If you’ve recently graduated from school and are at a crossroads in the start of your career, Teaching English in Japan might be worth looking into. Believe it or not, the English language learning industry is a multi-billion dollar one that employs over 65,000 ESL teachers.
Whats Needed to Teach
In order to get a job teaching English in Japan, you’ll need to be a college graduate from any field (sorry but 2 year degrees wont cut it.) You pretty much also need to speak English at native level fluency. There are some that do find teaching jobs in Japan even though English is not their first language, but this is more an exception to the rule.
You’ll also need a working visa in order to work legally in the country. Most employers will take care of this for you. Working visas are good for one year with extensions being from 1 to 3 years for U.S. citizens.
Another very helpful trait is an interest in Japanese culture. When you fly 10,000 miles east, things get pretty different pretty fast. So having a desire to experience Japanese culture is helpful. Not from the standpoint of getting a job but from the standpoint of enjoying the experience. Those who don’t have a natural curiosity or desire to experience Japanese culture, usually don’t last that long.
What Isn’t Required
Contrary to what many believe a TESL or TEFL certificate is not required in order to teach. Although it does help getting higher paying jobs. The majority of the large recruiters, the ones that have recruitment centers all over the world, dont require TESL certification.
Also, because these large recruiters pay the minimum wage, they also don’t require much teaching experience. In fact the bulk of this industry runs on recent grads.
General Information About Teaching English in Japan
Lets start with money. You should expect a wage of at least 250.000 yen per month. This is a entry level salary for those with little or no experience. However, be warned this wont go that far in large cities like Tokyo or Osaka. You should expect a bit more to compensate for the cost of living factor in these large cities.
Large English schools like Nova, Aeon, Geos, Berlitz & ECC will also offer 2 weeks paid vacation and most national holidays off. Schools differ on which national holidays they observe, but the norm is 8 to 10 per year.
Expect to work close to 40 hours per week. Each school is different, but you can expect roughly 22 to 29 actual teaching hours per week with the rest being office hours. A typical teacher will work 5 days per week with Sunday and another weekday off. Teachers with seniority may get Saturdays and Sundays off. Typical office hours are filled by grading student work, taking class notes, preparing future lessons or just chatting with students. Most schools also will provide you with health insurance or subsidize it.
Larger chain schools, mentioned above, usually have a fixed curriculum. This means youll be using their in house texts, tapes and other support materials for teaching. For those who don’t have a lot of teaching experience, its a helpful in reducing stress (there already is quite a bit in adjusting to the culture and learning the language etc.) Those who need to express their creativity in the lesson will probably find it stifling.
Students who will be assigned to your class will probably be of all ages. Literally from 5 to 6 years old up to 7 and 9 year old’s. Some schools deal specifically with children or adults, but because of the competitiveness of this industry, most schools cater to all ages. Student wise, you can expect a healthy dose of children and young professionals like office ladies and salary men, as they’re called to make up the bulk of who you teach.
Most of your large chain schools will provide you with some type of accommodations. This is a very big help as its difficult to find accommodations on your own without the help of a Japanese national. Not to mention being very expensive. Although the type provided will vary, expect the rooms to be on the small side.
Teaching English in Japan surely is an experience best taken with an open mind. For those with an interest in Japanese culture, it surely can be one of the most enjoyable and lucrative ways to experience Japan.