A couple of years ago, bored with my life in Thailand, I decided to apply for teaching jobs in Japan. With seven years teaching experience, I presumed I wouldn’t have much of a problem finding a job, which turned out to be true. What did surprise me, however, was the level of salaries that are paid for English teachers in Japan – salaries far higher than those in Thailand and with much better contracts.
That being said, if you would like to teach abroad and somewhere like Tokyo sounds interesting, what salary can you expect to earn teaching English in Japan, and could you live on it comfortably?
Average salaries in Japan for first-time teachers (language schools) – While salaries in Japan for English teachers have not only not increased in recent years but have actually fallen, you can still make a very good salary in most teaching positions at a language school.
With a beginning salary in a typical Japanese language school of at least 250,000 yen per month, or $2,560 USD, you shouldn’t have any problems paying all your bills, enjoying your life in Japan with a little entertainment or travel, and still being able to save at least $500 a month.
Average salaries in Japan for renewed contracts (language schools) – If you stay in Japan for longer than a year and re-sign a contract with the language school you are currently working at, you can expect to receive a monthly increase to your salary.
Friends of mine who teach in Tokyo started off on the typical 250,000 yen monthly salary, but just three years later were already earning 300,000 yen per month ($3,073). If you factor in they also do some evening private one-on-one tutoring, which brings in another $800 a month and, as you can imagine, their lifestyles are quite nice.
Average salaries through the JET Programme – Many first-time teachers to Japan interview with and sign up for The Jet Programme. Called the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (British spelling), it offers first-time teachers in their program a 3.35 million yen salary every year. As that breaks down to almost $2,800 USD per month, it is a slightly higher salary than if you work through a language school, although friends who do work through JET say there are definitely some restrictions of the program that you should take into account before signing up with them.
Salaries through JET increase quite nicely every year for each new contract you sign up to their salary cap.
Do you speak Japanese? – While some programs like JET will tell you having Japanese language skills do not improve your salary teaching in Japan, that isn’t true according to the friends I have who have lived in Japan for many years.
They all discovered, once their Japanese language skills became just about fluent, not only were language schools offering them higher salaries to work for them, but they were making even more money teaching private students — all of whom wanted a tutor who could speak Japanese.
All in all, however, on a base salary of at least $2,600 no matter where you teach in Japan, you should find your lifestyle to be very comfortable.