Teaching in Japan in most cases means being an assistant language teacher (ALT) in public schools or teaching in Eikaiwa (private language schools). You teach English in both cases though what is meant by teaching may differ. If you are a certified teacher there are also some opportunities for you to practice your craft here in Japan.
Teach in Japan: ALT Jobs
By far the JET Programme is the best avenue for ALTs to come to Japan and work. There is a supervisor who helps you to set up housing and transition into life in Japan. You will also have other JET ALTs who have many groups to help a new ALT acclimatize. In addition, the salary is pretty decent and some placements may offer additional perks like rent allowance. It is competitive to make the final cut but it is worth a try. An ALT on the JET Programme will be assigned to elementary, junior high or high school. You can choose your ideal location in Japan when applying but know that you may not be granted your heart’s desire.
There are other companies that hire ALTs and outsource them to schools (elementary, junior high and high school). I was an ALT on the JET Programme so I do not know about these companies personally. I am merely sharing information on opportunities that are available here. GaijinPot, Ohayo Sensei and JALT Publications are good places to check for such opportunities. Do your research and google what others have to say about the companies advertising the jobs that interest you.
What Does an ALT do?
An ALT may do anything from practicing pronunciation of words in English with students to planning and executing a lesson on a variety of topics. The teachers that you work with at a school decide what they want you to do. It is therefore best to be open-minded and go with the flow as much as possible. Some schools may require you to sing and entertain the students in the lower grades as well as help with grading papers in other grades. You just never know until you get there. Some ALTs are assigned at a number of schools as well. Also for some postings a car is required and you may have to drive quite a ways from school to school. Generally, transportation expenses are covered by your employer. (double check this)
The big advantage of being an ALT is the fact that you can enjoy some school holidays off work. I say some because teachers in Japan get leave days which may be less than the number of holidays. Yes, you may be at work when students are off sometimes.
Is being an ALT for everyone? Nope, I have known people who have quit and gone on to other things after a while.
Teaching in Japan as an ALT means different things in different schools so expect the unexpected basically.
Teach in Japan: Eikaiwa (language school)
The links for the job sites above also advertise vacancies in language schools. Language schools cater to students who may be a few months old to 80’s and above, just about anyone interested in studying English. There is often a set structure to the classes and assigned textbooks. The bigger language schools also have training courses for teachers before they start teaching.
Teaching at a language school means that you are the only teacher in the classroom and the class size is relatively small. There are also private lessons as well. The lessons often start from around 3pm until 9pm on weekdays and 9-7 on Saturdays. It can be exhausting since in a popular school you may teach about 6 or more classes each day.
The bigger schools do have yearly leave allotments for teachers, please google the schools that catch your eye and read their reviews.
Teach in Japan:Jobs for Certified Teachers
The obvious jobs for certified teachers in Japan are at international schools. These are very competitive since many people seek after living and working in Japan. There are also jobs in schools and these are often advertised on GaijinPot.com as well. These jobs are most accessible to people already in Japan since interviews are done face to face.
Many schools are now offering the IB Programmes and require certified teachers in different subject areas. You can see a list of schools in Japan that offer IB Programmes here. Check their websites and look out for vacancies if you are a qualified teacher looking to teach in your subject area here. I am working at my second IB school now and it is a fulfilling experience with many opportunities for professional development. The salary and benefits at some school are more competitive than others but you will be able to live well enough.
When to Start Looking for a Job to Teach in Japan
You can look at any point in the year but the school year begins in April so many jobs are advertised from around November. The Jet Programme starts recruiting around early October. Check the sites linked above regularly and if you are abroad check for those that indicate they are open to hiring from abroad. It may take some time to find a suitable position if you are abroad so give yourself time. If you can afford to fly here for an interview it may be worth it if the company will sponsor your visa.
Read what you can about teaching in Japan before you embark on the journey. This is a good place to start.
If teaching in Japan has been on your mind or you are seeking for a way to live here for a year or more, I hope you got some food for thought. If you need more information shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best on your road to teaching in Japan.