If you’ve recently graduated from college/university and are at a crossroads at the start of your career Teaching English in Japan might be worth looking into. Believe it or not, English language learning is a multi-billion dollar industry, one that employs over 65,000 ESL teachers.
What Do You Need To Teach English in Japan?
To get a job as an English teacher in Japan, you must be a college/ university graduate from any field – (sorry but 2-year degrees won’t 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 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.
Does a TESOL or TEFL certificate is required to teach English in Japan?
Qualifications to teach English in Japan:
A bachelor’s degree is required for teaching English in Japan. Contrary to many people’s beliefs, it is not necessary to have a TESL or TEFL certificate to teach Although it helps to get better-paying jobs. Most of the top recruiters, those with recruitment centers around the world, do not need TESOL or TEFL certification. Some public schools and private recruiters prefer candidates with a TESL/ CELTA / TEFL qualification and/or previous teaching experience. Knowledge of the Japanese language is not required, but it can be useful to get a better job.
Also because these large recruiters pay the minimum wage of 250,000 yen per month (roughly $2100 U.S.) 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
Let’s start with money. You should expect a wage of at least 250.000 yen per month. This is an entry-level salary for those with little or no experience. However, be warned this won’t go that far in large cities like Tokyo or Osaka. You should expect a bit more to compensate for the cost of a living factor in these large cities.
Major English schools such as Nova, Aeon, Geos, Berlitz, and ECC also offer two-week paid holidays and most national holidays. Schools differ on national holidays, but the norm is between 8 and 10 a 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 you’ll be using theirs in house texts, tapes, and other support materials for teaching. For those who don’t have a lot of teaching experience, it helps reduce 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-year-olds up to 75 and 76-year-olds. 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 salarymen 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 it’s 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 things 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.
Recruiter Scams and Teaching in Japan
Teaching English in Japan truly can be the opportunity and experience of a lifetime. The chance to make life long friends, learn a new language, and start your international career off. It can be all this and it can be none of this. Along with the skyrocketing popularity of those hungry to experience, Japan has also come the unscrupulous recruiters and job placement organizations who promise the naive teacher the world and give them nothing.
Let’s look at some common methods recruiters use to lure unsuspecting teachers into unfair contracts, bad working conditions, and poor living conditions.
Often you’ll see ads that seem simply too good to be true. You may see ads that will promise or guarantee placement, personal apartments, free language lessons, piles of paid vacation all with the added allure of the chance to experience the unique culture of Japan.
Having said this, here is a shortlist of tell-tale signs that something is “fishy” or a scam.
1. The recruiter asks for fees upfront for placing you. The company that employs you will pay any legitimate recruiting firm.
2. They ask for “visa processing fees” or some other administrative fee. Payment of these fees is the responsibility of your employer and not you.
3. They don’t use a legitimate street address. Instead, they rely on a post office box address.
4. Any company that charges you for job leads claiming that they have an inside track on ‘great jobs” that never make it to the paper or the internet. The truth about getting good job leads is actually learning about them from other teachers who have worked those jobs and now are headed home.
5. Be suspicious of overly prestigious sounding names.
6. Get everything in writing and Look at the agreement carefully and make sure everything is in line with accepted labor practices. Ask in Japan ESL online discussion forums if something you discover in your contract is approved or is common in various other institutions’ agreements. (You’ll be shocked at how much you can find out in a short amount of time.
7. Never fall the “we will give you a work visa upon arrival”. (It is prohibited / illegal to teach in Japan without a work visa or other applicable visa such as a spouse visa.)
8. Don’t fall for a pressure pitch like “There are only 2 positions left, so we need a firm commitment from you now.” Have you not seen enough in the TV commercials that you should “call while stocks last” or “stocks are low”. The same.
9. Do not provide personal information, such as credit cards or bank details.
10. Do not even think about the company that does not give you an employment contract or one that will bill you per job lead.
Following this simple advice and using a little common sense will go along way towards making sure you never get caught in a recruiter’s scam.