Teach in Japan – The “What”July 28, 2015
Teaching in Japan can be one of the most amazing experiences you’ll ever have! But if you choose the wrong job, it could turn out to be the worst!
I’m going to use my 10 plus years of experience of living and working in Japan to hopefully guide you towards having the amazing Japanese experience.
What you are going to need in order to teach in Japan?
Most, if not all, teaching jobs in Japan require you to have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. Your degree can have any focus, not just teaching or English. This is the only way the Japanese government will issue you a working visa.
Some language schools will hire you to teach in Japan without a degree on a “Holiday Working Visa”. Be aware that the pay is lower and the odds are stacked against you.
TEFL, TESOL and CELTA certificates are not required, but may help you get that final push into the position you want. Also, the knowledge you gain on these programs will come in very handy at your new job.
Master’s Degree / Ph.D. preferred. For a language school job, these are absolutely not necessary! However, if you would like to teach English at a college or university you won’t get very far without one or both of these.
What are your employment options?
ALT (Assistant Language Teacher/Tutor)
This position requires absolutely no teaching experience or certifications at all. As an ALT, you “team teach” all of your classes with a Japanese teacher at an Elementary, Junior High and/or High school.
This is a great way to get started teaching in Japan. If you have teaching experience though, it may drive you insane. This job is often referred to as the “human tape recorder/CD player”.
The most notable ALT employer in Japan is the JET Programme. They tend to hire fresh college graduates with no teaching experience. Their application and interview process is long and intense.
Another well-known ALT employer is Interac.
Language School (a.k.a. Eikaiwa)
Language schools are called Eikaiwas in Japan. They are usually profit-oriented companies that sell language lessons to people with a general interest in English. They have a variety of clients from infants to adults to businessmen and businesswomen.
These schools can range from huge corporations to a small family business being run out of someone’s home. Some of the big names in the industry are Aeon, Berlitz, Gaba and Nova.
The larger language schools will most likely require a Bachelor’s degree and prefer some sort of certification. The smaller schools may hire you on a “Holiday Working Visa”, but they usually want someone with qualifications they can sell to their clients. After all, you are their product! It is very hard to teach in Japan with no degree.
College / University
In order to work for an institution of higher learning, you are going to need at least a Master’s degree. We’ve all heard of the one lucky guy that got an amazing job at XYZ University with only a Bachelor’s degree and no certifications or experience. In my opinion, you’d have better luck winning the lottery!
These jobs are hard to come by and even more difficult to get, even if you have the qualifications. Their application processes are lengthy and often require a substantial amount of information and effort on your part. This is why most people that teach in Japan work for Eikaiwas or do corporate lessons.
The most common position offered is that of a visiting professor. This is considered a long-term temporary position. It is a one-year contract that is renewable 3 or 4 times. These positions usually max-out at five years.
The greatest advantage of this job is the pay, the workload and the connections. If you do your job well and have a great relationship with the university, this job could turn into a permanent position or at the very least help you get your next position at another university.
There are still some options if you don’t have the experience or qualifications and you really want to teach college students. Some universities have started hiring language schools to teach non-accredited courses.
Westgate and ECC are probably the biggest names in this arena.
The more the better
Japan is a very hierarchal society, and there are already a lot of qualified English teachers living and working there. So the more credentials you have, the easier it will be for you to teach in Japan.