How do I get a job teaching English in Japan?
Japan has been a popular destination amongst English language teachers for many years due to its widespread job opportunities, good salaries and fascinating culture. Whilst there are other countries in the region where the cost of living may be lower and the wages a little higher, nowhere provides such an incredible mix of modern development and ancient traditions as you will find in this extraordinary country. If you are looking for excitement and adventure, look no further than Japan.
In order to work legally you will need to be eligible for a work visa. The good news is the criteria is not as tough as many other countries as you simply need to possess a degree in any subject. The only other qualifications you need are a fluency in the English language, a professional approach and a strong desire to pass on your language knowledge to your students. As Japan is a popular destination you will find that competition for the best jobs is quite fierce so it is also advisable to complete a TEFL certification course before you leave home. TEFL certification will not only increase your chances of landing a good position at a reputable school, but will also ensure you have the skills and knowledge to confidently step into the classroom on your first day.
English teaching jobs in Japan generally fall into two main categories, assistant language teacher (ALT) in a public school or English conversation teacher in a private language academy. The role of an ALT in a public school is to work alongside a Japanese teacher to deliver English lessons to students at either junior or senior high school level. Teachers generally work normal school hours from Monday to Friday and enjoy plenty of public holidays. In contrast, private language academies generally operate as night-schools where children and adults attend to improve their language skills in their own time. Private school jobs usually involve evening and weekend work but unlike public schools you get to run your own classroom. Salaries are similar for both types of work and you can expect to earn between US $2000 and $3000 per month depending on location, position and current exchange rate.
One popular way to find work in Japan is via the government sponsored JET Program that is designed to place several thousand native English speakers each year into public schools as assistant language teachers. Applications are required in November for start dates around August the following year, and although participants have no say over where in the country they will be placed, competition for places is very strong. There are also several independent recruitment companies that offer an alternative route into the Japanese teaching market, in both the public and private sector. If you are lucky enough to be in the country when you are looking for work you will find yourself in a very strong position as face-to-face contact is highly thought of in Japanese culture, whilst those with extra qualifications and teaching experience will also be able to apply for higher positions in international schools and universities.
With its widely contrasting regions and unique cultural heritage, Japan offers a huge variety of attractions for English language teachers no matter where you are in the country. From the hectic pace of Tokyo to the laid back charm of its rural heartlands, Japan is certainly one of the truly great TEFL destinations.