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What are Salaries for English Teachers in Japan?
Written by: Jessie Smith
Last Updated: December 18, 2020
How much money can you make teaching English in Japan in 2020?
Most first-time English teachers in Japan get paid between 247,700 JPY ($2,250 USD) to 286,200 JPY ($2,600 USD) per month. First-year participants teaching English in Japan on the JET Program receive an average monthly wage of 280,000 JPY, ($2550 USD) per month with yearly pay increases. Airfare and housing costs are typically the teachers responsibility.
Japan is one of the largest markets in the world for English teachers. Of all the Asian countries, Japan in particular has one of the longest traditions of employing English instructors. The types of teaching jobs in Japan vary, so salaries for those teaching English can also vary.
Most first-time English teachers in Japan from the U.S., Canada, the U.K. or other native English-speaking countries typically earn between 247,700 JPY ($2,250) to 286,200 JPY ($2,600) per month, and some teachers can make more than that depending on his/her qualifications & previous teaching experience.
For teachers interested in the JET program, first-year participants receive an average monthly wage of 280,000 JPY, ($2550 per month) with yearly pay increases. Some JET program participants may even receive subsidized rent, though it’s not required for them to do so.
Teachers are typically responsible for airfare and housing costs, although schools do assist in finding housing and occasionally will provide accommodations or housing stipends depending on credentials.
What does this mean to me in real terms?
The average monthly cost of living for English teachers in Japan typically ranges from 193,500 JPY to 296,000 JPY ($1,700 - $2,600). So when you consider the average monthly salary for first-time English teachers is 260,000 JPY ($2,250) to 296,000 JPY ($2,600), it really depends on your spending habits and where in Japan you live.
When traveling and living abroad, you should always consider the local cost of living, country-by-country and also city-by-city. This means, the cost of a bus ticket or a meal abroad might be drastically cheaper (or more expensive) than you're used to in your home country.
The cost of a meal in Tokyo will be much more expensive than it would be in a smaller city or a more rural part of Japan. A meal in a bistro New York City is likely going to cost more than a meal at a diner in rural Iowa.
So when choosing where you want to teach English in Japan, you should definitely keep in mind the local cost of living and determine how important saving money each month is to you.
Though Japan is known for its higher cost of living, excellent salaries enable those teaching English in Japan to live a comfortable lifestyle and even to save up to $500 or more a month in some cases. Schools typically offer 20 to 30 hours of work per week (and sometimes more), leaving plenty of time to travel and explore.
Tips for Saving Money Teaching English in Japan
a. Get TEFL Certified – You'll qualify for higher paying jobs if you have a professional & internationally recognized TEFL certification. Read more about completing your TEFL certification.
b. Do your research and explore your options - Thousands of English teaching jobs need to be filled across Japan in thousands of schools & language institutes. You'll have more options and opportunities to land a great position with a high salary if you make an effort to explore your options and stay patient during your job search. This means looking at many job boards, talking to/applying to a variety of recruiters, and applying/ interviewing for a variety of different teaching jobs.
A great place to start is the ITA Japan Alumni Facebook Group, where ITA students and graduates who are teaching in Japan or are thinking of doing so are exchanging questions, information, and job tips about teaching in Japan. Only enrolled students and alumni can post, but anybody can check out the conversation for great insights and perspective.
c. Conduct as much research as you can on different schools (including their reputations – speak to current teachers if possible). You should also research individual regions where you are considering teaching, including the local cost of living, which can vary widely between different cities and regions across Japan.
d. Learn to live and shop like a local - It's easy to fall into the trap of hanging out, eating/drinking and shopping at "foreigner - friendly" establishments in Japan. If you do, you'll likely be paying over-inflated "foreigner" or "tourist" prices. You'll save a ton more money if you learn how to take public transportation, shop at local Japanese markets, and also if you avoid pricey touristy restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
A journalism major at the University of Iowa, Jessie took the ITA Online TEFL Course and taught English in South Korea & Vietnam before joining the team. As one of ITA's most senior writers, Jessie is the author of numerous articles about teaching English abroad & TEFL certification, and she has spoken at various conferences about working & teaching abroad, including the Lessons from Abroad (LFA) symposiums in San Diego & Portland. Her articles have also appeared in such popular online publications as InternQueen.com.
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