Teaching English in Japan can be a rewarding experience, as well as a great way to get your life in Japan started. Every year literally hundreds of positions open all across Japan. Most jobs for expats in Japan are focused in the big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, but teaching English opens up the possibility to work in smaller cities, towns and villages. How can you begin a career as an English teacher in Japan? What experience and training do you need? What kind of salary can you expect?
Let’s have a look at these questions and more.
How Can I be an English Teacher in Japan?
The only strict prerequisite to become an English teacher in Japan is a higher education degree, but it does not need to be a degree in English language or education. The degree should however have been attained in English. This not only proves you are fluent in the language, but also allows a company to sponsor your working visa. There are English positions available to job hunters without a higher education degree, but you will need some form of working visa, such as a working holiday visa. These positions are also somewhat less desirable, often with low wages and teaching to pre-school children. If you want to get the best out of teaching English in Japan, having a degree is fundamental.
If you satisfy that condition, then yes! You can be an English teacher in Japan. The industry is constantly hiring, so positions are relatively easy to come by. The average teacher stays for two to three years, so better positions also often open up. The hiring season for English teachers in Japan starts in January so get your resume uploaded to have first crack at all the best English teaching jobs.
What Kind of Teaching Positions are There?
There are two main types of English teaching positions in Japan, in school teachers (elementary through high school) and English school teachers. In school teachers, often called assistance language teachers (ALT), work with a certified teacher to teach children from elementary school to high school. The most common position is in junior high schools. At a junior high school, what kind of working experience you have will ultimately depend on the teacher you work with. Some teachers will give you great freedom and class times, other will delegate you the role of essentially a human tape recorder. if you get the chance, it’s a good idea to discuss this in an interview to try to find a position that satisfies your goals. Somewhat ironically, it is in elementary school positions that you are more likely to be challenged. Though the English level you teach will be lower, elementary school teachers are not required to, and therefore often don’t, possess English language skills. Because of this, they are more likely to entrust you completely with the class! Another final point on ALT positions is that generally you will be employed full time, but find gaps in your schedule. You can use this time to plan lessons, and grade submissions. More often than not however you will have ample free time, which is always nice! University teaching positions also exist, but are very competitive and limited to teachers with extensive experience.
The other main type of English school teaching in Japan is at English schools. These positions cater to all ages, from pre-school up to retirees. You could find yourself in a classroom in a private school, or in the lunch room of a large company. Compared to ALT positions, these jobs have little to no free time, and you are often expected to lesson plan in your own time. They often however offer pre-made lesson plans, so you can spend less time planning than you would otherwise. The advantages of this type of teaching are primarily,
- The students are (mostly) there of their own volition. This means motivation and respect is higher than in school. Teaching a motivated student can be far more rewarding than struggling with rude students.
- The class is controlled by you. According to the students desires, you have more freedom over how to the run the class, and the pace. As an ALT, you could potentially have zero say.
- You can teach to adults. Teaching children is rewarding, but the level of English is naturally lower. Teaching adults can be fun as you can also learn from their experiences and hear their stories too.
Where Can I Find English Teaching Jobs
The JET program is run by the Japanese government, and has a long and strict entrance requirement. Visit http://jetprogramme.org/en/ for a highly detailed explanation. The JET program has excellent support and a high salary.
Direct hire positions are English teaching positions advertised by the school or district board of education directly. This type of hire offers a good wage and strong job security. This positions are often the most competitively applied for in the industry, so they usually go to teachers with experience. Direct hire positions can be found through networking, or slightly less commonly on job boards such as Jobs in Japan.
Finally, dispatch companies also service schools in Japan with their required English teachers. These companies range from the very useful to virtually criminal. It is always a good idea to read reviews about the company before considering them. These contracts often have the lowest pay, and low job security. This is because the company must compete over the contract each year. If a cheaper company wins the contract, you might be out of a job on no fault of your own! Not all contact companies are bad though, and a decent company will provide you with a good job, strong English support, and act as a barrier between you and Japanese bureaucracy. If your objective is a short one or two year stint teaching English in Japan, a contract company can be the easiest way. These jobs are commonly advertised on Jobs in Japan, or you can apply directly on the company’s websites. The largest dispatch company in Japan is Interact.
How are the Pay and Conditions as an English Teacher in Japan?
Typically full time English teaching positions in Japan pay anywhere from 20,0000 yen to 30,0000 per month. Hourly wages as English schools vary from 2000 yen to 4000 yen per hour. Whilst this salary is not by any means grand, it is also very livable. English teachers in Japan certainly make above minimum wage. The type of wage you get will depend less upon experience, (though having more experience will help you get a better job) but more on what type of company you are hired by.
Here is a summary of the general starting wages.
|Company Type||Average Monthly Salary (pre-tax)|
|JET Programme||¥280,000 (first year) ¥330,000 (fourth and fifth year)|
|Direct Hire||~ ¥280,000|
|Dispatch Companies||¥210,000 – ¥280,000|
|English Schools||¥2,000 ~ ¥3,800 (hourly)|
|Universities||¥270,000 subcontracted ~ ¥520,000 a month as faculty staff|
These wages are also rather stagnate. Raises are rare in the English teaching industry, and so upward momentum is usually achieved by moving toward direct hire or university positions. Many highly experienced teachers also have success in starting their own English schools. For this reason, the average term of employment seems to be around two to three years. If you are looking for a well-paying job to enjoy a few years working in Japan, English teaching is a great choice. If however, you are here for the long haul, unless you have the confidence and drive to start your own school or teach at a university, there are better career choices.
In addition to your wage, Japan has good worker rights. All full time staff are enrolled in a health insurance and retirement plan. This is quite expensive, but the health insurance is good. Many smaller companies try to wriggle their way out of paying this. If you intend to stay in Japan for a long time, it is seriously worth confirming before you accept a full time position that they will follow the law, and enroll you in shakaihoken.
Finally, many English teaching positions, especially in rural areas, will include subsidized housing. This is a great deal if you are not planning a long stay, or are still just feeling things out. Housing in Japan can be initially very expensive, with many extra upfront fees. You will not need to pay anything other than the rent, which will be below average.
English teaching in Japan can be a very rewarding experience. You will learn things and see things about Japan that otherwise you would surely never have the chance too. I hope this information will prove useful to you in finding a job teaching English in Japan. Why not take a look at https://jobsinjapan.com/. If you are interested in teaching, there are many positions you can look at online right now!