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Teaching English in Japan

Updated 15 Aug 2018

Teaching English in Japan is one of the more popular vocations for foreigners moving to the country.

Over the course of the last few years, there has been an increase in demand based on the fact that children are required to learn English as a second language in local schools, and also because many companies are either using or are now requiring English as the main company language.

Requirements to teach English in Japan

Most jobs require a three to four-year degree from an accredited university. A teaching degree will increase a person's chances, but many companies and organizations, including the government’s JET Programme, are open to any four-year degree holder. Keep in mind that while possible, finding a job without a four-year degree is more difficult.

Also, for some positions, namely in colleges and universities, teachers are usually required to have a Master’s degree, although this can vary depending on the school.

A TEFL, ESL or related certification is helpful and may improve a person's chances of being hired, but is typically not a prerequisite.

Furthermore, if lacking teaching experience, then taking a short course may be beneficial.

How to find a job teaching English in Japan

The best time to start looking for jobs is during winter, as the school year in Japan changes in April. Jobs do open up throughout the year, but many employers look for applicants currently residing in Japan.

The web is a great place to start the search. Useful sites include:

The sites all include regular job listings and other information about teaching English in Japan.

Types of recruitment

The JET Programme is one of the most popular, enlisting teachers from all over the world. The bulk of teachers will find jobs through this programme. The application process for JET is long and arduous, and the deadline to apply is the beginning of December, with a start date of late July the following year (except for some countries such as New Zealand and Australia, which also have April start dates).

Most people apply for the position of ALT, or Assistant Language Teacher, and may teach in public high schools or junior high and elementary schools.

Other companies include Interac, ECC, Aeon, Berlitz, and many smaller and private companies as well. Some schools contract directly, although many go through some type of intermediary organisation such as JET or Interac. Some of the above companies contract with businesses to provide English classes, or provide individual private lessons to adults and/or children.

The visa process for teaching English in Japan

Once hired, most companies will handle or offer assistance in organising the appropriate visa and immigration procedures. 

English teachers will apply for an “Instructor” visa for one or three years, which is subsequently renewable if re-contracting with the organisation or being hired elsewhere. For more specific information, including a chart of procedures and the types of visas available, visit the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

In the end though, with a bit patience and persistence expats can certainly fulfill their dream of teaching English in Japan.

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