, there is a lot to see and do, plus countless beautiful islands to head to. The express trains are incredibly fast and affordable and domestic flights out to Jeju Island, the largest island in Korea, are also quite cheap. Plus, you can visit neighboring Asian countries like Japan and China in just a couple of hours.
- 1 night in a mid-range hotel: 60,000 KRW
- High-speed train, Seoul to Busan (2.5 hours): 59,800 KRW
- Slow train, Seoul to Busan (5.5 hours): 28,600 KRW
- Flight, Seoul to Jeju Island (1 hour): 80,000 KRW
- Flight, Seoul to Tokyo (2 hours): 150,000 KRW
Sample Monthly Teacher Budget
To give you an example of how an English teacher in South Korea spends their salary, here is a sample monthly budget:
- Gross income (salary): average salary 2.5 million KRW
- Rent: 0, paid for by employer
- Utilities (electricity, gas, water): 80,000 KRW
- Phone & Internet: 70,000 KRW
- Food: 300,000 KRW
- Insurance: 30,000 KRW
- Remaining disposable income: 2 million KRW
How Much You Can Save When Teaching English in South Korea
As you can see from the sample budget above, the high salaries in South Korea allow you to save substantial sums of money during the length of your contract. Because rent is usually paid for by the employer, you will save a lot of money that would otherwise go on housing. Depending on your lifestyle, ESL teachers in South Korea are easily able to save anything from $500 to $1,500 per month.
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For more information about living and teaching English in South Korea, check out our South Korea country page.
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