How Much Does an English Teacher Make in Japan in 2019?

JET? Dispatch? Eikaiwa? University? Knowing which organizations in the English teaching industry in Japan offer the best pay and benefits can help you make the right decision.

By 17 min read

Most full-time English-language teachers in Japan are earning about ¥270,000 before tax each month, which is roughly US$2,515. There are a number of teaching streams within the industry, some of which offer better pay and benefits than others.

In this article, we tell you the average pay levels for each of those, and the relative pros and cons of each field.

 Hiring Organization Average monthly earnings pre-tax
JET Programme ¥280,000 (first year) to ¥330,000 (fourth and fifth years)
Dispatch Companies ¥210,000 – ¥250,000 (or more)
Direct Hire ¥280,000
Eikaiwa ¥250,000 (varies significantly by school)
Business English Schools ¥3,800 an hour (¥270,000 if full time)
Universities ¥270,000 for short-term, indirect hires, and around ¥523,800 a month as faculty staff

Let’s start from the top of the table with JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme).

JET offers high potential earnings, great support, and other benefits

The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme mainly hires foreigners to teach at public schools (elementary, junior or high school) as assistant language teachers, or ALT. (That term was created by the Japanese education department to describe native-level English speakers who work in classrooms together with Japanese teaching staff.)

ALTs on JET have their flights to/from Japan covered, receive a ton of support before, during and after the program through orientations, conferences and training, and a global alumni network.

But it’s a competitive application process

You can only apply to the JET Programme if you are living overseas and have not already completed a stint on the program within the past year. Participation is limited to five years. Generally, the JET Programme is considered as one of the most rigorous and competitive application processes for teaching English in Japan. According to the JET website, the organization receives around 5,000 applications—only 1,000 are accepted. The process takes several months and involves an interview at your embassy.

An ALT salary on the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme) rises with each year

The JET website says program participants are paid about ¥3.36 million pre-tax in their first year of appointment, which is around ¥280,000 a month.

For those who renew their contracts, pay rises to ¥3.6 million in the second year, to ¥3.9 million in the third year, and to around ¥3.96 million (¥330,000 per month) for each of the next two years.

This is a blanket salary regardless of location which means that those JETs living in the bigger cities will lose more of their earnings to rent, transport and daily living costs.

“The remuneration is considered enough to live comfortably in Japan, but please bear in mind that, as in many other countries, the cost of living is generally higher in highly populated urban areas,” JET says.

This is a blanket salary regardless of location which means that those JETs living in the bigger cities will lose more of their earnings to rent, transport and daily living costs.

Find out more about the average cost of living in Japan and how much the average rent is in Japan.

With JET you get return plane tickets, teacher training, and a career fair

As well as paying teachers’ airfares to Japan and home again, JET ALTs get benefits such as free online Japanese language learning, translation and interpretation skills training, grants for TEFL certification and the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), a mental health counseling service and a career fair in February to help you find a job in or outside of Japan post-JET.

Participants join the private insurance JET Programme Accident Insurance and are enrolled in the National Health Insurance, Employment Insurance, and Pension Insurance schemes.

ALTs are placed in public schools and typically teach classes with a Japanese teacher.

On the JET Programme, you might be placed in the countryside and be expected to work after school

Because the goal of the JET Programme is to promote internationalization in local communities, teachers may need to stay late at school to help with extracurricular activities and to participate in community events. However, overtime is not mandatory and contracts stipulate that you can take time off in lieu (known as “daikyu“).

ALTs are also more likely to be placed in smaller towns rather than big cities, so if you’re looking to teach in somewhere like Tokyo, JET won’t offer you the best chance to do so. While you can state a preference for where you’d like to be placed in your application, this actually has very little sway in the end. Still, teaching in the inaka (countryside) has its unique perks, too.

So what about dispatch companies?

Dispatch companies like Interac are easier to apply to and also hire from within Japan, but the starting salary is lower

There are also a number of external companies that recruit teachers as ALTs and dispatch them to public schools across the country. Some of the most well-known dispatch companies are Interac, Altia Central, and Borderlink.

These firms also hire within Japan. You can check out listings for ALTs with dispatch companies here on GaijinPot Jobs.

They don’t pay airfares for teachers moving to Japan, and overseas hires are more likely to be located in rural areas than local hires, who have already established themselves here.

These companies advertise salaries that are below the figure for JET.

On its website, Interac estimates an annual pre-tax salary of ¥2.40 million – ¥2.70 million a year, or around ¥212,500 a month.

Altia Central quotes a monthly base salary of ¥240,000 – ¥255,000 (roughly ¥3 million a year) “based on your teaching experience, qualifications, and Japanese language ability.”

With a dispatch company, you’ll get similar support to that of JET

Most dispatch companies will provide assistance with moving to Japan if you are based overseas. If your application is accepted, the company will apply for a visa on your behalf and support you through the process.

Borderlink state on their website that they can help with finding housing close to your placement which is usually a “LeoPalace”—a budget apartment run by one of Japan’s largest realtors, that comes ready-furnished, and features English language support.

Dispatch companies also help you with setting up a bank account and enrolling in the National Health Insurance scheme.

Dispatch companies also help you with setting up a bank account and enrolling in the National Health Insurance scheme.

Dispatch companies will also provide training, often led by experienced or former ALTs. Orientations in your home country, as well as in Japan, are also organized.

It’s easier to get hired as a teacher with a dispatch company

With so many different dispatch companies out there and a fairly high turnover rate for ALTs (most stay around two years), there’s lots of opportunity for English teaching positions across Japan. Most don’t require any teaching experience or Japanese language ability. And, unlike JET, interviews are normally conducted over Skype following an online application.

Almost all public schools in Japan employ an ALT at some point so you can usually count on there being enough placements available, too.

There are more opportunities for career progression with a dispatch company

Unlike JET or direct hire (see below), most dispatch companies offer the prospect of promotion—to teacher trainer, senior teacher or recruiter, once you’ve done a few years as a regular ALT. Many ALTs join the company HQ as a way to further continue their career in education in Japan.

Check out this article on climbing the career ladder as an ALT for more information.

But the salary is typically prorated during school holidays with a dispatch company

Many ALTs experience a prorated salary during school holidays, between 50 and 60% of a full salary, as they are not needed when students are not around.

While ALTs on JET and Japanese teachers are required to attend school and “work” during the summer break for example (and so often get paid a normal salary for doing next to nothing), ALTs with dispatch companies are requested to take a mandatory unpaid vacation.

Consequently, some dispatch companies don’t pay any salary at all during this period. Public holidays are exclusive of paid vacation days, which should be paid at a normal salary rate.

This article has tips on how to survive summer as an ALT by earning some extra yen with your free time. For some ALTs, the holidays are a welcome break and they use it as an opportunity to travel to Japan or return home.

Be sure to ask at the application stage how things work around school holidays. This will help you compare which dispatch company is the best choice for you.

For some ALTs, the holidays are a welcome break and they use it as an opportunity to travel to Japan or return home.

ALTs staying long-term in Japan might want to try for direct-hire

Direct hire is often seen as the holy grail for English assistant language teachers in Japan. Direct hire basically means that you are directly employed by a Board of Education (local government organizations in charge of hiring teachers for schools in a certain area) rather than placed at a school by a dispatch company or through the JET Programme.

Since the dispatch company takes a portion of the money the board of education (BOE) has set aside for you as their “management fee,” salaries for ALTs hired directly are usually about 30% higher, so around ¥280,000.

In most cases, direct contracts between BOEs and teachers tend to be simpler and comply more with appropriate holiday entitlements and pension and healthcare contributions. Contracts for direct-hire ALTs are similar to those provided by JET.

Further, there is more certainty with boards. Dispatch companies sometimes lose contracts with certain cities, and if this happens, ALTs can find themselves out of work.

However, direct hire jobs through boards of education are static and don’t typically offer much scope for up-skilling.

Business English teachers are typically paid a high hourly rate.

Earnings for teachers at Eikaiwa (English Conversation Schools) depend on the company

English conversation schools are private businesses that teach English to the general public. Most students take classes after finishing work or school, so the majority of lessons are held after 5 p.m. or on weekends.

Most students take classes after finishing work or school, so the majority of lessons are held after 5 p.m. or on weekends.

Japan has a number of large English conversation (“Eikaiwa” in Japanese) school chains. They recruit both domestically and overseas and are accustomed to arranging working visas for full-time teachers.

Among these, ECC says it pays a pre-tax monthly salary of ¥270,000 (roughly ¥3.24 million annually), Aeon estimates ¥275,000 a month, and Berlitz gives ¥275,000, too, for a full-time instructor working 38 hours a week.

Earnings at some of the other Eikaiwa chains can be harder to pin down.

Both NOVA and GABA, for example, explain their salaries as payments per lesson, with higher pay for lessons taught during periods of higher demand, such as weekends, and better pay for teachers who score higher in customer satisfaction surveys.

For example, GABA cites ¥1,500 as the regular pay for teaching one of its 40-minute lessons. But it can rise as high as ¥2,200 for a lesson taught during a peak period by a teacher ranked at the top of its eight “belt” (think karate) system.

As well as these chain schools, there are countless small and independent English language schools dotted throughout the country. You can check out job listings with smaller schools on GaijinPot Jobs.

By nature, salaries will likely be in line with local wages, so watch out for an earnings dip if you are outside greater Tokyo or in a rural area. Still, this should be balanced out by cheaper rent and cost of living.

Eikawa are a good option if you’re looking for something part-time or a more flexible schedule than working at a public school

If you’re looking for a part-time job, English conservation schools can help you out. GABA, in particular, recommends its flexible schedule for teachers who want to divide their time between teaching and other pursuits. You may also be able to request extra classes if you want to earn more.

Conversely, be wary of the downside of a “flexible schedule” and, if you’re looking for full-time work, ensure that your contract guarantees you enough classes to earn you the pay that you need.

Here are the latest statistics for average base salaries for Eikaiwa in Japan (via Glassdoor)

Company Average Base Salaries in (JPY) from high to low
1 ABC English 277,000
2 AEON Corporation of Japan 275,000
3 Amity 275,000
4 Vantage Japan 274,000
5 ECC Japan 259,000
6 Berlitz 259,000
7 NOVA (Japan) 259,000
8 Shane English School 257,000
9 American Language School 255,000
10 Riso Kyoiku 255,000
11 Model Language Studio 254,000
12 Seiha English Academy 253,000
13 KidsDuo 249,000
14 Interac 248,000
15 Ittti Japan 244,000
16 Gaba Corporation 230,000
17 California Language Institute (Japan) 227,000
18 Coco Juku 225,000
19 One Coin English School 225,000
20 British Culture Academy 214,000

Again, make sure to carefully scan your teaching contract

One thing to look out for before signing an English teacher contract in Japan is the company’s total calculation of your scheduled working hours. As the General Union explains in its online article, “When is a 45 hour week actually a 29.5 hour week?” some English language schools are among the companies that are fiddling workers’ official schedules to keep them below the crucial 30-hour mark. This is so that the firms don’t have to pay co-contributions to the national pension system.

The article gives the example of schools that calculate only lesson time and none of the class preparation periods before, after or between lessons.

All residents of Japan are required to join one of the national pension plans, and you can be forced to pay make-up payments if you are found to not be enrolled. See further details in our Japan 101 section about Health Insurance in Japan.

Business English classes will offer higher pay with fewer hours

The basic definition of “Business” English classes is that they are paid for by corporations that want their staff to study English. When teaching company English classes, lessons are taught in groups.

Lesson content may include instruction on how to perform work-related duties in English, such as writing emails and making phone calls. More fluent students may request help with presentations.

Some teachers say the content is the same as regular English classes, but some schools look for teachers with business experience.

Hourly rates for teaching business English classes are often far higher than those for regular teaching. This is not necessarily because teachers are better qualified, but rather that the companies paying for the services are prepared to pay more than individual students at an Eikaiwa school, for example.

Teachers on JET may be asked to work evenings and weekends when there are club activities or events.

Teach Business English part-time to supplement your earnings

That makes business English classes great if you want to supplement other earnings. It is hard, though, to find a full-time job teaching business English that is compensated accordingly. That is partly because corporate classes are usually held after the working day has ended, so there aren’t so many of them each day.

The average part-time hourly rate for teaching business English classes is around ¥3,800. The work is typically located in Tokyo or other big cities, such as Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka.

It is hard, though, to find a full-time job teaching business English that is compensated accordingly. That is partly because corporate classes are usually held after the working day has ended, so there aren’t so many of them each day.

Job ads for business English instructors ask for an appropriate visa, native English skills, and a university degree, and often also seek more than one year of teaching experience.

Business experience or knowledge are occasionally mentioned as preferred qualifications (for example in this job ad for a Business English Instructor in Kyoto), but the pay rate in such ads is usually the same as those that don’t seek them.

Although they can be hard to come by, full-time business English teaching jobs do exist. Berkeley House Language Center says it pays full-time business English instructors a starting salary of ¥270,000 (about ¥3.24 million), which is the same for all its full-time teachers.

The Tokyo Center for Languages and Culture says it pays teachers on a guaranteed salary contract at least ¥3 million annually, though “rates per lesson and bonus payments vary by assignment.” That’s despite accepting only instructors with a Bachelor of Education or a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) qualification.

Teaching in a University offers the best career progression of all

Short-term instructors at a University need to have a degree and teaching experience, ideally in EFL or ESL, with teaching qualifications preferred. Those hired long-term as a faculty member will need a Master’s degree or Ph.D. and have published research. Experience in university teaching is preferred here.

University teaching is another area with a reputation for high pay. That’s particularly true for tutors and lecturers hired directly by the universities themselves, but less so for indirect hires teaching English short-term at a Japanese university.

University teaching is another area with a reputation for high pay.

Westgate Corporation, a dispatch company which employs instructors to teach English at universities around Tokyo and Nagoya, estimates monthly earnings starting from ¥260,000 for teachers with less than 499 hours of classroom teaching experience and ¥275,000 for those with more experience. These work contracts run for between three and five months.

Where earnings start to really impress, is when teachers are employed directly by a university on a permanent contract. In this realm, you need the same level of qualifications that you would to garner a university job in your home country: a master’s degree or Ph.D. in a field of English, linguistics or education, and published research. Experience teaching at university level is preferred.

This article from Newsweek Japan shows annual salaries of tutors (entry-level) at national (public) universities as of 2011. The average of these is ¥6.29 million, or roughly ¥523,819 a month. Very nice, indeed, even given that the average is somewhat inflated by cashed-up departments such as medicine, and higher earnings at particularly prestigious institutions, like the University of Tokyo.

The average of these is ¥6.29 million, or roughly ¥523,819 a month.

So how do I make the right choice when teaching English in Japan?

The right teaching job for you depends on your goals and circumstances.

The best English-teaching job for you is one that suits your goals and circumstances. Each of the fields we’ve looked at has their various advantages and appeal.

For people aiming to come to Japan on a working visa, they will be looking for a full-time position with a school that will sponsor that visa—most commonly with an English-conversation school, or as an ALT, or with a university.

If you’re applying from overseas, the salary and other perks (airfare, skills training, and services) offered to ALTs hired directly by the JET program are the most generous, outside of a university faculty job.

If you’re applying within Japan and need visa sponsorship, a full-time job with a guaranteed salary at one of the big Eikaiwa chains, or in business English, is your best-earning option outside of a university faculty post. Expect around ¥270,000 a month.

Taking an ALT job via a dispatch company will lower your pay to ¥225,000 a month.

Teachers looking for part-time work may want to optimize their pay by working in business English. English-conversation schools also offer part-time work, which gives you the flexibility to pursue other interests.

Short-term teaching at a university is also a good option for that and offers a solid monthly pay of around ¥270,000 a month.

If you’re sufficiently qualified for a faculty position at a university, go ahead and take advantage of the high pay and career prospects that offers. If you don’t have the requirements, but teaching English is your calling, it may be a career path worth aiming for.

If teaching English is not quite your life choice, you can do the post-ALT job hunt and transition from English teaching to other jobs, as many of us have. The tight labor market in Japan has made that somewhat easier to do.

If you’re not sure what you want your next career step to be, remember what it is that you enjoy doing and what you’re good at, and head in those directions.

You can also get some job inspiration from one of our other articles in this series, What is the average salary in Japan in 2019?

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