View Full Version : General Questions about ESL

April 19th, 2012, 11:17
Hi, I am hoping I put this thread in the right place since I lurk this forum a good bit and am slightly fearful of the ball busting. ;]

I am looking into a change in my education path and ESL is something I am strongly considering. I do like to travel but I also really love new cultures (not just Japanese/Asia culture) but I also think it would be nice to help bridge a gap for people.

Those reasons are all well and good but that is my emotional side, I also have a pragmatic side. I am well aware of ESIT but when I want answers I prefer getting them from sources I feel have nothing to gain by lying.

So what is out there for someone who does this for a living? That may be a huge question but I guess I just want to know what the realistic requirements are to be able to make a comfortable living and how likely that is.

I really do apologize for that wide scope but all the sources I have looked into about this, as far as pay/opportunity etc. seem shady and are often widely different. I imagine the answers here will be as well but whatever.


April 19th, 2012, 13:16
When I lived in Japan previously I worked for a Canadian dude that had opened up his own school and was living comfortably (had a cushy apartment, took trips overseas fairly regularly, ate out at restaurants frequently, etc). Knew a few other foreigners in similar positions.

I think you could have a good set up if you owned a school and invested in ESL that way. Probably less so if you wanted to be a travelling ESL nomad, but I've heard of people doing it.

Also in countries like Korea and Japan you have the option of getting a Masters and teaching English at the University level which is meant to pay decently. I think one problem with ESL that there often isn't much room for advancement. If you owned your own school, at least you'd have the ability to grow it.

April 19th, 2012, 14:00
unless you have a japanese spouse setting up your own school will be tricky/almost impossible, especially if you dont have any sort of credit history, local contacts and evidence that you can support yourself financially for at least the first year.

if you mean just working as a teacher then you can live a comfortable life. From a practical standpoint your best bet would be to come out here with a well known company/programme (JET/interac/borderlink/heart/aeon etc) in order to get yourself established. After a year or two you should have made a few contacts, got a sense of where you would like to live, gained some experience, formed an opinion on what age range you would like to teach, decided if you want to teach in schools or if you prefer eikaiwa, stuff like that. Having a valid work visa and currently residing in Japan are two of the most basic requirements for any sort of decent ESL job.

April 19th, 2012, 14:45
Oh yeah, you definitely ought to make marrying a Japanese lady part of your 2 year plan if you're single and straight. Would make things much easier.

Also, it depends what level of "comfort" you want. For some people "comfort" means earning enough to own your own home. Here in Australia I have friends in their late 20s earning twice a JET's salary and to them that isn't even "comfortable".

If I were to make a career out of ESL it'd be with 5 or so years of experience teaching (preferably in a few different companies to gain a range of experience with different business models and teaching methods) and then I'd look towards opening my own school (having a Japanese/ local waifu would help). Teaching itself doesn't seem to have the kind of progression I'd look for in a career, as far as I know (there may be more senior opportunities I don't know about, though). The problem I've seen with a lot of ESL is that experience isn't given much credit. They just want native-language ability and a pulse. Many Eikaiwas and ALT dispatch companies seem to prefer the revolving door model of employment instead of offering real progression and advancement.

April 19th, 2012, 15:02
you shouldn't look at the salary compared to other countries. Its how far the money goes in Japan that counts.

typical eikaiwa salary is standard for a new graduate in japan.
JET is about the same as someone with a few years experience.
38-40man a month is about what a civil servant would earn after about 8-10 years on the job.

basic ESL salary is enough to live a good life but you wont be buying houses and new cars. If you are incompetent enough to continue working for that salary for more than a few years then thats more your problem than anyone elses

April 20th, 2012, 13:38
The unfortunate thing is, and maybe Ini can clarify, but you have limited career paths available to you even as an ESL teacher. I dunno about the private hires, but I get the impression that private hire ALTs have no promotion/raise opportunities as they aren't "real teachers". In a private company you would have a career path into management of that company but yet again as an ESL teacher you're still limited in where you can go.

At least the university path has some potential for long term retention and progressive promotion.

That being said if you don't care about promotion/progression/salary increases then ESL teaching is great. Pretty much wherever you are you will be earning low middle class wages be able to live comfortably where you are.

April 20th, 2012, 13:47
you wont see promotion on the teaching side of things unless you pass the teaching exams and get licensed. A slightly easier route is to go on a weeks training on how to pour tea and deal with violent members of the public and get hired as a full time member of staff at town/city hall.

April 20th, 2012, 14:15
I also really love new cultures

Most generic statement of the year award 2012.

April 23rd, 2012, 01:24
Masters is a good idea especially if you want to teach at the university level. The middle east currently pays the best but you need to have a few years under your belt to work there. There are also a lot of opportunities in the states to teach ESL.

Another option would be to get a general teaching degree in either math or a hard science. You could then throw an ESL masters or cert onto that and youll be extremely appealing to international schools.

As for advancement, like everything else it is what you make of it. I have met a few people who have moved into recruitment companies, been heads of departments in colleges, or done their own thing (like the genki english guy). If you re looking to become master and commander, it is not the best line of work, but if you are looking for some advancement, an increase in pay and some interesting stuff to do, ESL teaching is fine.