Ultimate Guide to Teaching Jobs in Japan
So you want to start teaching in Japan?
Want to get an English Teaching job in Japan? Here is all you need to know to start teaching English in Japan!
This article is part of our series on finding a job in Japan and Tokyo.
If you’re looking to start teaching English in Japan this guide is for you. Everything you need to know from when you start looking for an English teaching job in Japan to what to expect from each type of English teaching job will be laid out for you below.
Usually, the first type of teaching job that comes to mind when people consider teaching English in Japan is the English conversational school type of job. That being said it may surprise you to find that many foreigners do teach in the public school sector as well! In our ultimate guide to teaching English in Japan, we’ll cover the most common teaching positions so we can help you find the best English teaching jobs in Japan for you!
For those that want a part-time position and would like to apply right away check out our partner school One Coin English! OCE is an English Conversation school based in the Tokyo and Yokohama areas and hires new part-time teachers all year long. Apply through their website at https://onecoinenglish.com/hireme/.
Guide to English teaching jobs in Japan
This post will cover all aspects of English teaching jobs in Tokyo and other areas of Japan. Information on what English teachers do in different types of schools, how much positions pay, and where to search for these jobs is all organized in the table of contents below. Click each link to go to the section that has information that you would like to know more about.
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Types of English Teaching Jobs In Japan
ALT Jobs in Japan
Assistant Language Teacher or ALT jobs in japan are something you’ll see a lot of while searching for a teaching job from abroad. As an ALT you're not in charge of the class but rather are teamed with a licensed Japanese teacher. Ergo, you don't need a Japanese teacher's license, education degree, or master's degree. Another surprise is that over half of the English teachers here in Japan are ALTs and number about 10,000 - 13,000.
Specific requirements will vary between schools, and you, of course, will want to ensure that the school or teacher dispatch agency meets your requirements for an employer. But the base entry-level is a completed education at a higher-learning institution, primarily because you must have a degree to get an instructor's visa. This instructor visa allows you to work in a Japanese public and private school, and you may have to change your visa type to instructor in order to work there.
ALT jobs in Japan are one of the most common teaching jobs you can find and the requirements actually arent too high. If you want to work as an ALT in Japan, you will need a bachelor’s degree. This requirement is pretty much universal among all ALT jobs whether they are dispatch or direct hire positions from the school. It may surprise you to know however, you don’t need a degree that is about teaching in particular. Though you are required to have a degree as long as the it is a 4-year bachelor’s degree in any field you would be applicable for an ALT job.
Japanese public school ALT schedules
Most ALT jobs in Japan start around 8:30 AM and finish around 3:30 PM based on the public school open times. Depending on the region, there will be several days a week where the students finish earlier than 3:30 PM. For example, most days will have six periods, but one or two days where there are only five periods. Please note that this only applies for the children, because you will probably be required to stay until 4:30 or 5:00 PM, regardless of the students' schedule.
On a side note, first and second graders often get to leave earlier than the older children. Again, regional variances apply.
Public junior and senior high schools start around the same time as elementary schools in Japan, and sometimes a little earlier. Once lessons are done, students usually remain at school and participate in club activities organized by the school and managed by one teacher. Clubs range from sports, music, and the arts, to educational themes. You sometimes have a kendo club, sumo club, judo club, or even board games club which students actively participate in.
Benefits of ALT Jobs in Japan
There are several major benefits to teaching English in Japan as an assistant language teacher at a public elementary school. The main benefit is that you are essentially a celebrity to the children. Even if you teach English in Tokyo or the other larger cities in Japan, you're likely to be the only foreign adult that these children know, and children are very curious and will want to know more about you. Some schools let you sit with the children during lunch. For the kids, this is often a special moment.
The second benefit of Teaching English in Japan as an ALT is the push you'll get to quickly improve your Japanese. You'll need to communicate with your co-workers; the more Japanese you speak, the smoother things will go. This is the best out of all the English teaching jobs in Japan to improve your Japanese speaking skills.
The third major benefit are the school vacations, which can last up to one month in summer and two weeks in winter. Some companies will require you to work during the break while others make you “kinda” work, so be sure to check out the requirements for the break during the interview.
The fourth major benefit is saving money. School lunch is around 250 - 300 yen and is filling, so you will have a somewhat healthy meal while keeping funds in your pocket.
The main benefit to being an ALT at a public junior high school is that you get to experience a part of Japanese culture that most outsiders never see. You can see the school club atmosphere and the relationships between people based on seniority and the focus on doing things together. This development of culture and social interaction reveals much of the heart of Japanese society, which is frequently baffling to Westerners.
The second benefit is that you can have a big impact on certain students. You won't be able to mentor all of your students, but you can answer many of their questions about foreign cultures and hopefully find those who are truly interested in life outside the empire. In the future global society, it will be critical to have a broad viewpoint, and you can instill that in your students.
The third benefit is that vacation periods are similar to the elementary schools, and you often have additional downtime. Most public schools will not have you teaching more than 4 lessons a day, so you have a lot of time to prepare for your lessons, offer assistance to the other English teachers, and talk to students and Japanese staff.
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Challenges for an ALT in Japan
The biggest challenge when teaching English in Japan at public elementary schools is managing your health and energy. Teaching five to six lessons, plus eating lunch with the children, and sometimes playing with them during recess is exhausting. You will often come home worn out. Also, ALTs in elementary schools tend to get sick more often than other English teachers because of the proximity to kids who have a cold or the flu.
The second challenge as an ALT in Japan is for people who are ambitious and always want to improve their work skills. If you’ve worked a few years as an ALT you’ve worked them all. People that want more personal and professional growth from their job may get bored after a few years of teaching.
The third challenge is that the children may do or say things you don't like. Anything that is unique or different will definitely be mentioned. Children will point out your weight and may even poke you gently in the stomach. If you have a large bottom, the children will comment on it, and some adventurous six-year-olds may even try to touch yours. If you are a man, you may be Kancho’d. If you are unfamiliar with this aspect of Japanese kid culture, you'll have to look up what a Kancho is for yourself.
There are two main challenges, and the first is boredom. Elementary schools keep you super active and involved to the point you want to sleep the moment you get home. Junior high schools generally keep you so inactive that you may question why you are there at all. Teachers who are not proactive in reaching out to the teachers or learning from other ALTs on how to be given more responsibility may want to die of boredom. I enjoyed the freedom in my schedule, but I had to go out of my way to learn the textbook and proactively share ideas with the teachers. I also made extra effort to speak to other teachers and assist with the club activities.
The second main challenge is that you may be placed at a school with students who do not follow the rules. They may swear at you and make fun of you, and you just have to accept it. 95% or more of schools are fine with a few punks, but 3% or less can be chaotic and have an issue with bullying.
What are the English teaching materials like?
The base lesson content in public elementary schools for 1st and 2nd graders is left to the judgment of the school or language teacher. The schools use a textbook made by the national government called “Let’s try” for third and fourth graders and a book titled “We Can!” for the fifth and sixth grades.
Junior high schools will use one of several textbooks approved by the national government, normally an English-produced textbook series called New Horizon or New Crown. All teachers must finish the book by the end of the school year, and ALTs will be asked to come up with activities to help the English teacher review the content in a fun way or do an English lesson to provide students a break from the grind.
Here are some lesson plan ideas:
There are two types of ALT positions that are available in Japan, working for a dispatch company or being a direct hire. Starting with dispatch company ALTs, this is the more common job type of the two. With a dispatch ALT position, you would work for a company that has contracts with public schools around Japan through the city or board of education. ALTs that work through dispatch companies will usually have yearly contracts that can be renewed.
On average, dispatch ALTs will earn anywhere from JPY200,000 to around JPY250,000 per month depending on the company they work for. Glassdoor, a popular job review site, reports that dispatch ALTs working for Heart corporation will earn around JPY214,000 starting while ALTs working with Interac start from JPY240,000 going up to about JPY270,000.
Moving on to the second type, direct hire ALTs are when a person is hired directly by the public school itself. Most direct hires come through the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) program, a government-run initiative that hires teachers from overseas exclusively, with a limit of five years for each participant. Some direct-hire teachers are hired through the city/municipality itself and would work yearly contracts that can be renewed, becoming eligible for a permanent employment contract after working for 5 consecutive years with the school.
Direct hire ALTs tend to make substantially more than their dispatch counterparts Teaching English in Japan. Those that work with the JET program will earn a starting salary of 330,000 per month with pay increases until the fourth year to 396,000. As a direct hire by the city or municipality, you can expect to make a starting wage of around JPY260,000 to JPY300,000 starting going up to around JPY350,000, based on the budget of the municipality.
Where can I find ALT positions in Japan?
Please note that a majority of the public school teaching positions are not direct-hire but through intermediary companies who hire new teachers. Direct-hire positions are usually reserved for veteran teachers and normally come through your network. However, you might get headhunted after working in the city as a dispatch-teacher. Here's one direct-hire teacher talking about his experiences and how he stood out.
For the JET program, you can find all the information on their site.
For work in a public school through dispatch agencies, you can find lots of active positions through the website Jobs in Japan.
If you are interested in learning more about the companies, here are some major players in the industry.
Another good resource to find jobs is by looking through job boards or job fairs. Since we want to help you find your dream job in Japan, we've created this guide on Job Boards or Job Fair just for you. Check them out!
Eikaiwa English Teacher in Japan
English conversation schools (Eikaiwa)
English conversational schools or Eikaiwas are just that: schools where you teach conversational English to students! The main difference between Eikaiwas and English cafes is that Eikaiwas will use textbooks as well as other learning materials to actively teach the students.
There are two main types of English conversation schools. The first one caters to adults and children, and the other focuses on adults. Most of the mom-and-pop schools and many of the major schools focus on both groups. These schools usually have you teach adult lessons from around 11:00 to 2:00 PM for the afternoon crowd. The focus then shifts to teaching children at 5:00 or 6:00 PM, ending with adult lessons from 7:00 PM onward for students who take lessons after work.
Similar to business-English schools, conversation-English schools in Tokyo require instructors to wear a suit with slacks or a skirt (for women). Since the schools charge a premium price to Japanese students, teachers have to look professional. These companies also spend extra money on decent school interiors.
The main reason most schools teach both kids and adults and not adults only is because few adults want to study in the afternoons. The homemaker crowd has to start preparing for the return of their children from school, and the working crowd is usually still on the clock. Many schools have you teaching preschool students at 2:00 PM and the elementary students at 4:00 PM. This distribution of students applies to English schools in Tokyo and all over Japan.
Note : If you are looking for a good eikaiwa to work for - take a look at the list of eikaiwa schools in Japan I am working with. If they are on this list, there is a good chance they are a nice place to work for.
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Eikaiwa School Requirements
Educational requirements of each Eikaiwa will differ, but most may require a bachelor’s degree of any major (especially if you don't have a VISA that allows for work) so don’t worry about not having a teaching or English specified degree. Some Eikaiwas don’t even only require a degree and will hire you as long as you have a fluent level of English. English teaching certifications such as TESOL or CELTA are usually not required but they can help give you an edge in getting the job.
As far as experience requirements go, most Eikaiwas actually don't require any previous teaching experience. If you are new to the teaching industry it can be a good first step!
What are the benefits of an Eikaiwa job?
The best thing about teaching in adult-only schools is that you get to learn a lot about Tokyo and Japan from your students, and you won’t be physically exhausted from singing and running around all day. Another big benefit of working in an adult-only school is that you don't need to deal with misbehaving students who are forced by their parents to learn English. Most students in adult-only schools are paying their own money and genuinely want to be there. Other than the occasional odd or awkward student, you'll get along with almost all of your students.
Adult students will teach you a lot about Japanese culture and society. Depending on your school, they may take you out for lunch or dinner. You'll find that this is crucial for your sanity if you live away from a central location like Tokyo. I learned a ton about Japanese culture from my students, and going out every week with them help me deal with the homesickness I felt when I came to Japan.
What are the teaching materials like?
Most of the major conversation schools and many of the smaller chains have good in-house-developed textbooks and teacher manuals. I used to work at one of the major schools, and although there were only a few printouts from the teacher manual, the material itself was really good. The teacher manuals had a ton of ideas and covered 80 - 90% of what I needed for my lessons. I recommend asking in the interview if they provide a teacher manual and/or any ready-made materials to use in class.
Most mom-and-pop schools and some smaller chains use textbooks made by major publishers. These books are mediocre in quality but will get the job done. The teacher manuals from these major textbooks are often impractical because the books are designed to be used all over the world, which makes them too difficult for Japanese students. The custom-made, in-house books usually spread the content over more levels, so the lessons are more Japanese-student appropriate.
Eikaiwa Teacher Salaries
If you teach in an Eikaiwa (English conversational school) the salaries will vary quite a bit based on the company you work for and what demographic they cater to. There are three main types of Eikaiwas: places that teach children exclusively, Eikaiwas that cater to both children and adults, and the one's that are focused on adults only.
Children’s Eikaiwas tend to pay slightly more than adult Eikaiwas, usually, the starting monthly salary for children’s Eikaiwas will be around JPY240,000 to JPY270,000. Depending on the company you work for you may also receive a completion bonus after each contract that you see though. Another benefit that some companies will provide is support with finding and arranging housing accommodations. In addition to this, they may also cover the hefty move-in costs that Japan has which can easily run around JPY200,000.
At Eikaiwas that are geared towards adults, or both adults and children the average pay runs at around JPY255,000. Other benefits might include contract completion bonuses that are usually around JPY100,000, enrollment in social insurance, and paid time off. One thing to keep in mind though is that in accordance with Japanese law, you must wait at least 6 months from your start date until you can use these vacation days.
Finding a full-time English conversation teaching jobs in Japan
You can find the mom-and-pop schools on a site like Jobs in Japan or in the Ohayou Sensei newsletter. If you are looking for a position from overseas, the major schools actively hire from overseas, as do the mom-and-pop places.
Below are gigantic school chains that are always hiring teachers.
Here are some schools that only focus on teaching adults in Tokyo. Please note that schools that only enroll adults usually do not hire from overseas.
My company One Coin English does hire people part-time who are in Japan with a student, spouse, or other visa with permission to work. Visit our teacher hiring website for more details.
English teaching jobs are not the only part-time jobs available in Japan. If you want to discover which are the other part-time jobs there, read our guide on part-time jobs in Japan.
If you're interested in finding a full-time job in Tokyo, don't miss out our article on getting a full time job in Tokyo.
Kids Eikaiwa English Teacher in Japan
There are ESL jobs in Japan with schools and programs for children run by private companies or individuals. These schools focus on teaching only English to children and occasionally teenagers. You won't have any adult students in these classes.
What is working at an English school for kids like?
Your job would be to teach English to children from three to twelve years of age. Depending on the school, you might teach classes for children under three or students in junior and senior high school. You'll need to dance, sing, and be an energetic playmate for the little ones, and you'll teach the teenagers English conversation or assist them with their preparation for English tests like EIKEN or TOEIC.
Your hours will vary depending on where you work. Programs that target children under three years old will normally schedule you from 9:00 or 10:00 AM to 5:00 or 6:00 PM. You'd teach the super young ones until around 1:00 PM, the kindergartners until 3:00 PM, and then the elementary school kids after 3:00 PM.
Schools that target junior and senior high school students will probably have you teaching from 11:00 AM to 8:00 or 1:00 PM to 10:00 PM. You'd teach children at essentially the same times mentioned above, but you'd teach the junior high school and above students after 6:00 PM.
Benefits and challenges of teaching English at kid's Eikaiwa
The main benefit is the children. The majority of your students will be sweethearts; pretty much all the things mentioned above apply here as well. You sometimes get magical classes where the students are amazing and very interested in learning English. If you work at a school for more than 2 years, you will get to see the child grow and mature and improve their English. I had two students whom I taught for 18 months when they were in elementary school, and I was impressed that they still had perfect English pronunciation when I met them in their high school years.
The challenges are much the same as listed above, but one helpful difference is that you usually have a Japanese support person at English schools for kids. Having a supporter can be a benefit or a challenge, depending on the person. If you have unruly children, the staff may or may not support you with keeping the children focused. If you establish a good rapport with the staff, you'll have a better helper.
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What are the teaching materials like?
Any place that can afford to hire a full-time English teacher will usually have teaching materials or a curriculum to follow. The larger the chain or organization you work for, the more likely they are to have materials. This can be awesome if you have no idea what you are doing when you first start, but if you are a veteran teacher, you might find having to use their materials restrictive on your creativity.
Many mom-and-pop places started with the mom or pop teaching all the lessons and developing a hodgepodge curriculum. These materials can also be a blessing or a disaster. The founders may not be open to feedback for improving their personally-developed curriculum, or they might be disorganized and not have anything for you to use at all. Always ask about materials during your English teacher interviews.
Private school English Teacher in Japan
In terms of career potential and salary, a teaching position at a private school is one of the top positions you can get as a full-time English teacher in Tokyo. This section will focus on JHS and SHS positions; Elementary positions at private schools are more likely to be ALT positions.
What are a private school English teacher duties in Japan?
A private school teacher is directly hired by the school to teach English as a second language or, if it is an international school, a traditional school subject. They have private school positions for elementary, junior, and senior high school, although most positions are for junior and senior high school students.
The major difference between teaching at a private school and public school is that you are the primary teacher and not an assistant. You may even be a homeroom teacher at a private school in charge of one class. You will be responsible for planning and teaching all of your lessons, assigning and correcting homework, and grading your students. Full-time private school English teachers are expected to assist in after-school clubs and events, speech contests, applications to foreign universities, and join school faculty meetings.
The normal work schedule is Monday to Friday, but sometimes there will be special events on the weekend that you'll need to attend, like school festivals or competitions. You'll also teach five to seven lessons each day with around twenty to thirty students per class. The maximum size for classes is usually around forty students.
Requirements of Private English School Teachers
Though it does depend on the school, more teaching and English language-focused qualifications are usually needed due to the bigger focus on teaching.
Many private schools will require that you have a teacher’s license from your home country but some will accept TESOL certificates from a valid organization or CELTA as well. Education levels must be at least up to a bachelor’s degree but master degrees will give you an edge on the competition for the job. Around two years of teaching experience is also something that most private schools have as a prerequisite in Japan so if you are teaching as a career, private schools are a great option to consider.
What are the benefits and challenges of private schools?
If you are passionate about teaching, private schools are your chance to live your life mission. You'll be in charge of a class and be directly involved in the growth and development of your students. You won't be an outsider like you would at a public school, where you're usually teaching at multiple schools, but be highly involved at just one school. You'll have a lot of responsibility, and your students will show their appreciation. Some even come back years later to thank you!
The main challenges with English teaching jobs in Japan at a private school are the children giving you a headache (both real and figurative) and the politics between faculty members. You may have some student issues, but normally nothing like the ones you'd expect to have at a public school. Children from private schools usually come from more stable homes; the issues are more often verbal bullying rather than actual delinquents in your classroom. Politics can involve a divide between the foreign and Japanese staff or competition between a drama king or queen in the foreigner department. Some people are overly negative and make any workplace uncomfortable.
Another challenge is the commitment required. You may be asked to take the children on an overseas trip on the weekend or be required to do something on your normal days off. You may also receive added work if you are running a school group or managing the other foreign teachers. Management positions can be a headache when you have a teacher who is having a hard time adjusting to Japan.
Private School English Teacher Salaries
Pay wise private English Teaching is one of the best English teaching jobs in Japan. Teachers at private schools in Japan tend to make more than ALTs on average with a wide pay range depending on the school you work for. This will usually start around JPY 300,000 per-month but can go much higher. According to Glassdoor, one of the biggest private/international schools in Japan, the American School in Japan (ASIJ), pays around JPY600,000 per month, though this is on the higher end of the pay scale. Private school teaching positions will usually have additional benefits as well such as paid transportation, housing allowances, and medical insurance. If you do have the qualifications to work at a private institution in Japan it is definitely an option that will let you save, travel, and live comfortably in Japan!
Where can I find private school teacher positions?
I talked about this in my other article, 22 Part-Time Jobs for Foreigners in Japan, but I want to highlight it again because I love the mission of the company and personally know teachers at One Coin English that absolutely love teaching there. Anyway, One Coin English, a language school with over 10 branches throughout Tokyo, is currently offering part-time jobs for teachers (including paid training and colleagues from 30+ countries). Read more about becoming a part-time teacher at One Coin English here.
Business English Teacher in Japan
What are business English teaching positions like?
Business English teaching in Tokyo can be one of the best English teaching jobs in Japan if you want to learn more about business. The structure of lessons and the techniques used have a lot of similarities, but business lessons have another layer of formality. A business English lesson usually involves discussing business topics, enacting role-plays of challenging business situations and teaching students proper linguistic expressions to use in a business environment.
One of the main requirements for teaching business lessons is that you need to wear business formal attire: dress shirt, suit, and slacks/skirt. Additionally, business lessons are always taught in classrooms or office rooms at your company or at the company of the student.
The majority of your students are professionals in their 30s and 40s whose tuition is paid by their company. You might get some students in their 20s, but they are more likely to be self-funding their lessons. Students in their 30s and 40s are normally middle management-level staff who have to interact with clients and employees from branches in another country. These students frequently must go on business trips to or move to another country and therefore need to brush up on their English skills before heading out.
The common areas that Japanese people need help with for their business English are in making presentations, handling negotiations, writing emails, cultural differences, and sharing their opinion during meetings.
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Requirements for Being a Business English Teacher
Overall, business English teaching is usually pretty similar to the format of Eikaiwas but are more focused on language that would be used in a business environment so knowing this is crucial. To be a business English teacher in Japan the requirements are mostly the same as Eikaiwas, while it does depend on the company, you will likely need a bachelor’s degree in any field to work as a business English teacher. As far as experience goes, while not always a requirement, having a background in business will definitely help your odds of landing the position.
Good business teaching experience in Tokyo
When you get to teach an executive or senior manager, business English teaching positions in Japan can be awesome experiences. These students charge others hundreds of dollars to merely speak with them, and you'll be paid to talk to and teach them. You also get the opportunity to learn about their industry, how they view the Japanese economy, and the business world in general. It's also interesting to hear their views on society because they often view things on a more macro level than the average person. If you are an aspiring business person, interacting with someone multiple tiers above your current position will help you take the next steps for your career.
There are some interesting textbooks on business English produced by Oxford University called Business Results and Business One on One. Books like these include business case studies, business statistics, and questions to make you think about the economy. You can often learn new things yourself while getting paid to teach business lessons.
Challenging business teaching experiences in Tokyo
Teaching business English lessons can also be an unpleasant experience if you have to teach business people who are forced by their company to take lessons. In business English, most of the lessons you teach are paid for by the company or government subsidy, not the students themselves. In general, a majority of your students are pleasant to speak but you may sometimes run into those who do not want to participate.
Should you teach business lessons?
If you have business experience or are interested in business, definitely consider teaching English in Tokyo at a business English provider. You get paid more money than normal teaching positions, and in some cases, you get to visit and check out the headquarters of international companies.
If you don't have any business experience, you would really have to sell them on your interest for business and why they would trust placing you in a classroom, teaching people business English who have much more business experience than you. The best way to do that is to dress, speak, and act as a business professional would, so you seem more knowledgeable about business than you actually are.
Business English Teacher Salaries
Business teachers on average will earn more than their Eikaiwa counterparts. This is mainly because companies are usually more selective when hiring their Business English teachers since there are fewer positions available. The starting monthly salary of a business English teacher will be around JPY270,000. However, this pay rate can go upwards of JPY450,000 per month for those with a lot of business experience who can teach senior-level business people.
Finding a business teaching job in Japan
The key factor in getting English teaching jobs in Japan for business is the obvious one: actual business experience. Another important factor is that you are from a country with which the client is doing business. This is not limited to America, England, and Australia, since many Japanese people are doing business with Asia and southeast Asia.
This means that there's also some demand for non-native English teachers from those countries, and a non-neutral accent is a plus! Communicating in a foreign language is hard enough, and adding another accent to that makes it worse. You'd not only teach these professionals English, but how to understand English spoken by another non-native.
Most business positions will come through your network, but major companies like Berlitz are usually hiring, and you can sometimes find positions on Jobs in Japan and Gaijin Pot. Berlitz has solid business teaching materials, eliminating the need for you to create materials from scratch.
University English Teacher / Professor in Japan
What does a University professor do?
Teaching English at a Japanese university in Tokyo involves teaching English to undergraduate students. This would not be English literature or the type of English classes that you took in university, but actual language classes to help improve English communication and fluency. Depending on the focus of the university, the number of lessons on English can differ quite greatly.
Most Universities have three to five English professors who are not Japanese. Universities in Tokyo who use their English program as a major selling point often have more than eight professors working for them who are on a mixture of full-time and part-time contracts. I have seen one University with more than twenty foreign English professors.
What are the requirements to be a University Instructor?
For those that want to teach English at Universities in Japan, the requirements are quite a bit higher than the others listed here. To teach English in higher education institutions in Japan, you will almost certainly need a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language. Although it is possible to get a job with a master’s degree in a different field given that you do have multiple years of adult English teaching experience, it is not as common. If you want to teach non-English subjects you will need a Ph.D. or master’s degree in the subject. Business courses are the only exception since some universities do hire business veterans that are experts in their field with more than 10 years of experience.
What are lessons and students like at Universities?
University English Teaching jobs in Japan will involve teaching classes of between ten to one hundred students in ninety-minute lessons. The general English courses will have many students, and the specialty lessons, such as communication courses, business prep courses, etc., will have fewer but more dedicated students.
Outside of your lessons, you may also be required to provide one-on-one coaching to students who have a specific goal that the school wants to support them in achieving. One example is students who are going to study abroad at the sister University for one year.
University English Teaching Jobs Salaries
The salary for doing University English teaching jobs in Japan will vary depending on the university that you work for but tend to be on the higher end of the teaching positions available in Japan. Our friend Paul Raine, a University instructor mentioned on this blog post that:
"Full-time positions are normally in the range of JPY300,000 ~ JPY600,000 per month. Contracts are usually one or two years in length, renewable two or three times."
The pay system for part-time University English teaching jobs in Japan is slightly different:
"Compensation is usually in the range of JPY20,000 ~ JPY40,000 per Koma (90-minute lesson) per month, including the summer months between semesters when there are no lessons scheduled. In other words, you will receive a set monthly salary all year round, despite only teaching for 30 weeks per year (15 in the spring semester and 15 in the autumn semester). Travel expenses will also be provided, although health insurance and pension contributions will not."
We’ve covered the education, experience, and certification requirements of each type of teaching job in the corresponding category earlier, but there are a few other things that you’ll want to keep in mind when applying for jobs. Location is a pretty big determining factor when looking for a teaching job and where you live will play a big part in the options that will be available to you
- Outside of Japan: If you are in a country outside of Japan while job hunting it is good to keep in mind that only certain companies will hire teachers from abroad. The companies that hire people from foreign countries outside of Japan are mostly Assistant Language Teacher positions and teaching positions at international schools (eg. Interac, Borderlink, Hart). But you will find some English Conversation schools will also hire from abroad as well (eg. ECC, GABA, NOVA, etc.). When you apply for a job from abroad there are usually a few more boxes that you would need to check for requirements. Education is a big one as you would need at least a bachelor’s degree to apply for any English teaching job in Japan from your country (mainly due to this being a requirement for getting the necessary instructor visa).
As you might expect the competition for finding these jobs from outside of Japan does tend to be much fiercer. Recruitment of teachers for these jobs tends to be targeted more at people from native-speaking countries but some companies do accept all nationalities so don't let this discourage you!
- In Japan: When you apply for a job in Japan the requirements do tend to be a bit laxer but there are a few things to be careful about. If you do decide to apply for a position in a company that is further away always check if they will allow you to apply from afar or relocate you as well. Some companies will hire people from other prefectures and even pay for relocation others will not hire from outside a specific distance/transportation time.
English Teacher Visas to Japan
Unless you are a Japanese citizen, you will definitely need a visa to live and work in Japan. If you want a very in-depth look at VISA types available in Japan and other Japanese VISA related topics check out our VISA guide here. For those that want a quick rundown of what visa types allow for what type of teaching job the information below should cover all you need. Certain VISAs will have specific restrictions on what kind of work you can and can’t do as well as how many hours you are allowed to work per week so always keep this in mind when applying to each position.
Starting off let’s go over the VISA that WON’T allow any type of teaching work. A tourist visa will allow you to stay in Japan for around 1 to 3 months depending on your country. It is probably the easiest way to stay in Japan for most people. Unfortunately, you will not be allowed to work in Japan at any capacity on a tourist visa.
Working Holiday VISA
One VISA that might be available to you is the Working Holiday VISA. The Working Holiday program was created to encourage travel and cultural exchange between different countries and their people. This VISA will allow you to live and work in Japan for one full year (18 months for Australians). There are a few catches though. One is that you must be between the ages of 18 and 30 years old when you apply for the VISA. Another catch is that you must be from a country that has a bilateral agreement with Japan to be applicable for this visa and these countries are fairly few with only 26 countries as of 2020. If you happen to be lucky enough to be from one of these countries the only restrictions on work would be that you can’t work in an industry considered to “affect public morals”. This includes gambling parlors, bars, night clubs, Kabakura (cabarets), and other jobs related to the adult entertainment industry.
Thankfully English teaching jobs in Japan are not affected by this so you’ll have quite a few options! As someone on a Working Holiday VISA, you would be able to work in any English teaching institution. One thing to be aware of is that Working Holidayers are seen as temporary visitors by many employers so it is best for both you and the employer to be clear of your ideal stay time. Some ALT dispatch companies and schools that hire directly are looking for longer-term employees and don’t hire people they see as “shorter length visitors”. So if you do want to stay longer than the one year allowed by the working holiday program, the company may sponsor your VISA afterward if you are eligible! For the people that are only interested in staying for the initial year, there are many Eikaiwa and children’s English teaching positions that would be happy to work with you as well.
Maybe you are from a country that isn’t part of the working holiday agreement in Japan. Not to worry, there are plenty of options available if you have the right qualifications. Work Visas are available to you but each one will limit you to a certain type of work.
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If you want to teach English as an ALT in a public Japanese school or become an English teacher at a private school you will need to get an Instructor VISA. To be applicable for this VISA you need a bachelor’s degree at a university that is accredited and recognized by the Japanese government. The Instructor VISA will allow you to work in public (government-run) and some private/international school kindergartens, elementary, Junior High, and High schools. However, Instructor VISA work permissions would exclude other types of schools such as Eikaiwas, universities, and colleges. This doesn't mean you won’t be able to do any other work at all though. As long as you get a work permission stamp (Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted) from the immigration bureau, you would be able to work up to 28 hours a week in an Eikaiwa or other private educational institution.
International Services VISA
Now you may also be wondering about what work VISA will let you work in Japanese educational institutions that don't fall under the Instructor VISA umbrella. Should you want to work for an Eikaiwa or other private Educational institution that might not have official government licenses, you would need an Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International services VISA. As the lengthy name suggests, this VISA is extremely broad in the activities allowed by it. You would be able to work in anything from computer programming jobs to marketing jobs to, of course, English teaching jobs in Japan. Although you would not be able to work in a public/formal government-licensed school with this VISA alone, if you get the permission stamp for other activities, you would be allowed to work the same positions available to an instructor VISA holder.
One option for coming to Japan is by studying at a Japanese University, technical college, or Japanese language school. As a student VISA holder, you would be able to get a work permission stamp (Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted) from the immigration bureau, you would be allowed to work 28 hours per week. These permitted weekly work hours go up to 40 hours per week (8 hours per day) when the school is on a break or vacation period. With this work permit, you would be allowed to work any job given that you don’t exceed the 28 weekly hours and don’t work in the nightlife or adult industry, similar to the restrictions of the Working Holiday VISA.
Many English speaking student VISA holders will work as Kindergarten teachers or Eikaiwa teachers in a part-time capacity. If you are someone that wants to focus on learning Japanese and keep teaching as more of a side thing the student VISA is perfect for you!
Now for those of you that are looking to teach full time in Japan, the student VISA can actually be a foot in the door. If you have a bachelor’s degree, it is possible to come to Japan on a student VISA, find a teaching job in Japan that would sponsor your VISA, then switch to a work VISA. You can read more about VISA tips and tricks in our article we wrote about VISAs.
Those looking to find employment in a college, four-year university, graduate school, or technical college, would need a professor VISA. This VISA is similar to the other working VISAs on this list in that it would only allow you to work in these specified institutions.
English Teaching in Japan as a Non-Native Speaker
As a person from a country where English is not the official or main spoken language looking through job ads can be a bit disheartening. You will see many places that mention only hiring native speakers or specifying which nationalities that they want to hire. That being said don't let this discourage you! There are plenty of companies that hire people of all ethnicities.
Many public elementary schools offer full-time ESL jobs in Japan for non-native English speakers. I managed areas where the ratio was around 50% native-speaking and 50% non-native-speaking teachers. These positions are offered through dispatch companies like INTERAC and HEART in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area.
Most public junior high schools have a strong preference for native speakers. Some people from non-English speaking countries may be considered if they have a neutral accent. The textbooks focus on native accents, and that is the standard pronunciation for schools.
The question here is more about your credentials as an English teacher. Even a native speaker without the required teaching credentials or master’s degree will not get the position. Some schools may have a preference for an English native-speaker, but there are places that hire native-level English speakers from non-English-speaking countries who have the necessary prerequisites.
Smaller mom-and-pop organizations are usually willing to give a non-native English speaker a chance. Big schools normally have a preference for native speakers because they advertised that to customers and charge high tuition for the perceived quality.
I have seen cases where English conversation schools hired non-native speakers for English teaching jobs in Japan. However, most of those teachers had native-level English speaking skills and American or British accents. Most non-native English speaking people that I saw hired usually went to an international school as a child or lived abroad during their teenage and college years, which enabled them to speak with a neutral accent.
For those who are non-native speakers proficient in English, conversation schools are unlikely to hire anyone with an "unapproved" accent. They charge high fees for providing native teachers, and they must deliver on their promises. Students who pay lower tuition fees don't mind teachers who are not native speakers. BFF Tokyo has a sister company that is an English school with teachers from over twenty-five countries and over 5,000 students. We have found that our students are completely fine with non-native teachers.
You may point out that this is discrimination, but consider that almost all foreign students prefer to study Japanese with Japanese teachers because of the pronunciation factor. By this logic, it does make some sense that the Japanese would prefer to learn from teachers with American or British accents.
The nice thing about companies and organizations that focus on teaching business English is that although you would need a very high level of English, your business experience is usually more important than your nationality. In addition to this, many Japanese companies are branching out to places outside of the western world, Asia and Southeast Asia in particular. Since Japanese companies do a lot of dealings in these regions, familiarizing their employees with the speaking styles and accents are also something they take into consideration. So sometimes being from regions outside of countries with English as the main language can give you an edge on the competition if you are from a country the company has clients in.
So there is hope!
To summarize, no matter what type of teaching job you are aiming for there are many places that provide opportunities for non-natives as well. Like any other type of work, credentials will always better your chances of snagging that teaching job you are trying to land. Whether this is through getting a CELTA, TESOL certificate, specialized degree, or work experience, if possible, give yourself an edge by getting certificates or experience that will help you get the teaching job in Japan that you want.
What is the process for being hired from overseas?
If you’re one of our readers that are not currently living in Japan you might be wondering what the recruitment and hiring process will look like. Most people are used to only interviewing for companies in their countries, possibly out of state/prefecture/province at most so the idea of applying internationally can be daunting. Not to mention the fact that Japan’s interview processes might be different than the one's of your home country. If this is the case for you, don’t worry we’ve got a rundown of the typical hiring process to give you.
Do Your Research
The first step to finding a job in Japan is to do the research. You want to find companies that interest you and, of course, hire from overseas. Take into consideration the different types of English teaching jobs in Japan that you’ve read about here and search for the ones that interest you. Search job boards such as indeed, gaijin pot, or our friends at Jobs in Japan. Jobs in Japan is one site that has a section dedicated to companies and positions that sponsor visas and hire from overseas as well!
Once you have found a company that interests you, always be sure to check their site. This will give you a better idea of the company’s mission, their atmosphere, and the type of English teaching jobs they offer. Many companies will also provide information on their interview process and ideal candidate, which would give you a pretty big advantage to know.
Getting an Understanding of employers
The next step to getting a job in Japan is getting an understanding of what the employer wants and doesn’t want in their applicants. When hiring from overseas in particular companies are making a big investment in who they hire due to the amount that is spent on recruiting the employee and relocating them. Employers will not take a risk on an overseas candidate that they are not sure about.
It is always good to ask potential employers if experience is required because entry-level jobs in Japan usually don’t require any. Many of the big dispatch companies and schools in Japan will hire people regardless of whether they have experience or not so don’t let a lack of experience intimidate you. Most of the giant corporate schools and companies have a retention rate of around 1 to 2 years and wouldn’t be able to keep up with their hiring needs if only certified and experienced teachers were considered.
A good way to start doing experience as an English teacher is by applying for an online position. In Japan, there is the opportunity to become an online English teacher. If you want to discover what other online jobs are available in Japan, read our guide to online jobs.
Unless a certification is explicitly stated as being necessary, it usually isn’t required. That being said having one would raise your chances of snagging the job as it does show that you are more serious about teaching and getting the position. Having English teaching certifications also shows that you have a good understanding of teaching and the English language. For the most part, specified education/degrees and certifications are not a requirement to get English teaching jobs in Japan but always be sure to check the job ad or company website if it is a prerequisite.
The most important quality to have if you want to get English teaching jobs in Japan is reliability. Many Employers have experienced having a teacher that treats their job like a vacation in Japan with pay. Your clients and students are Japanese and their expectations from you and your company are the same they would have for any other Japanese person or company: punctual, polite, clean, and attentive. The criteria isn’t necessarily a strict one, complete the contract, come to work on time, and shower daily! Any unreliable employee is a liability with the potential to cost a company millions of yen in lost business with current and future clients.
Most Job postings for English teaching positions in Japan will request a resume and cover letter whether they hire from overseas or not. In the same way that many applicants hate writing resumes recruiters dread having to go through them as well. Each job posting can receive hundreds of applications and at least 20% of these will disqualify themselves by not following the instructions or not meeting requirements. For entry-level positions, this number can jump to 50% so you can imagine how frustrating this might be.
Make the fact that the majority of applications are low effort and unworthy of a response an advantage to you. If you meet the minimum requirements and go through the company’s website well moving you on to the first stage of the interview process is an easy decision for the recruiter or hiring manager. You can see other mistakes to avoid and tips about making a cover letter and resume in an article we created here.
Putting in an application
Most schools will have an application form that you can fill out on their website or allow you to apply to them through the ads that they post on job boards. Depending on the type of teaching job that you want in Japan, the time of the year that you apply might be important. For those of you that are interested in the JET program, they begin accepting applications in late November. ALT companies usually pick up hiring around their spring and fall semesters: January to March and June to September respectively. If an Eikaiwa position is what you seek, you’re in luck! Eikaiwas usually hire all year round as most do not have semesters.
Most companies will have their application forms located on their website for you to submit and be considered. Otherwise, you can apply directly from postings on Job boards. When applying be sure to add all necessary information and confirm that you have followed the instructions correctly. Filling out an application form incorrectly can cost you the job before you even get an interview!
The Interview Process
Now that you have made it past the initial application it is time to get down to the fun part: the interview process. You can expect the overseas hiring process to look a bit different depending on the company, but they will usually be pretty similar. Most companies will have multiple interviews over the phone or through a video call application such as Skype. Some of the major companies may even have you come in to interview in person with recruiters or hiring agents in your own country, especially for the English teaching positions that require more qualifications such as the University teaching jobs in Japan.
The overseas candidate interviews themselves will be pretty much the same as the ones for people applying from Japan. With some companies, there will be an initial interview by phone to allow the hiring manager or recruiter to get a feel for you. During this first interview, they will likely confirm the information that you have put on your application, any requirements of the position, and go over your resume a bit.
If you pass the first interview the following step is almost always another interview as well as a demonstration lesson. The demonstration lessons usually fall into one of two types: the first is where the company provides you with a lesson to present and the second is where the company asks you to create a lesson yourself based on guidelines that they give you. The type of demo lesson they request of you can be telling of what the actual work will be like. If they provide you with a lesson expect to have more support and structure from the company or school regarding teaching materials and lessons. In the case that you are expected to create a lesson to present, the company may expect you to prepare more lesson materials during the actual job, but this usually means more freedom as well.
In either case be sure to practice, prepare, and most importantly follow directions! Recruiters and hiring managers can almost always tell if a candidate is prepared or not. Not following the demonstration lesson directions provided by your potential employer is also an easy way to lose out on the position so read through any instructions you are provided carefully to show them the lesson they want to see.
For more tips and advice on acing interviews for English teaching jobs in Japan check out the section on the hiring process in our full time jobs in japan article.
Getting the Job
Congratulations, you’ve been contacted by the hiring manager and they want to bring you on board! If you choose to accept their offer, they will request some documents from you such as a (certified) copy of your University degree and other documents needed for getting a visa in Japan. Once you’ve sent this to your employer they will take it from there. After a few months, you will receive a “Certificate of Eligibility” (COE) which you will use to get your visa and start teaching in Japan!
From Beginner to Pro
Our bi-weekly emails for beginners to low intermediate students will give you the tips and motivation to self-study Japanese your way to Japanese fluency.
If you’ve made it this far, good job! You now have all the information you need about English teaching jobs in Japan to prepare yourself and get one. Of course, this is a lot of information so please come back and review the information here as much as you need. There are so many positions available for people that want to try teaching in Japan. Whether you want to teach English to children or adults so take your time to choose the ones that suit your wants and needs the most. As a bonus, we have put some links to English teaching jobs in Japan below. We hope this helps and wish you happy hunting!