Experience a unique mix of über-modern cities and beautifully serene landscapes in jaw-dropping Japan.
At the top of many English teachers’ bucket-lists, this enchanting country has everything you could possibly want from a TEFL destination: great teaching salaries, delicious local cuisine and a wonderfully rich culture to explore in your time off. From the world-famous Harajuku district in Tokyo, to the scenic gardens and Zen temples of Kyoto, Japan situates ancient architecture and traditional towns a stone’s throw away from futuristic cityscapes and state-of-the-art transport.
There’s something for everyone in this eclectic country. Experience a mix of natural and man-made wonders by hiking up Mount Fuji, discovering Arashiyama’s famous bamboo forest and wondering through the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine. Or, for a more modern experience, check out Kabukicho Robot Restuarant in Tokyo where your servers are androids and visit the Studio Ghibli museum to experience film exhibits brought to life!
With so many amazing places to discover and tons of teaching jobs on offer, it’s no surprise that Japan is fast-becoming the number one choice location for TEFLers the world over.
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Cost of living
TEFL certificate needed
Main job types
Public schools & private institutions
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There are two main types of teaching jobs you can apply for in Japan: assisting a teacher at a public school and teaching in private institutions. These aren’t the only positions available but they are, by and large, the most common. Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) roles are offered in primary, middle and high schools wherein you’ll work with a Japanese Teacher of English to help them plan and deliver lessons. You’ll spend most of your time coming up with ideas for activities, preparing resources and assisting the teacher in the classroom.
Private institutions can be separated into two types: ‘Juku’ and ‘Eikaiwa’ which mean cram schools and conversation schools, respectively. Cram schools get students ready for English exams (hence the name!) and conversation schools teach general conversational English for wider use. If you find work at a private language school, you’ll be expected to run your own classes and prepare your own lessons.
If you fancy a teaching assistant position in a public school, it’s best to start sending out your applications as early as possible – bearing in mind the school year runs from April to March – as many schools will advertise roles and start interviewing applicants months in advance. However, they do recruit all year round so you’ll still be in with a chance if you miss the first deadline!
Hiring at private institutions happens throughout the year, so it’s more flexible in terms of when you can send out applications. Although, there tend to be more hoops to jump through, so it’s advisable to get your application in sooner rather than later.
Essentially, if you’re searching for a TEFL job in Japan, try to get your application ready and sent out as far in advance as you can before you hop on the plane.
Private language school contracts will vary, but they’ll generally be around 26 hours (or more) per week for full-time positions and 13+ hours per week for part-time roles. It’s also worth noting that because they offer classes for students of all ages and levels, you’re more likely to be working afternoons, evenings and/or weekends. You can expect small class sizes of 10 students or less in private schools which is a stark contrast to public schools where you’d be teaching around 35-40 in one lesson.
If you choose to TEFL as an assistant in a public school, your contract will generally consist of 29.5 hours of teaching per week but you’ll realistically spend up to 40 hours in school (including breaks), assisting in up to 25 classes all-in-all.
As a full-time teaching assistant in a public school, you’ll earn approximately £1,650-£2,400 per month plus a possible attendance bonus (whoop!). Whereas, as a teacher in a private institution, you’re looking at a monthly salary of about £1,700 (or £850 for part-timers) and you might even bag yourself a sizeable completion bonus at the end of your contract.
It’ll come as no surprise to you that TEFL jobs in Japan are highly sought-after and with the market being so competitive, you’ll probably need a bachelor’s degree to win yourself a shiny new job offer. On top of that, you’ll definitely need (at the very least) 120 hours of accredited TEFL training from a reputable provider but the more training hours you’ve got under your belt, the better your application becomes. Check out our 320 Hour Diploma in TEFL if you want to give yourself a competitive edge when it comes to applying for TEFL jobs in Japan.
You won’t necessarily need any previous teaching experience but it’ll improve your chances of finding work if you can squeeze some teaching in beforehand – voluntary work or TEFL Internships are a great way to get some experience for 2-9 months if you want to give your CV an extra boost.
Contrary to popular belief, the cost of living in Japan is not as expensive as you might think. Although, as a tourist, you’d probably fly through your budget quickly; as a TEFL teacher, you’ll be able to live very comfortably on your salary.
Accommodation, for example, will set you back around £500 per month in the Roppongi district of Tokyo (for a one-bedroom apartment). This, of course, will vary depending on the area you choose to live in and bigger cities will always be considerably more expensive than smaller towns.
In Japan, eating at an inexpensive restaurant will cost you about £7 and a one-way metro ticket’s around £1.50+. You can always save money by the usual methods – shop local, use markets and they even have 100 Yen shops you can use for essentials like toiletries and cleaning products.
For teaching assistant roles, it’s popular for teachers to use a government-funded scheme called JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching). It’s competitive and the application procedure lasts a few months but if you’re successful, you’ll get a 12-month teaching placement at a public school – hurray! JET has placed teachers from over 73 countries in work and is one of the biggest international exchange programmes in the world.
Alternatively, if you’d like to be more selective about where you teach, you can apply for teaching assistant roles online via TEFL jobs boards such as LoveTEFL Jobs – this also goes for private school positions. The vast majority of private institutions are large companies who can afford to recruit abroad and sponsor teachers to get their visa so you might benefit from this, too.
Another option is getting a working holiday visa, hopping on the plane and applying to smaller schools in person. Obviously, you’ll need funds to cover yourself and this is a more risky process than applying online but it could pay off in the end!
Public school teaching jobs come with more holidays than private language institutions – you’ll generally get a break for summer at the end of July, winter in December and spring at the end of March. However, these may or may not be paid so if not, you could consider taking up online and / or one-to-one teaching work to make ends meet.
Some public schools will run classes throughout the year in which case you’d get fewer holidays, similar to private school work. In a private institution, you’ll probably have around 10 days paid holiday per year plus all of the main public holidays. The main point to keep in mind is to make sure you check your contract before signing so you know exactly how much holiday you can expect and when.
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