Skip to main content

How Much Money Can You Save Teaching English in Asia?

Sal has taught English for five years in South Korea and China, as well as online in the U.S.

How Much Can You Save Teaching English in South Korea?

It was difficult to save anything when I lived in Chicago. I worked as a temp for a few agencies in the city, and the pay wasn't very good, and the rent and cost of living were high. (Though more affordable than other large cities in the US). I survived there, but I didn't thrive. However, when I took a job teaching English in South Korea, that began to change.

Without Even Trying Very Hard, I Could Easily Save Around $1500 per Month

I worked at a hagwon, or training school, and the salary was around 2 million Won per month (roughly around $2,000 US at the time). Schools in South Korea will cover your airfare expenses and provide you with an apartment in addition to the monthly salary.

Besides a few monthly bills, my main expense was food. In Busan, South Korea, food is very cheap. I could eat a good lunch and dinner for $3–$4 (US) each day. Or I could buy groceries and cook a few times each week and save even more. Taxes were automatically taken out from each month's salary, but the amount was very low, something in the range of $50–$100 (US).

Without even trying very hard, I could easily save around $1,500 per month. That was my goal. I might spend a little more by taking day trips or going out on the weekend. But it is cheap to travel in South Korea, and even when going out on a Friday or Saturday night, you don't need to spend much money. If you stick to a budget and are not too extravagant with expenses, you should be able to save most of what you make.

This was a new experience for me. Having lots of surplus money each month and just watching it stack up in my bank account month after month.

Transferring money from a Korean bank account to a bank in your home country is a very easy process. Most banks in South Korea have someone who speaks English to help with these transactions.

Most teaching jobs in South Korea pay in the range of 2–2.2 million Won per month (roughly $1,500–$1,670 US. The Korean Won has dropped in value over the last few years), and this hasn't changed much since I last taught there, over 10 years ago. From what I understand, the cost of living has not risen too much. Though living expenses are indeed a little higher, there is still the chance to save most of what you make. If you live and work in Seoul, expenses will be higher than in most of the rest of the country.

How Much Can You Save Teaching English in China?

In the last 10 years, the ESL industry in China has exploded. In terms of salaries, it has become one of the best places to teach around the world. The salaries can really vary, depending on if you work at a training school or land a job at an international school or a public school. Many of these better and more established schools offer salaries in the range of 16,000 RMB ($2,370 US) and up.

After food expenses and a few monthly bills, I could sock away about $2500 US per month.

I worked at a bilingual school in Shanghai, and had a monthly salary of about 20,000 RMB ($2,960 US). I also helped out with extra classes at a partner school, and taught music lessons a few times a week. This brought my total salary to about 24000 RMB per month. This equates to about $3,550 US per month with a small amount taken out for taxes (I believe this was about 5%). A fully furnished, modern apartment was provided, about a 10-minute walk from the school.

After food expenses and a few monthly bills, I could sock away about $2500 US per month.

If I traveled, or went wild going out and eating out a little too much, I could still easily save about 2k US per month. I did the math a few times, and to save an equivalent amount at a job in the US, I would likely need to be earning something in the range of 60-70k per month. Plus, I didn't have the extra expenses in the US, such as owning a car, and having expensive health insurance. Many people with teaching certifications, or a few years of experience in the country, are earning much more.

In South Korea and China, a Car Is Not Necessary, and Health Insurance Is Provided Through Employment

In South Korea and China, a car is not necessary, and health insurance was provided through my jobs. And when I needed to use it, it was good and inexpensive.

As of this writing, the process of working and obtaining visas for both South Korea and China is still uncertain. However, there are signs that things might begin opening up more soon. The visa process is more of a headache, but there are rumors that some schools have been granted the ability to help teachers obtain visas. You can get more information at and contact schools and recruiters directly to find out more. Eslcafe is still one of the best, if not the best, website for teaching English around the world. New job postings are added daily, and there are discussion forums for teaching in most countries around the world.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.