Teach English in Japan
Japan is among one of the most popular and exciting countries in the world to teach English as a second language. It’s for a very good reason that TESOL teachers flock here. There is much to explore as it consists of four main islands, Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu and over 4000 smaller islands. It’s hyper-connected railroad system links the main islands and Japan’s high-speed Shinkansen (train line) runs between major urban areas.
Japan is a must-go for any ESL teacher, as you will experience a lifestyle that still values its cultivated traditions and showcases a multitude of breathtaking attractions and destinations. Lose yourself in ancient and cultural treasures to stunning forests, mountains, and coast lines.
Deciding to venture into teaching in a region lying off the east coast of Asia may just prove to be the experience of a lifetime you need. Getting immersed in a timeless tradition beautifully fused with cutting-edge technology is just one of the hundred-and-one benefits you will experience when you teach English in Japan. Let this guide aid you in taking that decisive step.
Teaching ESL in Japan at a Glance
Japan enjoys four distinct seasons: December to February is winter; March to May is spring; June to August is summer; and September to November is autumn. In line with this, students get to have a break in between.
The school year starts on April 1 which is at the end of the spring vacation. Generally, summer vacation runs from July 20 to August 31. The winter and spring vacation both take around 10 days, from December 26 to around January 6 and March 25 to around April 5, respectively. All Japanese public schools follow the same basic school year, however, private institutions and international schools have their own calendar.
The period of hiring in Japan takes place at the beginning of the year, from January to March, and in the summer before the school starts, between June and August. If you are searching for a teaching job, these time frames would be the right time to do so because the demand is at its peak.
Home to 126.5 million, Japan has emerged to be a global financial leader over the years. Salary scale for teachers in this market is relatively high and the perks are worth it, too. While admittedly the cost of living is high, the opportunities abound for foreign talents. The pay and benefits can pave the way for a reasonable standard of living. Teachers can opt to teach English in Japan’s major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nagoya, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. The efficiency of the public transport system will enable you to also work outside these dynamic cities and earn well nonetheless. You will come across an array of opportunities all over the country.
With plenty of arrangements to choose from, you will find yourself teaching in any of these depending on the requirements they need you to fulfill:
- Public Schools
- Private Schools
- International Schools
- Conversational Schools
- Big Corporations
- Online Teaching
- Private Tutorials
Education serves a significant role in the lives of the Japanese and their system is regarded as one of the best in the world. At present, the literacy rate is at 99%. The first nine years of schooling is compulsory and about 98% proceed to high school level. Ranked by EF Education First in 2019, their English proficiency level ranked 53rd out of 100 non-English speaking countries. There is still a big room to improve this performance and this is where your skills could be specially fitted. With this said, teaching English in the land of the rising sun could potentially help you establish a favorable career as the academic environment is conducive for it.
It is not entirely all work and no play when you teach English in Japan. A diverse set of activities are available on weekends and on school holidays. Allocate time to visit nearby shrines and temples. Delight in the different festivals, heritage sites, calligraphy, tea ceremony, weddings, martial arts, karaoke, spring baths, hiking, ski trips, cherry blossoms, and many more.
With an English teaching contract lasting from six months to one year, you can expect to make around $2,600 USD in public schools or from $2,200 – $2,400 USD at a private school. So how do you teach English in Japan – a bustling and thriving economic center and vibrant region?
Japan is teeming with pathways in which you can take on your teaching profession. Each poses great advantages to support a promising career teaching English in Japan.
One paramount question to ask yourself is if you will go to Japan with or without a work pre-arranged for you. Variables such as securing a teaching job, visa, accommodation, basic start-up costs are what you have to consider. If you arrive in Japan without any of these, it may be challenging to sustain yourself in the long run. There are risks in proceeding this way.
If you decide to secure a job, visa, accommodation before coming down to Japan, the key is to look for English schools that will sponsor you so you can guarantee these. One way to move in this decision is to search for government-run programs. Another route is to send applications to large privately run English schools, conversational schools (Eikaiwa), and business teaching chains. All of the details are discussed in this article.
Teaching in Public Schools
JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program)
A government initiative, this encourages cultural ambassadors and assistant language teachers (ALT) to build an international relationship with Japan. The application is quite a tedious and competitive process and it differs from country to country. Carried out by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs via its Japanese Embassies and Consulates General in participating countries, the registration process takes up to 5 months. The timeline may change yearly so it is best to check with the Japanese Embassy or Consulate General in the country of your citizenship.
This is perfect for graduates across all majors as well as new teaching graduates. With a one-year appointment, you may be placed at any area throughout Japan mainly in public schools or local boards of education. Your main responsibility is to assist teaching junior high school and high school students in learning English. While your role will differ from school to school, ALTs mostly work alongside a Japanese teacher of English.
The largest private provider of professional foreign teachers to the Japanese government, Interac deploys Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) across the country in elementary, junior high, and high school communities. When you get hired, you work for Interac being your dispatch company.
They welcome online applications from outside Japan all year round, but the recruitment takes place in spring and autumn seasons. This is perfect for graduates across all majors as well as new teaching graduates who do not mind being placed in the rural areas of Japan. If your end target is to teach in the metropolitan area, teaching initially in the countryside for a year or two may be a great stepping stone.
As an ALT of Interac, you will be teaching approximately 20 to 25 classes every week, between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday. Weekends are usually free as there are times when you might be assigned to participate in occasional school events.
If you are after job security, you may also go the path of getting hired directly by the BOE (Board of Education). It is the local government organizations in charge of hiring teachers for schools in a certain area. Salaries for ALTs hired directly are usually about 30% higher than those placed by dispatch companies.
Teaching at Private Conversational Schools
Private English conversation schools in Japan, or Eikaiwa, is another option you may want to look at. Japanese private schools follow their own pedagogy and they design a unique curriculum specifically designed to meet the needs of their students.
This being said, aspiring teachers must understand that they must adopt and comply with the school’s teaching methods. This will be introduced to teachers prior to departure for Japan. Once in Japan, teachers are provided more in-depth training while also being introduced to their new work environment.
If you take this route, you may opt for these well-established institutes:
- Berlitz Schools
Located in heavily sophisticated areas like Tokyo and Kanagawa and in a few places in Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Fukuoka and Hiroshima, the majority of the students at Berlitz are business professionals and adults. Most choose to take private lessons while the rest opt for group lessons which have a limit of six students for every lesson. Aside from teaching, responsibilities include preparing lessons, participating in special events, conceptualizing customized curriculum, writing reports, and fulfilling other administrative tasks. You can be employed on any of these three types of contracts: full-time, part-time, and per-lesson.
If you want a pleasant balance between catering to various learners and broadening your skills, ECC may be a great fit. A highly regarded chain of foreign language institute, ECC provides educational services to students of all ages, from children to adults, even retirees. Students take their classes after school or work, so expect your teaching schedule to be in the afternoons, evenings, and on weekends.
The rudimentary focus of their curriculum is to strengthen global communication skills as well as foster cultural awareness and critical thinking skills.
AEON Schools are situated in every one of the 47 prefectures in the country. Hiring throughout the year, AEON offers a one-year contract to those who plan to teach in Japan and the visa sponsorship they offer is under the category of Specialist in Humanities/International Services Visa.
At AEON, teachers work a total of 40 hours per week, typically from Tuesday through Saturday. One of the most stable schools in Japan, the company uses their own teaching methods, has state-of-the-art technology, and upholds continuous professional development among its teachers.
The best upside of this teaching path is that you will teach students who have a high level of interest to learn with you. They are adults who have allocated the time to study and they will be paying for it out of their money.
Teaching at Business Teaching Services
Another possible ultimate teaching experience is the one you could have at Business Corporations or Universities. In this area, you may look into Westgate Corporation and Gaba.
If you are keen on teaching English at the university level in Japan, then the Westgate Corporation program may be a feasible alternative for you. With the goal of producing more fluent speakers of the English language, your duties as an instructor will revolve on equipping the student with the language skills they need to function in the university, at the workplace, and for travel.
If your preference is flexibility in class size and schedule system, then Gaba is a suitable choice. At Gaba, you will be hired as an outsourced contract worker. Their clientele base is composed of global business people, travelers, and hobbyists, thus, classes are conducted in a one-on-one environment and they follow a corporate setting. Lessons are highly tailor-fitted to the learner and this is where you can deliver first-rate performance. They have locations in Hokkaido, Chubu, Kansai, Kyushu, Tohoku, Kanto, and Chugoku.
Qualifications You Need to Teach English in Japan
The eligibility to teach legally in Japan relies on certain requirements which are necessary for the issuance of the working visa.
Japan needs teachers with a strong command of the English language. Citizens from any of these prominent English speaking countries (U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa) are highly preferred.
If you completed your education in an English-speaking school system or have previous experience teaching English, you are still eligible to teach in Japan.
A Bachelor’s Degree is essential to be allowed to teach legally in Japan. Your bachelor’s degree completed in 3 or 4 years should be from an accredited university. It does not have to be in Education or English Studies.
A TESOL certificate is needed to teach English in Japan. And it conveys the message to recruiters and employers that you truly care enough about teaching ESL and developing yourself professionally. In the competitive market of ESL teaching in Japan, you can become an outstanding candidate for some of the top private academies with a TESOL certification.
Having one of the lowest crime rates in the world, Japan is keen in maintaining the law and order in their systems. Although a criminal record check is not necessary in obtaining a working visa, many schools will require you to submit one, especially, if you interact with learners under 18 years of age.
Do note that for the JET Program particularly, a background check is required. If you have been arrested, charged and/or convicted of any grave offense including juvenile offenses in the past, you will not be qualified for the program.
Health Exam and Drug Test
Because employers in Japan have a legal duty to offer annual health checks to their employees, most of them put it as a requirement for providing and continuing employment.
Many schools also conduct drug tests for the entry and contract renewal of teachers. Japan is very intolerant of drug infringements so steer clear of narcotics as this will likely preclude you from most schools in the country.
You can be of any age over 21 to be eligible for a teaching job. Do note that the compulsory retirement age for Japanese citizens is 60. Because of this, schools are often hesitant to employ teachers above that age. In practice, those who are in their early 20s, 30s, and 40s will be more likely to get a job due to cultural views on English teachers. If you are not within this ceiling age, you may still be able to secure a position to teach English in Japan in the private language institutes.
As with every country, the environment of work in Japan may be different from what you have back home. The organizational hierarchy, working hours, relationship with superiors and colleagues, work ethics, interacting with students, and clothing are some factors you may want to look into. Moreover, when you teach English in Japan there are a range of social customs such as bowing, gift-giving, receiving compliments, managing meetings, dealing with problems that you need to be accustomed to in time.
Make an effort to learn and you will eventually fit comfortably into the kind of environment you have in your school community. Below are some pertinent information that could help you out.
Education systems reveal attributes of values, philosophies, and culture. If you come from a different education system, don’t be surprised that you may encounter different perspectives when you come and teach English in Japan. It may be beneficial to be aware of the salient characteristics of the classroom culture in Japan beforehand. As time goes one and with more engagement with your students, you will discover more and more cultural differences. You may use these discoveries to modify your approach in teaching them.
Japanese students are relatively polite and well-behaved. It is a norm to wait for their turn to speak in conversations. Interrupting somebody else and giving direct comments are not likely to happen. They are known to be modest and so it is not a practice to show off their achievements or even ask their teachers how they can level up their skills.
Being naturally shy, they rarely raise their hand to volunteer for tasks, to answer the teacher’s questions, or assert their opinions. As part of their respect to elders and authorities, they are inclined to just follow what the teacher directs them to do.
Japanese tend to be conservative when it comes to dressing up. As a teacher, it is imperative that clothe yourself professionally and act your age in your choice of clothes.
The teaching hours depend on the nature of the institute you work for. In public schools, teaching hours run from Mondays through Fridays, from 8:00am to 5:00pm. You will be expected to work around eight hours and teach four lessons a day. There are no evening, public holiday work, or weekend shifts.
In private language schools, working shifts range from day to evening shifts. For the most part, teachers work from Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00am to 6:00pm or 1:00pm to 10:00pm. Full-time teachers work 5 days per week for a total of 26.6 hours and part-time teachers work 13.3 hours per week. They get to enjoy two consecutive days off per week.
In public schools, you will manage 35 – 40 students per class while in private schools, you will handle 1-15 students in class.
Salary and Benefits
You can expect to make around a monthly of $2,600 USD in public schools or from $2200 – $2,400 USD at a private school. In universities, the salary is around $3,600 USD per month. Moreover, contract completion bonuses are available for both contract types, as well as payment for any overtime work. For all these categories, an increase in wage would depend on your qualifications, experience, employer, and location of your employment.
For those under the JET program, benefits include comprehensive health insurance partially subsidized by the employer, additional insurance schemes, airfare reimbursement, free online Japanese lessons, a high level of cultural immersion, generous vacation package, and a potential completion bonus. Some may even cover the payment of house rent.
As with private companies, some subsidize the housing rent. Other institutions provide assistance in finding accommodation.
Under dispatch companies such as Interac, teachers get help in finding an accommodation near to their work placement. Plus, the company assists in opening a bank account and registering for the national health insurance system. Furthermore, they conduct pre-departure training, employee orientation, and professional development for teachers while they are employed in Japan.
Teaching contracts typically last from six months to a year with a possibility of a renewal, provided that both parties are satisfied.
There are three main categories of visas and each will ascertain where you will be allowed to teach.
One of the most common visas, the Instructor Visa, legally grants you to work as an ALT in public institutions in the country.
Specialist in Humanities Visa
This type of permit allows you to work for private language schools, Eikawa, and business teaching schools.
Working Holiday Visa
Intended for those who want to work and explore Japan at the same time, this category is only available to residents of certain countries (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, The Republic of Korea, France, Germany, The United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Hong Kong, Norway). Valid for up to 12 months for those aged between 18 – 30, based on approval.
Using your days off and school breaks to travel around Japan is a must. Not only does it enrich your mind and soul, but it also helps you immerse into the culture and lifestyle of the people around you. This in turn, will strengthen your relationship and reinforce your care for your students.
In private language academies, holiday times differ for full-time and part-time contracts. 10 paid vacation days are offered for full-time teachers, while part-time teachers receive a number of vacation days based on the number of days they have worked. In addition, all teachers receive Japanese holidays and Christmas Day off.
In government schools, there is a school break in August for 3 to 4 weeks and 60% of this is paid. Another 2 weeks in December and January is given as holiday and 75% of it is paid. Teachers also get to enjoy all national holidays and bonus personal days.
Take the Leap
English is increasingly becoming a compulsory part of the school curriculum in the land of the rising sun, thereby, motivating Japanese to learn the language in order to travel or further their careers. This in great news because now English teachers are always in high demand.
If you possess the right work ethic, flexibility, have the heart for teaching, and enjoy what you do, you have all the reasons to take the next step. Are you all set for your Japan adventure?
If you would like more information on how you can get the chance to teach English in Japan, contact us today!