Japan is a very active market to teach English abroad. It is also a culturally rich, clean, and safe place to live, but it will take preparation as well as an open mind and sensitivity to the Japanese culture to live here.
Many people prefer to arrive in Japan and find a teaching person by dropping their resume in person. There are tons of small schools in Japan offering great opportunities, who prefer to hire experienced teachers already in Japan. The website Gaijinpot is a great resource to find employment once in Japan.
If you are an entry-level teacher who prefers to secure a job before arriving in Japan, here are some considerations to take concerning getting a TESOL job in Japan from your home country.
Types of Jobs You Can Apply Before Arriving in Japan
The eikaiwa or conversational schools are a popular choice for many good reasons. Eikaiwa are after-school programs that run from the afternoon till about 11 pm at night, 7 days a week, and all year long. You could apply to an Eikawa at any time.They usually have recruitment offices set up in many cities across North America and help teachers with all the paperwork that comes with getting their visas. With private companies, eikaiwa classes will range from baby classes all the way to adult students.
My recommendations in terms of conversational schools, like eikaiwa, would be Gaba and AEON. Both have a recruitment page on their website and are fairly stable companies that are still booming in Japan.
These companies are very familiar with hiring teachers from their home country and/or city and are usually very helpful during the whole process. They are also mindful of people who have had little to no experience in the teaching field, and their application process is fairly easy, making it a great and easy way to start your teaching career.
Assistant Language Teacher (ALT)
A different route is that of becoming an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). These positions are postings to elementary and junior high schools. These positions are contract positions and will follow the Japanese school year.
An ALT is hired by a dispatch company. The dispatch company has a contract with schools in a certain area. And, will send you to help the Japanese English teachers to teach with them in a public school environment.
The most popular dispatch company is the widely-known JET Programme. The JET program is a joint program run in conjunction with the government of Japan. Many of the postings are for rural areas, but not all. The application is a lengthy process, but everything will be taken care of for you (ie: Accommodation, placement). The wage is also very fair, and they are open to hiring non-native speakers from over 30 countries.
Interac is also a very well-known dispatch company that hires teachers from overseas. Becoming an ALT is a little bit harder as they usually give priority to people who have had teaching experience or have an accredited TEFL or TESOL certificate (Minimum 120 hours).
- Most English teaching jobs in Japan require a University/College degree of at least 3 years and TESOL certification. You can find work without a university degree (I myself do not have one, but I have teaching experience and I am married to a Japanese national). If you live in a city like Tokyo (like me) the competition for better jobs can be quite hard, and the candidate with the most credentials will often come out on top.
2. There are several ways you can obtain a VISA, I would suggest checking the Japanese embassy’s website in your country or calling them for information. Once you have the proper paperwork for a VISA, you will be granted a “Gaijin Card” (foreigner card).
The benefit of getting a teaching job with any of the big companies, such as Gaba or the Jet Programme is that they will assist you in getting the Gaijin Card. If you are coming to Japan without a secured job you will need this card to apply for jobs while within Japan.
3. Japanese Language Skill – Having a proficiency in conversational Japanese and being able to read (at least some) of the language will make things much easier for you in Japan.
Certain jobs I couldn’t apply for because my conversational Japanese wasn’t good enough. Some schools aren’t equipped to be able to provide translations for you, and some require you to conduct parent-teacher interviews in Japanese.
Japanese people are very friendly and most know a few words of English, but the more you are able to speak Japanese the better time you will have here, and the more you can immerse yourself in the fascinating Japanese culture.