The Ultimate Guide to Teach English Abroad
Teach English Abroad in Japan
Japan is well-known globally for being a clean, safe, friendly and beautiful country that’s definitely worth visiting. The Japanese are respectful and ethical. The economy here is strong, thus life is as convenient as it can be. There’s a unique mix of the modern Western lifestyle and the traditional Eastern culture. Not to mention all the mouthwatering sushi, ramen, sake and other delicious Japanese cuisines. There’s no reason to not live an teach English abroad in Japan.
If you dream of moving to Japan to teach ESL, here’s the ultimate guide of teaching English abroad in Japan:
Because the country is too beautiful! Every corner of Japan is picturesque. There’s so much to explore in Japan, from its unique gardens, temples, architectures to bamboo forests, cherry blossom parks, and blue ponds. Everywhere in Japan is accessible by train, making it super easy to travel. The public transportation in Japan is famous for being precisely on time.
Secondly, Japanese cuisine is number one! There are more than the famous ramen, udon and sushi. Japanese food is simple yet delicious, and mostly quite healthy. Some other dishes to try include pancakes, Soba noodles, BBQ, tempura, candies, and anything matcha.
Japanese people are friendly and respectful. They prefer to collaborate with others, thus your colleagues and students will likely be very supportive. Besides, everything is cute in Japan. There’s even a Hello Kitty airline.
Types of ESL Teaching Jobs in Japan
A popular path for foreign ESL teachers in Japan is to become an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) through the JET program (The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program). An ALT works alongside a native Japanese teacher in public schools. This way, you get to plan all the lessons and teaching materials with the Japanese teacher. And as the only foreigner in the class/the school, you’ll be instantly liked by the students!
Teaching at private schools (Eikaiwas) is also a common choice. Lots of elementary schools in Japan offer global studies and hire foreign English teachers. All kindergartens are privately owned in Japan. This type of position requires 5 work days or approximately 25 teaching hours per week. Your students will most likely be little kids.
Another most sorted after ESL teaching position in Japan is at colleges and universities. It’s more difficult to get since you must be highly qualified and equipped with a Master’s degree, preferably in linguistics, English or TESOL. While the requirements are strict, the rewards are high. And if you prefer teaching adults, this is ideal for you.
Last but not least, you can also conduct private teaching, tutor individual students, or open your own English class.
Public School vs. Private Institute
If you’re working for a public school, then likely your teaching position will be an Assistant Language Teacher, commonly referred to as an ALT. As the name suggested, as an Assistant Language Teacher you will work together with a Japanese English teacher, which means it would be an excellent opportunity for you to learn about the Japanese education system, teaching methods, and beyond. Public school includes elementary schools, junior high schools, and high schools.
Private Language Institute, in Japanese term, Eikawa, are in private language centers catered to teaching students outside of regular school hours or business professional.
At Eikawa, you’re likely focusing on teaching conversational English. The salary is a bit higher compare to public school, but you also need to handle more stressful working environment compare to public school where you have a formal Japanese English teacher to take care the heavy lifting part.
Financial Facts: Average Pay, Cost of Living, Insurance, and Other Expenses in Japan
Compensation for English Teachers in Japan:
The monthly salary for a full-time ESL teacher in Japan would look like this:
- Teaching English at public schools: ~ $2,000 to $2,500
- Teaching English at private schools: ~ $2,000 to $3,000
- Becoming an ALT through the JET program: ~ $3,000 to $3,500
- Teaching private lessons: ~ $20 to $30 per hour
Vacation and Other Benefits
If you’re an ALT working for public school, besides the national holidays, you’ll usually get 4 weeks in August and 2 weeks off in December/January and you’re partially paid during this vacation time (at least 50%).
For private schools, while you don’t get as much time off, you will have around 10 days of personal time off.
Your flight tickets are usually reimbursed by your employer. Your health insurance should also be majorly covered by the employer.
Housing & Accommodation
Rent in Japan’s big cities can be high. It ranges from ¥70,000 to ¥140,000 ($700 to $1,400 a month plus $50 to $100 of utilities, which include electricity, water, internet, and phone bills. Lunch is on average $10 per meal. One night out drinking and eating in Tokyo can end up being costly at around $40 to $100. Thus, you’d better cook at home if you want to save money while teaching ESL in Japan.
National Health Insurance
Kokumin Kenkou Hoken 国民健康保険
Japanese National Health Insurance plan is typically recommended. For newcomers to Japan, the National Health Insurance plan is inexpensive with good basic coverage. The premiums are generally around 2000 yen per month. However, your earning has affect on the rate. You will need visa sponsorship in order to enroll.
Social Health Insurance
Shakai Hoken 社会保険
Full-time employees of companies in Japan are enrolled in this option. Depending your working status, you might or might not qualify to enroll.
Private Health Insurance
Not impossible, but the least likely plan you’ll enroll due to the government policy that requires all foreign residents of Japan to be enrolled in some form of health insurance sponsored by the government (i.e. National Health Insurance, Social Health Insurance).
What Are The ESL Job Requirements?
Most ESL teaching jobs are in large cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. But there are still options in suburbs, smaller cities and rural areas of Japan. A TEFL certificate and an undergraduate degree are the bare minimal for Teaching English jobs in Japan. If you have the CELTA or DELTA qualification, your chances of securing a good job are improved. Teacher candidates are preferred to be a citizen from one of the seven English-speaking countries (the U.S, U.K, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa).
Many local agencies and companies will provide you a Specialist in Humanities/International Services visa which typically has a duration of one year for first-time holders.
- A minimal bachelor’s degree from an accredited university where English was the medium of instruction OR three years of verifiable full-time ESL teaching experience
- Meet the minimum earning requirements of 250,000 yen per month
- Proof of enrollment in Health Insurance at the time of working contract signing
What’s It like Living in Japan?
The Japanese are usually known to be organized, patient, and respectful. The people in Japan also profoundly value family and gender roles.
Japanese apartments are tiny. I’m talking 10 meters square!. Don’t trust me? Watch YouTube documentaries about Tokyo living in crazy small apartments. One thing I admire though is the Japanese’s creative ways to make use of every inch in their living space.
The nation’s deeply in love with cute animal things, such as animal-shaped sweets and souvenirs or the Hello Kitty planes! Japan offers a rare contrast of tall skyscrapers vs. ancient shrines and temples. While in Japan, try to learn some Japanese to show your respect and to access more resources.
Some unique facts about Japan
- The capital of Japan is Tokyo. Its population is around 127 million people.
- Japan’s official language is Japanese. The currency here is the Japanese yen (JP¥)
- It has one of the world’s oldest populations, meaning there are more seniors than kids in Japan.
- Japan has one of the world’s lowest crime rates.
- Japan’s got the highest number of vending machines in the world. You can buy literally anything at vending machines in Japan!
How To Get an English Teaching Job in Japan
Most companies in Japan tend to hire lots of ESL teachers during January and July, before the start of each semester. However, you could probably find opportunities at private schools in Japan year-round.
If you’ve met the basic job requirements listed above, you’ll need to find and apply for ESL teaching positions online, via communities such as this Teach English Abroad Jobs Facebook group, or online job boards. The popular JET Program hires hundreds of foreigners to become ALTs each year – it’s an ideal opportunity for new college grads.
A recruiting agency can help you polish your resume and save you time by making sure you have all the necessary and correct documents to get an English teaching job in Japan. You’ll find a faster response time and a higher chance of being recruited. We can help you find an English teaching job in Japan!
Where to Find Teaching Jobs in Japan?
You’ll able to search and filter through this comprehensive list of ESL teaching jobs in Japan.
How Should I Dress as an ESL Teacher in Japan?
The dress code will vary according to each school. Thus, it’s advised that you ask other teachers, your recruiter or employer about the appropriate work attire before showing up in class. The Japanese prefer the conservative dress code. You should wear business casual and avoid t-shirts, jeans, and shorts.
For men, wear a collared shirt with dark slacks or khakis. Polo shirts or button-down shirts are both acceptable. Usually, neckties and belts are required. You’ll also need a suit for certain special occasions.
For women, wear blouses or sweaters with slacks and above-the-knee skirts that aren’t too tight. Avoid shorts, jeans, leggings, sleeveless shirts, and sweatpants.
Japan’s culture prefers the “no shoes in the house” rule. You should bring a brand new pair of shoes for each school you teach at to wear inside only, never outside. For the gym, you’ll need a different pair of shoes.
What Are Japanese Students Like?
Japanese students are quite pleasant and respectful. They tend to be cooperative, enthusiastic, and very hardworking. As with any students all over the world, your lessons would be most effective if they are fun and engaging.
Do I Need to Speak Japanese?
Obviously, learning the local language would make your life a lot easier. Yet I know, Japanese is a challenging language to learn. Not many Japanese speak fluent English, however.
Though you’d certainly find foreign colleagues and friends or locals who can communicate well in English, the communication styles matter as well. Japanese are well-known for their indirect communication method. The natives here avoid conflicts or social disharmony at all cost. It’s difficult to understand and adjust your behaviors at first, but overcoming this barrier will help you fit in much quicker.
Some common Japanese phrases that would be helpful:
- ありがとうございます arigatou gozaimasu: Thank you
- はい hai: Yes
- わかりません wakarimasen: I don’t understand
- いくらですか? ikura desu ka?: How much is it?
How to Apply to ESL Teaching Jobs in Japan?
We work closely with many reputable local schools and registered agencies in Japan. You can find a list of active hiring local schools in Japan here or let us find the best matching job by submitting your application to us.
What Do I Need to Get My English Teaching Visa for Japan?
Depending on your nationality, your teaching job, your employer and other factors, you may need to get a specific type of visa. Talk to your recruiting agency or employer who will help guide you through this process. Below is the summary, but you can find resourceful details on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs site directly.
Some of the common types of visa you’ll need to legally teach English in Japan are:
- Instructor Visa: This allows you to work as an ALT in public institutions
- Specialist in Humanities Visa: This allows you to work in private institutions (eikaiwas)
- Working Holiday Visa: This 6-month visa is available for residents of several countries (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, France, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Ireland)
The first two work visas are usually valid for a period of 1 or 3 years. Please note that you’re not allowed to work as a tourist in Japan.
To qualify for Japanese working visas, you’ll need:
- A Bachelor’s Degree
- An official job offer
- A clean criminal record
- Proof that you can teach/speak English fluently
In terms of paperwork, you’ll need:
- At least 2 recent passport photos
- A valid passport
- Your resume
- Copy of your degree (and sometimes, a sealed transcript as well)
- Your teaching license/certification such as TESOL/TEFL
You should probably have a saving of at least $2,000 to prove that you can survive before your first paycheck in Japan.
Are you looking for opportunities to teach English abroad in Japan? Check out our Teach English Abroad Jobs Facebook group for daily job listings.
Banking in Japan
A Japanese bank account is crucial for you to get paid properly. Here is a list of major banks in Japan, including Shinsei, Prestia, Mizuho, MUFJ, SMBC, and Japan Post’s Yuucho Bank.
Documents that required to open a bank account
- Resident Card (Zairyuu) OR Certificate of Registered Matters
- Phone number
- Hanko (inkan) stamp. Many Asian countries require a stamp instead of a handwritten signature.