Becoming an English Teacher in Japan


Becoming an English teacher in Japan is, you guessed it, one of the easier ways to come over on a work visa. For native English speakers anyway. There are various options too, so its not all black and white when it comes to your employment options. From the surface, it may seem that JET and Conversation Schools are your only initial options. However, let me tell you that there are many choices beyond those two forms of teaching. This guide will hopefully, help to open up some of the less common or more obscure English teaching related postings that are available.

So why would you want to become a teacher in the first place. There are perhaps a bunch of potential reasons, and it probably extends way beyond career opportunities. Some use it as a chance to further their teaching experience, while others use it as a doorway into Japan. Some see it as an opportunity to explore Japan, while others may use it as an escape from their current job/lifestyle/country. Either way, people should consider their options carefully, before they jump straight into the deep end of teaching and commit to a 6 or 12-month contract.

The General Criteria

Basic Requirements to become an English Teacher, especially within an English Conversation School or Language Centre are as follows:

  • Be a native English speaker
  • Recieve an education in English for 12 years
  • Hold a university or bacherlors degree from an accredited university
  • Demonstrate some interest in life in Japan
  • Be able to commit to a 12-month contract

Note some companies will accept candidates with 3 or more years teaching experience in place of a degree. However, this is quite rare, so having a degree is the easiest way of getting a job without any trouble.

Beyond the points listed above, some preferred criteria can include, but is not limited to the following points:

  • Japanese language proficiency
  • Driver’s license
  • Teaching experience
  • Teaching certification – including CELTA, TEFOL, etc
  • Have general computer skills
  • Masters Degree in education-related major
  • Be willing to adapt to life in Japan
  • Have access to some initial savings
  • Pay for your initial flights to Japan

And some other possible requirements depending on the school or educational institution.

As mentioned earlier, there are all kinds of shapes and sizes of English teachers, and the initial options available to you can also vary. Here we will look at the mainstream choices, as well as some of the lesser common alternatives.

If you’re interested in our FAQs Section, you can check our Life in Japan FAQ or our Exploring Japan FAQ.

Engish Conversation Schools

There are a number of English Conversation schools available, all with different options, salaries and criteria. Generally, the students will be similar across all schools, but your teaching experience could be dramatically different.

The main aim of English Conversation Schools is probably obvious to most, you teach conversation or social skills to students. However, this is not the limit of your lessons, as you will also explain grammar and vocabulary, provide error correction and feedback. You will also participate in role plays with students and assign homework. The biggest challenge is perhaps customising your approach for not only different students but different competency levels too.

Your experience as a teacher will be based on specific school instruction methods, supporting texts, fellow staff, management and so on. Benefits, completion bonuses and future career opportunities are also up to the school too.

The main English conversation schools include Nova, Gaba, ECC, AEON, Berlitz and Shane’s. For more info on each of these options, we recommend you check out our post on English Conversation Schools.

Join a School or University

You could, of course, take a chance by joining an elementary, high school or university directly. There are options like private, public and international schools, and private, public and foreign Universities too. You can also join a 塾 (じゅく or juku), which is like after-school tutoring or cram school.

As an English teacher in schools, your role will be similar to an ALT, you will assist in teaching English. In this role, you will support the Japanese teacher and participate in team instruction.

In International Schools or universities where the main language is English, you will focus on further challenging students ability in the classroom. You will also be the primary teacher in this role, as there is no Japanese teacher in these schools. Through the use of novels, texts and other resources, you would further challenge the students in discussions and writing tasks, etc.

In universities, you will also be the key teacher responsible for leading your own discussions. Students will usually be aged from 17 to their early 20s but may include a wide range of levels. Here again you facilitate discussion and also challenge them with writing assignments, and the like.

Your schedule, contract, salary and benefits will depend on the educational institution. Furthermore, students, supporting materials, staff and management will also differ. As a result, we recommend you do as much research and ask as many questions about the candidate institution as possible. The more you can get a grasp of the candidate company, the better idea you will have about your compatibility as a future teacher and team member.

You can typically find these kinds of jobs on websites like Gaijinpot, Daijob, Ohayo sensei or Japan English Teacher.

If you have any other recommendations, we would love to hear from you in the comments section.

Teach Younger Children and Infants

You might be surprised to hear that a number of jobs teaching English to kids only are also a common find. These jobs could be at nurseries, day care centres and kindergartens, where English is offered as an extra curricular activity or part of the main curriculum. Starting kids off with their English education at an early age is not so rare these days. Especially, for interracial couples where more than one language is spoken at home.

These schools can also vary greatly in everything from salary, working conditions, benefits and more. Thus, we strongly recommend you do your research on your prospective employer.

Similarly, you can find these kinds of jobs on websites like Gaijinpot, Daijob, Ohayo sensei or Japan English Teacher.

There are also dedicated websites who hire teachers specifically for teaching children, which seem to be worth a look. Amity Teachers is one of these examples and Kids Duo is another to also check out.

If you have any other recommendations, we would love to hear from you in the comments section.

Join the JET Programme

The JET Programme stands for The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme. It is the Government’s initiative for English learning and cultural exchange across Japan’s education, sports and local communities.

Through the JET Programme, they have a number of positions available. These range from schools and education, local government support and sporting assistance programmes too. This is one way you can become an ALT or Assistant Language Teacher in Japanese schools.

For more information on the programme and actual insight into the job and lifestyle of this position you should check out our article on the JET Programme.

Teach in Business

For business professionals or people with corporate experience looking to use their skills in education. You too can also teach in Japan, with a focus on communication skills, business language and cultural exchange and awareness.

Instructors will generally join as contractors or freelance teachers, but there are some full-time position openings from time to time too. You will most likely be assigned students based on their expertise and availability.

Students seeking corporate lessons or business English training could be placed in a number of situations too. They may have been transferred to a new department where they require English on a daily basis. Alternatively, they may need to prepare for a transfer to a global branch or office. They also may be taking over a new role which requires managing foreign staff or clients.

You will be focused on developing the students business communication skills and intercultural awareness. You may also need to assist with business social skills, presentation preparation and delivery, email templates, facilitation and meeting participation.

For a more detailed insight into this kind of work and lifestyle, we recommend you check our post on corporate teaching.

Introduction Agencies

There are a number of introduction agencies who will organise and introduce students in accordance with your schedule and location. You simply register with the company, they will conduct a short interview with you to basically verify who you are and to ensure you are competent.

Once they are satisfied, they will then begin to refer students onto you that match your location, timing and teaching competencies. Lessons will usually be conducted in a cafe or quiet location, and are based on a pay as you go system.

Pay as you go means the student will pay you at the end of each lesson, usually in cash. Cash is a great way to make money, but you may, unfortunately, experience some problematic students. These are the ones that cancel multiple times and/or who do not show up to lessons. Unfortunately, this can be a hassle even if the company has a cancellation policy.

Some examples of English student introduction agencies include Eigopass, ABCkara and Elite Sensei.

Online lessons

Skype lessons are also available from some companies in Japan. These can be especially good to fill in any gaps in your day as you can conduct these from any location. The simple requirements are access to a quiet place, Skype-enabled device and an internet connection.

Teaching via Skype does come with its share of drawbacks, as it can be difficult to get your point across, especially to lower level students. In this case, you can definitely use the share feature of your screen, or type any notes in the chat interface for their future reference or to explain something in writing. Also, having a common text that you both use is easier to manage too.

You can find Skype lessons via a range of sources and a simple internet search. For example, there is the italki site, which allows you to advertise, write articles and promote yourself online. You could also advertise for free on Craigslist and similar sites.

Advertise yourself

There are also a number of sites that let you do your own advertising. This means you can create your own profile to appeal to the students in your local area. Generally, these sites will let you set your own parameters in terms of location, and schedule, picture and info. That way, suitable students who match your criteria will be able to find you.

In terms of online advertising, you can use websites like Find students, and hello sensei n Japan.

For Apps, Flamingo is an app dedicated to matching teachers and students, and they have both Android and iOS versions. Some language exchange apps also have this feature too. I have seen this functionality on Tandem and also Speaky, which both have Android and iOS apps if you search in the respective app stores.

Other Online Resources

Interac is a company that works with the Japanese Government to hire a teacher from overseas to work in Japan. Typically, they focus on hiring ALTs or Assitant Language Teachers. Primarily your focus will be to teach in schools, and also provide cultural awareness and understanding. Your position will focus mainly on junior high schools, with some work in elementary schools. For more information, you, check out the Interac website.

Teach away is a company that will set you up with an available teaching position overseas. They are an online recruitment and resourcing company mainly for private school, public school and online teaching positions. In addition, they also provide TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) courses online. You can use this certification to improve your prospects of getting a job overseas. Visit the Teach Away website for more information on their job postings and online courses.

Go Overseas is a different kind of company that specialises in helping people experience life in other countries. They have several kinds of programmes including study abroad, teach abroad, online TEFL course and various other experiences. This is another online listing for English Teaching positions too, and you can find out more on their website.

If you’re considering searching for jobs on your own, feel free to check websites like Craigslist, Gaijinpot, Daijob, Ohayo sensei, Jobs in Japan or Japan English Teacher. Of course, like anything on the internet, make sure to proceed with caution. Especially before handing over your resume and personal details to anyone online. You should always check the counterparty is reputable by searching the internet, and check they have a proper website and credentials.

Hopefully, this guide gives you a better idea of the types of jobs and teaching opportunities that are available in Japan. If you have any other insights or advice in relation to the above, we would love to hear from you in the comments.

Happy hunting!

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