If Japan is your preferred location of choice for teaching English, you may be considering one of the various teach English programs and are after more of an insight into which one to apply to. Each program offers something a little different, whether that be working in a public school for the government, teaching in a private eikaiwa or teaching at a university, so there’s bound to be one that works well for you.
Salaries are competitive, and with benefits included like travel stipends and pre-arranged accommodation, teaching programs in Japan are a popular option for ESL teachers.
Read on to find out about the 5 best teach English programs in Japan:
JET – Japan Exchange and Teaching program
JET is a teaching program that places English-speaking teachers in public schools throughout Japan to work as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs). The program is aimed at young professionals who have an interest in Japanese culture, with ALTs being not only teachers, but cultural ambassadors.
The majority of JET participants are placed in small cities or towns and villages as urban placements are limited in number. You can specify three placement requests, but it’s best to remain pretty flexible as you could end up anywhere!
The start date for the JET program is in the summer, usually around August time. Doors typically open for applications from late September and close mid November. The application process is long and competitive, varying slightly between home countries, so you need to read up on the specific instructions and get started as soon as these doors open.
- Salaries start from 3,360,000 yen a year (approx $30,390 USD) for first year JETs, going up to 3,960,000 yen a year (approx $35,800 USD) for fourth and fifth year JETs
- 1-year minimum contracts, with the option of renewal
- Monday to Friday, generally 8am to 4pm
- Teaching time varies between schools, but expect 3-4 lessons per day, lasting 45-50 minutes.
- Assisting a Japanese teacher
- Class sizes vary
- Expect to visit more than one school in the area to which assigned you’re to
- Between 10 and 20 paid vacation days
- Benefits include accommodation assistance and flight allowance
- Be interested in Japan
- Hold a Bachelor’s degree or above
- Have citizenship from a participating country
- Be both mentally and physically healthy
- Have the ability to adapt to living and working conditions in Japan
- Possess excellent language skills in your designated language
- Haven’t participated in the JET Program for 3 years
- Haven’t declined a position with the JET program in the last year
- Haven’t lived in Japan for more than 6 years in the last 10 years
- Have an interest in maintaining relations with Japan beyond the program
- Agree to reside in Japan
- Be willing to obey all Japanese laws
- Have no outstanding periods of legal probation
You must also be interested in the Japanese education system, particularly foreign language education in Japan, interested in working with children and qualified as a language teacher (or be strongly motivated to take part in the teaching of foreign languages).
To find out more information about the JET program, including eligibility, the application process and what life as a JET is really like, read our Complete Guide to the JET Program in Japan.
ECC isn’t your usual teaching program. Instead, it’s a chain of private foreign language schools, providing English education to all ages. Be prepared to teach both adults and children as part of your contract. ECC teaches by full immersion method, meaning the classes are all completely in English. Don’t expect to speak any Japanese while you’re at work!
Unlike JET, teaching with ECC doesn’t comprise of a typical Monday to Friday working gig. Students generally study after school or work, so classes take place in the afternoons, evenings and weekends. It’s still a 5 day week, but your 2 days off won’t necessarily be at the weekend.
ECC have a variety of start dates from September 2019 and onward and it’s advisable to check their upcoming recruitment page, as this details when and where they’re recruiting throughout the year. They typically place their teachers around the regions of Kanto (Tokyo and Yokohama area), Chubu (Nagoya and Shizuoka area) and Kinki (Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto area).
- Monthly salary of approximately 270,000 yen (around $2,400 USD)
- 1-year minimum contracts
- 35 hour working week over 5 days, typically afternoons, evenings and weekends
- 5 to 6 hours of teaching time a day
- Teaching both adults and children
- Class sizes between 10 and 12 students
- Generous vacation package
- Benefits include pre-arranged accommodation, a travel stipend and commuting expenses
- Bachelor’s degree in any subject from a recognized university
- Native speaker of English
- Hold a valid passport from an English speaking country. If not, you must have the ability to obtain one
- Be able to participate in a 1-day recruiting session – this is a pretty lengthy day, involving a demonstration lesson, an interview and a fairly infamous written test!
- Start a contract in Japan within the next 3-12 months
- Commit to a minimum of a one year contract
- Have the sufficient funds available for relocating to Japan (approx $1,800 USD)
If you’re interested in applying to ECC, read our Complete Guide to teaching with ECC in Japan. This will give you more detailed information on all the essential aspects of the application process, eligibility, a typical working day and some reviews of ECC.
Another big recruiter for ESL teachers in Japan is Interac, which places teachers (ALTs) in elementary, junior and high schools. On top of being language instructors, Interac teachers are cultural ambassadors, sharing their background and culture to give meaning to what the students are studying.
Similar to JET, this is an ALT position, so participants work alongside a Japanese teacher in the classroom and a typical working week is Monday to Friday. Most teachers are assigned to teach in at least two school levels.
Interac hires all year round, but generally recruits teachers for the Spring and Fall. They tend to place teachers in rural areas, so participants should be open to a quieter existence! They do recommend that applicants hold a driving license because of these rural settings, but this isn’t an essential requirement.
- Annual salary of approximately 2.4 – 2.7 million yen (around $21,500 – $24,100 USD)
- 1-year contracts
- Monday to Friday, typically 8am to 5pm
- Teaching three to five 45-minute classes a day
- Working alongside a Japanese teacher
- Teaching children
- Class sizes will vary between schools
- Two week vacation around Christmas plus five personal days
- Benefits include accommodation assistance, commuting expenses and skill development programs/career progression
- Be a native-level speaker of English
- Have received an education, where the primary language was English, for at least 12 years
- Hold a bachelor’s degree or above, in any subject, from an accredited university
- Have the mental aptitude and desire for living/working overseas
- Be a team-player who qualifies as professional, flexible, energetic and cheerful
- Be less than 60 years of age
According to the Interac website, certain criteria can help increase your chances of getting on to the program. However, they aren’t essential requirements. These include holding a driver’s license, having some teaching experience and a teaching qualification, studying of a second language and having a basic level of Japanese.
Find out more by reading our Complete Guide to teaching with Interac in Japan.
AEON is a chain of private language institutes, focused on improving the conversational English ability of both adults and children. It has grown to be one of the largest and most respected eikaiwas in Japan.
Similar to ECC, classes are usually taught during afternoons, evenings and weekends as this is when the students are free. A typical working week is Tuesday to Saturday and teachers tend to teach both children and adults.
AEON recruits for teaching positions throughout the year, so it’s worth keeping an eye on their recruiting locations page to discover upcoming dates and locations for in-person interview sessions and where to apply. AEON places teachers in a number of regions in Japan, including Tobu, Shutoken, Chubu, Kansai, Seibu and Kyushu.
- A competitive monthly salary of approximately 275,000 yen (around $2,500 USD)
- Minimum 1-year contract
- 40 hour working week, typically Tuesday to Saturday, 12pm to 9pm (this will vary between institutes)
- Teaching five to seven classes a day, 25 hours a week.
- Teaching adults and children
- Varied class sizes
- 3 one-week vacation periods plus 5 paid personal days
- Benefits include accommodation assistance, a travel stipend and commuting expenses
- Hold a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
- Have a strong and masterful command of the English language
- Meet the requirements for a Specialist in Humanities/International Services Visa
- Ability to commit to a one-year contract
- Possess a genuine interest in the culture and people of Japan as well as in teaching and business
- Agree to work exclusively for AEON during the contract period
If you’re interested, check out our Complete Guide to teaching with AEON in Japan to find out more!
If you’re interested in getting a foot in the door in the world of university teaching, Westgate could be a great choice as it’s the only teaching program in Japan that places ESL teachers in higher education. They also run programs in junior high schools, high schools, and elementary schools.
Westgate is a private corporation, offering a typical Monday to Friday working week and a competitive salary. Their contracts start in both the Spring and Fall terms and are shorter than the other programs, between 3 and 7 months. They do offer a number of contract renewals to some teachers each term.
Their requirements are on the stricter side. They prefer their teachers to hold a teaching qualification, like a TEFL certificate, and have ESL teaching experience, on top of the usual Bachelor’s degree.
- Starting salaries for the university program from 260,00 yen a month (approx $2,370 USD) or 275,000 yen a month (approx $2,500 USD) depending on teaching experience. Salaries for the school programs starting from 280,000 yen per month (approx $2,550 USD).
- Short contract, between 3 and 7 months.
- Monday to Friday, typically 9 hours a day
- Up to 5 teaching hours a day
- Teaching at universities or schools
- Varied class sizes. Between 10 and 40 students at universities, 15 to 20 students in schools.
- Weekends and national holidays are typically days off. Vacation days not specified.
- Benefits include pre-arranged accommodation assistance, flight reimbursement and commuting expenses
- Hold a Bachelor’s degree or above from an accredited institution
- EFL classroom teaching experience
- TEFL certificate and/or a teaching qualification
- Some classroom experience with young learners (to teach in schools)
For a more in-depth break down of the program, check out our Complete Guide to teaching with Westgate in Japan.
The Job Summary for the Westgate program is contradictory. Point 3 states “typically 9 hours a day”. Point 4 states “up to 5 hours per day”. Which is correct?
Hi Charlotte – the 9hrs included office hours whereas the 5hrs are strictly teaching hours.
Hi, I am a single mom with a 3 year old and am looking to teach English in Japan with my little one. How child friendly is Japanese employment? Do they offer child care? Or a pre-k program for instructors children?
I have a BA, and am TEFL certified. I majored in Art History of Asia, and am a professional artist. I would like to teach in an rural area near Kyoto.
Hi Josie – I would not count on having an employer offer you any kind of assistance like that. At most you might get free tuition for your child wherever you teach but that’s not a guarantee either.
There is (or was) an opening at an international kindergarten in my neck of the woods. It is your only option, in my opinion. You will be allowed to place your child with the school as you work ( or you would decline any offer, right?!) Check out the Ohayo Sensei job newsletter and hunt for a kindergarten
Thanks for this! I’m a 28-year-old American woman approaching a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and a U.S. license to teach English Language Arts in middle and high school. Would I be a good fit at any of these workplaces?
Also, are there any programs that offer 5 month or half-year commitments?
Hi Ariele – Westgate has shorter contracts so that’s a good place for you to consider first! Also, with your skills and qualifications, you’d likely be a coveted member of any of these programs!
Great! This was super helpful! Thanks! 🙂
Westgate will have you working on a tourist visa…Japan may be the one Asian country you will never want to return to, but it is also the most advance Asian country out there…it’s a tall order to be blacklisted and deported…Wow! No thanks!
Does anyone have any advice on the best programs that support being hired with a spouse that would be traveling and living with you while there?
If I recall, any program that gives you a legal instructor visa will work – your spouse will need to apply for a dependant visa. I found this with more info: https://www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/english/html/travel_and_visa/visa/spouse-dependent.html
I would not recommend teaching English in Japan. There are certainly some great things about Japan. For example, the food and public safety are praise worthy. But, the negatives outweigh the positives. It has an aging and shrinking population, so it has lost its vibrancy. English teaching in Japan is more like working at a fast-food restaurant than a meaningful, intellectual experience. The hardest thing about learning Japanese there is that a significant amount of the population that, once you get to know them, will admit “we don’t like foreigners speaking our language.” If you do acquire the Japanese language, it will turn out to be pretty worthless. Knowing Japanese is about as valuable as knowing Latin. I’d recommend going to more vibrant, welcoming countries such as Vietnam or China.
Did you really suggest China over Japan? Every country has downsides. The challenge is learning how to live with them. And the majority of Japanese people I’ve spoken to, old and young, welcome foreigners. Though I do think they mean more of the Caucasian variety then anything else. As for English teaching, we, if you can get out of being an ALT and into either a direct hire position or university teaching, it can be a slog. Although, that also depends on how high your expectations are vs the reality.
My wife and I are certified teachers in the US. We are hoping to teach English in Japan over the summer. Any recommendations?
Hi Rob – if you mean you only want to teach for the summer then it will be difficult. Every contract is likely to be for at least a year and while there are short summer camps, they are almost always staffed by teachers already in the country. Or, did you mean that you’re looking to start a year contract this summer?
Was hoping to find a summer teaching opportunity and come back to the states next year.