Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?

Which Company Should I Apply For?


Kamakura, Japan, 2008

It’s hiring season for teaching in Japan! Are you applying to become an Assistant (English) Language Teacher, or ALT at public schools in Japan?

Factors for deciding which companies to apply for are different for everyone, so here are a few important questions to think about when you’re looking at job postings and the information they provide.

How much do you need to earn?

One thing to keep in mind is that the salary for working in Japan as an English teacher hasn’t changed for a long time (or has even decreased) and there isn’t a huge salary range for entry level positions among all of the recruiting companies. In addition, yen is weaker now, meaning if you want to send your savings to a US bank account, it won’t seem like much.

On the low end, you’re looking at 190,000 yen per full month worked. On the high end, for entry level (no experience teaching English) maybe 230,000 yen per full month. Some companies pay more to reimburse transportation, like if your job requires a car or taking a bus or train to get to your school. Some schools factor in a ‘bonus’ that they might deduct – if you are late for work for example. Be sure to look at your salary range along with the other factors of transportation and potential bonuses.

Unfortunately, the majority of companies hiring for public school positions do not give contract completion bonuses or pay for your flight to Japan. Also note, the salary will most likely be zero for the month of August, when there is no school because of summer vacation.

If you have debt or need to save money, but are absolutely fixed on working in Japan and not Korea or in the middle east (you can earn more money there for sure), I would recommend applying for the government sponsored JET Programme as the position is not much different than ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) positions through recruiting companies, although the pay is A LOT better (currently 3,360,000 yen annually to start). You will not be working with a recruiting/dispatch company who keeps a portion of the provided salary and you will be more responsible throughout the entire year with JET, but I have heard it’s a great opportunity. The application process is more intense than for recruiting companies, but if you qualify, that’s around 100,000 yen a month more that can go towards paying off school loans or saving up for a travel fund.

The usual starting time for JET positions is different and there are some perks you won’t get with recruiting companies. Most of their positions are in rural areas and you will have more opportunities and encouragement to learn Japanese. I recommend applying for their summer-start program and if you find out you didn’t get an offer, you will still have plenty of time to apply for the next year’s spring-start jobs with recruiting companies. There are also a limited number of positions throughout the year .

Are you okay with driving in Japan?

If driving on the left side of the street, needing a Japanese drivers license after the first year, or the costs of having a car in Japan are not acceptable for you, I would avoid applying for JET or Interac.

A reputable company, Interac almost exclusively places ALTs in remote areas nationwide where they work at several schools and need a car to get to work.

If you aren’t willing to drive, they will not hire you, even if you are otherwise qualified. They might get you a position where you don’t need a car, but they can’t guarantee it. If you are fine with driving, Interac does pay decently (230,000 yen per month) and also pays the cost of leasing a car through their company. Their job posts will show 230,000-250,000 yen a month, but the high end is Only if you lease a car through them, at a cost of 20,000 yen per month, and it is reimbursed. The company does not pay more if you have experience but the base salary is at the high end for applicants without experience teaching in Japan.

If you have experience teaching in Japan or other countries as an ESL teacher, you can qualify for a slightly higher salary by working for a company who pays more for experience, a TEFL certificate, and Japanese ability. It will most likely not be more than 260,000 yen per month even with several years of experience, but don’t settle for 210,000 – 230,000 when you can get more.

Where do you want to work?

If you are super interested in a specific city or region, it might be a challenge, but will also help to narrow down potential companies you should apply to. You can research the regions recruiting companies get contracts in, but know that most companies are willing to expand to nearby areas if they can.

If you only want to work in an urban area, like Tokyo, you will be in for a lot of competition with experienced ALTs. It is not likely you can work in an urban area unless you have at least a couple years of experience. The good news is, you can easily get something within an hour train ride away from an urban area your first year working in Japan, plus you will save money on rent while living in a smaller city. See my article about why I don’t think living in Tokyo is a great idea.

Most recruiting companies work in specific regions only, for example, in the Kanto region where Tokyo is, there are Borderlink and Heart Corporation. In the Fukuoka/Kitakyushu region, there is OWLS. In the Nagoya region, there is Altia Central. Interac is six different companies divided by region to cover the whole country. There are many more small regional companies throughout Japan.

Knowing if you want to be in a rural or suburban area is helpful to recruiters looking for a position for you. It’s also helpful if you know you want to live near mountains, the ocean, or near a specific city. This does not mean they will find you a perfect place and it’s important to be open minded. I was hoping for the coast and instead was really close to a little river about two hours from the ocean. It was exactly what I wanted as far as being convenient and in a small town where I had to speak Japanese every day. I had a great experience (you can read about it in my PDF ebookKindle ebook) and I honestly believe your attitude (plus the people you work with) make the biggest impact in your experience.

Here’s a simple table summing up several recruiting companies:

Company Name Regions Salary Range Notes
Interac Nationwide, rural 230,000-250,000 Be willing to drive
Borderlink, Inc. Kanto Region 210,000-230,000 Pays more for experience
Heart Corporation Kanto Region 9,000-13,000 daily Daily Salary based on position, varies monthly
OWLS Fukuoka / Kyushu 220,000-240,000 Pays more for experience
Altia Central Nagoya/ Chubu 230,000-255,000 Experienced applicants only
JET Programme  Nationwide, rural 3,360,000/year Not through a recruiter

Please use this resource in your job search as well as looking around online to find any missing data about the company. It doesn’t hurt to apply and ask the company questions directly. If the company isn’t a good fit for you, you can move on to other options.

Use the comments to ask me if you have any questions about which companies to apply for.


4 comments on “Which Company Should I Apply For?

  1. Pingback: How Can I Get Paid More? | helloalissa

  2. Pingback: You got hired! Now What? | helloalissa

  3. Pingback: Applying to be a Direct Hire ALT - ALTInsider.com

  4. Pingback: Applying to be a Direct Hire ALT – ALTInsider.com

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This entry was posted on November 22, 2015 by in Living in Japan, Teaching English and tagged , , .

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