article by JobsInJapan
So you’re interested in moving to Japan to teach English. The very first way to get to Japan you discover is the JET Programme. It’s a Japanese government run scheme to place young educated people from foreign countries into public schools to help teach English in Japan, where many public schools do not have an English speaking teacher.
The thing is, the JET programme takes nearly a YEAR to apply for and get (if you’re lucky) and there is a strict application process. What you might not know is that more than 95% of all the teachers in the country are not on the JET programme but are working directly for boards of education, English conversation schools, kindergartens and business English schools in Japan. This is a much faster way to get to Japan, so how do you land one of these jobs and move in the next few months instead of waiting years?
Thankfully, moving to Japan is not that complicated.
Step 1 – You need to find and apply for a job that will sponsor your visa. Many employers on boards like JobsinJapan.com will sponsor your visa once you’ve gained employment with them. Other than that it can be very difficult to get a work visa, but it is possible. Many countries have agreements with Japan to do something called a “working holiday visa” where you can come to Japan, and find temporary work while you travel and explore. For this, you might want to get in touch with your local Japanese embassy or consulate to see if this is an option in your country. Also, until pandemic restrictions are lifted this might be a lower priority to return, so you’re probably better off looking for full time employment.
Do I need English teaching experience or qualifications to teach in Japan?
Japan is one of the few countries that doesn’t require any specific teaching qualifications to start teaching here. Of course, the kinds of jobs you can get with zero experience and zero qualifications are limited as you might expect, but you can get your first job here without any of that stuff. This is great if you just want to live in Japan in the short term, or want to “try out” teaching as a job before you commit time and resources to getting qualified only to find out you don’t particularly like teaching.
How much money can I earn teaching in Japan?
Depending on where you end up in the country, the median starting salary in Japan is around 240,000 Japanese yen per month. In Tokyo this might be a little higher as it is more expensive to live in Tokyo, and for certain jobs it might be more or less depending on your work hours. Minimum wage in Japan is 930 JPY per hour, but almost certainly as an English teacher you will be earning considerably more than that. You are also unlikely to have major responsibilities when you have just started, and almost never will you have to do more than 30 minutes or so of overtime. I taught in many schools across Japan and have never been expected to work overtime, although I have done so on occasion to do a good job and get more time to talk with my students. I enjoyed this as it made it much easier to teach my classes because I could build a relationship with my students.
Once you have a year or two of good experience under your belt, and perhaps you have earned yourself a TEFL or CELTA qualification, your salary prospects go up to perhaps 280-340,000 JPY per month in K-12 education, and over 400,000 JPY per month if you go the university route, though the latter is much more competitive. Many teachers, once they live in Japan, branch out and switch into lucrative careers in tech or recruiting.
How quickly can I get to Japan?
You could be heading to Japan within 3-6 months once you have landed your job, if pandemic restrictions are lifted early this year (which looks likely). For any number of reasons you could be rejected from your favourite starting school, so make sure you are taking lots of interviews from companies that hire from overseas. On JobsinJapan.com you can set a filter to only include jobs that accept applicants from overseas, so I recommend you do that and apply to any job that looks interesting to you, and that fits your qualifications. For almost all jobs you will need to have a Bachelor’s degree in order to get the visa. If you don’t have that, the working holiday visa might be okay for you but there are limits on what you can do and how long you can stay (it’s a 1 year, no renewal visa).
As we have mentioned, as of the writing of this article there are still some Covid19 restrictions for newcomers to Japan. In all likelihood these will be lifted this year, but we can’t yet be sure. The government has committed to revisiting the border rules at the end of February 2022 if the situation improves. If you have your heart set on coming to Japan, start applying for jobs, because as soon as those borders open there is going to be a flood of foreign workers entering the market and the salaries on offer could go down. Get your Certificate of Eligibility – 在留資格認定証明書 (zairyuu shikaku nintei shoumeisho) so that you are ready to exchange it for a visa when you get into the country.
If you’re serious…
…about moving to Japan this is actually not a bad time. Once the borders open there will be a whole host of jobs because of all the foreigners who moved home during the pandemic, so you’ll have more opportunities than ever. Whether you want to live in the countryside and experience the REAL Japan, or live in the concrete jungle of Tokyo, you can look at all available positions for applicants outside Japan over at JobsinJapan.com with that overseas applicants box checked. Good luck!