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Teach English in Japan: Requirements, Salary, Jobs

Teach English in Japan

Teaching English in Japan is an experience that will enrich your life with so many opportunities and experiences. On this page we’ve put together a guide with all the useful information you will need before embarking on your English teaching journey. We will discuss things like what will earn teaching English and what is required from you to actually secure a job in this field. We also provide information about English teaching programs as well as TEFL courses you can take to get fully certified as an English teacher.

Japan is a nation of islands found at the outermost edge of east Asia. Japan has been coined “The Land of the Rising Sun” because of its location as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Cities in Japan are modern and high tech. English teachers like japan because of how they have managed to balance traditional and modern influences. New Condominiums are built next to wooden shacks. You can find beautiful gardens and temples next to unsightly buildings and neon lights. This mixture creates an interesting vibe. Traditional buildings and culture have been preserved but modern structures and practices dominate. Japan is also renowned for its technology and fashion.

Japan has four seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Summers are known for extreme humidity and winters can be very cold. Spring is usually the best time in Japan as the temperature is comfortable and you can experience the Cherry Blossoms while teaching English. Food in Japan is just too good. Japanese seem to have mastered attention to detail, from sourcing the ingredients to cooking the dish. Teaching English in Japan gives you the opportunity to teach in modern cities like Tokyo or more rural towns. As high tech and modern as Japan is, the country hosts some of the most beautiful nature in the world. If you love mountains, hot springs, beaches, Japan has it all. Hiking and relaxing in a Japanese onsen is a combination you ought to try out soon.

If you have taught in another country, finding an English teaching job in Japan should be no issue at all. There is an abundance of opportunities all around the island nation. If you have never taught before, Japan is a great place to kick off your teaching career. Whether you have experience or not, there is a huge demand for English teachers. There are several TEFL training centres and teaching programs to help you get started teaching English.

Requirements to teach English in Japan

Now that you’ve decided you want to teach English in Japan, you’re probably not sure about what the requirements are. Here will go over some of the important things you need to know. Prospective teachers often don’t have a clear understanding on the difficulty of getting their teaching career started in Japan. The truth is that as long as you are willing to learn and are a team player, securing an English teaching job will be easy. Only a small percentage of English teachers come from an education background. They are a diverse bunch and come from many different industries. Coming from an English and education background will always help you stand out, but teachers have come from marketing, writing, acting, babysitting, IT, engineering, medicine, law and many more. If you have a solid understanding of the English language and want to have a rewarding job, this is for you. Here are a few of the general requirements needed to become an English teacher in Japan:

  • You will need to have a bachelor's degree in any subject
  • You should be a native English speaker from one of these countries: The United Kingdom, The United States, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand or South Africa. Japanese schools also hire non native speakers if you have good qualifications and experience
  • A TEFL certificate is not required, but it could help you stand out
  • Experience is always welcomed, but not required at all
  • You should be able to pass a basic health test
  • You need to have a clean criminal background
  • You should be above 21 years old
  • You should love Japan and Japanese culture

Salary and benefits for teaching English in Japan

Teaching English in Japan definitely is up there as one of the best places to earn a decent living while teaching. Japan might be an expensive place to live, but the salary you earn will be more than enough to cover your expenses and allow you to save a bit. As an English teacher in Japan you can expect to earn anything between 230,000 to 600,000 JPY per month. Schools here are also known to offer teachers benefits like accommodation and flight reimbursements. The salary you earn will depend on whether you teach English in a city like Tokyo or in the countryside. You will earn more teaching in the city, but the cost of living will also be higher. Your qualifications and experience as well as the type of school you teach at will also influence your salary. Here are some schools you might consider teaching at:

School Salary
Public Schools (Assistant language teacher) 230,000 - 300,000 JPY per month
Private schools (Eikaiwas) 250,000 - 280,000 JPY per month
International Schools 250,000 to 600,000 JPY per month
Universities 300,000 - 600,000 JPY per month
Private Tutoring 3,000 JPY per hour

Public school jobs

Some of the most common jobs around are public school jobs. At these jobs you will be hired as an assistant language teacher (ALT) and and you will work along with a Japanese teacher. Many of these schools will only hire 1 foreign English teacher. There are 3 main ways these schools recruit teachers:

  1. Recruiting through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET Programme).
  2. Recruiting through organizations such as Interac or Gaba.
  3. Some schools opt to recruit teachers independently

The JET programme requires you to go through a long hiring process, including an in person interview in your home country, but also offers higher salaries and benefits than other organisations do.

At public schools class sizes are relatively large with 35-40 students per class. At these jobs you will be given the curriculum and outlines and you will need too plan the activities for your lessons. These jobs usually have a 30-35 hour weekly workload working weekdays during daytime and teachers earn 230,000 to 300,000 JPY per month.

Private English school (Eikaiwas) jobs

In Japan, private schools are called eikaiwas. When working at these schools your job will be focused on helping students pass Japans ESL (English as a Second Language) exams. The classes are smaller than public schools with 1 to 15 students per class. Teaching hours depend on your school and agreement but can be weekdays or weekend days and during the daytime or evening. Another difference from public schools is that instead of there being 1 foreign teacher per school, there are 2 to 20 foreign teachers at eikaiwas. These schools offer part-time and full-time positions. Teachers working full-time usually work around 30 hours a week and earn a salary of 250,000 to 280,000 JPY per month.

International school jobs

International schools are some of the best paying jobs, but they are not easy to get. These jobs are for qualified and experienced teachers. They look for teachers who have degree in Education or a teaching licence. These jobs offer a great working environment along with good benefits and a salary between 250,000 to 600,000 JPY per month. These schools are pretty much the same as a school back in your home country, just that they are in Japan. They follow international curriculums such as American and British curriculums and hold a very high standard. Students here come from wealthy Japanese families or expats as fees are much higher than other schools.

University jobs

One of the best things about teaching at a University, is that only 10 to 15 teaching hours are required per week (not including class preparation and grading). These jobs are for well qualified teachers who have a Master's or Doctoral degree along with some experience. Universities are very prestigious in Japan and teachers earn a salary of 300,000 to 600,000 JPY per month along with great benefits such as long paid vacations (up to 3 months). If you are someone who like to take some time to travel, this a great opportunity for you.

Private tutoring jobs

Private tutoring is a great way to earn some extra money while teaching English in Japan. Teachers can teach 1 hour or 30 minute classes, meeting with students at their homes or at cafes and other public meeting places. This is a popular option, especially in the bigger cities and teachers can charge around 300,000 JYP per hour.

Cost of living in Japan

Japan is constantly ranked as one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Their are 3 reasons for this. Firstly Japan is an island and many things need to imported from other Asian countries. Secondly Japanese culture emphasizes high quality products a services and with better products come higher prices. Thirdly Tokyo is just an expensive place to live and the costs in Tokyo will be much higher than any other Japanese city. The good thing is that as a foreign English teacher in Japan is that you will be well paid and will be able to live comfortably with your salary. You can expect a very high standard of living with great public facilities, and very low levels of air pollution. You might even be able to build up some savings, but Japan isn't the best place for that because of the higher cost of living. A single persons estimated monthly costs are 121,000 JPY per month without rent. The currency used in Vietnam is JPY or ¥ (Japanese Yen or Yen for short) and according to Numbeo here are some basic costs to consider in Japan:

Item Cost
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 86,454.19 JPY
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 57,712.22 JPY
Monthly basic utilities (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) 21,993.43 JPY
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) 4,779.01 JPY
Water (1.5 liter bottle) 122.82 JPY
Chicken Fillets (1kg) 868.46 JPY
Potato (1kg) 403.08 JPY
Rice (white), (1kg) 19,812.12 JPY
Banana (1kg) 308.89 JPY
Local Transport (One-way Ticket) 230.00 JPY
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult 8,897.52 JPY

Things to know about Japan and Japanese culture

Japan is probably the most interesting place in the world simply because of how different it is from the rest of the world. This is probably because of Japan isolating themselves from the world until 150 years ago. A typical first response of an English teacher arriving in Japan for the first time would be "This is definitely now home, but I sure can stay here". That could be because of a combination of ancient traditions and super modern technology coming together to create something special. Because of Japanese etiquette and customs being so different first time teachers might not know they correct way to act at work, eat at restaurants or interact with friends and co-workers. Don't worry too much about knowing this as Japanese people will understand that foreigners don't know these things, but if you do they will appreciate it. Here are some things to keep in mind so you can know what is rude and what is polite:

  • Hello Japan. When working in Japan it's possible to get by speaking English, but not many Japanese people are well versed in English and others might feel shy so learning a few Japanese phrases will go a long way! The first word teachers typically learn is "hello", which is, "konnichiwa". So konnichiwa Japan!
  • Japanese people don't shake hands, instead, they bow. A Japanese bow is different to the bow you might know where you would bend your neck. In Japan you should hinge your hips and keep your neck straight. The lower you bow, the more respect you are showing. For foreigners a slight nod or light handshake is perfectly fine.
  • Take off your shoes indoors, as it's seen as rude to wear shoes in some places. When entering someone's home you should take off your shoes and leave it outside. This also applies to some restaurant or meeting places. The typically cue would be if there is a mat or shoe rack next to the door with shoes on. Sometimes there will be slippers you can put on and wear inside.
  • Don't be loud and don't eat or drink when walking. When you use public spaces you should be respectful. In Japan it's seen as extremely rude to eat when walking or on the subway. You also shouldn't talk loudly, answer calls, or play music out loud. Also don't blow your nose in public, you can sniff and then blow it in a bathroom.
  • No tipping needed, or actually please don't tip. It's actually seen as rude to tip in Japan and the staff will usually run after you to return your money.
  • Don't be late, be punctual. As an English teacher in Japan you will have a schedule and occasional meetings. Don't be late, ever, because in Japan being punctual is very important. You will notice that even the subway will arrive at the exact time every day.
  • Less looking and touching in Japan. In western culture people are very "touch" and looking someone in the eyes is respectful. In Japan it's the opposite, looking someone in the eyes for too long will make them uncomfortable and touching is just not a thing for the most part. In the classroom it is normal for a student to not look at the teacher when being addressed, so don't feel offended, and you also shouldn't pat your students on the head to congratulate them as they might feel uncomfortable.

Do you need to speak Japanese to teach English in Japan?

No, you don’t need to speak a word of Japan. Learning Japanese will help you learn about Japanese people and culture, but it’s not a requirement at all. Schools want you to engage in English with your students all the time. Even if you can speak Japanese, you will be asked not to use it and students are not usually allowed to talk to their English teacher in Japanese.

Do I need to be a native English speaker?

Being a native English speaker means being a national of a country where the first language is English. Countries that Japan consider native English speaking are the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. To teach English in Japan, it isn't a legal requirement to be from these countries, but schools do have a preference when hiring teachers. The reason is simply because they perceive English nationals as natural English speakers with clear accents. They also want the students to learn about cultural aspects from the teachers home countries. Let's be honest, if we wanted to learn about Japan and Japanese culture, we'd rather have someone from Japan teach us than someone from Australia.

But being from a native English speaking country, doesn't make you a good English teacher. There are many people who teach English professionally in other countries and they would definitely be good English teachers. A lot of employers also do know that and are very open to consider non-native speakers. If you studied in a native speaking country or also have a passport from a native speaking country, it will also help a lot. To improve your chances you should focus on your strengths, when applying to jobs highlight your experience and qualifications and try to show that you can teach English in way that is clear and easy to understand for the students.

Can I teach English in Japan without a degree?

Japan has become a popular option for teaching English abroad. Because of this there is a lot of competition for jobs and some schools might only consider those with degrees. A degree is a requirement for the working visa in Japan, and you might find it a bit challenging to work legally without one. The degree does not have to be in English or education and can be in any subject.

However, there are some ways you can teach in Japan without a degree. The easiest way would be to have a Japanese passport or spousal visa. Some teachers sign up to university programs to study a course in English or even study Japanese language, and with a student visa they teach English part-time while completing your studies. The best way is to teach English to Japanese students privately or online. The last, and best way, is to apply for a Working Holiday Visa. The purpose of this visa is to travel and work to fund your travels in Japan. By doing this you can legally teach English but it should not be full time. In order to get a working holiday visa you should:

  • Have a passport from: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, France, Germany, UK, Ireland, Denmark, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Iceland, Czech Republic, Lithuania.
  • Be between ages 18 and 30
  • Should not have used this visa before
  • Be in good health

Do I need a TEFL certificate to teach English in Japan?

A TEFL certificate is not actually a government requirement to work in Japan, so you can definitely teach English without it. When browsing jobs, you might see some schools mention that they require a TEFL certificate or alternative (TESOL, CELTA), and that could be a specific requirement from the school. If that is the case, feel free to apply to the job even if you don't have it and highlight other things on your CV, such us your experience, and the school might make an exception. Some schools pay salaries depending on teachers qualifications and experience, so having a TEFL could get you a higher salary from some employers.

If you are not a native speaker, A TEFL certificate might help give your CV a boost when going against native speakers in hiring rounds. If you are a native speaker, a TEFL certificate could still give your CV a boost, especially if you don't have a degree in English, Linguistics or education. If you decide to get your TEFL certificate, you should note that not all TEFL certificates are equal, and you should make sure you get one from a reputable company. The industry minimum is a 120 hour course and make sure the course provider has good accreditations. Many schools don't accept online certificates from lesser known companies because they look for courses that offer practical training, which many lower quality online courses don't, so make sure of this before signing up for a course.

How to get a visa to teach English in Japan

Thanks to Japan being one of the most orderly countries in the world, the visa process is very straightforward and your schools will help with most of the application. There are slight variations depending on where you work, but the requirements and documents are mostly the same. The only requirement for the Japanese work visa is a Bachelor's degree in any subject. Here are the options for visa's to teach English in Japan:

  1. Instructor Visa - Work as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) in public schools in Japan.
  2. Specialist in Humanities Visa - Work for private schools or companies such as as eikaiwas (language school) or corporate teaching programs.
  3. Working holiday visa - Work and travel in Japan (for certain nationalities only).

To get a work visa you can either apply in your home country or if you are in Japan you can convert your tourist visa into a work visa (it's quite common for teachers to travel to japan as tourists and then look for jobs while there). So once you have received a job offer and an employment contract your school will ask you to forward all the documents they need to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) on your behalf. Your school will let you know which documents they need, which are usually the following:

  • Copy of your passport
  • Passport photos
  • Copy of your resume
  • Original or Authorised copy of your degree and transcripts
  • Teaching licence or certificate (Only required for some jobs)

Once you receive this you can convert it to a work visa at your nearest Japanese Embassy or Consulate. Once you arrive in Japan, you will then receive your Status of Residence and Residence Card.

When to apply for a teaching job

In Japan the first semester of the school year starts in March or April and the second semester starts in August or September. The biggest hiring period is for the new school school year and will be from January until April. If you can apply during those times great, but if you can't the good news is that it's not an issue at all. Schools hire teachers throughout the year so you will see many multiple open jobs every month of the year so you can move over to Japan at a time that suits you.

How to apply for a teaching job

Japan is probably one of the most popular countries to teach English in at the moment because of the interesting culture, beautiful landscapes and great quality of life. Because of this there is a lot of competition for the best jobs because of the amount and quality of English teachers. Don't worry there are plenty of jobs but you'll be competing with many candidates so it's important to know how to stand out from the crowd and impress prospective employers. You can find jobs on our Japan job board, Facebook Groups, Gaijinpot, or OhayoSensei. Here are a few tips that will increase your chances:

  • Look the part of a teacher. In Japan, teachers are highly respected and seen as professionals. If you interview or send a picture in a shirt showing shoulders they might not take you seriously. Dress neatly, smart and respectably. No unnatural hair colours, keep your hair neat, and men should trim their beards. Also cover tattoos and piercings.
  • Update your CV for teaching jobs. Make sure your CV is updated with your latest qualifications and experience and highlight your strengths. If you have great qualifications and experience, highlight those. If you have a TEFL, highlight that. If you are a native speaker, you can also highlight that.
  • Be on time. If you have an interview (online or in person) or even need to respond to an email, don't keep them waiting as being punctual is very important in Japanese culture.
  • Show them that you are a good speaker. Speaking clearly is important because your class should understand what you are saying. You should project your voice well enough for a class to hear, so don't speak to softly.
  • Show them who you are and that you are a good teacher because we can all offer more than what's on our CV. Write a short introduction about who you are, why you want to work in Japan and why you think the school is a good match for you. The more personal the better. If you can record a short introduction video, that will be great. Just a simple video with the selfie cam will do. If you have taught before and have a video of you teaching you can also send that along, else you can record a simple demo of yourself teaching an imaginary class to demonstrate your ability. Most teachers just send over their CV's so this will help you stand out.