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Easy Guide to English Teaching Jobs in Japan

Teaching English is a gateway to working in Japan for many foreigners. English plays an important role in Japanese education, so the demand for native speakers continues to rise.

On the other hand, the last decade has brought a slew of new competitors to the English industry. And on top of that, each year brings more foreigners to Japan looking for work. With more competition, companies set the bar higher, preferring experienced teachers over newbies fresh to Japan.

I though it might be helpful to review the different kinds of English teaching jobs available in Japan, so you can figure out which ones are best for you.

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Part-time vs. Full-time

The first thing to consider is whether you can work under your current visa status. Foreigners with a tourist visa are not allowed to work and changing to a work visa while in Japan can be very difficult.

If you are a student, then you can work part-time if you’ve obtained “Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted.” You can apply for this at your nearest Immigration office. You’ll get a stamp on the back of your Residence Card and it allows you to work up to 28 hours per work.

You can also teach part-time if you hold a Spouse/Dependent of a Japanese National visa under the same restrictions outlined above.

Generally speaking, if you want to work in Japan as an English teacher, but require visa sponsorship, you most likely need to find a full-time position. Some companies will make an exception, and are willing to sponsor part-timers visa renewal application. In this case, however, you won’t be enrolled in the company’s health insurance plan.

To keep things as simple as possible, from here on out I’ll be describing full-time positions. But keep in mind the same positions are also available for part-timers.

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ALT (Assistant Language Teacher)

One of the most popular entryways into English teaching in Japan is as an ALT. ALTs work at pubic schools like kindergarten, elementary, junior high, or senior high school. Rather than teaching your own class, you assist the Japanese teachers with their class. Or in some cases, the Japanese teachers let you do the teaching. You aren’t required to speak Japanese, but it certainly comes in handy as many Japanese teachers don’t speak much English, making communication difficult.

ALTs are hired in one of three ways: the JET program, dispatch companies, or direct hire.

Salaries range from 200,000-300,000 yen a month, with dispatch companies being on the lower end, JET participants usually making 280,000 yen a month, and direct hires at the higher end. Direct hire positions are the most coveted, but also require the most experience.

Working in public schools, you get weekends off, though some activities are held on weekends and require your participation. You don’t have to work on National holidays and get two weeks off for winter and spring vacation, plus a long 40-day summer holiday. That being said, be aware that some dispatch companies won’t pay your vacations, leaving you with no money to really enjoy your holidays.

The JET program only hires foreigners from their home country, so if you live in Japan, you’ll have to return home while making your application. Dispatch companies and direct hires, on the other hand, prefer foreigners who currently hold a working visa.

If you are just beginning your career as an English teacher, or looking for a low-stress job with few responsibilities, an ALT is one great option.

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Eikaiwa School

Suikotei, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Eikaiwa (English Conversation) schools are another popular choice for both beginners and experienced English teachers. They are privately owned and employ native speakers to teach a range of ages from preschoolers to adults. Class sizes can also range as well, with some schools offering one-on-one lessons, while most have less than a dozen students. Many schools feature their own curriculum and textbooks, which helps boost their sales.

Eikaiwas include companies like Berlitz, Aeon, ECC, and Nova, that you’ll see all across Japan, as well as smaller, “mom-and-pop” schools. Salaries average about 250,000 yen a month for 8-hour work days, with 5-6 hours of teaching. Schedules vary with morning classes targeting young children, while afternoons are geared toward schoolchildren, and evenings for adults. Vacation is less than ALTs, as some stay open on national holidays and a typical schedule is from Tuesday to Saturday

Getting a job at an Eikaiwa usually requires some prior teaching experience, and while preference is given to those with certification like TOEFL, CELTA, or a teaching license, they are not required.

Many consider Eikaiwas to be a revolving door for both staff and students, and with the state of the Japanese economy, many schools have tightened their purses, lowering salaries and cutting benefits. That being said, Eikaiwas are still the bread and butter for English teachers in Japan and offer a great opportunity to gain more teaching experience.

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Private School

Doctor Autumnal sky, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another option for more those who are more serious about working in Japan for a long time is private schools. Job opportunities range from kindergarten to senior high school and you gain more control of your classes and curriculum. The salary can be much higher than an ALT or Eikaiwa teacher, with many International schools offering more than 300,000 yen a month.

Working for a private school offers opportunities for advancement and taking on extra responsibilities, but at the same time the job requirements are much stricter. Schools often require a teaching license in your home country, or a Master’s degree.

Private school teachers often started off as an ALT or worked at an Eikawa. These positions can be hard to find on the usual job sites like Gaijinpot, instead requiring a certain level of networking or personal connections. But if you want to live in Japan long-term, working at a private school can be a great opportunity.

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Public School

Ryo Fukasawa | ©

As a foreigner, getting hired directly by a public school in Japan is uncommon. Usually teachers work as ALTs, described above, or are hired by dispatch companies to work at one or more schools in their area.

To legally teach in a classroom alone, you need a Japanese teaching license. Foreigners are able to obtain a “special license” (特別免許状 tokubetsu menkyojou) from a prefectural board of education. To qualify for this license, you need to currently teach English at a Japanese school or international school and have taught for more than 600 hours. Having at least 3 years of teaching experience at a private company also qualifies. You may also qualify if you have a teaching certification from a foreign country, have a Master’s or Doctorate. For more details, you can check out this link here for English, or the MEXT website in Japanese.

You can imagine the benefits of working directly for a public school. Paid national holidays, long vacations, and most weekends off. In addition, you’d be eligible for yearly bonuses and salary raises depending on your performance. However, working in a Japanese public school, you’ll be expected to follow Japanese norms and be able to communicate fluently in Japanese with the other teachers and students’ parents.

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Kakidai, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

University English teaching jobs are highly coveted, and certainly not easy to get, not directly anyway. As with public school jobs, most foreigners will find themselves working for a dispatch company that is contracted to provide teachers for the university. In this case, you are subject to your company’s rules and policies.

To actually land a full-time University gig, you’ll need at least a Master’s degree, but most likely a Ph.D., and have research published. In terms of benefits, pay, and time-off, its definitely better than most teaching jobs available, but you’ll have to also do research and participate in meetings, etc. Also, most universities tend to have a high turnover rate and these positions lack job security.

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Job Listing Resources

These are the most popular English teaching positions available in Japan. They vary widely in pay, benefits, schedule, job duties, and requirements, so it’s up to you to figure out which you’re eligible for. There are many things to consider, such as whether you’d like to teach kids or adults. But to get you started, I’ve listed a few of the most common websites teachers use to browse job listings. I hope this article has been helpful!

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By - Mujo.