Japan is the place to go if you want to experience a unique culture while teaching in a professional environment. Mountains, hot springs, temples, neon lights, semi-tropical islands, jaw-dropping technology, a fresh cultural perspective, and a welcoming population are just a few of the reasons why people come to Japan. English teachers are in high demand.

In order to teach English in Japan, most teachers will require a Bachelor’s degree and a clean criminal record. Teaching certification, such as TEFL, is preferred but not required. The average salary for teaching in Japan is $1,700 - $5,000 USD per month.

The JET Programme:

The Japanese government has been running the JET programme since the late ‘80s. (JET stands for Japan Exchange and Teaching.) Native English speakers are placed as Assistant Language Teachers in public schools across Japan. JETs usually work a 35 hour week from Monday to Friday. You will need a bachelor’s degree to be considered. The hiring calendar varies by the home country of applicants.

Private Language Academies/Schools:

Companies like AEON and ECC are constantly looking for teaching staff. Many of these positions involve relatively long hours and some will require you to work evenings and weekends. With these private companies, there is a higher likelihood (than with JET) that you will be placed in a large city. You will need a bachelor’s degree to be considered. The hiring calendar varies by company.

Public Schools:

Some public schools recruit privately or source teachers through organizations such as Interac. A 30-35 hour work week is common. Leave entitlements can vary significantly depending on the individual school or company you are recruited through. Some public schools prefer their teachers to have a CELTA/TEFL qualification and/or teaching experience. You can apply to work year-round, however, peak hiring season is January through April.

Private Lessons:

Many foreign nationals give private lessons, often teaching in cafes one-on-one with students. There are no qualifications required for this, though you will need to ensure any work you do is compatible with your immigration status. There is more potential business in the large cities, particularly for anyone looking to do this as a full-time job.

When and Where to Look for Jobs:

Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya are the three biggest cities in Japan where a large proportion of foreign teachers base themselves. This makes the job market in these cities very competitive. If you are willing to be flexible and look elsewhere, you will find a huge range of opportunities all over the country. There are jobs across the four main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Many of these jobs are advertised online and are open to applications from abroad.

Working Visas in Japan

A working visa is generally required in order to teach English in Japan. Many language schools will sponsor your visa application. You will usually need a bachelor’s degree to be granted a working visa. Some countries also have arrangements whereby you can obtain a working holiday visa, which allows you to teach part-time. Finally, it is possible to travel to Japan on a tourist visa and change to a working visa after entry, provided you are sponsored by your contracting organization. To learn more about Japanese visas, visit VISA HQ.

Qualifications:

A bachelor’s degree is essential for any kind of formal teaching job in Japan. Some public schools and private recruiters prefer candidates with a CELTA/TEFL qualification and/or previous teaching experience. Japanese language proficiency is not required but can be helpful in securing a better paid job.

Salary & Cost of Living:

The typical salary for teaching English in Japan varies by the job type. You can expect to earn between ¥2.5 million and ¥3.5 million yen (around $23-33,000 USD) per year if you arrive without teaching experience. Those with previous teaching experience and/or a TEFL qualification can earn significantly more.

The JET programme pays ¥2.8 million to 3.96 million (around $26 - 33k in USD) per year depending on the year. Each year the salary goes up. Most public schools will pay a similar amount to privately recruited instructors.

Private language schools tend to pay slightly less but the salary can vary considerably, depending on your level of experience.

Private lesson fees can vary, but ¥3000 yen (around $28 USD) per hour is not unusual. As you gain experience, you can start to charge significantly more. Your rates will also be affected by how much competition there is in the local area.

Some programs, such as JET, arrange housing for their English teachers. There is also a range of private companies who can assist you in finding accommodation. Sometimes the fees for getting settled in new accommodations can be high and apartments are often unfurnished.

Japan is one of the most expensive countries in the world. Living costs are high, however, the generous salaries mean that it's possible to have a reasonable standard of living. Tokyo is especially expensive, though if you are willing to live in the suburbs, rates are lower. Outside the big cities, ¥50,000 - ¥70,000 (around $450 - $650 USD) per month will usually get you something decent.

Eating out is expensive, but budget options do exist. At the low end, you can buy a filling meal of rice and toppings for under ¥500 (around $6 USD). Meanwhile, a typical mid-priced meal for two outside Tokyo will cost between ¥2000 and ¥4000 (around $25-50). You can expect to pay between ¥400 and ¥700 (around $5-9 USD) for a beer at a typical izakaya.

Classroom & Work Culture:

Japanese students tend to be relatively respectful and well-behaved. However, a lot depends on your particular school. There are some schools where classes are loud and difficult to control. You may teach alongside a Japanese teacher, in which case, they will usually have responsibility for classroom discipline.

If you are teaching adults, you may be able to socialize with them outside lessons, though some private companies prohibit this.

Some high schools and private companies will require you to dress up and wear a suit when you teach lessons. Those who teach elementary school students are usually able to dress more casually though.

While teaching English in Japan, you'll be exposed to a different culture, work environment, and social customs, such as bowing, gift-giving, and style of compliments. It will take some time to adjust to and nobody will expect you to get everything right the first time, but you will be expected to make an effort. Also keep in mind that the Japanese workplace tends to be formal and punctual. You should consider whether you would fit comfortably into that kind of environment.

Contributed by Ben David | Header photo by Ellie Taylor

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much money do you make teaching English in Japan?

    As an English teacher in Japan, you can expect to earn anywhere between $1,700-$5,000 per month, depending on the type of school you're in.

  • Are English teachers in demand in Japan?

    English teachers are in high demand in Japan, especially native speakers or speakers with native-level fluency.

  • How do I start teaching English in Japan?

    When considering teaching English in Japan, you'll want to consider where you want to be located, what type of school you want to teach in, and what age group you're hoping to work with. You can then begin applying to jobs through job boards, recruitment organizations, or by directly applying to specific schools. Start by checking out the Go Overseas Job Board!

  • Can I teach in Japan without a degree?

    Most schools in Japan will require teachers to have a Bachelor's degree, and some may also require TEFL certification.

  • What are the requirements for teaching English in Japan?

    Requirements will depend on the school you are hoping to work with, but most programs will require a Bachelor's degree and a clean criminal record. Some may also require a TEFL certification.

  • Do I need to know Japanese to teach English in Japan?

    You don't need to have any knowledge of Japanese to teach English in Japan. In fact, many of the teach programs offer free Japanese lessons for teachers.

  • How long can you teach English in Japan?

    The length of time you are able to teach in Japan will depend on the visa you receive. Work visas in Japan can be for lengths between 4 months to 5 years and can be extended.

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