Japan is known for its unique blend of the old and the new, in its architecture, food, and customs. Like so, the country is pictured in media as a place of polar opposites - busy and serene, conservative and extreme - Japan is a country that you won’t want to miss as an educator. Earning your TEFL certificate in Japan will not only help you to better understand your students in an educational setting, but also their backgrounds and society as a whole.
Due to the convenience and popularity of Japan’s government programs, there are fewer TEFL courses offered here (in comparison to other Asian countries). This is not to say that there are no options, but you may need to do some digging to discover a suitable TEFL course (for your needs) in Japan.
4 Week TEFL Course:
In Japan, most courses follow the standard month-long format, where classes are held on weekdays. This intensive schedule allows teachers to dive head-first into TEFL course materials, whether that is English grammar and pronunciation or class management skills. Teacher trainees will have the support of highly-trained instructors, as well as fellow students, who will be a mix of novice and experienced teachers.
Advanced TEFL Degrees:
For the teacher who has years of classroom practice, or training, you can find an advanced course in Japan to enhance your existing skill-set. In fact, if you plan to teach English as a career, it will be worthwhile to earn your master’s or advanced degree in a country where English is the second language. Certain universities offer advanced TEFL programs, often hosted in the Education department, where teachers will have the chance to implement their students in a real-life classroom.
Planning Your Trip
When and Where to Look:
The peak time to begin your TEFL course is in the late winter to early spring. In Japan, schools and recruiters begin the hiring process from January to April. Thus, it is advisable to start your TEFL course about a month or two before you plan to sit down for interviews, etc. Taking your course in January or February will give you enough time to apply for jobs upon course completion. If you are working with a recruiter, you may be able to push your start date a little further back to March.
In order to take your TEFL course in Japan, you must be a college graduate. Almost every school in Japan will ask their teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree (in any field). Additionally, while it is not required, some prior teaching experience will be very useful and helpful in your interviews and/or first days on the job. Lastly, any knowledge of the Japanese language will help; while it is a rare requirement for English teaching jobs, it may come in handy in the classroom.
Once you’ve earned your TEFL certificate, there are a myriad of teaching options to choose from in Japan. First, you will need to decide if you prefer teaching young students or adult learners. If you prefer to teach children, you can teach through a government-sponsored program or at a public school. The famous JET Programme, set up in the late 1980s by the Japanese government, is well-respected in the ESL community. Through JET, native speakers are placed in public schools as Assistant Language Teachers. Alternatively, some public schools will do their own hiring, either independently or through a recruiter.
If you prefer to teach older students, who are sometimes more advanced, consider employment at a private language school. Often your schedule will be flexible, working nights and weekends, and you may teach a wide range of English classes. With this, you may teach General English or a more specialized course, such as Business English or Conversational English. Lastly, if you are looking to earn some extra cash, consider private tutoring.
Cost of Living:
Living costs in Japan are generally high, with larger cities such as Tokyo and Osaka as some of the most expensive places to live in the world. However, teaching salaries in Japan are quite high, compared to other countries. You will be able to live reasonably on the average teacher’s salary, which ranges between $31,000 to $45,000 USD per year. Avoid overspending by cooking and eating at home (restaurants can get very pricey). In addition, living in the central areas of the city will cost you - central Tokyo’s rent prices are extremely expensive, but $600 USD can get you a nice apartment in suburban Tokyo.