So you want to start teaching in Japan?
Want to get an English Teaching job in Japan? Here is all you need to know to start teaching English in Japan!
This article is part of our series on finding a job in Japan and Tokyo.
If you’re looking to start teaching English in Japan this guide is for you. Everything you need to know from when you start looking for an English teaching job in Japan to what to expect from each type of English teaching job will be laid out for you below.
Usually, the first type of teaching job that comes to mind when people consider teaching English in Japan is the English conversational school type of job. That being said it may surprise you to find that many foreigners do teach in the public school sector as well! In our ultimate guide to teaching English in Japan, we’ll cover the most common teaching positions so we can help you find the best English teaching jobs in Japan for you!
For those that want a part-time position and would like to apply right away check out our partner school One Coin English! OCE is an English Conversation school based in the Tokyo and Yokohama areas and hires new part-time teachers all year long. Apply through their website at https://onecoinenglish.com/hireme/.
Guide to English teaching jobs in Japan
This post will cover all aspects of English teaching jobs in Tokyo and other areas of Japan. Information on what English teachers do in different types of schools, how much positions pay, and where to search for these jobs is all organized in the table of contents below. Click each link to go to the section that has information that you would like to know more about.
Table of Contents
- Types of English Teaching Jobs In Japan
- Location Requirements
- English Teacher Visas to Japan
- English Teaching in Japan as a Non-Native Speaker
- What is the process for being hired from overseas?
- English Teaching Jobs in Japan
ALT Jobs in Japan
Assistant Language Teacher or ALT jobs in japan are something you’ll see a lot of while searching for a teaching job from abroad. As an ALT you’re not in charge of the class but rather are teamed with a licensed Japanese teacher. Ergo, you don’t need a Japanese teacher’s license, education degree, or master’s degree. Another surprise is that over half of the English teachers here in Japan are ALTs and number about 10,000 – 13,000.
Specific requirements will vary between schools, and you, of course, will want to ensure that the school or teacher dispatch agency meets your requirements for an employer. But the base entry-level is a completed education at a higher-learning institution, primarily because you must have a degree to get an instructor’s visa. This instructor visa allows you to work in a Japanese public and private school, and you may have to change your visa type to instructor in order to work there.
ALT jobs in Japan are one of the most common teaching jobs you can find and the requirements actually arent too high. If you want to work as an ALT in Japan, you will need a bachelor’s degree. This requirement is pretty much universal among all ALT jobs whether they are dispatch or direct hire positions from the school. It may surprise you to know however, you don’t need a degree that is about teaching in particular. Though you are required to have a degree as long as the it is a 4-year bachelor’s degree in any field you would be applicable for an ALT job.
Japanese public school ALT schedules
Most ALT jobs in Japan start around 8:30 AM and finish around 3:30 PM based on the public school open times. Depending on the region, there will be several days a week where the students finish earlier than 3:30 PM. For example, most days will have six periods, but one or two days where there are only five periods. Please note that this only applies for the children, because you will probably be required to stay until 4:30 or 5:00 PM, regardless of the students’ schedule.
On a side note, first and second graders often get to leave earlier than the older children. Again, regional variances apply.
Public junior and senior high schools start around the same time as elementary schools in Japan, and sometimes a little earlier. Once lessons are done, students usually remain at school and participate in club activities organized by the school and managed by one teacher. Clubs range from sports, music, and the arts, to educational themes. You sometimes have a kendo club, sumo club, judo club, or even board games club which students actively participate in.
Teaching Jobs in Japan
There are several major benefits to teaching English in Japan as an assistant language teacher at a public elementary school. The main benefit is that you are essentially a celebrity to the children. Even if you teach English in Tokyo or the other larger cities in Japan, you’re likely to be the only foreign adult that these children know, and children are very curious and will want to know more about you. Some schools let you sit with the children during lunch. For the kids, this is often a special moment.
The second benefit of Teaching English in Japan as an ALT is the push you’ll get to quickly improve your Japanese. You’ll need to communicate with your co-workers; the more Japanese you speak, the smoother things will go. This is the best out of all the English teaching jobs in Japan to improve your Japanese speaking skills.
The third major benefit are the school vacations, which can last up to one month in summer and two weeks in winter. Some companies will require you to work during the break while others make you “kinda” work, so be sure to check out the requirements for the break during the interview.
The fourth major benefit is saving money. School lunch is around 250 – 300 yen and is filling, so you will have a somewhat healthy meal while keeping funds in your pocket.
The main benefit to being an ALT at a public junior high school is that you get to experience a part of Japanese culture that most outsiders never see. You can see the school club atmosphere and the relationships between people based on seniority and the focus on doing things together. This development of culture and social interaction reveals much of the heart of Japanese society, which is frequently baffling to Westerners.
The second benefit is that you can have a big impact on certain students. You won’t be able to mentor all of your students, but you can answer many of their questions about foreign cultures and hopefully find those who are truly interested in life outside the empire. In the future global society, it will be critical to have a broad viewpoint, and you can instill that in your students.
The third benefit is that vacation periods are similar to the elementary schools, and you often have additional downtime. Most public schools will not have you teaching more than 4 lessons a day, so you have a lot of time to prepare for your lessons, offer assistance to the other English teachers, and talk to students and Japanese staff.
Challenges for an ALT in Japan
The biggest challenge when teaching English in Japan at public elementary schools is managing your health and energy. Teaching five to six lessons, plus eating lunch with the children, and sometimes playing with them during recess is exhausting. You will often come home worn out. Also, ALTs in elementary schools tend to get sick more often than other English teachers because of the proximity to kids who have a cold or the flu.
The second challenge as an ALT in Japan is for people who are ambitious and always want to improve their work skills. If you’ve worked a few years as an ALT you’ve worked them all. People that want more personal and professional growth from their job may get bored after a few years of teaching.
The third challenge is that the children may do or say things you don’t like. Anything that is unique or different will definitely be mentioned. Children will point out your weight and may even poke you gently in the stomach. If you have a large bottom, the children will comment on it, and some adventurous six-year-olds may even try to touch yours. If you are a man, you may be Kancho’d. If you are unfamiliar with this aspect of Japanese kid culture, you’ll have to look up what a Kancho is for yourself.
There are two main challenges, and the first is boredom. Elementary schools keep you super active and involved to the point you want to sleep the moment you get home. Junior high schools generally keep you so inactive that you may question why you are there at all. Teachers who are not proactive in reaching out to the teachers or learning from other ALTs on how to be given more responsibility may want to die of boredom. I enjoyed the freedom in my schedule, but I had to go out of my way to learn the textbook and proactively share ideas with the teachers. I also made extra effort to speak to other teachers and assist with the club activities.
The second main challenge is that you may be placed at a school with students who do not follow the rules. They may swear at you and make fun of you, and you just have to accept it. 95% or more of schools are fine with a few punks, but 3% or less can be chaotic and have an issue with bullying.
What are the English teaching materials like?
The base lesson content in public elementary schools for 1st and 2nd graders is left to the judgment of the school or language teacher. The schools use a textbook made by the national government called “Let’s try” for third and fourth graders and a book titled “We Can!” for the fifth and sixth grades.
Junior high schools will use one of several textbooks approved by the national government, normally an English-produced textbook series called New Horizon or New Crown. All teachers must finish the book by the end of the school year, and ALTs will be asked to come up with activities to help the English teacher review the content in a fun way or do an English lesson to provide students a break from the grind.