How does a TEFL Qualification Help Me?

Do I need a TEFL

If you’ve been teaching in Japan for any time at all, you’ll have heard of a TEFL qualification. TEFL stands for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language” and the qualification aims to teach you everything you need to know to do this effectively.

Do I need a TEFL to teach English in Japan?

As I explain in great detail in this post on my own site, you absolutely don’t need a TEFL to teach English in Japan. While you don’t need one to get started here, you really should get one if you plan on teaching English for even a few years in Japan. Why, I hear you ask? Because it shows that you are interested in the art and academics of teaching English and will benefit you greatly when it comes to job applications.

Think about it from a hiring manager’s perspective. You have ten candidates come in for interview, and five of them have TEFL qualifications and five of them don’t. What do you do? Do you interview everyone just in case the guys without any qualifications (at all) just happen to be good teachers? Or do you interview four or five and then go home early on Friday? I know which one I would do.

Japanese hiring managers love qualifications

In case you haven’t noticed, Japanese people love qualifications. There are qualifications for almost anything you can think of in Japan. Known as 検定 – Kentei, the tests that Japanese people study hard for are often essential in the kinds of jobs Japanese people want to qualify for. There are even tests for colour design that you’ll need to take if you want to get a job in design, and this is all something you have to study on your own.

While foreigners in large part get a pass on basic English teaching jobs, as soon as you step out of the realm of the basic time-for-money English teaching positions, you’ll need qualifications. One that a lot of Japanese speaking foreigners here know is the 日本語検定 Nihon-go Kentei or Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). It goes in grades from N5 to N1, with N1 being the highest and considered business level fluency in Japanese.

The TEFL also qualifies you at what you might consider to be an N5 or N4 level. Many foreigners can get jobs in Japan without any qualifications at all, but if you want better jobs than whatever they give to unqualified teachers, you’ll need a TEFL or above. Some other relevant qualifications include a CELTA (Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults), a Master’s in TEFL or TESOL and other post graduate studies. For long-time Japan residents, these are essential.

What TEFL course should I get then?

This can be a really hard decision, as there is a ton of misinformation out there from courses calling themselves a TEFL, but not in any way accredited or endorsed by the overseeing bodies. If it seems really really cheap, it is probably rubbish and many employers (though not all) will disregard it if it doesn’t come from a reputable source.

The most well known ones are:

TEFL Online (Bridge TEFL)

ITTT (10% discount from this link)

International Tefl Academy ($50 off from this link)

i-to-i TEFL

Taking a course with one of the well known and legitimate providers will set you on the way to getting higher paid teaching jobs here in Japan. Check for yourself! Go to jobsinjapan.com/find-jobs/ and put “TEFL” into the search field. Notice the increase in salary? Many jobs that pay more will require at least a TEFL course for applicants, and if they ask for it or even prefer a TEFL qualified person, without one you are unlikely to get an interview.

What do I have to do to get my qualification?

Most of the online courses are 100 hours or more and require self study on a part time basis for several months. Some of the more expensive and challenging courses have in class experience as a requirement to pass, but if you are already in Japan and getting paid to teach, you won’t need to start paying to teach as well. A good and reputable online only course is just as good on your resume/CV as a classroom based one, and a lot cheaper.

It is actually not as hard as you might think, and a 100 hour course only requires an hour of self study, five days per week, for a few months. Once it is done you’ll be incredibly grateful that you have it, and you’ll find yourself getting many more interviews than you were previously.


Do you have a TEFL already? Gotten this advice before and haven’t taken it yet? Why? Let us know in the comments below.

Charlie Moritz
Charlie Moritz
Written and Researched by Charlie Moritz, a Brit living in Japan. While Charlie originally came here to be an English teacher, now he is working as a web designer, freelancing to live a rich life here in the heart of Tokyo. He co-founded Live Work Play Japan with his friend Martin, where he writes articles about how to find success in all facets of life in this beautiful country. Check out Live Work Play Japan to learn more about how to build an amazing life here in Japan.

1 Comment

  1. David says:

    I went and did a certificate III in Childcare, Certificate IV in TESOL, Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and Certificate IV in Language, Literacy and Numeracy all Australian nationally recognised awards plus an Bachelor in Adult Learning and Development from a well known Australian Uni. As well as several years experience in Childcare, TESOL and Digital Literacy.

    Still aven’t gotten many interviews.

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