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How to Find Teaching Work in Japan
A two-week trip is great, but spending some time actually living in another country provides a far richer experience of its culture. If you're interested in Japan, one way to get to know the country is to get a job as an English teacher.
What Are the Requirements for Teaching English in Japan?
Teaching experience is not essential. You don't need teaching experience to get a job teaching English in Japan. A lot of schools have their own method of teaching, so they often prefer somebody who can adapt to their teaching style. In many cases, foreign teachers are hired simply because they are foreign. Parents pay for their children to get used to somebody who isn't Japanese and adults sometimes get a thrill from chatting to a westerner.
You need a degree to teach in Japan. At the very least, a Bachelors degree is required before you can get a work visa. It doesn't have to be in English or Education, but you do need a degree.
You don't need to speak Japanese. In fact, many employers prefer it if you don't. You are there to speak English. Even in daily life, you will find plenty of Japanese who want to help you and practice their English. Shopping, eating out and travel is possible without any Japanese. However, many people who spend some time in Japan, will want to learn the language.
You need to be adaptable. If you come from a western country, life in Japan will be very different. It's a whole different mind-set. If you don't think that you could cope with being dropped in an environment which is alien to you, then working for a Japanese company isn't for you. If you want to make the most of an experience teaching in Japan, you will need to be flexible, open-minded and ready to embrace the unexpected.
You need to be prepared for hard work. A teaching job in Japan can be hard work. It's not a holiday. The Japanese are famous for their work ethic. You won't be working the same crazy, long hours as a typical salaryman, but you will be expected to pull your weight. There will be time to explore Japanese culture during your days off though.
Where Can You Teach in Japan?
The big cities provide the most opportunities for teaching work. Tokyo is an amazing city, a vibrant and dynamic place. Japan's second city Osaka is also good. Surrounded by beautiful mountains, Kobe is another excellent choice. There are opportunities for teaching work all over the country though.
- Public Schools: A lot of people start out with a place on the JET Programme. This scheme aims to promote international exchange between Japan and other countries. Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) on the JET programme help Japanese teachers in public schools. This usually involves providing help with pronunciation, helping with the preparation of teaching materials and participating in extra-curricular activities. ALTs stay with the JET programme for a year. Many then go on to other public school teaching jobs. The academic year in Japan starts in April, so schools hire before then.
- Private Schools: In Japan, children don't just go to public school and then head home to play in the evening. After school, they go to private schools for more lessons. Eikaiwa gakko (often just called Eikaiwa) are private conversation schools. Parents send their children to them in the hope that they will improve their chances of getting a place at a good university. Adult students go there either there because they think English will help them with their job or they are bored housewives who have hours in the day to fill. Foreign teachers are often a selling point for these schools. ECC, Aeon and Berlitz are three big chains of language schools in Japan. A couple of other big chains GEOS and NOVA went bankrupt a few years ago, but they still have some schools up and running. There are also lots of smaller schools. Eikaiwa's hire teachers all year round.
- Universities: Getting a job in Japan at a university is difficult, unless you are properly qualified. You will normally need at least a postgraduate qualification. One possibly way to experience university teaching life is to get a job at a conversation school on a university campus. You can find such a position with Westgate Corporation. This organisation places teachers for short-term (3 month) positions at universities. There are two main intakes: spring and fall.
- In Companies: If teaching English to children doesn't appeal to you, there's always the option of teaching in companies. Sometimes this can involve split shifts: early mornings and late evenings. Jobs within companies are available all year round.
How Can You Find a Job in Japan?
So, where do you go, if you want to find an English teaching job in Japan? There are a number of websites out there with fairly active job boards.
- O-Hayo Sensei is the oldest teaching jobs-in-Japan magazine. Published twice monthly, the electronic newsletter reports English teaching jobs at universities, jukus, public schools and companies all over Japan.
- GaijinPot is a resource for foreigners in Japan. As well as jobs, the site has info on apartments, as well as articles on life in Japan.
- As well as ads for teaching, IT work and modelling assignments, Jobs in Japan contains a range of classified ads. You can find language exchanges, apartments, computers, sofas or even true love among the small ads.
- Dave began his website Dave's ESL Cafe back in 1995. The site continues to host lively discussions between teachers about their experiences in various countries. There are also ads for jobs in a range of countries, Japan included.
The World is Your Oyster
Teaching English is a great way to travel. Susan Griffith gives a good overview of the opportunities in her book Teaching English Abroad. Once you've taught in one country, it's not too difficult to find another teaching job elsewhere. After Japan, there are plenty of other countries. Stay in East Asia and hop across to Korea or China. Alternatively, there's Europe or South America. As an English teacher, the world really is your oyster.