Teaching English in Japan and What Do You Need for TEFL Job There • Grade University

Teaching English in Japan – A Full Guide 2024

Teaching English in Japan – A Full Guide 2024

21.12.2023

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Japan is a fascinating place full of commercial and economic power, sophisticated technology, rich cultural diversity, paradoxes, and geographical puzzles. From 1968 until 2010, Japan maintained its position as the second-largest economy in the world for almost 40 years. 

So, no wonder that such a great number of English teachers all over the world dream about starting their ESL career there

If it is your case as well, this article will help you to gather all the information about teaching English in Japan.

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What do you need to teach English in Japan: the requirements

First of all, we are going to start with general information on qualifications and requirements. Spoilers: there are more requirements to fulfill than in Spain or Mexico, for example. 

TEFL certification

As you may already know, you can build a great career practically anywhere and apply for the best vacancies all over the world with a TEFL certification.

Professionals who complete the rigorous TEFL certification program get hands-on training  in addition to valuable theoretical knowledge

And thankfully, experts at Grade University are always happy to help you prepare if you're unsure about where to begin with your TEFL certification.

Moreover, your chances to start teaching in Japan are much higher if you have a certification as it is crucial for the majority of Japanese educational establishments.

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Bachelor’s degree & visa

This is a tricky one.

It’s not a must to have a degree if you want to teach in Japan. The main requirement is still TEFL certification. However, if you want to get a working visa to Japan, you do need a degree. Therefore, there is not much of a choice here.

Still, there is another type of visa that doesn’t require an applicant to have a degree, which is a Working Holiday Visa. Normally, people can work part-time in Japan while on holiday with the help of this visa.

To apply for a Working Holiday Visa, you must be between the ages of 18 and 30, have a return ticket to your home country, and be able to demonstrate to the Japanese government that you can support yourself financially when you first arrive.

Where to find some great aboroad opportunities?

There are some other options you can try out as well. For example, you can try getting your degree in Japan and working part-time meanwhile or obtaining a spousal visa in case you are married to  a Japanese citizen. One more option to get a TEFL job in Japan as an English teacher without a degree is getting  Japanese citizenship for yourself.

However, as you can see, all of these options are very specific, and it's rather hard to fit into them. Therefore, you are likely to need a degree to teach in Japan anyway.

Experience

Are you wondering if an inexperienced English teacher can succeed in Japan?

The good news is that ESL teachers can get their first TEFL job in Japan with no prior experience relatively easily!

The explanation for this situation is simple. Given the size of the population and the great need for English teachers, there are many working possibilities for both experienced teachers and those who only take their first steps in the field. 

Therefore, finding a good position in Japan should not be too difficult for a newly certified TEFL instructor. However, it is going to be hard if you don’t have a reliable proof of your professionalism, like TEFL certification.

Is it possible to get a teaching job without a degree?

Background Check

When we refer to a "background check," we imply an initial national criminal history check.

To get a work visa to teach English in Japan, one does not technically need to go for a criminal background check. Still, a lot of schools will demand it. If something appears on your record, the school will determine whether or not to make you an offer based on the incident.

For example, special authorities have to complete a background check to apply for the JET Program which we are going to discuss further. Additionally, you will not be eligible for the program if you have ever been arrested, accused, or found guilty of any offense other than minor traffic offenses.

Age 

60 is the required retirement age in Japan. Because of this, hiring instructors older than that is typically frowned upon by schools.

Moreover, because of some differing cultural views on English instructors, schools highly favor hiring teachers in their 20s and 30s.

However, all the details depend on a certain position you are going to apply for. Therefore, carefully check all the details before making any final conclusions or decisions.

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What teaching jobs are there in Japan?

It is rather hard and competitive to get a position in a state school. However, Japan is great because you have a lot of more exciting and well-paid vacancies

Here are some of the potential positions you can get:

  • Assistant Language Teacher
  • Teacher in a private school
  • Teacher in Summer Programs
  • Tutoring online

How to become an English teacher in Japan?

Sure, you can try to become an English teacher in Japan on your own with no extra help.

However, getting to know certain specific projects that might make your chances higher won’t hurt anybody.

We have collected some programs for teaching English in Japan.

JET

You may have heard that the Japan Exchange Teaching program, or JET for short, allows you to teach ESL in Japan.

Applicants for this extremely competitive program must possess a bachelor's degree, citizenship from one of the countries participating in the program, and a keen interest in Japanese culture. 

The JET Program offers several advantages, including flights to and from Japan, prearranged employment, in-country assistance, and a high degree of cultural immersion, even if housing is not one of the benefits. 

Plus, the program guarantees you up to five years of teaching practice in Japan.

It is undoubtedly one of the most popular programs for teaching English in Japan.

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Westgate

While there are programs for teaching young learners and secondary schools, the Westgate program primarily places English instructors at universities. Their contracts are for three to five months.

Candidates for the program must be qualified English teachers with a bachelor's degree, a TEFL/TESOL certificate, and experience teaching EFL in a classroom.

Interac

If you're new to teaching English as a foreign language, you might be interested in applying to the Interac program. EFL teachers can work at schools, the majority of which are located in rural parts of Japan. The program mostly offers ALTs positions to applicants. 

You must possess a bachelor's degree, be fluent in English, and have at least 12 years of instruction in the language in order to qualify as an Interac ALT. Having teaching experience and a TEFL/TESOL certification increases your chances of being accepted into the program.

AEON

AEON employs EFL teachers in private ESL schools to teach adults and children conversational English. You will often teach sessions in the afternoon, evening, and on weekends under this program.

A bachelor's degree, high English language proficiency, and a valid work visa are prerequisites for admission to this program (AEON can also offer a visa sponsorship). Being certified in TEFL/TESOL is a big benefit.

How much does it cost to get TEFL-certified?

What are the pros and cons of teaching English in Japan?

Now, since you have some answers to the most essential questions, we can move on to the central one: pros and cons of teaching in Japan.

ProsCons
The salary in Japan allows you to afford all the necessary things and even more. Apart from the base pay, you are also likely to get some bonuses and various benefits like transport passes, cell phone SIM cards, and free lunch at school.Japan is well known for its long working days. Teaching is not an exception. Therefore, if you are not used to long working hours, the first months in Japan might become exhausting
You are definitely going to get a lot in terms of cultural experience. Japan, with its diverse modern culture and extraordinary mix of traditions and technologies, is likely to become an unforgettable experience and make you eager to discover this country more and more. Starting your work in Japan as an English teacher might feel lonely, as you will need some time to adjust to an absolutely different  world. 
The Japanese transportation system is great. And it is definitely a significant advantage. It is relatively easy to get to your working place no matter where you live. Still, the commute can be rather long. Of course, it’s not unbearable but certainly might be too tiring for some people
Japan might turn out to be something absolutely different from what you expected. So, it’s a perfect destination if you like changes, surprises and challenges.On the other hand, a lot of first-time visitors recall having a strong culture shock, difficulties with adjusting to the delicious but still super unique cuisine and so on. Therefore, if you feel that you are not in a mood to radically change your life, well, it’s better to start with another country.

What are the best places to teach ESL in Japan?

Tokyo

Average salary range (base pay): ¥230K – ¥280K/mo ($1,610.44 – 1,960.54)

The average cost of living (single person, total with rent): approximately ¥195K ($1,363)

Japan's capital, Tokyo, is home to the world's most populated metropolitan region. With its dazzling neon lights of Shibuya and its towering temples reflecting traditional Japanese culture, this city is among the most attractive in the world.

Tokyo is undoubtedly a destination worth seeing at least once in a lifetime because it has something to offer everyone.

Kyoto

Average salary range (base pay): ¥240K - ¥275K/mo ($1,680.46 – 1,925.53)

The average cost of living (single person, total with rent): approximately ¥158K ($1,108)

Japan's capital, Kyoto, was regarded by many as the country's most attractive city until the government was transferred to Tokyo in 1868. The city still serves as Japan's religious heart with more than a thousand Buddhist temples.

Along with some of the most exquisite gardens, temples, and artworks you will ever see, Kyoto is home to some of Japan's most well-known attractions.

Osaka

Average salary range (base pay): ¥220K - ¥263K/mo ($1,540.42 – 1,841.50)

The average cost of living (single person, total with rent): approximately ¥158K ($1,104)

Japan's original capital, Osaka, is the country's third-largest city. In Japan, it is regarded as an essential economic hub. It is the location of several top Japanese manufacturers as well as Japan's largest harbor.

Osaka City is known as the nation's kitchen and a gastronomic heaven.

Yokohama

Average salary range (base pay): ¥250K - ¥277K/mo ($1,750.48 – 1,939.53)

The average cost of living (single person, total with rent): approximately ¥201K ($1,411)

Japan's second-most populated city is Yokohama, which is situated in the Tokyo metropolitan region. Curiosity-seeking tourists and foodies should not miss Yokohama's Chinatown and Bay, which are 20 minutes south of Tokyo Station via rail. Teachers can also seek some outstanding job opportunities here.

To sum up, a dream of teaching English abroad may easily become a reality once some efforts are made and some professional help is obtained. If you are still unsure  about moving to your dream country to teach English as a foreign language, let Grade University help you.

Do you need a degree to teach in Japan?

Article authors & editors
  • Arina Kravchenko

    Arina Kravchenko

    Author

    Teacher of General English & IELTS

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