The Salary per Hour Worked Model
Salary will (and should) be a major factor when deciding on a job offer, especially if you have significant amounts of debt to pay off or want to kick-start your journey to financial success. However, I would like to suggest a more helpful way of examining it than just simply going for the highest number possible. A better variable to consider is salary per hour worked. By having a job with the highest salary per hour worked possible, you will have one of two things: a lot of money coming in each month or plenty of free time on your hands to pursue other things such as overtime opportunities, building passive income streams or advancing your career in some way.
3 Examples from South Korea
I will give you three examples from South Korea, which is the context that I am most familiar with. Let's assume for the sake of simplicity that housing or adequate housing allowance is included in all cases (as is usually the case in South Korea). Also, to keep things from getting overly complicated, I will not factor in health care or taxes, which are the same for all jobs. As a quick reference, 1,000 South Korean Won is generally equivalent to around $1 USD, so 2.4 million Korean Won is around $2,400 USD.
The Average Hagwon (Private Institute) Job
- Monthly salary: 2.4 million Korean Won
- Weekly teaching hours: 30
- Vacation: 2 weeks/year
- Airfare: included (2 million Won)
- Bonus money at end of contract: 2.4 million Won
- Total yearly salary: 33.2 million Won
- Total hours worked/year: 1500 Salary/hour = 22,000 Won
The Average University Job
- Monthly salary: 2.2 million Korean Won
- Weekly teaching hours: 15
- Vacation: 20 weeks/year
- Airfare: not included
- Bonus money at end of contract: not included
- Total yearly salary: 26.4 million Won
- Total hours worked/ year: 480 Salary/hour = 55,000 Won
The Average Public School Job
- Monthly salary: 2.0 million Korean won
- Weekly teaching hours: 22
- Vacation: 14 days (officially), but there are many “desk-warming” days where you have to be at school but have no classes or work that you need to do. I will include some of these, so vacation is around 6 weeks (unofficially), which is what I will use for my calculations.
- Airfare: included (2 million Won)
- Bonus money at end of contract: 2.0 million Won
- Total yearly salary: 28 million Won
- Total hours worked: 1012 Salary/hour = 28,000 Won
The Job with the Highest Salary is Not Always the One You Should Choose
As you can see from these three examples, the hagwon job which at first glance seems like the best one due to the high monthly salary, free airfare and contract completion bonus is the worst one in terms of salary per hour due to the high number of teaching hours and low vacation time. The public school job that initially seems to be the worst due to the low monthly salary turns out to be better than the hagwon job because it pays 6000 Won more per teaching hour. And of course, the university job is by far the best, but these jobs are not that easy to come by in South Korea and require some serious qualifications and networking skills (for tips on how to get one of these coveted jobs, check out this book, available on Amazon in both Kindle and print editions: How to Get a University Job in South Korea).
Legal Overtime Opportunities Another closely related factor to consider when deciding on a job offer is the availability of legal overtime opportunities. There is always plenty of illegal work you could do on the side but I do not recommend this, especially if you are someone like me who likes to stay on the right side of the law. The best way to do legal overtime work is through your main place of employment. For example, some universities in Korea have a low number of teaching hours per week and large amounts of vacation. If you can combine this with lots of opportunities for work during those off times, you can make a significant amount of money and in some cases even double your monthly salary. Another way to work legal overtime is by working at a place that gives you permission for outside work and will sign whatever paperwork necessary to make it possible for you to do this, assuming it is permissible with immigration. Overtime opportunities should be something that you inquire about during the interview process.
It’s Not an Easy Decision
As you can see, the decision about which ESL teaching job to take is a difficult one and the decision should not be made without careful consideration. For lots more information related to Teaching ESL, check out the author’s popular site, My Life! Teaching in a Korean University and for more ideas about how to build a successful financial future, go to The Wealthy English Teacher.
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