Different Kinds of English Teaching Jobs in Japan
English teaching is arguably the entryway of a foreigner to Japan and there are tons of them. With the ever-increasing demand for native English speakers, there are numerous opportunities for those who want to come and work at the Land of the Rising Sun. Here are the most popular English teaching jobs you would want to try.
Literally meaning “English conversation”. These are privately owned conversation schools that employ native English speakers to teach English to people of all ages. Class size and demographics may range from preschoolers to retirees and from one student up to a dozen per class. Schools usually have their own materials and you are given a bit of preparation time. Also, each school/company have their own rules and regulations so this may mean stricter dress codes for some and longer working hours for others. It may also mean some eikaiwa schools would have a focus on “grammar” while others focus on “energy and personality”.
Salary-wise, the average monthly salary would be 250,000 yen though some companies offer more. Working hours run around 8 hours, of which 5-6 of those hours are class times and again some schools would require their teachers to work more (some offer a bigger salary to compensate). Vacation times are generally few, you get around two weeks off during summer and a week off for spring and winter vacations (it may vary). In addition, you rarely get two-day weekends off. Most of the companies that I know have a Tuesday-Saturday schedule and start their classes in the afternoon until late evening.
ALT (Assistant Language Teacher)
Being an ALT is one of the most popular entryways for foreigners aside from the abovementioned eikaiwa teacher. Basically, ALTs work for public school ranging from kindergarten to senior high school. There are generally three ways you can work as an ALT: the JET program, dispatch companies, and direct hires. Pay varies between companies but you usually get paid 300,000 yen in the JET program, 230,000 – 250,000 yen at the various dispatch companies, and 250,000 – 300,000 or more for direct hires. Direct hires are usually the most sought-after positions and most boards of education require Japanese ability. The JET program also pays well but positions are often in places where few foreign teachers tend to go.
The job itself is pretty simple and straightforward. Depending on the school and board of education you either assist the Japanese teacher or teach the class while the JT assists you (sometimes they just stand at the back and let you do all the work, go figure). Materials are provided or you make your own. Primary school and secondary school ALTs have different responsibilities too so you should watch out for that.
Being employed in the public school system, you get to have weekends off, though sometimes you’re encouraged to join school activities, these usually fall on a weekend. Long vacations are also a big PLUS. You get two weeks off for winter and spring vacations and a long 5-6 week layoff during summer. On the flip hand, you don’t get fully paid during these vacations if you’re working for a dispatch company (some do offer full pay). So a caution there. Lastly, although Japanese ability is not required, it is very USEFUL. Most Japanese teachers can’t speak English so often times than not both of you resort to gestures to understand each other.
Private School Teacher
This is a step-up from both eikaiwa and ALT. If you’re serious about teaching English, some private schools, that is, kindergarten to senior high school, offer teaching jobs to foreigners and this can be a very lucrative source of income if you plan to stay in Japan for the long haul. International schools fall into this category. Again, the job description varies from school to school but normally you get to have control over your classes and content. Though more responsibilities await you, you get to be more involved and have more opportunities to climb the corporate ladder.
Pay and other benefits are high and some recommend a Master’s degree to at least get considered. Most of the foreign teachers at private schools that I know started off as ALTs and Eikaiwa teachers and eventually wound up to their jobs through networking, connections and taking a higher degree. These jobs are often tenure-track too so few teachers leave these kinds of jobs, which makes it harder to get into. Most of these jobs are not publicly advertised and you have to at least be in Japan for quite some time in order to sniff out these opportunities.
As with private school teaching, this is a significant step up among all the teaching jobs in Japan. University teachers really do well for themselves in terms of benefits, pay, and time-off. In terms of pay ratio to teaching time, these jobs offer the best pay. University teachers commonly have control over the content of their classes but are often required to attend committees and do research. But with all the benefits comes a very hard nut to crack. Unless you have a higher degree, preferably a Ph.D., loads of academic papers, and an extensive network, you’ll find this job to be very hard to obtain. And that’s not the end. There is a particularly high rate of turnover and most contracts are uncertain. Still, if you work extensively on your credentials and connections, with a little bit of luck, you might be able to land one of the few tenured openings out there.
So there you go. These are just some of the most common teaching jobs in Japan available. There are a lot more out there and most of these jobs have their pros and cons. What might work for some won’t necessarily work for others so you should consider what’s best for your situation and personality. Teaching English in Japan isn’t for everyone but it’s a good option for those who want to experience Japan firsthand and make a little bit of income on the side.
© 2018 David Denver