Teaching English in Korea!
Teaching English in Korea is a great opportunity. On a beginning salary for teachers, you can afford to travel throughout Asia, but still save enough to have a nice nest egg on your return. However, it is a big decision, and there are many factors to consider before committing to a particular position. In this series of articles, I hope to give a wealth of information about teaching English in Korea, including the types of positions, teaching techniques, cultures differences, and traveling opportunities. In this article, I focus on the salary and benefits, as well as and the educational requirements.
A little about me…
I taught in Korea for three years in various settings. I have a master’s degree in English and taught at the university level before deciding to teach abroad. That being said, my first position was at a public Elementary school where I taught third through sixth grade ESL classes. The schedule was complex, but basically I taught 22 hours a week which consisted of three to four lesson plans. It was very challenging for a number of reason. However, I took my responsibilities seriously, and I was rewarded with a position at a university which was fantastic. I’ll go more in depth about my positions when I discuss the various types of teaching jobs.
Salary and Benefits
Education is an important part of Korean culture. Thus, teachers, even foreign ESL teachers, enjoy a decent salary and high degree of status. Salaries vary greatly depending on your qualifications, like your level of education, specific degree, and teaching experience. That being said, a bachelor’s degree is the ONLY thing required by Korean law to teach (see Educational Requirements).
You do NOT need teaching experience or a TESOL certificate!
Beginning salaries are usually between 2,000,000 to 2,300,000 Korean won a month, which roughly translates to $1,700 to $2,100. While this might seem low, it does not taken into consideration the benefits or low cost of living.
Korean law concerning foreign ESL teachers requires employers to include a number of benefits, including health insurance, retirement, overtime pay, and vacation time. Additionally, employers are required to pay for your apartment and a round-trip plane ticket, as well as provide a severance bonus at the end of your contract. All together, you can expect at least $10,000 a year in benefits.
As well, the cost of living is very low. Yes, certain grocery items are expensive, like milk, cheese, and cereal, but restaurants are relatively inexpensive. It’s possible to find a good healthy meal for $3 to $4. From my experience, I was able to eat like a king, go out with friends on the weekends, and still save about $1,000 dollars a month.
How high of a salary would you need in the States in order to save that much money?
As mentioned earlier, Korean law only requires a bachelor’s degree for foreign teachers. In 2011, there was discussion about requiring a master’s degree or teaching certificate for all public school positions, however, it is not currently in effect. And while many job postings might specify a master’s degree, most will accept a bachelor’s. The university I worked for required a master’s degree, but I was the only instructor with a master’s and the only one with a degree in English. While I was in Korea, I met teachers with degrees in everything from Computer Science to Hotel Service.
However, degrees in English, TESOL, and teaching will give you an edge for the most sought after positions.
I hope you found this information useful. Please note that Korean regulations change constantly, especially concerning ESL teachers, so the education requirements could differ. In the next article I will explore the various types of job positions available in Korea, including public schools, private schools, and universities, as well as the many opportunities for entrepreneurs.