The 5 Best Programs to Teach English in Japan
Take the guesswork out of getting a job and moving to Japan to teach English with these 5 fantastic programs.
For many people, Japan is a dream destination. Japanese food and culture have made their way across the world and captured the hearts of curious travelers who are eager to hop on a plane and experience everything Japan has to offer firsthand.
But why just travel to Japan when you can live and work there? English teachers are currently in demand in Japan and the salary and benefits are among the best out there.
If you’re wondering how to get started teaching English in Japan, you may be interested to know that there are programs out there that arrange all the hard stuff for you! The following opportunities help you gather your documents, secure a job, and apply for your visa. Having a structured process with support from experts makes the whole process of moving to Japan much less scary.
What are the requirements to teach English in Japan?
To teach English in Japan, you will need to have a bachelor’s degree in any subject with a preference for English or education majors. A TEFL certificate and a clean criminal record are also required.
Native English speakers are preferred but if English is not your first language but you have 10 or more years of formal education with English as the language medium, you may be considered though this will depend on your employer.
How much money can you earn teaching English in Japan?
The kind of salary you can earn in Japan depends on a number of factors including education, experience, and the type and location of the job. The amount you’re able to save will also vary based on whether housing is included or subsidized by your employer.
Typically though, first-time English teachers can expect to make around $2,000 to $3,000 (276,466-414,699 JPY) with salaries increasing yearly with experience.
Read more: What Salary Will You Earn Teaching Abroad in Japan?
Are English teachers in demand in Japan?
Yes, English teachers are definitely in demand in Japan! According to a study by Education First (EF), Japan is low on the English proficiency index. Out of 111 countries studied, Japan’s English level ranks 80th showing how vital English teachers are to raising the country’s proficiency. This combined with a healthy job market makes Japan a great place for English teachers to live and work.
1. Best for assistant teaching: JET Program
Program length: 12 months
What's included: health insurance, flight to and from Japan, assistance finding housing
- As an assistant teacher, you will not be used as the main educator in the classroom – good for first-time teachers!
- The salary is high compared to positions where you would be the main classroom teacher.
- You don’t have much control over where you are placed – apply with an open mind!
- There is one start date a year and the application timeline is long.
The JET Program is the official Japanese government assistant teaching program and is often the first stop for aspiring English teachers with hopes of moving to Japan.
Assistant Language Teachers, or ALTs, work as cultural ambassadors in addition to helping the main English teacher in the classroom. You may work in an elementary, middle, or high school and additional duties will vary based on your individual school placement. Some ALTs run clubs for students, edit or create English language materials, or judge language contests.
While applicants can indicate up to three region preferences, those locations may not be honored in the final placement. For this reason, it’s important to be open to working anywhere in Japan, from big cities to more rural locations.
JET ALTs are expected to work around 35 hours a week between the hours of around 8:30 am to 5:30 pm but specific hours and schedules will be determined by your placement school.
"I am loving my time in Japan through the JET Program. The pay is good, the workload is manageable and there is ample time to explore both Japan and other Asian countries."
2. Best for professional development: Interac Japan
Program length: 12 months
What's included: arranged (but not paid) housing, health insurance, support settling in-country, beginner Japanese language course online, orientation, ongoing training, professional development opportunities, reimbursement for daily commuting expenses
- The recruitment period runs in both the spring and fall.
- Interac helps you get settled in the country by doing things like arranging your accommodation and setting up your bank account.
- Although your title is Assistant Language Teacher, you will be the main teacher in the classroom.
- ALTs will need to come to Japan with around $3,600 in cash for startup costs like housing.
Interac Japan hires Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) to work in K-12 schools throughout Japan. Unlike the government program, Interac ALTs work as the main classroom teacher, planning and delivering lessons to students.
Also unlike the JET Program, Interac will prepare you before your departure as well as support you after arrival. Things like visa support, pre-departure orientation, and introductory language training help you acclimate to your new life and career even before you get there. Once in the country, Interac arranges housing, assists you in setting up a bank account, and provides ongoing training and professional development to grow your career as a teacher.
The typical ALT will work between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm, teaching between three to five 45-minute classes a day.
"Working in the public schools with Interac did give me the authentic experience I was looking for. You are really steeped in the culture there, and the Japanese teachers were really interested in helping me get along in Japan. The kids, of course, were a blast. Interac encourages teachers to get involved in my community and I found friends and activities to be involved in the area where I lived and worked."
3. Best for support: Tamaki TEFL Recruitment
Program length: 12 months
What's included: arranged housing, pre-departure support, visa support, two weeks of paid training, health insurance, assistance setting up bank account, end-of-contract bonus
- You will be given a structured curriculum to follow to assist with lesson planning.
- Recruitment for teaching positions is year-round.
- You will be teaching children primarily between the ages of 2.5-15 which is important to keep in mind if you prefer to work with older students or adults.
- Placements are in private academies that cater to after-school hours – early birds are warned!
With Tamaki TEFL Recruitment (TTR), you can expect thorough and helpful support before and after your arrival in Japan. Past participants were impressed by the responsiveness of the staff at TTR who always answered their questions quickly and completely, even with the uncertainty of the recent COVID restrictions.
TTR places English teachers in private language academies catering to young children and teens in over 1,300 locations across Japan. You will be given a detailed curriculum so you’re never in the dark about how to plan your lessons or what to teach. Class sizes are small with around 6-10 children per group.
You definitely won’t be alone when preparing to leave for Japan. Even the visa process is broken down into easy, manageable steps to take the stress out of the necessary bureaucracy. Once in Japan, you’ll be supported through things like finding housing and opening a bank account.
Current and former teachers agree: the company owner, Tomoko, will be sure you’re taken care of from beginning to end!
"Even though it was during covid and it was hard to be certain about many things, Tomoko was always on top of things and would let me know of any progress made and any changes needed, I didn't have to worry about not being informed at all! I really love the way Tomoko creates a personal experience, still checking up on me even till now in Japan and asking after my well being, making sure I'm settling in well."
4. Best for placement with a partner or friend: TravelBud
Program length: 12 months
What's included: pre-departure planning, visa support, 24/7 support, job placement in Japan, lifetime job placement after the contract ends, access to online teaching resources, 1-week cultural immersion, airport pickup
- TravelBud’s 1-week cultural immersion experience for all participants includes trips, lessons on the culture, history, and politics of Japan, and 7 hours of Japanese language classes.
- Working in a private language center will offer a more flexible teaching schedule than in public schools.
- There is a placement fee you must pay – TravelBud isn’t a recruiter.
- New teachers will need a TEFL certificate but can pay extra for one through TravelBud.
Want to teach abroad with a friend or partner? Then TravelBud can make it happen for you. Their paid placement service allows two people with dreams of teaching in Japan together to work in the same school or two in the same area.
With TravelBud, you’ll be placed in a private language academy where you’ll have a year-long contract. Positions can be in big or small cities and you could work with students as young as kindergarten up to adults. While TravelBud works hard to honor your preferences, some flexibility is requested because placement depends on the availability of jobs within a certain geographic location or age range.
Don’t have a 120-hour TEFL certificate? For an extra cost, you can complete one online or in-person in Japan with TravelBud.
"This program has been supportive and attentive to to your preferences on where you want to reach and how old the students are, although I was limited in choices due to COVID. It does the anxiety inducing work for you in finding a school due to their connections, and having a guaranteed placement is reassuring."
5. Best for first-time teachers: ITTT TEFL
Program length: 4-week TEFL course, most job contracts are for 1 year
What's included: TEFL certification training with observed teaching practice, all course materials, free wifi at the training center, lifetime job assistance
- Past students found the course well-organized and the instructors dynamic.
- The training center is centrally located in Tokyo city.
- Accommodation can be arranged by ITTT but at an extra cost.
- If you find a job locally, you will need to fly back to your home country to apply for a work permit.
ITTT TEFL offers a 4-week 120-hour TEFL certificate for first-time teachers interested in getting started teaching abroad. Their training center, located in central Tokyo, is equipped with everything you need to learn how to be a good English teacher. The professional teaching staff delivers engaging lessons and you’ll take on observed teaching practice which will prepare you for your own future classroom.
ITTT TEFL offers lifetime job support that begins immediately after you finish your course. They’ll help you find a job in Tokyo or elsewhere in Japan if you want to stay after your certification.
The only hitch is, if you enter on a tourist visa for the course, you’ll have to return to your home country to apply for a work permit at the nearest Japanese consulate once you find a job. But think about it this way: your TEFL course will be a great way to determine if a permanent move to Japan is right for you! You will also be able to interview locally, see the school first, and determine if the vibe is right before signing a year contract.
Jump into teaching English in Japan
Teaching English in Japan is sure to broaden your horizons and enrich your life in ways you never imagined. With the above providers, you can know you’re in good hands when embarking on this next great chapter. Don’t wait, jump into a teaching job in Japan!
Prepare for your future job in Japan: