To the New Teacher

by Jessie J. Lucky (posted with permission)

To the new teacher- In parts of Japan they are looking for people to work as cheap as possible. In other parts of Japan they are struggling to find people. Some employers are just trying to find a warm body. Some are trying to find a better teacher for their needs. Some don’t know how much they need to pay, some just want to pay less. In every single case do this- ASK FOR MORE. You’ll be surprised how often you get it. Also, it’s much easier to turn down work up-front than down the road (for most people). It’s hard to say, ‘hey I got a better offer, I’m dumping you‘… especially if upon saying that now they’ve offered more to try to get you to stay. It’s good to start with your best prices, at the top of the market, and IF the client/customer/student/outfit etc. underbids that and you accept it, its much easier to quit later when you get a better gig- and they’ll know why. I’ve been doing this 13 years in Japan. Trust me, haggle hard up front. Japanese people do not like price hikes later UNLESS its understood upfront that they were starting at a discounted rate (so they know its a temporary deal). I know a lot of people can be stuck in situations where they need work and money now. In that case only take the lower paying stuff on a temporary basis, to hold you over till you find decent work for yourself. And if you had trouble understanding any of the English in this post maybe you should consider not teaching English. There is a standard for sub-par English speakers working as teachers in Japan, this also has to stop but its mostly Japanese, not foreigners who do this…The more of us who demand better wages, the better our wages will get. Only those unwilling to pay will leave the market….we don’t need them anyway. At this point some eikaiwa jobs are paying less than convenience stores!! Ridiculous!! Finally, if you are an employer mad that teachers are working together for higher wages- Take your sham eikawa, turn it sideways and…..


#1 Bare minimum.

I don’t care how under-qualified you are. 1500 should be the very very bare minimum target per hour INCLUDING your prep time and transport time. If its a 50 minute lesson that takes 50 minutes to get to (and from) and about 30 minutes to prep for… That’s 3 hours of your time. That’s 4500 to get 1500 an hour. If you start going under that wage you can literally do other things than teach English for more money (depending on your skills and Japanese). As I said above if you took something less than 1500 an hour (like a convenience store job) you should consider it temporary work while you find better. Whatever the world tells you about your worth screw them. You are worth more than that, work hard until you get it. Work on your Japanese if that is your hold-up. You are in Japan right? Anyone can learn the language of the country they live in. Anyone. Stop using English/x-pat community as a crutch. Get out there and talk to Japanese people in their language. If you don’t understand this basic process of language learning you shouldn’t be teaching language anyway.


#2 Per lesson- 6kyen+

is where it is reasonable if you consider prep and travel time. 8k should be your target. Anything beyond that is lucrative. 1500+ (bare minimum) if travel, office hours, prep time etc. are paid separately. There is a standard out there to offer 3000, quickly dropping to 2000. This is ridiculous in many cases when travel and prep time are considered. You can not-prep for some jobs or teach the same lesson in a format. This is reasonable to teach lessons for less because there is a large number of them in a row at the same location and there is little prep per lesson. 6000+ for a stand-alone lesson. See #3


#3 Per day- start no less than 10kyen a day, targeting 15k.

20k and up is lucrative depending on how many hours you work. You can easily break 20k a day with privates. If someone wants your whole day for less than 10k, they are ripping you off. You can make 6000+x2 stand-alone lessons in a day to top that. After transport you’ll probably have the 10k and you’ll only have had to teach two lessons. 1/2 days target 8k+, so that if you have two half-days or a half day+privates you can get over the 15k and up to the real 20k+ goal.


#4 Per month- for a full-time job, it really depends on how ‘full time’.

If its the only work you can reasonably do than target over 300kyen a month. If its part-time, weekday only etc. so that you can work nights and evenings you might consider less. 1/2 days 5 days a week you might take as little as 150k if you have the opportunity to work another gig in the same conditions for a total of 300k between two gigs. You can consider workings/class hours required to see if they are paying you the reasonable 1500+ an hour or not.


#5 multipliers- Are you experienced? +500/hr

Do you have a degree in education/TESL/CELTA etc.? +500~1500/hr to all prices above. It depends on the type of degree and training. General education and short licensing programs only raise your potential wage a little. 2year certification programs, TESOL masters etc. raise the wage a lot more but you have to find employers that are critical of teaching ability and these will be jobs that involve creating your own curriculum/lesson plans etc. (like running a school). If you speak Japanese it will make finding the work easier, but there is very little English teacher work that you need Japanese (as a foreign teacher) for the actual teaching gig (the majority of the work wants you to use English/is okay with English in English). SOME jobs will require/want people who speak Japanese. This doesn’t really raise the wage as much as it qualifies/disqualifies you. Obviously with the ability to find more work Japanese ability does raise your potential wage but not in the same way that experience/skill does. Anyone who has experience and connections can run their own school or get privates and actual teaching ability, credentials etc. wont matter. It will all be about their ability to sell their lessons. The more legit their lessons and skills the better they will retain customers, but their personality and charisma will matter about as much as the quality of the actual English instruction and progress of students.


Some math for you= 1500/hr x 8hrs x 5 days a week x 4 weeks a month = 240k This is the BARE minimum.  Anything less than that you should consider another job. With experience (not coming in FOP) then 2000/hr base = 320k. 320k+ should be the operating goal, maybe not one employer. IF they want your time exclusively and you have skills… If you are TESOL certified then I would say raise that to 400k+ between all gigs. If they offer you less than that then it has to be for part-time work with the understanding you will be working other jobs. People may say that is crazy but you can make that kind of money in other countries with similar or lower cost of living as a qualified English teacher (but not as a token whose only qualification is native speaker of course). As a certified teacher most Japanese positions will not be able to hire you exclusively. It’s then up to you how many different jobs you plug into your schedule- so you can work a lot for a lot, or a little for less and fill the rest of your time with other pursuits. Most of all though, know your worth. Some people will try to give you for 8 hours work with dozens of students what a private lesson will pay you for a 2 hour lesson one on one.