Published 15th October 2019

If you’re looking to live and work in a country that oozes history, culture and eccentricity, then Japan is the country for you. But, truthfully, if you’re looking to save thousands, then you might want to consider another country. Japan is one of the most fascinating countries to live in, but teaching English abroad there is not going to get you the same kind of paycheck as the United Arab Emirates or South Korea. On the other hand, in how many other countries can you find ancient Buddhist temples, tropical beaches and cat coffee shops?  Don’t get us wrong, you’re not going to starve teaching English in Japan, and you’re likely to earn well enough to live comfortably and travel and explore on your time off, but don’t expect to be able to pay off your student loan in a few months. Here’s what you need to know about the average teaching salary in Japan.

The average salary for teaching in Japan

There are a number of different teaching options in Japan and where you teach will influence how much you earn.

Teaching at an Eikaiwa, also known as a private language school, a conversation school or a cram school, you can earn from $2 200 to $2 500 a month. 

If you are working as a teaching assistant (an ALT) your salary will be a bit lower, probably around $2 000 a month. The one exception is the JET program which pays about $2 500 a month, including health insurance and long, paid holidays. This increases each year you work in the programme.

Kindergarten jobs are surprisingly well-paid, earning you around $3 000 a month.

If you are qualified enough to teach at a university, salaries pay around $2 500 to $5 000 a month. What makes working at a university more appealing is that your working hours are likely to only be about 15 hours a week and you’ll get three months’ paid vacation a year. 

If you decide to supplement your income with private tutoring, you can charge around $20 an hour, but this will also depend on the demand for teachers. If there are a lot of private English tutors in your area, you may not be able to charge so much. Conversely, if there aren’t many teachers around you could charge more.

The cost of living in Japan

As you can imagine, living in a city like Tokyo is going to be a lot more expensive than living in a small town. Accommodation, food, transport and entertainment will all vary in cost depending on where you live. 

In general, rent will set you back about $800 a month, while utility bills will come to about $100 a month. At this cost, housing in bigger cities is likely to be a small apartment while in smaller towns it could mean a two-bedroom house. 

If you prefer to eat and go out in the more touristy parts of town – no matter which town it is – you are guaranteed to pay more than if you are happy to eat like a local. Foreign-friendly establishments are likely to charge inflated rates as they are aimed more at tourists than locals. Luckily for you, as is usually the case, the food at authentic Japanese restaurants is even better than at tourist restaurants.

Contract benefits in Japan

Teaching jobs in Japan are a bit of a mixed bag. Some employers will offer flights, health insurance and accommodation, while others will offer you nothing more than your paycheck. If your school doesn’t offer any financial help with accommodation, they should still help you find and secure housing. Your employer should also give you help securing a work visa.

In a nutshell, teaching in Japan is what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Your teaching job won’t ask for crazy hours or surprise you with hidden extras but you shouldn’t expect more in return than your paycheck.

  1. I have an MBA, 2 science degrees, 40 years working experience of which 25 years has been in management positions and TEFL level 5. I am interested in teaching English to university students anywhere in Japan.

    1. Hi David, Japan is a really great option for teaching abroad, what a beautiful country. We have sent you an email with jobs boards and a CV and cover letter template. We would be happy to look over your CV and cover letter for you and suggest any changes, if required. 🙂

  2. Hi
    I have almost completed my level 5 TEFL course, I have no degree, however I do own my own tutor centre in SA where I teach non English speaking children…Could I qualify to teach in Japan?

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