Wow, the pay of an ALT

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Wow, the pay of an ALT 2008/7/26 15:48
Ok I have a feeling I am overlooking something, not understanding Japanese living standards or I am really naive.

I was browsing through jobs at and the pay scales for teaching English in Japan seem to be a LOT of money. For example, I read on these forums that working for Gaba was horrible because the pay is low. However, on Gaba listed that they pay from 2,250 to 3,300 yen an hour?! 2,250 is about $20 USD an hour right? How is that not a lot of money? Even if you only worked for 4 hours that would be $100 a day. How is that not more than enough to cover living expenses? I saw that working for Interac pays about 250,000 yen a month. That is roughly $2,500 a month...and if you were cutting costs living in a guest house where rent is $300-$500 a that not $2000 or so to cover whatever other living expenses you have?

Of course there are taxes to factor in...but seriously I think I must be missing something. Are these not really well paying jobs? To me it sounds like you would not only be able to survive in Tokyo with that kind of income, but you would have plenty of extra money to go clubbing and have fun with...perhaps even bring home some of your earnings after you are done teaching in Japan.

Please I would love for someone who has experienced living in Japan working as an English teacher/ALT in a big city like Tokyo or Osaka where the cost of living is high, to explain to me that I am a fool :P Any insight would be appreciated, thank you.

by Puzzled  

some points 2008/7/26 20:26
In or near central Tokyo you won't find a room for $300 per month, you can be sure of that!

The point is, teaching English used to pay much more. When I first came to Japan in 1995, the minimum was more like 300,000 yen. Gradually salaries have gone down to to where I often see ALT salaries of 220,000 or less these days.

By the time you pay income tax, health insurance, local residence taxes, rent (almost certainly more than 50,000 in a large city unless you live in a dorm), gas, electricity, water, internet connection, cellphone fees, food, transport costs, you actually might not have a huge amount left of your 250,000.

The main point is that salaries are so much less than they used to be.

At Gaba that 2,250 an hour is dependent on a student booking your lesson, and students are free to choose the teacher they want to take a lesson with- no bookings equals no pay, so that rate is far from guaranteed.

by Sira rate this post as useful

. 2008/7/26 20:33
Gaba isn't an ALT job.
It is 1 to 1 english lessons, and it isn't 2200-3300 yen an hour their misleading ads say.

They pay you 1500yen per 40 minute lesson (read their fine print), and you are never guaranteed your schedule will be full, you might have one student or no students at all, they also don't pay you back on transportation, though they say you can claim it as a tax write off.

You're also missing the big picture, aside from National taxes, there are local municipal taxes, and NHI if you are enrolled into NHI, rent, cost of living costs, utilities, your keitai, transportation costs etc., got bills and debts to payback at home etc.

Yes anyone can live a frugal life, if you like that that's fine, but most people don't.

by John rate this post as useful

hmm 2008/7/27 02:46
Oh ok, so you guys are saying you CAN live off of 250,000 yen a month but you don't have as much money left over after bills and food as I thought. But can you still afford to go clubbing, drinking and what not with a salary like that? Or are you sort of living paycheck to paycheck?
by Puzzled rate this post as useful

depends on lifestyle 2008/7/27 07:40
You can go clubbing, drinking etc, but if you do it more than a few of times a month, you will be living paycheck to paycheck- I know plenty of English teachers who did just that, so they were in trouble when Nova stopped paying their salaries last year.

Tokyo can be a very expensive city to go drinking/clubbing in, it's amazing how fast you can blow through money if you aren't careful.

As a fulltime English teacher over 2 years I managed to save enough to pay off my student loan (about $10,000 US) and then travel for 6 months afterwards, but I had to be pretty frugal, do a lot of overtime, and probably didn't enjoy myself as much as the others who were just out to party. I did go out to bars etc., but only occasionally. I'm glad I got rid of that loan though! The exchange rate was also much better at the time.

It really depends on your personality and goals though, and also the older you get the more comforts you want so the harder it is to be frugal.

When I first came here straight out of university I was used to living on a tight budget so managed to save even on a part timer's income (about 180,000 per month).

Within a few years though life had got more expensive- now I wanted a cellphone, computer, gym membership, slightly better apartment, trips to nearby Asian countries, to eat at restaurants etc. more often, plus the residence tax and health insurance costs kick in after your first year, so there's no way I could survive on that amount now!

Basically if you are fresh out of university and used to budgeting, especially for your first year here an ALT salary will be plenty of money, and if you are careful you will be able to save. Gradually though most of us lose that student mentality and that salary starts to look like a lot less.

by Sira rate this post as useful

. 2008/7/27 11:26
Yes anyone CAN live off that amount, and anyone CAN live in a park under a blue tarp too. Living frugal is good for you then fine, just be prepared to miss somethings.

I agree,
Fine if you plan to be a 1 year right out of college person, but if you're older, not a 1 yearer who plans to go home and doesn't mind spending a year in a guesthouse, the money at these schools is chump change when you plan to stay longer, especially the more responsibilities you might get. Plan to stay more then 1 year? As mentioned, taxes, insurance, everything comes to kick you. Not everyone keeps that frugal student mentality living for a while, teaching market isn't as great as it used to be, and it doesn't pay as well as it used to be, can't do that with a wife and kids can you? Not to mention the world economy situation, and no job security. Just look at the spectacular collapse of NOVA. You're living just fine one day, the next day your boss embezzles all your money away, your paychecks stop coming, you are evicted, and go home with nothing. Happened to thousands of teachers last year!

by John rate this post as useful

I see 2008/7/27 14:24
Thanks for the responses btw, I appreciate your insight. Hmm thats some good news sorta. I don't plan on buying a computer and gym membership and all that and having a wife and kids so I don't think I would be spending as much. I'm planning on more of the 1 year straight out of college route.

I was wondering though, where did you guys work? And how did you go about it? Did you just dive in head first to Japan with a degree and went job hunting? How do people usually do it (without going on the JET program)

by Puzzled rate this post as useful

check the dedicated Japan ESL sites 2008/7/27 14:38
Puzzled, your next step is to look at the Japan branch of (under international job forums) and also the jobs advertised there. The people on the Japan branch often have some good advice.

Also check out the jobs at There is some useful info in the English teaching forum there but also a lot of people who don't give particularly useful advice.

I originally came on a working holiday visa and worked at a ski resort, then I worked with Nova.

Nova is still around but definitely isn't a good way to go now. Some of the other big eikaiwas (Shane, Geos, ECC) still recruit overseas- check out the FAQs on for info about those and other routes- this topic gets discussed a lot.

by Sira rate this post as useful

gaba 2008/7/28 00:42
gaba's starting pay is actually lower than you think - it starts at 1400yen per lesson. (i just got hired by gaba)

i think gaba is a great place to make money as a part time job, or if you stick around with it long enough there are careers besides english teaching to get into.

if you are a people person with a magnetic personality every student that tries a lesson with you will come back, and you'll be able to fill your schedule. if you want to work full time you can really haul in cash. GABA gives pay increases every 3 months as well as offers payment for attending their extra training classes, so really it's not that bad. the same could be said about teaching english privately, but finding students privately can be a challenge if you want to be paid in cash. also private students tend to flake out and cancel very often because the lessons are cheaper and don't have a fee associated with cancellation.

if you have a university degree there's no question being an ALT for something like the JET programme is way better pay than any eikaiwa can hope to achieve. if you don't have a degree or you're in japan on a working holiday visa, then your options are more limited and eikaiwa should be something to consider seriously.

still, for a lot of people without a degree 1400yen an hour is not bad starting pay, especially considering it goes up to 1700yen an hour plus bonuses after 3 months. pretty much all the eikaiwa pay around that amount or higher.

about living in tokyo, you can find good apartments for between 40,000-70,000yen a month. 40,000 will be a kind of crappy and old apartment but you can find them in the heart of shibuya - i know because i looked at one there (decided on somewhere else more expensive). 60,000yen a month will get you into a gaijin house. 70,000 a month will get you an apartment in many places in tokyo near the yamanote line.

as mentioned clubbing / bars can blow your money. especially as you get drunker you tend to spend money you shouldn't. avoid doing that and you can live on 1000yen a day plus your train expenses, no problem. that means if you can find 2 or 3 private lesson students a day at 2000yen each you can live in tokyo - it'll be a bit tight but it's doable.

by winterwolf rate this post as useful

do you mean after tax? 2008/7/28 08:08
winterwolf- are you sure about the 1400? I know that they increased the base rate ("Belt A") to 1500 yen per lesson back in April- I have friends still working there. It comes to about 1425 yen after tax. If you are only getting paid 1400 per lesson you might want to check that with your LSM...

I wouldn't say you have to have a magnetic personality to get a full schedule- I worked there part-time for a while to supplement my income not too long ago, and I had a mostly full schedule, as did a few other teachers- I wouldn't say any of us have magnetic personalities, but we are the more experienced teachers there at the moment. I would say the teachers who can pitch their language to the level of the student, look organised, and make the students feel comfortable have the fullest schedules.

by Sira rate this post as useful

past, not present 2008/7/28 08:10
Sorry- rather than "we are the more experienced teachers there at the moment" I meant to say "we were the more experienced teachers there at the time"- forgot what year it was for a second...
by Sira rate this post as useful

? 2008/7/28 13:55
1000 yen a day? Isn't that $10 USD a day? How can you manage to only spend $10 a day in Japan. Isn't lunch alone 800 yen or $8? That leaves you with $2 for dinner and trains or whatever. Are you starving yourself? How do you manage to spend so little?

Also are you able to work at Gaba as a 2nd job? How are you able to work at your regular ALT job and also teach people for Gaba? Do you schedule the Gaba lessons for later on in the day when you are off from teaching at your main job?

by Puzzled rate this post as useful

. 2008/7/28 14:26
You don't have to spend Y800 on lunch if you learn to cook. You can eat for about Y100 to Y300 per meal if you make it yourself.

by P rate this post as useful

Make your own food... 2008/7/28 14:27
Lunch might be 800 yen a day if you eat out, but as in any country you can make sandwiches or pasta etc. that you have brought the ingredients for at a supermarket for a fraction of that. Even a bento is usually a lot less than 800 yen. If you eat out for every meal though, you will certainly spend a lot more.

If I have no big expenses to pay for then I often don't spend 1,000 in a day- some days I spend a lot more though!

Yes, it is possible to work at Gaba as a second job. They allow you to choose your own schedule, and they are open 10am to 10.40pm weekdays (some branches open earlier) and 10am to 8pm weekends, allowing for a lot of flexibility, although busy times are weekends and evenings.

Working full time as an ALT and then going to Gaba in the evenings sounds like an exhausting schedule.

by Sira rate this post as useful

alternative job 2008/8/1 11:45
if teaching english isn't enough to live "comfortably", what would be a good alternative to that job in japan? i'm a Business major, if that helps.
by Gnicklas rate this post as useful

degree 2008/8/1 18:00
you said you're a business major but didn't state if you've finished your degree.

if you have a degree english teaching is the best and easiest job in most cases. you may be able to find a job at a bank or marketing firm in roppongi in tokyo, or other large cities in japan, but that will take more work to find. the pay would be higher at a place like that.

teaching english with a degree is more than enough to support oneself. the distinction has to be made between teaching at an eikaiwa such as gaba and a normal teaching job like ALT or private english school where the salaries are much higher (as are the responsibilities and expectations of competence!)

by winterwolf rate this post as useful

Jobs in finance 2008/8/1 21:23
With a degree in a financial field and some experience working you may be able to find a job with one of the large foreign investment banks for example.

These are not all based in Roppongi incidentally- some are located in Akasaka, Tameike Sanno, and various other areas of Minato ku as well as Chiyoda ku and Chuo ku. Some have moved to the Roppongi area since Roppongi Hills and Midtown were completed.

As a new graduate with no experience in the field you could find it hard to get this kind of position, but with a year or more experience in your home country you would have more choice.

by Sira rate this post as useful

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