Moving abroad to teach English can be a scary thought. After all, it takes an adventurous person (and an open mind) to move from one country to another (and from one culture to another). If you’re looking for a teach abroad destination that packs a whole lot of appeal for expats, look no further than Japan - one of the most beautiful (and fun) places to live on earth.
Japan is not only home to deep historical culture, mouth-watering cuisine and fantastic people - it’s also home to one of the best job markets for English teachers abroad. The JET program alone hires around 1,000 graduates every year. Thousands of English teaching positions at private language schools open up in Japan at any given time of the year, as people conclude their contracts and head back home to face the real world.
If you’re looking for a high-paying English teaching gig abroad, rest assured that Japan is up there with other countries that pay teachers the most.
First off, how easy is it to get a job teaching English in Japan?
Qualifying for English teaching jobs in Japan is pretty doable. If you come from an English-speaking country, your bachelor’s degree and TEFL certificate will suffice. You’ll also need an employer who can help you secure your work visa. Check out our blog covering the requirements for teaching English in Japan for more in-depth coverage on that topic.
Now that we’ve piqued your curiosity, you’re now in all likelihood wondering what the average salary for a teacher in Japan is. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
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OK, now I know what I need to qualify for teaching jobs in Japan. But what are the salaries like?
This really depends on your qualification level. Teachers tend to make upwards of $2,200 USD, with the best jobs paying as much as $5,900 to the most experienced teachers.
That probably doesn’t feel that helpful and you’re more than likely wondering where exactly you fall on that scale…which is exactly what we’re here to help you figure out.
Starting teaching salaries in Japan for new grads or inexperienced teachers
Japan is quite strict and has set a national minimum annual salary of 3.4 million Yen (or $31,000 USD) for full-time foreign English teachers working in the country. Which means that whether you’re working as an:
- Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in a public or private school
- Eikaiwa (private English school) teacher
This means can expect to earn at least 250,000 Yen (roughly $2,200 USD) a month to start with. Your wage will increase depending on your qualifications, experience and employer. For example, JET program participants receive a monthly salary of 280,000 Yen (around $2,500 USD) teaching in their first year.
University ESL teaching salaries in Japan
If you have an advanced degree, and ESL certificate and plenty of classroom experience, you could also apply to teach at a college or university. Salaries here are quite lucrative, at around 400,000 YEN (or $3,600 USD) a month.
Experienced/certified teaching salaries in Japan
If you’re an experienced, licensed educator, then you can expect to earn anywhere from 300,000 to 650,000 Yen ($2,700 - 5,900 USD) teaching at an international school in Japan. The huge variance in salaries at Japanese international schools depends on how in-demand your subject specialty is, as well as where you’re teaching. For example, you can expect to earn on the upper end of the pay scale while teaching at an international school located in Tokyo.
Private English tutoring salaries in Japan
As a freelance ESL teacher in Japan, you can reasonably expect to earn around 2,700 Yen ($25 USD) for each private English tutoring session you take on. (Bonus: As most of the private ESL lessons are scheduled after school hours, you’ll also have your mornings free!)
Note: You’ll also be liable to pay income tax (plus local taxes if you’re planning on staying for more than a year. However, Japanese income tax is dramatically lower than what you’re likely used to in your home country - an estimated 12,000 - 15,000 Yen ($100 - 150) a year.
If you’re on the hook for your own rent, then you’ll need to set aside anything from 55,000 - 90,000 Yen ($450 - 800 USD) per paycheck. Your WiFi bill should be in or around 3,500 Yen ($30 USD) each month.
How much can you save teaching in Japan?
While this largely depends on your spending habits, your saving potential while teaching in Japan can range anywhere from 25 - 35% of your take-home pay.
Tokyo is undoubtedly one of the most eye-wateringly expensive cities to live in in the world, but there’s a huge demand for English teachers in other, more affordable cities in Japan, like Kanawasa, Hiroshima, Osaka, Tokyo, Nagano, Nagoya, Kobe and Kyoto.
Although the cost of living in the bigger cities in Japan is higher than in neighboring Asian countries like China and Korea, your English teacher salary is still more than enough to live, travel and save on.
And that’s without factoring in extra perks and benefits, like:
- Free return flights
- Work visa sponsorship
- Health insurance
- Heavily subsidized (or sometimes free) housing
- Paid vacation
If you’re working as an eikaiwa or ALT teacher, your transportation costs are also usually covered by your employer. To directly compare the cost of living in your home country vs. Japan, check out Expatistan’s helpful calculator.
So, if you’re comparing the salaries of ESL teachers in Japan to those of teachers placed in other countries, make sure you include benefits. For instance, a housing allocation is worth its weight in dollars and then some.
What’s the deal with health insurance for English teachers in Japan?
For the most part, the healthcare in Japan is excellent and comes with your salary package. The only thing to be wary of is the lack of English speaking doctors in some rural areas…you’ll probably need to swallow your pride and drag along a Japanese friend/interpreter! Or get a bus to the nearest city!
Average salaries for teachers in Japan at a glance
Let’s quickly recap average salaries for teaching jobs in Japan:
English teacher job type
ALT teacher with the JET Program
University ESL instructor
300 - 650,000 Yen
Private English teacher
The world is chock-full of Japanese culture. This plays a huge role in why it is the ultimate destination for so many TEFL teachers. Some first-time teachers even teach in a few of the neighboring countries to build up the experience for their dream job in Japan. Although, you can definitely land an ESL job in Japan with just a TEFL certificate and a 4-year degree (and maybe even without a college degree!)
ESL teachers often place Japan at the top of their list so it can be quite competitive. That being said, most people don’t shop around and merely send in a JET application. Okay, pause briefly and let this sink in: JET is not the only way to teach English in Japan. There are plenty of other teach abroad programs in Japan and more than one way to get the Japanese job of your dreams.
Ready to make bank teaching in Japan?
Great! If you’re interested in working as an ALT teacher in Japan, then your best bet is to apply to become a JET Program participant. If teaching at an eikaiwa school in Japan is more in your wheelhouse, then check Aeon recruit applicants year round. Otherwise, check out the latest English teaching jobs in Japan on the Teach Away site and get your application in, stat!
Ganbare! (That’s “good luck” in Japanese )