Have you ever wanted to experience the unique culture of Japan while teaching English as a foreign language? If you have, you might be wondering how to become an English teacher in Japan. Look no further than the land of the rising sun. From relishing sushi to admiring the beautiful cherry blossom, Japan never has a dull moment.
Japan, a top teach abroad destination, offers more than a beautiful backdrop. Here, the cultural landscape is as inviting as the people, who welcome teachers from abroad with open arms.
The country presents a wealth of teaching opportunities that extend beyond traditional classrooms. Among these opportunities, two prominent options stand out: the Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) roles and the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program.
While ALT positions see foreign educators assisting in elementary, junior high, and high schools, the JET Program invites professionals, primarily from English-speaking countries, to teach English or work in international relations. In addition, a variety of other English language schools across the country are often looking for qualified teachers, offering a spectrum of opportunities to engage with the community and delve deep into Japanese culture.
However, as with any journey, it’s crucial to prepare. To teach English in Japan, understanding the necessary requirements before application is essential. This will smooth your pathway, like a carefully folded origami crane, towards a successful teaching career in Japan.
So, let’s find out!
Qualifications to be an English Teacher in Japan
- Hold a bachelor’s degree
- Have a TEFL/TESOL certificate (not compulsory if you have other qualifications)
- Native-level English proficiency (native or near-native English speakers are preferred)
- Have a clean criminal record
- Be in a position to obtain a working visa
- Have some teaching experience (not compulsory)
- You should be 20 years and above
- Pass the health and drug test
Meeting the requirements mentioned above prepares you for a rewarding career teaching English in Japan. In this role, you’ll connect with enthusiastic students, absorb the fascinating aspects of Japanese culture, and create enduring memories. Plus, you’ll have the fulfilling opportunity to share your knowledge, shaping the English language skills of a new generation in Japan.
Imagine teaching English in Japan, immersing yourself in the fast-paced, neon-lit lifestyle of Tokyo or Osaka. Or perhaps, teaching language skills to kids amid the serene, traditional charm of smaller towns like Nara, Hakone, or Matsumoto. There’s truly something for everyone that offers a unique teaching adventure.
So, if teaching English in Japan excites you, make sure to go through the requirements below.
1. Must hold a bachelor’s degree
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement to teach English in Japan. According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT), 80% of respondents with bachelor’s degrees or higher qualifications were employed as full-time English teachers in Japan.
Having said that, you still have chances of getting a job in Japan even if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree. There are many schools and organizations that are willing to hire people without a degree as long as they have the relevant experience and qualifications. This is when a TEFL certification comes in handy.
Teachers with degrees are seen as more professional and reliable than their counterparts without degrees. Not just that, having a degree gives you that little edge over others applying for the same teaching position. While it will help you establish an ‘edge’ over others, a degree can also help you progress in your career, as many schools offer free professional development training programs to those with a bachelor’s degree.
Therefore, if you are interested in teaching English in Japan, earning a degree in education, linguistics or any subject will be a valuable investment.
2. Have a TEFL/TESOL certification
Many people dream of teaching English in Japan, and a TEFL certification can make that dream into reality. These teacher training certifications certify that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively teach students of all levels of English.
A TEFL certificate will allow you to make a positive impact on your employer during the hiring process. Your learners will also benefit from the experience you gained during the teaching practice as part of the TEFL course. By helping your students improve their English language skills, you will open up new academic and professional opportunities.
If you are passionate about teaching English in Japan and want to make a difference in the lives of your students, then getting a recognized TEFL certification is the right choice for you.
A 120-hour TEFL certificate is the most sought-after ESL certification by ESL employers in Japan. While other certification options are available, a Cambridge CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL is considered the gold standard teacher training qualification.
3. Native-level English proficiency
You will need to be a native English speaker or have near-native level proficiency to be eligible for most teaching jobs in Japan. This is because Japanese students generally have a very high level of English proficiency and expect their teachers to be able to communicate clearly and effectively. In addition, you will need to use proper grammar and sentence structure when speaking and writing in English.
Although most schools prefer teachers who are native speakers, some might be willing to hire skilled non-native teachers if they can demonstrate a strong command of the language (speaking, reading, and writing).
4. Should have a clean criminal record
To teach English in Japan, you must have a clean criminal record. This means you cannot have any convictions on your record, whether felonies or misdemeanors. If you have a criminal record, you will need to obtain a waiver from the Japanese government to work as an English teacher in the country. Even if you have a clean record, it is important to note that the Japanese government may still require you to undergo a background check before being granted a teaching license.
The Japanese government wants to ensure that its citizens receive instruction from qualified and reputable educators. However, allowing English teachers with criminal records to work in Japan would undermine the government’s efforts to maintain high standards for its educational system.
5. The ability to obtain a work visa
While working in Japan typically requires obtaining a work visa in advance, there are several ways to get a work visa to teach English in Japan. One way is to teach English in Japan through the programs such as the JET Program.
The JET Program recruits college graduates from around the world to teach English in Japanese schools and promotes cultural exchange between Japan and other countries. In addition, several private companies hire native English speakers to teach English in Japan.
Other alternative way to get a visa is to get a job with a company in Japan that sponsors your visa. Or, consider getting a work visa through the Japanese government’s working holiday program.
For you to be eligible for any work visa in Japan (as a teacher), you must have a bachelor’s degree and be a native English speaker. You will also need to pass a background check, have a clean criminal record, and provide proof of your teaching experience/qualifications.
6. Teaching experience
While a teaching degree is required to teach English in Japan (for most schools), some schools accept teachers without a degree as long as they have some teaching experience and exhibit strong language skills. This is because having some teaching experience can provide educators with the necessary skills and knowledge to teach students effectively.
Having said that, there are plenty of opportunities to teach English in Japan for new teachers or those who still need teaching experience. Many language schools and private companies are willing to hire new teachers. These types of schools typically provide training programs to help new teachers learn the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in the classroom.
To gain teaching experience, you can volunteer in schools, tutor English to Japanese students, or work as an assistant English teacher in a Japanese school. Many private companies often offer paid internships for those interested in teaching English in Japan. These positions can be a great way to gain the necessary experience while earning some income.
7. Meet age requirements
The minimum age requirement to teach English in Japan is 20 years old. There is no maximum age limit, but most schools prefer teachers to be under 50. And the majority of schools prefer to hire teachers who are at least 20 years old. There are a few reasons for this:
- School insurance rates are lower for younger teachers.
- More senior teachers are generally more experienced and therefore considered more qualified.
- Many Japanese parents feel more comfortable entrusting their children to more senior, mature teachers.
There are plenty of opportunities for younger people to teach English in Japan. For example, many private language schools hire students currently studying abroad in Japan on student visas, and these students can be as young as 18 years old. So if you’re interested in teaching English in Japan but need to meet the minimum age requirements for most schools, don’t despair – there are still options available.
8. Health and drug tests
According to Japanese government regulations, prospective teachers wanting to teach English in Japan must pass a health and drug test. These tests are required for those applying for a work visa. The good news is that these tests are relatively straightforward.
The health test will require you to get a physical examination and provide a blood sample. This test aims to ensure you are healthy enough to work in Japan. Nothing to worry about if you are generally healthy – the test is a formality.
How to become an ALT in Japan under the JET Programme?
The Japan Exchange and Teaching program (JET) offers an excellent opportunity for those looking to gain international experience while teaching English in Japan. This program is a Japanese government initiative that aims to improve foreign language education in Japan. Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) under the JET program play a key role in achieving this goal by working in schools across the country to teach English.
The program is open to applicants of all nationalities. Applicants must be aged 20 or over, possess a bachelor’s degree, or have completed at least two years of university-level education, and have a good command of written and spoken English. They must also show that they are adaptable and resourceful, as they will be working in a wide range of different settings.
Successful applicants will be provided with comprehensive training before they begin their postings, and they can expect to receive a competitive salary and benefits package.
So, let’s walk through the steps to become an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) under the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program.
- Check Your Eligibility: The first step is to ensure you meet the basic criteria. These include English fluency, holding a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, and being medically fit.
- Submit Your Application: Starting around October-November, the JET Program accepts applications for positions starting the following year. The application includes completing forms, writing a personal statement, and providing reference letters. It’s essential to complete this process accurately and professionally.
- Attend the Interview: Applicants with successful submissions are invited for an interview at their nearest Japanese consulate or embassy, typically between January and February. This interview allows the JET Program to gauge your suitability for the role and your adaptability to life in Japan.
- Acceptance and Placement: Following the interview, successful candidates are offered a placement. At this point, you’ll need to make a decision about whether to accept the role.
- Pre-Departure Orientation: After accepting the offer, candidates are invited to a pre-departure orientation. This is a crucial step to prepare you for your journey and role as an ALT.
- Departure: Successful candidates depart for Japan usually in late July or early August. This is when your exciting professional journey truly begins.
Remember, the JET Program is highly competitive. A professional approach to your application, thorough preparation for your interview, and a strong commitment to teaching and living in Japan are crucial to succeed as a language teacher in Japan.
How to become an Interac ALT?
- The first step to becoming an Interac ALT is to obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.
- While no specific major is required, education or linguistics coursework can be helpful.
- ALTs must also be native English speakers and have the ability to obtain a visa to work in Japan.
- Once the above mentioned requirements are met, potential ALTs can apply directly to Interac or through a company’s partner organizations.
After applying, candidates will be contacted for an interview. Those who are successful in the interview process will then be invited to participate in a training program. After completing the training program, candidates will be placed at a school where they will teach English for a minimum of one year.
How to get a visa to teach English in Japan?
You’ll need to obtain a visa if you’re looking to teach English in Japan. The first step is to make sure you meet the basic requirements to teach English in Japan. Once you’ve confirmed that you meet the eligibility requirements, you’ll need the following documents to apply for visa:
- A valid passport
- A bachelor’s degree or higher
- A teaching certificate (such as TESOL, CELTA, or TEFL)
- A clean criminal record
- Health insurance
- An employment contract with a Japanese school or company
- Proof of your financial capability (such as a bank statement)
- A resume and photo
- A sponsorship letter from your employer in Japan
- Any other required documents specified by the Japanese embassy or consulate in your home country
Once you have all the required documents, you can begin the application process by submitting them to the Japanese embassy or consulate in your home country. The processing time for visas can vary, so it’s essential to start the application process well before your planned departure date. If everything goes smoothly, you should receive your ticket in plenty of time to begin your new adventure in Japan!
Salary and benefits for teaching English in Japan
According to Payscale, the average salary for an English teacher in Japan is ¥3,207,927 per year. However, salaries can range from ¥2,50,000 to ¥600,000 per month depending on several factors such as years of experience, location, teaching level, and type of school.
Location is also a factor when it comes to salaries for English teachers in Japan. On average, teachers in Tokyo can expect to make the most, with salaries of around ¥4.5 million (yen) per year. On the other hand, teachers in Osaka and Kyoto can expect to make slightly less, with salaries of about ¥3.5 million (yen) per year on average.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Should I know Japanese to teach English in Japan?
If you want to teach English in Japan, you need not be a Japanese speaker. However, being familiar with the Japanese language and culture is helpful. In addition, knowing a few key phrases will help you better connect with your students. The most important thing is to have a passion for teaching and a willingness to learn. If you have these qualities, you will successfully teach English in Japan, regardless of your prior knowledge of the Japanese language.
Which are the top cities to teach English in Japan?
There are many great cities to teach English in Japan, but some stand out above the rest. Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto are all large metropolitan areas with a high demand for English teachers. These cities also offer a wide variety of cultural experiences and opportunities for learning. Other popular cities for teaching English include Nagoya, Yokohama, Fukuoka, and Sapporo. Each of these cities has its own unique charm and offers different advantages for those interested in teaching English in Japan.
Can I become an English teacher in Japan without a degree?
There is no one answer to this question. Some people would say that having a bachelor’s degree is essential for teaching English in Japan, while others would argue that it’s unnecessary. However, it depends on the individual and the specific job they’re applying for. A degree is an advantage if you’re looking to teach English at a university or college level. However, if you’re interested in teaching English to young learners, you may be able to find positions that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Ultimately, it comes down to what job you’re looking for and whether or not you have the necessary qualifications.
We encourage you to apply if you meet the basic requirements and are interested in teaching English in Japan. Although only some of the conditions may be negotiable, exceptions can be made depending on your qualifications and experience. However, the requirements to teach English in Japan are relatively easy to meet. The most important thing is to have a passion for teaching and a willingness to learn. If you have these qualities, you will successfully teach English in Japan, regardless of your prior knowledge of the Japanese language. With some preparation, you can be on your way to an exciting and rewarding adventure in Japan.
This article was originally published in Nov-2022 and was last updated in Sep-2023.Author: Donna J H