Japan Australia Pages

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Teaching English in Japan

Teaching English is the most common form of employment among foreigners in Japan. The demand for English teachers is still strong, but the market is a lot more competitive than it used to be in the 1980s/90s. Today you need a lot more qualifications and experience to satisfy most recruiters and get your foot in the door of the better companies out there. We will go into more detail a little later on about what recruiters look for and prefer in potential candidates. There has also been a big push recently by Mombukagakusho (Ministry of Education) for English as a compulsory subject in Elementary School in Japan. This will only increase further as the demand for English increases with the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Here is a little about the main types of teaching jobs here in Japan.

Types of Teaching Jobs in Japan 

English Conversation School 

English Conversation Schools or Eikaiwa (英会話) in Japanese are the most popular form of teaching English in Japan. These positions are usually paid by the hour with a mixed schedule involving a lot of evening and weekend work. The students usually range in age from about 2 years old in kids classes to 80 years old. Typical working hours will fall somewhere in between 10am to 9pm. Morning shifts might be from !0:00 am to 6:00 pm, and Evening shifts 1:00 pm to 9:00pm. Classes are usually around 45-50 minutes long, with class sizes typically varying from 1-10 students. Most English Conversation School positions on average will receive around 1-2 weeks holiday per year. Monthly wages on average are around ¥250,000 depending on the company. The most famous eikaiwa schools are ECC, Aeon, Nova, Gaba Corporation and Shane Corporation.

ALT Assistant Language Teacher 

Most ALTs work through a dispatch company in the public school system in Japan. Typically they are placed in Elementary or Junior High with a few working in Senior High. Typical working hours will fall between 8:30 am to 4:30 pm with an 8 hour work day. Class sizes will vary from usually 20-40 students, depending on the school and location. Most ALT positions on average will receive around 8 weeks holiday per year. Monthly wages usually range from ¥200,000 to ¥260,000 depending on experience and the company. One of the best ALT companies in Japan is ALTIA CENTRAL who are based in Nagoya with contracts in the Tokai area and beyond.

Preschool and Kindergarten 

Working with the students at a Japanese Preschool or International Kindergarten can be a lot of fun, but generally require specific qualifications and experience teaching children. These types of teachers typically work 8 or 9 hours a day, 5 days a week with around 4 weeks holiday per year. Monthly wages usually range from ¥250,000 to ¥300,000 depending on experience and the company. It is hard work with a busy schedule, but very rewarding with the chance to bond with your students and their parents.

Business English 

This type of teaching in Japan is aimed at corporations who look to teach their employees basic English for dealing with overseas clients and connections. They are generally paid by the hour and more lucrative than both eikaiwa and ALT work. Lessons can take place either during regular working hours, or in the evening after the employees have finished work.

Basic Requirements 

The basic requirements for most teaching positions in Japan include the following:
  1. Native English Speaker 
  2. BA / BS Degree (in any field) 
These are typically required in order to secure a work visa for the applicant.

Preferences by recruiters include:
  1. A BA / BS in Education/Linguistics/English/Japanese/East Asian Studies 
  2. At least a basic level of Japanese ability 
  3. ESL or TEFL certification 
  4. Teaching or tutoring experience 

Application Process 

You can submit your resume and apply for jobs any time as companies are always looking for potential applicants. The biggest recruiting periods for ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) in Japan is November/December for April starts (school year starts in April in Japan) and May/June for September starts. Most of the major companies now recruit overseas, so you can even set up an interview in your home country, which makes the whole process a lot easier.

The Best Resources for Looking for Work in Japan 

The biggest & best resource for finding a job in Japan is GaijinPot who have a large listing of jobs through-out Japan. I also recommend sites like Jobs in Japan and My Shigoto


  1. A very good overview!
    I also only heard good things about ALTIA. I got a job offer from them last time I was looking for a job, but decided to stay an Eikaiwa teacher.
    I've never worked as an ALT.

    How about you, John?
    Have you ever worked as an English teacher in Japan?

    1. Thank you Zooming Japan! I started off in Japan as an Eikaiwa teacher then moved on to become an ALT. I have also taught in Preschool & Kindergarten in Japan as well as teaching Business. Travel and Home-stay classes. I guess you could call me a bit of an all-rounder.

    2. Which did you like the best? :)

    3. I've enjoyed them all and they all have good and bad points. I enjoyed the friendships and students I meet at Eikaiwa. The ALT position is better for more regular hours and actually working in a real school in the public school system. I think my Japanese really started to improve when I became an ALT.

    4. I see. Yeah, I always wanted to try the ALT thing as well, but I'm also satisfied with how things turned out.
      I like working for Eikaiwa, though I'm not sure if I'd say the same about the "big ones".

    5. I actually worked with one of the big ones and enjoyed my experience. It was a good way to get over here to Japan and start out. I think in order to progress I become an ALT and it has been an amazing experience. Would you ever consider leaving Eikaiwa now to become an ALT?

    6. I have several times already, but in my case it would be very difficult. As a non-native speaker of English I probably wouldn't be able to obtain the visa. As you know you need an "instructor visa" for an ALT job as opposed to the "specialist in humanities visa" for the eikaiwa jobs.

      I'm okay with the way it is now, though. ;)

    7. As long as you are happy and enjoy the work you are doing, that is the main thing. I do know several non-native English speakers who are ALTs, so it is possible, but a lot depends on the school and local Board of Education.

  2. I see. It's an interesting information. On the other hand, are there many jobs for Japanese people to teach Japanese in Japan or other countries?

    1. Thank you Cocomino! In Australia, Japanese is one of the most popular and major languages to learn, so schools are always on the look-out for Japanese teachers. My Japanese teacher at University as amazing and it is partly because of her that I'm here in Japan today :)

  3. Eikaiwa was my foot into the door, but I'm infinitely grateful that I've been able to progress to university classes. :)

    1. Thanks Ru, That is like me, but I moved on to become an ALT and then HR Manager/Supervisor. University classes are one area I've yet to try. I believe you need a Masters right?

  4. Hi Japan Australia,
    I have an interest in teaching english in Japan, I've read about all the basic information (requirements, ALTs/Eikawas, companies, etc) but I'm still unsure about the process. My main query is in which company to go with. I'm from Brisbane, Australia and I know you've mentioned ALTIA CENTRAL but do you have any other recommendations or further information about other companies that can be easily accessed from where I live?
    Thanks for you help.

    1. Hi Anon, A lot of the major companies now recruit overseas so you should be able to set up an interview at home in Brisbane. If you are interested in the Eikaiwa route try major companies like ECC, AEON, NOVA, and Gaba Corporation. For ALT companies, ALTIA CENTRAL is one of the best, but they do not hold interviews in Australia at this stage. You could try major companies like Interac, W5, and Heart.

    2. Thanks a bunch and thank you for the quick reply!

  5. Hello John,

    I know your post mentions that a degree is required to teach in Japan, but I have also found online that it is possible to get a job without one. What would you recommend for someone who isn't able to attend university, but is incredibly keen on teaching/working in Japan?


    1. Hello Naomi,

      Thank you for commenting. As far as I know the degree is required to secure a work visa by the company employing you. Unless you come to Japan under another visa such as a Spouse Visa which allows you to work in any field then it is a necessity. You could look at other options such as the Working Holiday program, which is open to young citizens (between 18 and 30) from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, France, Germany, Ireland and the UK: those eligible may apply for working holiday visas without having a job offer. You are eligible for a working holiday visa once in your life, and the visa is valid for one year.

  6. Hi,
    You have provided some great info. I went on some public forums and some people had bad experiences. They said that in a primary or high school a Japanese teacher needs to be with you in the room at all times and they didn't have a good attitude towards them. Have you ever had a bad experience?

    1. Hello Miss Smith! Thanks for the comment and positive feedback. When you work as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) it is a team-teaching effort with the ALT providing the support as T2 in most cases to the JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) as the T1. Every JTE is different and unique as they all have different experience and range in age. I found that if you are positive, friendly and approachable you should have no trouble fitting in and working with a wide range of teachers. I have never had any problems and a big part of that is being flexible and understanding what the teachers are looking for. I hope this helps and please let me know if you have any further questions.

  7. hello, I was just wondering about the whole process about teaching English in japan (I live in Australia)
    do I need any qualifications?

    1. Hello! The article above should explain all. You need to have at least a 4-year degree from a recognized university to quality for a work visa for Japan.


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