English Teaching In Japan


So you’re thinking about teaching English in the land of the rising sun? Well, first, you’ll probably want to know what types of English teaching jobs in Japan there are to be found. In this article, we will look at the main areas of employment available to English-language teaches already living in, and wanting to travel to, Japan. mt fuji

So, what are the main types of English teaching jobs in Japan? In summary, the answer to this question is:

  1. Eikaiwa
  2. Business schools
  3. ALTs
  4. JET   (http://jetprogramme.org/en/)
  5. University
  6. International Schools
  7. Kindergartens
  8. Miscellaneous/Tutoring
  9. Denwa Sensei

Let’s look at each of these individually.

Types of English teaching jobs in Japan 1: Eikaiwa

Teach English at an English conversation school

Eikaiwa is an “English conversation school.” You can find these schools everywhere in Japan. Famous national chains include NOVA, Berlitz, and ECC. They regularly recruit, generally for single-year contracts that can be renewed, and are one of the easiest ways into teaching English in Japan.

In an Eikaiwa, you could be teaching anyone. They are private businesses that enroll students from the public. You may find yourself teaching a group of small children for 45 minutes in the morning, then a 60 minute class to a businessman on their lunchbreak, before a mixed class of old and young next. Generally, you will be teaching from a textbook (produced and sold by the Eikaiwa), with basic lesson plans prepared for you.

Eikaiwa can be rewarding. Your students will be friendly and the lessons enjoyable. Usually, students are choosing to attend, putting in their own time and money. So, they will be motivated, and they will work with you. They want to improve their English, and they want you to help!

What should I be aware of?

Entry requirements are also relatively low, with a degree in any subject the typical requirement – teaching experience is often not necessary. New teachers usually have “training” when they arrive in Japan, though the length and quality of this training can vary wildly. They will also usually help organize housing and transport.

However, Eikaiwa also has downsides. Most notably, Eikaiwa typically operate a “29.5 hour working week.” This is, however, NOT the amount of time you will actually work. This is, instead, a way for Eikaiwa to keep from paying into national insurance, which becomes mandatory when working over 30 hours. The General Union in Japan gives a detailed explanation of this system here.

The unpaid time between lessons is actually a very busy one, with prepping for the next lesson, attending short meetings, and interviewing potential new customers who visit the school. Many Eikaiwa also hold regular events and parties with students – which you will be expected to attend. From Hanami picnics to bars in the evening, these can often involve heavy drinking – though often this is seen as a plus point for many teachers!

How to get a job at an Eikaiwa

Search online at Eikaiwa websites. We have already detailed NOVA, Berlitz, and ECC, and there are many more such as GABA. You will also find them advertising on sites such as Dave’s ESL cafe and Ohayo Sensei, especially smaller independent Eikaiwa.

If you are going to apply for an Eikaiwa, check out our website to find activity ideas and teaching hints to help you get started!

Types of English teaching jobs in Japan 2: Business Schools

Teach English at a business school

Business English schools in Japan are in many ways similar to Eikaiwa. In fact, often the same company offers business-English schools and courses alongside their conversation schools. The big difference is attitude.

In Eikaiwa’s, teachers are usually expected to be “genki” – positive, energetic, and enthusiastic. These traits are still important in business-focused schools, but less so than a serious, professional attitude towards the lessons.

In business classes and courses, students often have not chosen to attend, but instead been enrolled by their companies. This can sometimes change the atmosphere of a class, though by no means does this mean they are unmotivated or unenthusiastic.

Compared to Eikaiwa’s, business-focused schools will want more of an academic background, a more professional attitude, and experience in business or corporate classes in Japan or elsewhere. They will also look closely at your overall appearance, and may want you to have a decent ability in using the Japanese language.

This does mean, however, that you can expect a higher salary and better working conditions than Eikaiwa.

So, if you have the necessary qualifications and experience, pursuing a career as a business English teacher in Japan could be a great option.

Types of English teaching jobs in Japan 3: Assistant Language TeachersTeach English as an ALT

An Assistant Language Teacher, commonly called an ALT, is a native-level English speaker working in a Japanese school. This school could be an elementary school, junior high school, or high school anywhere in the country.

ALT responsibilities vary greatly depending on the school and the main class teacher. Some ALTs will find they are almost a teacher in their own right, from planning lessons and making materials to teaching by themselves and participating in events. Other ALTs will find the “assistant” part of an assistant language teacher is very important – some positions use you as a background character, taken out sometimes for the students to practise the conversations they have memorized.

It is important to note that an ALT is native-level, not native speaker. While in the past some academics have complained that “English-teachers” are almost always expected to be from the Anglo-nations, especially North America, there has been a change noticeable that has seen an increase in fluent English speakers from all over the world.

How to Become an ALT in Japan

There are essentially 3 main methods of finding an ALT position in Japan.

  1. Dispatch companies.

The easiest way in. Dispatch companies such as Interac, Heart, and Borderlink provide large numbers of ALTs to schools all around the country. Entry requirements are generally relatively low – similar to Eikaiwa, asking for only a degree and English ability. Experience helps, but is not necessary.

Dispatch companies are growing larger and larger in Japan, as schools move away from expensive direct-hire positions to temporary contracts through these businesses. These businesses have a lot of experience helping foreigners come to Japan. They will usually organise transport, housing, and vehicles where necessary.

On the other hand, these companies again tend to operate the “29.5 working hours” system described above, as Eikaiwa do. Salaries are fairly low, and you may find travel time to be 1 to 2 hours each way. Furthermore, you will likely be working at several different schools rather than a single one. It can be tough. We recommend you do a detailed investigation online about whichever company you are applying for.

2. Direct hire

Teachers normally only find a direct hire position after they build experience teaching at schools in Japan. Even then, it can require a lot of luck, job searching, and being in the right place at the right time. There are many accounts online of how people got hired directly – such as this one – and really there are two possibilities: being hired by a school directly, or being hired by the local Board of Education.

Either way, the key things to remember in trying to get a direct hire position are:

a) Network – get to know other ALTs, Japanese-nationality teachers, and Board of Education members when they visit your school/s.

b) Japanese. If you improve your Japanese language ability, you will increase your chances of getting noticed. It is also an important sign that you are reliable enough to employ directly.

c) Be reliable. Demonstrate maturity and commitment from the start.

3. The JET program.

Read on…

Types of English teaching jobs in Japan 4: the JET programTeach English as a JET

The JET program is a relatively well-paid, sought-after program for many looking to teach English in Japan. Eligibility requirements are more stringent than some other ALT positions, but not very exacting. It is especially attractive to those who are coming to Japan for the first time,  or at the beginning of their language teaching career.

The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program is aimed at promoting grass-roots international exchange between Japan and other nations. Essentially, there is a strong cultural focus as well as a  language-teaching focus. What this means for you in reality is, as with all ALT positions, very dependent on the school you are working in. Schools may ask you to organise events about your homeland, or to hold discussion events. You may join in the community and local events. Each position is different, and most feedback about the program is extremely positive.

How to Become a JET in Japan

The recruitment process for the JET program is carried out by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its embassies and consulates overseas. If you are interested in becoming a JET, you should contact the Japanese Embassy or Consulate in your country of citizenship. You may find information on the internet, at overseas embassies and consulates, and at information sessions at venues such as colleges, universities, and career centres during the recruitment period.

Specific details can be found here.

Types of English teaching jobs in Japan 5: University TeachingTeach English at university

English language teaching at universities in Japan is a rewarding, well-paid job. However, this does mean there is also a lot of competition for jobs in this area.

JREC is a good example of what is available for career advancement. In Japan, language teaching at the university level is a well-paid job with great vacation and salary benefits. For those who achieve tenure, there is hardly a position more secure. To get there, though, requires a commitment to not only teaching, but research and publishing. You should also be constantly seeking to improve your own classroom methods.

Japanese language skills are also of great benefit for those seeking a permanent position. Though you will find many applications are accepted in English, many permanent positions are only advertised in Japanese. Start working on your Japanese now – building a resume in Japanese is no easy task, and universities will require Japanese-language explanations of your career aspirations, educational beliefs, and future research plans!

Types of English teaching jobs in Japan 6: International schoolsTeach English in International Schools

Teaching in an international school in Japan is for professional teachers who are passionate about education and contributing to student life in a wide variety of ways. Schools look for applicants  who exhibit a passion for teaching, have experience with students from diverse backgrounds, clearly continue to pursue professional development, and with an academic background and teaching experience directly relevant to the position. Most will also ask for experience teaching in the grade and subject area of the position on offer.

Working in an international school in Japan usually has more stringent requirements than the places listed above. Specifically, most international schools are looking for qualified teachers. Not language teachers, but educators with a teaching qualification such as a PGCE, Diploma in Early Childhood Education, or similar.

It is important to note, however, that there are now many schools and corporations that advertise themselves as “international schools”. They are, in fact, private language schools or dispatch companies. A search online at sites such as this one show that many of the companies mentioned above as Eikaiwas or dispatch agencies can be found among actual international schools. You will also find a large number of international schools that are kindergartens or pre-schools, teaching children of four years old or younger.

Salary is usually based on experience, higher than the above positions (except university positions), and job security more stable. Working at an international school requires a commitment to education as a career.

Types of English teaching jobs in Japan 7: KindergartensTeach English in Kindergartens

Kindergartens are a good entry into Japan and education for many. As we said above, these schools may advertise as “international schools,” but entry requirements are usually less – a degree, and some experience, can open a large number of positions for you. Some kindergartens will ask for a Degree in Early Childhood with a Teaching credential, however, and this is a sign that they are looking for someone to take on key responsibilities and their own class, rather than act as an assistant.

Kindergarten in Japan is for ages 3 – 6. For many, working with this age range is their goal, and they will work towards this in their academic career. For others, the job was not the goal, but after teaching at kindergartens they realise they love it. Gaijinpot and Ohayo Sensei are probably your best bet for job listings online.

You will have a varied and exciting schedule, with painting, dancing, singing, and games. It is vital that you lose any sense of nervousness or hesitation – teaching kids this age needs enthusiasm, positivity, and energy! It can be exhausting, but incredibly rewarding, and many teachers are passionate about their classes in kindergartens.

What to watch out for

Most entry-level kindergarten salaries are similar to those of ALTs: starting around ¥250,000 – ¥260,000  and rising to ¥320,000+ with several years of experience. You can increase this to ¥350,000 and beyond, by getting valid qualifications and experience. Qualified teachers, in charge of their own classes, are more likely to get these better-paid positions.

Companies now advertise jobs at salaries below ¥250,000, with some going as low as ¥200,000 or less. In recent years, due to the increased supply of people looking to teach English in Japan and the low bar to entry, salaries can sink extremely low. You should make sure you understand the salary, and how you can survive on such a budget, before taking any position.

Types of English teaching jobs in Japan 8: Tutoring and Miscellaneous

Teaching English as a foreign language in Japan, or anywhere in the world, opens the door to a variety of different job types. It is not uncommon for teachers to tutor privately while they hold a position at an Eikaiwa, or teach private classes as well as lecture at a university. Especially in the early stages of your language-teaching career, this is a good way to top up your salary and build experience.

Private English tutoring can be a lucrative gig, and there are some who even move into it full-time. It is important to remember, however, that tutoring on the side may be a breach of your contract, so check carefully. Also, visa issues often prevent any but the most successful private teachers from working independently full-time.

Types of English teaching jobs in Japan 9: Denwa Sensei!Teach English with Denwa Sensei

Denwa Sensei is an online English-language study app that places Japanese learners together with teachers from all around the world. We developed this specifically for the Japanese learner, its teachers are expected to possess some knowledge of both Japan and Japanese. From customs and traditions to common problems in English learning for Japanese speakers, you should be familiar with Japan.

Denwa Sensei is an excellent way to further develop your skills and strengthen your connection to Japan. Try it, whether you currently live here or would like to someday!

So where do we go from here?

A brief search of sites such as Dave’s ESL Cafe and TEFL.com will show you the large number of jobs available, and the salaries offered. The vast majority of jobs will offer salaries that are comfortable for a young, single graduate to live off. However, pay is fixed and relatively low for those hoping to advance as they get older. Though these salaries are far from terrible – they  can provide a comfortable lifestyle for those who choose so. The internet is your friend when researching your plans to teach abroad!

Do you think you would be a great English language teacher? Do you know what it requires? Check out our article here!

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