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Feature photo by lopesFamily. Photo above by amirjina.

Everything you need to know on securing an English teaching job on the island nation.

Chances are, if you have a college degree and are reading this article, you are qualified to teach English in Japan. A degree in any field, English language fluency, and adaptability are the only qualifications many companies require.

Of course, a teaching certificate, a professional demeanor, and deep reserves of patience won’t hurt either. Because so many people possess the skill set required for teaching jobs in Japan, competition can be stiff. But if you know where to look and know what you’re looking for, your job search can be a success.

Who You’ll Work For

Photo by Alex Halavais.

First, you need to know what jobs are available. If you expect to walk off the plane and into a public high school classroom where you’ll plan your own lessons and develop your own curriculum, think again.

While this does happen, most entry-level jobs for foreigners are for assistant language teachers (or ALTs) at public schools or as conversation teachers at private companies.

There are one-stop programs that will place English speakers in public schools as ALTs, provide working visas, and often even pay for living expenses and transportation to Japan.

If you are looking for a tried and true program, check out JET (the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program), which is run by the Japanese government.

Applications are accepted once a year and the interview process is intensive. It is, however, worth it.

JET pays a decent living wage, provides a nationwide support network for ALTs, and takes care of all paperwork. An equally established, but privately held, ALT placement company is Interac.

Alternatively, many public and private day schools in Japan hire teachers and assistants directly. Look at the links section below to find places where these jobs might be listed.

Day school positions are ideal for those who are already residing in Japan and teachers with quite a bit of experience under their belt. Japanese speaking ability is also a big plus when applying directly with a school.

Then there’s the option of working at an English language conversation school, or eikaiwa. Eikaiwas are geared toward a wide range of students, from preschoolers to retirees.

These jobs are plentiful. Since most students at these schools have day jobs (or day classes), hours tend to be on evenings and weekends. With these positions, you are more likely to teach alone and be responsible for developing your own lesson plans.

For this reason, many companies require a teaching certificate of some kind before they’ll offer you an interview, so look into getting your TESOL or TEFL certification. Unless you go with a big corporation (and even then it’s a good idea), research the eikaiwa company you are applying with thoroughly. I will provide links to a few well-established ones in the next section.

Photo by MShades.

The Hunt

Ok. So you’ve decided on the kind of position you’re gunning for. Now where do you look?

Teaching sites: Check out these websites devoted to teaching English as a second language (ESL):

Japanese Media Sites: Many newspapers and magazines in Japan have up-to-date job listings. These are probably your best resource if you want to apply for a position directly rather than apply with a program like JET:

Eikaiwa Companies: Look for job openings and research companies directly through their websites:

Photo by jrkester.

Know Before You Go

Accepting a teaching job in Japan is not the same as accepting a job in your home country. You have to think about visas and living arrangements thousands of miles away. You have to communicate with people in a foreign language and you have to leave life as you know it behind for the length of your contract term.

For a lot of people, it’s a thrilling prospect. Taking a teaching job in Japan is the chance of a lifetime to completely immerse yourself in a foreign culture. But make sure it’s right for you. Give it a good long think before hopping on a plane. Moving to and living in Japan is not easy for everyone. It wasn’t for me. It is rewarding and life-changing…but it’s not easy.

Ok, ok. You’re sure you want to do it. The next step is research.

Check with your country’s embassy and find out what the visa requirements are for working in Japan. Next, research the company or companies you are applying with. Search the internet for forums by and for English teachers in Japan. (There are more than you think, and users are nothing if not opinionated.) gaijinpot.com and ithinkimlost.com are solid sites.

I would also suggest boning up on Japanese culture. Research business practices and social customs. There are also a number of books available written by former teachers in Japan. Two books written by JET Program alumni are Learning to Bow by Bruce Feiler and Japan Diary: A Year on JET by Eric Sparling.

Photo by Andy Ciordia.

Better Your Chances

Now some tips on how to make your resume stand out when applying for an English teaching job.

  • Get a teaching certificate. There are vacation TESOL courses in southern Thailand. There are online certification courses. There are weekend classes, and there are year-long intensive diploma courses. The options are plentiful for acquiring a teaching certificate. It not only makes you more marketable, but a teaching certificate course will prepare you for the day when you finally step into a classroom full of eager students.
  • Learn Japanese. This is a no-brainer. If you’re moving to a foreign country– any foreign country– the more you know of that country’s language, the better. A move to Japan may seem easy and breezy after your vacation in Tokyo where English signs and English speakers abound. But once you take that job in a tiny rural town in Hokkaido, you’ll wish you had spent more time figuring out how to say “I’d like to turn on the electricity in my apartment, please.”
  • Volunteer tutor. Give back to your community and build job skills at the same time. Volunteer at an after-school program to get a feel of how to work with students. Also, many cities offer opportunities to teach English as a second language to immigrants and refugees. Check out volunteermatch.org to see what is available in your area.

Photo by gwaar.

Finding a teaching job in Japan doesn’t have to be a daunting task …as long as you know what to look for. Remember to do your research and think it through. Good luck, and I’ll see you in school!

Community Connection: For more advice on looking for work in Asia, check out Mike Jones’s “Top 10 Online Resources for Finding a Job in Asia.”

Volunteer + Work


 

About The Author

Rachel Turner

Rachel Turner’s articles have appeared in Japanzine, The Kansai Scene, Weekender Magazine, and The Kyoto Journal. After years spent writing textbooks in the United States, she packed up and moved to a far-flung island in Japan. In her spare time she enjoys exploring her new home and butchering her new language. Check out her blog at www.amateurfatalist.com

  • Turner

    Good roundup, Rachel.

  • Tim Patterson

    Great roundup – I personally recommend JET. Where's the link to http://www.bigdaikon.com? Might not be clean or PC, but it's the most active online forum for english teachers in Japan.

  • Ichiro

    Teaching English is a wonderful way for a new college grad to see Japan, and JET is definitely a good way to go!

  • Rachel

    I thought ITIL might be a…safer option to mention. :) And, you know, I tried to sign up for an account to Big Daikon about 3 times and never got a reply. I only get to watch from the sidelines.

  • Steve

    Yea, another vote for ITIL here – http://www.ithinkimlost.com BD is just full of filth.

  • Tiara

    Is it possible to teach English in Japan if I don't have a degree but get a qualification to teach English such as TEFL? Thanks =)

  • Rachel

    I know that programs like JET and Interac require a degree, as do most jobs with public schools. You would probably still have some luck with conversation schools without a degree, though.

  • Cameron

    JET seems like the best way to go, but the application process lasts months. I would like to get over there and start working ahead of that time, then come back to America for the interview if I'm called, which JET expressly permits. However, I'd like to be honest with any other potential short-term employer, let them know up front I've applied to JET, so if the time comes that I move to work for them, I can stay on good terms with that employer on the chance that their job grows on me, or I wish to come back after a term at JET. Can I find a company who will be reasonable about this?

  • brian

    A US bachelor's degree or equivalent is required for an instructor's visa.

  • Jack

    Hi what would you reccomend mor? Interviewing for a job here on the states for a teaching position like an ALT or going to japan and trying to look for a job there immediately? I have a bachelors degree from the US but Im from the Philippines. My original plan was applly for jobs here in the US and hopefully find a job there and save up money so when I get there I'm fully prepared. Or should I just go to Japan directly and start applying for jobs there? I seem to have all the credentials on set like acredited degree from a US university and 12 years of fluent english education here in America. Any advice would be helpful

  • Tim Patterson

    there's some filth on BD, yes, but on the whole I think it's a more lively and informative forum than itil. I like Deke Miller.

  • Tim Patterson

    The Japanese can be pretty racist about hiring English teachers who are not natives of a Western country. It's not impossible to get a job, but it's a lot more difficult. White, blonde, non-native English speakers from countries like Slovakia will have an easier time getting work than dark-skinned natives of the Philippines or India, even if they are totally fluent.

  • Jack

    Well I'm not exactly dark skinned event hough I am filipino. I have lived here in the US for the past 14 years so my complexion has severely changed especially living in NYC. But I'm more interested in whether or not it would be easier to go to japan and apply for jobs there directly. Interac said their recruitment is over and i'm still waiting to hear from AEON. Aclipse is the only company that has emailed me for an initial phone interview but its for Korea.

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  • adventurer

    very useful thanks for article. +15 points.

  • http://www.ohayosensei.com Lynn Cullivan

    O-Hayo Sensei, a free newsletter that’s published every two weeks, is the largest teaching-jobs-in-Japan source. The latest edition (10/1/09) reports about 85 currently available positions at all levels, all across Japan. O-Hayo Sensei asks employers to supply detailed information, so it’s a good way to check out exactly what it takes to get a job today — education, experience, certificates, etc. Stop by, pick up a copy, and good luck!

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  • http://google.com DB

    I was born in Africa in an English speaking country and moved to the US when I was seven. Twenty-something years later, I am an American citizen; furthermore, I have two Bachelor’s Degrees- one in Writing/Literature- and I have won several awards for my writing and published a book. I also have a lot of experience teaching and am very professional. I am however, a black woman and am deeply worried about racism. Do you think it will be difficult for me to find a teaching job in Japan because of my skin color/ race? Sincere thanks for honest answers!!

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  • Lisa

    Hi,
    I don’t know where to start! I have an English BA/ Theatre BA from the University of California, San Diego(UCSD) and a TEFL certificate from UCSD. Any tips? I want to teach in Japan for 6 months or less to see if I like it. A year seems too long for me. IDK maybe a year would be okay… Anyway and tips? links? suggestions?
    I’m happy to work one-on-one tutoring or low income if it covers month-to-moth living expenses.

  • Jasmine

    Hello,

    I’m actually looking for the same opportunity AND I went to UCSD just like you!
    (Class of 08) I’m looking for an English-teaching job in Japan that won’t require me to work for a year. It seems like most places do, though. But I can stay there for 6 months maximum.

    You only posted this about a month ago but wanted to see if you got any answers from anyone. It would be really great if you could share it with me. :-)

    Thank you!

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  • Siddy

    http://www.volunteermatch.org is for US only, why did you link to it?

  • Pingback: visa webs » How to Get Japan Visa

  • http://www.thailandculture.org Thai Culture

    What a terrific post on thailand jobs for expats! I honesty enjoyed reading it, and my own site is about Thai Culture so I’m not just saying so lightly. Keep up the excellent work!

  • http://www.zergsoft.com Steve Brown

    Great overview of what kinds of teaching jobs are available in Japan. Another site which has a lot of teaching and other job listings is https://www.findjobsinjapan.com. I hope this is useful to some of your readers!

  • http://www.goteachabroad.com Andrew@GoOverseas

    Excellent post! I think you really covered all the bases here. For interested teachers, it really is important that you have TEFL certification in order to teach in Japan. At least a 100+ hour course, preferably a classroom course rather than a online course. The JET program has become very competitive so any advantage you can give yourself is a major plus. Knowing a little Japanese also goes a long way.

    For private school jobs, two more resources that you didn’t mention are:
    http://www.goteachabroad.com/teach-in-japan
    http://www.teachabroad.com/search/japan/teach-abroad-1

    Thanks!
    Andrew

    • http://eslinsider.com/ ESLinsider

      Why is it important? You don’t need a TEFL certification to teach in Japan.

      Some TEFL providers will tell you that you need it or it will get you a better job or it will help you make more money, etc. It could give you a slight advantage, but the keywords are “could” and “slight”. The basic qualifications are a degree and native speaker.

      I am TESOL certified and I have taught in China, Korea and Taiwan. I can’t say it made much of any difference. You can check out some of the articles that I have written for more info.

  • Cullivan

    English schools come and go (like GEOS and ECC in the links above), so the best way to prepare for a job hunt is to do your own research. I suggest reading a few issues of O-Hayo Sensei, a free jobs-in-Japan newsletter, to get detailed information about salaries, qualifications, application procedures, etc. for currently available teaching positions at all levels, all across Japan — at universities, conversation schools, public schools, and international schools. Compare salaries to figure out what teaching experience and/or a certificate is actually worth in today’s market. Learn how many schools are looking for Japanese ability (and how much). If you’re expecting to just teach, check out the lists of duties — it might surprise you. And always remember, if what you’re reading on the internet is more than three months old — it’s already out-of-date.

  • Bruce Jones

    Great article on teaching in Japan.  Here’s a good article on evaluating a TEFL TESOL certifification school to get you on your way:  http://www.internationalteflacademy.com/blog/bid/47541/7-Key-Tips-to-Evaluate-a-TEFL-TESOL-Training-School 

  • Coffeexxx

     There
    are quite a few English teaching jobs in Tokyo now since the tsunami in
    March last year& mass exodus of foreigners including teachers. I
    normally get email alerts for ALT jobs on alttokyo.com & now getting
    one a day. Many employment opportunities.

  • Darkjewel_fatalprincess

    if you are an ab-english grad..can u still teach in japan??

  • M M Rahman Sosam

    Great information indeed.

  • Natasha Bairstow

    Hi. I’m Scottish and wish to teach English abroad for 6months. Ideally in Japan, Hong Kong or S.Korea. Jet seems like a great programme but it wishes you to stay for a year, and I hear the application process is time consuming. Six months is the most I can do and so, does anyone have any helpful tips on programmes which would be of assistance. I would prefer an assisted post rather than randomly arranging it all myself, if at all possible.

    • Ailsa Ross

      Do 6 months in Busan in Korea and just quit half way through! Don’t tell them that’s your plan though, obvs…

    • Ailsa Ross

      Because almost all are one year contracts x

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Valentina Carrington

    Hi! I moved to the US about a year ago, and I am a green card holder. I was an English Teacher in Europe and I was always thinking of going to Japan to teach. I wonder if I can do this if I am a green card holder and not a US citizen. Thank you so much.

  • Buba Spaks

    Hi, I am called Buba Bertrand, a B.A Degree holder in English Language/Literature and a minor in Performing and Visual Arts and a licensed teacher.I take interest in teaching in Japan. I discovered that it’s pretty difficult find a teaching job online. Can some body some where give me a direct contact to schools in Japan?
    thank you

  • Buba Spaks

    my phone numeber is +974 70618042 or email to :bubaspaks@yahoo.com.
    I look forward to hearing from you.

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