Why teach English in Japan?
Traveling abroad to teach English in countries where English is not the primary language has become quite a popular career choice among English teachers, especially, native-English teachers. Even though it means leaving your home, friends, and family behind, but the benefits of teaching English in non-native countries are many.
One of the most popular destinations for English teachers from all over the world is Japan. Due to its teacher-friendly policies and great wages, the country has a thriving job market. There are already many expats who have been living in the country for a few years now, which gives them the edge to interview for the jobs in person. The benefit of being in the country already has made the market a bit competitive for those who want to apply online or from outside of Japan. However, once you enter the market, there are many opportunities up for grabs.
To give you a better idea of why Japan is an ideal location for English teachers, here are a few major reasons:
- A great job market – As mentioned before, Japan has one of the best job markets for English teachers in the world. As the local teachers are not qualified or fluent enough in the English language, therefore, the native-speakers or those who know the language exceptionally well have a very good chance of getting great job opportunities. The people in Japan realize the importance of the language as an international language and therefore, want to learn it for different purposes. Some want to travel to native countries for academics while others want to become fluent in English to progress in their professional life. No matter what the reason is, this need to learn the language has created a healthy job market for qualified English teachers.
- You do not need any experience – Yes, the experience will make a difference and it will help you get better-paying jobs, however, if you do not have any experience you can still become an English teacher in Japan. You just need to have a recognized teaching certificate and a bachelor’s degree to apply for entry-level and private sector jobs.
- A great transportation system – Japan has an extremely efficient transportation system that makes traveling within the metropolitan area extremely easy. The network also connects different cities with each other. Most of the locals rely on public transportation to travel as it is well-managed and punctual.
You can find the following types of transportation in Japan:
- Trains & subway
In order to use the local buses, trams, and subway you can get an IC card, which are prepaid cards that can be recharged. Even though every region or city has its own IC card but they can be interchanged when needed. The cost of the card will be around $5, which means if your first-time charge is $20, you will get only $15 for transportation and $5 will be deducted as the card fee. These cards do not help you save any major money, however, you will not have to waste time by standing in lines for tickets every day.
- A safe place to live – Japan is an extremely safe place for foreigners to live, in fact, it is one of the safest countries in the world. It has an extremely low crime rate and the people are also very friendly. When it comes to bigger cities, you can move around freely and enjoy your outdoor time, however, in smaller cities you may have to be a bit more careful if not too worried.
- A lot of national holidays – Yes, the Japanese will expect you to give your 100% at your job and work full hours. But despite a full schedule on working days, you will have plenty of vacation time because the country has many national holidays, some of which may even be a week-long. The best thing is all these holidays will be fully paid. You can use this time to explore the culture and visit new towns and cities.
- Good wages – A good job market for English teachers is not the only thing Japan has, the country also offers very good wages and additional perks to its employees. On average, you can earn anywhere between $1,700 and $5,000 per month. As for the hourly rates, you can earn as much as $25 per hour or even more, depending on your experience and qualification. Moreover, you also get additional benefits such as accommodation and airfare. One of the best perks is that many institutions also offer a teaching training program to its new hires, which can add more value to your career and resume.
- You get international experience – Since the education system in Japan is quite good and advanced, therefore, any experience you gain here will be recognized internationally and can help you get you more and even better ESL jobs.
Requirements to teach English in Japan
Here are the general requirements to become an English teacher in Japan. These requirements may vary from employer to employer.
- Native English speaker – Though being a native English speaker is not mandatory but most of the institutions prefer native qualified teachers. Being a native speaker means that you are from one of the countries where English is the primary language. these include the following:
- The United States of America
- The United Kingdom
- New Zealand
- South Africa
Highly qualified and experienced teachers from the Caribbean may also be included in this list.
If you are from a non-native country (where English is not the primary language) then you will need to have at least 12 years or more in education and three years of ESL experience. However, despite these credentials, you may still lose jobs to less experienced native-English teachers.
- Bachelor’s degree – You will need to have a bachelor’s degree to be considered for English teaching positions. In most cases, the degree does not have to be in the field of education or teaching as long as it is from a recognized institution.
- TEFL or TESOL certificate – A TEFL or TESOL certification is not mandatory, however, if you hold one from a recognized program you will have more chances of getting jobs that pay a higher salary. Moreover, you also get 120 or more hours of training, which will help you become a better ESL teacher. Most of the privately owned language schools may require the certificate from you.
- A clean criminal record – Most of the institutions will ask for a clean criminal record. In case your record shows some kind of a violation, it will be up to the employer whether they will make you an offer or not. A few of the major teaching programs in Japan will not hire a person with even the most minor violation.
- Visa – The best option is to get a job and apply for a work visa before you travel to Japan. However, if you want to visit the country for job hunting then you can enter on a tourist visa in order to find a job. You will have about three months (from the time of your arrival) to get hired as an English teacher otherwise your visa will expire and you will be asked to leave the country. Once you get hired you can (with the help of your employer) apply for a proper work visa.
- Types of work visas – There are three types of work visas you can get:
- Specialist in Humanities Visa – This is the type of visa you need if you want to work for a privately owned institute, Eikaiwas, private schools or teaching programs for businesses.
- Instructor visa – If you want to become an Assistant Language Teacher, or more commonly known as ALT, with the biggest teaching programs in the country, you will need an instructor visa. This will allow you to get a job at high and elementary schools.
- Types of work visas – There are three types of work visas you can get:
- A step-by-step guide to get a work visa
- You will first have to fill out the application, which along with all other necessary documents will be submitted to your employer.
- Your employer will then apply for a CoE – Certificate of Eligibility. Once the CoE has been received it will be given to you.
- You will have the CoE converted into a work visa at your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate.
- After you arrive in Japan, you will get your residency card and Status of Residence.
- The entire process of getting a visa may take between 1 to 3 months and the visa will remain valid for about 1 to 3 months.
- A working holiday visa – If you want to travel and work then you should apply for a working holiday visa. The validity of a working holiday visa is six months after which it can be renewed, should you want to continue your job. However, you are eligible for this type of visa if you are from one of the following countries:
- New Zealand
- The Republic of Korea
- Hong Kong
- The UK
Become an English teacher through English teaching programs in Japan
As mentioned earlier, Japan has a great job market for English teachers. With the right qualifications, you can get job opportunities in both private and public sector schools and language centers. However, one of the most popular ways to become an English teacher in Japan is through its English teaching programs. These programs recruit teachers from all over the world and deploy them at different teaching positions. Most of these programs also offer teacher training programs, which help you adapt better to the teaching environment in Japan.
Japan also offers some of the most recognized teaching programs in the world and the list is given below:
- The JET – JET or Japan Exchange or Teaching program is definitely the most popular one in the country as it is the only program that is managed by the Japanese government. The program started way back in 1987 and since its inception has deployed about 66,000 teachers to different educational institutions within the country.
The teachers are recruited from all over the world and given both private and public sector teaching jobs. In terms of salary, JET is definitely one of the better options.
You can have two different types of jobs through JET:
- ALT or Assistant Language Teacher – You will be deployed at K-12 public schools and asked to team up with a local home teacher to teach English. Your job will require you to assist in lesson planning, activities, games and do other things to motivate students to learn the English language enthusiastically.
- CIRs or Coordinators for International Relations – You will be deployed at different local government organizations or offices where your job will require you to assist, translate and coordinate for community events and global exchange programs.
- Requirements for JET – You will need to meet the following criteria to apply for the JET program:
- Bachelor’s degree
- A valid and recognized teacher training certification may not be mandatory but it will make you a strong candidate.
- You must be healthy both physically and mentally.
- You must show an interested in the local culture of Japan.
- Salaries and benefits
- On average, a first-year JET employee gets around $30,154 per year.
- You are expected to work about 35 hours per week.
- You get around 20 days of paid vacation.
- You can also tell the program the places you prefer to get deployed.
- You will be given additional benefits such as accommodation and flight reimbursement.
- Westgate – This teaching program can help you get two types of jobs:
- University jobs – Only those who are qualified and experienced enough to teach at the university level can apply for university jobs. In Japan, universities are considered a great job opportunity because of their higher salaries and benefits. If you are interested, initially, you will get to work on a 3-5 months long contract, which will help you decide if you would be ready to commit for a longer period of time or not.
- Elementary jobs – You can also get elementary jobs through the program. Your contract will be at least 4 to 7 months long.
- You do not require a Master’s degree as long as you have a recognized bachelor’s degree.
- You will need a valid and recognized ESL certificate.
- At least 1,000 hours of experience in Teaching English as a Second Language. If you are applying for elementary positions, then you will need to have an experience of working with young learners.
- Salaries and benefits
- If you have less than 499 hours of classroom experience, then your salary will start from $2,333 per month.
- If your classroom teaching experience is more than 500 hours, then your starting salary will be around $2,468.
- For those coming to Japan from abroad for the program contract, you will get a flight reimbursement of up to $1,200.
- The program also provides accommodation in the form of a reasonably furnished studio apartment.
- Interact – This is one of the biggest teacher recruiting programs in Japan and they hire all through the year. The program deploys you as an Assistant Language Teacher or ALT in various schools throughout the country. Most of the jobs will be based in rural areas, therefore, you must familiarize yourself with the country’s rural setup before you apply. Once you have spent a year or two teaching in Japan, you can get transferred to the bigger cities.
- It is not mandatory but the program prefers if the candidate could drive and holds a valid driving license.
- Native-level fluency in the English language.
- A bachelor’s degree
- You must have at least 12 years of education in English.
- Must be younger than 60 years.
- Salary and benefits
- On average, your monthly payment will be around $2,064 per month. For the months of April, December, August, and March you will receive a reduced salary, due to tax deductions.
- You will not be given any traveling budget.
- Cost of traveling for work will be reimbursed by the program.
- If you are required to lease a car, you will be given an additional allowance to cover the lease.
- NOVA Japan – This is a private English school that offers a great many opportunities to ESL teachers. The school has more than 250 branches that offer different types of classes for different learning purposes. They have one-on-one conversation classes for business professionals and the more conventional style of classrooms for other learners. The school only hires native-English teachers, which means there would already be native speakers in the program and it will make it easier for you to form acquaintances.
The program will give you an initial training for a full three days during which you will be taught different aspects of teaching.
- You must be a native-English speaker.
- You do not require any formal teaching experience.
- You should have a bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution.
- Salary and benefits
- On average, the salary of a NOVA instructor can be between $1,794 and $2,243 per month.
- Accommodation is provided by the program.
- You will be given a flight reimbursement.
- A native Japanese teacher will teach you the Japanese language at a relatively reduced rate.
- ECC – The ECC program is a privately owned school that currently has 188 schools across Japan and retains about 400 overseas teachers. This program encourages students to use the English language as their primary means of communication as much as they can. The classes are offered to both children and adults. The classes are mostly held in the evening or on the weekends.
- Bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution.
- You must be a native speaker.
- You should be able to attend the recruiting session which is one day long.
- Salary and benefits
- On average, the salary is around $2,423 per month.
- A travel stipend of about $628 is given to overseas recruits.
- You get paid vacations.
- Costs of traveling due to work within the country will be reimbursed.
- Health benefits are given.
- A free of cost annual medical checkup is given.
Do I need to know the Japanese language to teach English in Japan?
No, you do not need to know the Japanese language to qualify for most of the teaching programs in the country. However, a few of these programs may offer you language courses to help you develop enough skills to communicate with the local students and teach more efficiently. The courses may be offered at a reduced price.
Challenges of teaching English in Japan
Even though it sounds great to travel to another country and teach them the language you know. But the decision to leave everything behind including your friends and family can be quite a big one. Here are a few challenges you may face while teaching in Japan:
- Language barrier – This is one of the biggest challenges. Not many locals can speak the English language and if you do not understand Japanese, then communication not only with the locals but also with your students and colleagues could prove to be a challenging task.
- Different culture – The Japanese culture may turn out to be quite different from what you are used to in your native country. It may take you a while to figure out what the Japanese consider offensive or polite. It is quite possible that you may make a few mistakes before figuring out the right way to socialize.
- Loneliness – Even though the bigger cities in Japan are quite exciting, but the overall experience may be a bit lonely for you. If you work at an institute where most of your colleagues are locals or you are deployed by a program in a rural area, then you may find it difficult to make friends and socialize.
How to get international teaching experience without traveling?
Many teachers want to teach English as a Second or Foreign Language but they are reluctant to travel abroad. Some of them just do not want to leave their family and friends while others do not have the financial means to travel. Thanks to the internet you can still get some valuable international teaching experience by teaching online.
When it comes to online teaching, one of the best options is VIPKID.
What is VIPKID?
VIPKID is the largest language school online. The platform brings together more than 500,000 Chinese students and over 60,000 English teachers from all over the world. Teachers are responsible for planning lessons and teaching the students English as a Second or Foreign Language. The classes are conducted online through the platform’s own video conferencing software.
Benefits of VIPKID
There are many reasons why VIPKID is the most popular online language school. Some of these benefits are:
- Great wages – VIPKID offers the highest pay rates to its teachers. You can earn anywhere between $7 to $22 and in addition to this, you also get a few other monetary incentives. This makes VIPKID a great way to supplement your primary income. Moreover, the payment for each class is instant, which means you do not have to wait an entire month to collect your money.
- You decide your own working hours – This is a great benefit for those who have regular day jobs or are studying. You can decide whenever you want to teach and work your own schedule. This allows you to maintain a very good balance between work and your social and personal life.
- You get international experience – Teaching on VIPKID can offer you great international experience without having to travel abroad. You teach Chinese students by using proper lessons and authentic teaching material. This is a great benefit for new teachers who want to get international experience on their resumes before they apply for jobs in different countries.
Requirements to teach on VIPKID
The requirements to become an English teacher on VIPKID are very simple and as follows:
- You need to have a bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution.
- You need to have one year of experience as a teacher or mentor or something similar.
- You must be fluent in the English language.
- You must have a good internet connection and the right hardware.
Teaching programs in Japan are a great way for ESL teachers to break into the education industry in Japan. These programs not only help you get some teaching experience but they also do everything to help you settle down in a new country. With so many options to choose, you just need to pick the one that meets your needs and offers you the benefits you want. If, however, for some reason, you cannot travel to Japan you can always become an English teacher on VIPKID, which will help you get some international experience and earn decent wages.