Teaching English in Japan

Japan Overview

After a slump in demand during the economic troubles of the late 1990s, the opportunities to teach English in Japan are growing once again. Well-known for being one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in, it can be expensive to make the move to Japan. However, teaching salaries are high – especially for those with experience or those on the JET programme.

There are various different options to consider but¬†it is inadvisable to arrive in Japan before you have secured a position.¬†Eikaiwa (English conversation schools), such as AEON, ECC and Berlitz, are good for urban placements but offer lower salaries. Local elementary and high schools employ English ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) and most of these positions are found via recruitment agencies such as Interac. Finally, the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) programme has an excellent reputation and is by far the best option, salary-wise, unless you have the qualifications and experience required for the lucrative yet elusive positions in International Schools. Be aware that JET participants are often given placements in rural areas and are expected to be ‘cultural ambassadors’ for their country of origin. Interviews for ALT/JET positions are held in cities in Canada, USA, UK etc. The JET programme even offers some positions to non-native English speakers.

Type of Institution Typical salary (USD/month) Typical hours Typical annual leave
Eikaiwa (English conversation schools) 2,000 – 3,200 (DOS) Various shifts but often including evening and weekend work 2 weeks plus national holidays
Employed as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) 2,500 – 3,500 8am – 4pm Monday to Friday plus some weekend work 6 weeks plus national holidays
JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme) 3,500 – 4,200 8am – 4pm Monday to Friday. Extra community work sometimes required in the evenings and on weekends 6 weeks plus national holidays
International schools 4,000 upwards 8am – 4pm Monday to Friday plus some weekend work 10 weeks plus national holidays

Main places for jobs

All major cities and towns.

Typical requirements

Degree, TEFL certificate, 1-2 yrs exp.

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1. You need to plan ahead. Recruitment agencies have strict annual deadlines for applications. These deadlines vary according to your country of citizenship. Bear in mind that positions are limited and there is considerable competition for them.

2. Think carefully whether you would prefer to teach in an urban or rural area. The JET programme is better for the latter and you need to apply in December for a September start the following year.

3. When applying for teaching positions, make sure you emphasise your interest in the culture of Japan and mention any language skills you have already. Your CV should be meticulously detailed.

Red tape

A degree is obligatory for those hoping to teach in Japan as you cannot get a work permit without one. Given that accommodation costs are so high, you will need some savings to help you through the initial period.

Cost of living

The cost of accommodation in Japan is very high and securing an apartment is expensive as you will have to pay agent fees and a large deposit. Medical costs can be astronomical so make sure health insurance is included in your contract or else arrange it yourself beforehand. Travelling in Japan is expensive but highly efficient.

Tax and salary information

Income tax is paid by your employer at the end of each month and you will be given a payslip detailing relevant deductions.


Excellent infrastructure – daily tasks can be accomplished easily High accommodation costs throughout Japan and lots of money required up-front when securing an apartment
Excellent holidays for those on the ALT or JET programmes You may need a large sum of money to fund yourself while you search for work
Teaching salaries are high The culture shock in Japan can be overwhelming

Directory of Recommended Schools, Language Centres and Recruitment Agencies

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Qualified English teachers please register with World of TEFL and we will contact you with relevant vacancies as they come in. This is a free service for teachers.


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