Teaching English In Japan – What Every Newbie Should Know

Teaching English in Japan

Photo by gwaar on Flickr

If you’re considering moving to Japan to teach English, you’re about to embark on a huge adventure. You’ll experience a culture that’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced and also make good money in the process. It may be a little scary because you don’t know what to expect, but this is a path that’s been trodden by many before you, so don’t worry. There are just a few things to keep in mind.

No Experience Necessary!

Teaching English in Japan

What do you need to get a job teaching English in Japan? The ads always tell you that you don’t need any experience whatsoever; they’ll hire anyone. Although it’s not always the case 100% of the time, you generally need a college degree. It doesn’t matter what your major is, but you need a degree in something.

If you don’t have a college degree, you’ll find it tough to get visa sponsorship. Employers view high school graduates as inexperienced and likely to flake and leave. Legally, you need a college degree in order to get a proper work visa. If you don’t have one, shady employers may take advantage of you.

Heading off to Job Hunt

Japanese Students study English

Photo by brojangles4 on Flickr

If you don’t get a job before you go over, should you just head there looking? Of course, it’s much easier to land a job when you’re physically in Japan. he tricky part is getting your visa sorted. With a standard tourist visa, you can stay in the country for 90 days but you can’t work. In order to work, you need to find a company that will sponsor your work visa. his means that you need to bring enough cash to live as long as it takes you to get sponsorship.

While going there yourself offers many more possibilities, it’s also risky. You may find yourself using your return ticket home and being thousands of dollars poorer.

What English Schools Are Looking For

Japanese classroom

Photo by danaspencer on Flickr

If it doesn’t matter what you studied and you don’t need any teaching experience, what are English schools looking for? They’re obviously not looking for teaching skill. What they’re looking for is enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. English schools look for people who are sociable and friendly. They’ll hire you not based on your past experience or present skills, but on your future potential. Luckily, the demand for English teachers is so high that it’s not hard at all to land a teaching job as long as you’ve got the right attitude.

Adjusting to Life in Japan

Girl with Japanese friends

Photo by andreakw on Flickr

The toughest part won’t be getting a job; it’ll be getting adjusted to life in Japan. It’s good to surround yourself with Western friends who are easy to relate to, but you should also participate in Japanese life as much as possible. Enjoy your hobbies with the natives and make an effort to learn the language. Whether you stay for one year or a lifetime, getting involved in life in Japan will make a huge difference.

20 Responses to “Teaching English In Japan – What Every Newbie Should Know”

  1. Audrius Jautzemis  on February 2nd, 2012

    Dear Sirs/Madames,

    My name is Audrius Jautzemis. I am 45. I am interested in teaching English in Japan very much. I am a graduate of Vilnius Pedagogical University with a BA degree in teaching English and Pedagogy. I have experience of teaching English at a secondary school. Also, I have experience of teaching foreigners Lithuanian language because I have been teaching Lithuanian language the USA Peace Corps volunteers who came to work in Lithuania. I am familiar with Japanese work ethics because I have been translating “Canon” office machines’ user manuals into Lithuanian for over 15 years. I am interested in Japan culture. I have been practicing traditional karate for a few years and I have 5-th kiu. I really wish to come to Japan and to share my knowledge with the Japanese students and learn myself from the rich Japanese culture. I could come to Japan any time and stay there as long as necessary.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely Yours,
    Audrius Jautzemis

  2. Japan Australia  on February 3rd, 2012

    I highly recommend it. I lived and taught in Japan for over 10 years and it was a great experience. Most recruiters for English jobs in Japan will require the following:

    1. Native English Speaker
    2. Full Bachelor Degree (in any field)
    3. Basic Japanese Ability

    The market is really competitive now so they also prefer teaching experience and qualifications such as ESL, TEFL or CELTA.

    Japan Australia

  3. Corina van der Linde  on May 31st, 2012

    I would like to receive some information on the above. I have a three year Teaching Diploma from the University of the Orange Free State in South Africa. My major subject was English and my narive lanuage is English.
    I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.
    Kind regards

  4. dmatsus  on January 5th, 2013

    I would be interested in teaching English and moving to Japan.
    I am of Japanese descent and was born in the United States, I do speak Japanese having gone to Saturday Japanese school & studied in college as well. However the only practice that I get to use it these days is when I talk to my mother so I sound like a young Japanese boy talking to his mother.
    I do have a Bachelors degree in Communications, how do I possibly get started on this amazing opportunity?

  5. Travis  on January 6th, 2013

    Hello dmatsus. I know how hard it can be to find native speakers to practice with :) I know a lot of people have used Skype and systems like http://www.verbalplanet.com/ or free options to get some practice.

  6. shiffy  on January 31st, 2013

    Hi, I’m working in Switzerland teaching a Japanese boy English, Do you have a curriculum you recommend? Also which translator works most accurately, google seems to offer incorrect translation all the time..

    Thank you.

  7. Travis  on January 31st, 2013

    I typically use Google Translate to get a feel for the sentence, but you’re right, it doesn’t do the greatest job. I’ve never taught a language myself, but from a learners perspective I find variety of learning methods and shorter regular reviews works best for me.

  8. Julia  on March 10th, 2013


    I would like to teach english in Japan.

    Could you please let me know of any good web sites / companies I can apply through.

    Thank you

  9. Travis  on March 10th, 2013

    Hello Julia. I don’t teach in Japan, but probably the best place to start is looking at the JET program – http://www.jetprogramme.org/ They seem to be the top place for teaching jobs. Hope that helps :)

  10. Eager_student  on March 31st, 2013

    I am currently 16 years old, and have been to Japan. I am currently studying Japanese, and intend to teach English in Japan. Would would be an advisable degree to undertake at university to optimise my ability to attain this job? I think I will try and do a Japanese degree, but is there any aditional study that I should undertake?

  11. Travis  on April 1st, 2013

    Hello Eager_student. While I’m certainly not an expert in what it takes to teach English in Japan, starting to learn the Japanese language and taking courses in teaching English as a second language would would look great on a resume. You’ll almost certainly need a degree to get a visa but it doesn’t seem to always matter if that degree has anything to do with teaching.

  12. Norway  on April 18th, 2013


    How hard is it for non-native English speakers to find a part time job in Japan? I’m going to apply for a Working Holiday Visa in June, and was wondering how difficult it’s gonna be finding a job to support my stay in Japan. I have a bachelor’s degree and speak English fluently, although I have no experience teaching English.


  13. Paul Herson C. Lindo  on April 29th, 2013

    I want to work in japan. Can you help me to fin a job there?. Also , I can speak little

  14. Travis  on April 29th, 2013

    Hey Norway and Paul! Being fluent in English and having a full Bachelor Degree, as Japan Australia mentioned above, can really help. Specifically if you’re looking to teach English. Be sure to research your options and check out sites like Gaijinpot’s Jobs to get a feel for what’s out there and apply where you can. It’s always easier if you find a job before you go :)

  15. starfly606  on May 4th, 2013

    I want to become a english teacher in japan when i grow up but i still need to research a lot of things. I was wondering if you know if I have to get the degree in Japan or if it is possible to get the degree in another country.

  16. Travis  on May 5th, 2013

    Hello starfly606. Getting a degree in another country is fine :)

  17. Lynn Cullivan  on August 4th, 2013

    I’d second the advice to do some serious research, and suggest reading a few issues of O-Hayo Sensei http://www.ohayosensei.com It’s a free newsletter that reports detailed information (salaries, duties, required and preferred qualifications, visa/residence requirements, application deadlines/procedures, etc.) for all types of currently available English teaching positions (from tenured professors to kindergarten teachers) across Japan. You’ll quickly find out what kind of degree you need, how much different kinds of jobs pay, whether you can apply from outside the country, etc.

  18. neh  on April 18th, 2014

    Sir/ Madame, i am a cameroonian by nationality and live in camerronand english language is my first language. i possess a bachelor degree in telecommunications and network management and have teaching skills in different fields.
    I think i can take ovr the job of teaching as soon as possible and promise to do my best and be regurlar at all times.
    Thanks for your understanding, i remain yours humble applicant

  19. Mark  on September 22nd, 2014

    Hi. I’m 34 years old and currently teaching in China. I have about 3 years work experience teaching English as a foreign language. Unfortunately I don’t have a 4 year degree, just a 2 year college diploma in Information Technology. Is it possible to get a visa based on your work experience?
    Thank you so much for spending the time to read my comment.

  20. Travis  on September 22nd, 2014

    Hello Mark! In your case, it may be best to find a school that will sponsor your visa application, since you have the experience. I’ve never gone through the visa process myself, but you may have some luck applying for teaching jobs while in China :)

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