Because of the island nation’s unique cultural attractions and relatively high pay rate for English teachers, Japan is an alluring destination for many foreign ESL teachers.
Here is everything you need to know about the best TEFL courses for Japan and how pick one that will position you favorably in the Japanese ESL job market. We’ll compare the top-tier TEFL courses from the most reputable companies and rate them on their overall quality.
The Best TEFL Courses in Japan
Like any commodity, not all TEFL courses are created the same; some garner more respect than others, and some are not recognized at all by credentialing groups.
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Lexis TESOL Training Centre
Best BASIC COURSE
ITTT — Best Budget
International TEFL and TESOL Training (ITTT) has built its brand around quality and no-frills English-teaching training.
If you know fellow teachers who have taught English overseas, conduct an improvised survey by asking about where they earned their TEFL — chances are good that one of them attended an ITTT course.
In the eyes of Japanese employers and schools around the globe, ITTT is widely considered the quintessential “gold standard” for a basic but comprehensive TEFL training course.
If you want a reasonably priced TEFL certificate that is immediately recognizable on a resume when you send in your application, ITTT might be right for you.
ITTT’s Japanese TEFL campus is located in the capital city of Tokyo, right next to the subway, so it’s more convenient to explore the city or to “pound the pavement” for guerilla job searches.
The ideal location, though, does come with financial drawbacks – downtown Tokyo is one of the most expensive areas on Earth. ITTT can help facilitate accommodation, for example, but your monthly rent during your stay could be as high as $1,500.
The course costs $2,390 in total (lower than industry average), with $600 due upfront as a deposit.
- Very affordable (best “bang for your buck”).
- Straightforward, convenient, surprise-free payment.
- Training center located in the heart of Tokyo.
- Real Japanese students to practice with.
- Lifetime job support.
- Lots of start dates available.
- High cost of living in Tokyo city center (be prepared to pay more to eat, drink, and sleep).
- $600 due at time of course registration as deposit.
Lexis TESOL Training Centre — Best Overall
Lexis TESOL has training centers in Australia, Korea, the Philippines, and Japan. They instruct in excess of 12,000 students each year. Based on the solid reputation of the company and its expert staff, Lexis’ TEFL course graduates are favorably considered in the hiring process.
The Lexis schedule is more flexible than some rival TEFL courses. For its Japanese TEFL courses, learners can opt for a 4-week “full-time” course or the online/blended course that lasts 19 weeks in total, with 2 weeks of in-person training and the rest online.
The in-person Japanese TEFL course costs roughly $2,500 while the online/blended version will set you back $2,750.
For the 4-week in-person course, classes run Monday through Friday from noon to 8:30 p.m. – perfect if you are a night owl.
All course options come with 6 hours of assessed teaching practice and 6 hours of classroom observation from experienced professionals. For many, the feedback they receive from these observed teaching sessions is the most valuable and practical aspect of the course.
Instructors keep learners on their toes, including in the form of assignments in a “portfolio” due at the end of class (helpful if you appreciate extra “motivation” to stick to your coursework).
Lexis TESOL is the most comprehensive, expert-guided TEFL course in Japan, which has earned it the top position in this list.
- Observation by English-teaching professionals comes standard.
- Tons of oversight and feedback throughout the course.
- Fully developed and transparent syllabus.
- Highly respected company.
- Expert, experienced instructors.
- A bit pricier than other options.
- Greater time commitment required than for other TEFL courses.
TEFL International – Best Basic Package
TEFL International is a decent choice if your primary concern is saving money while retaining the job-search benefits of having a TEFL on hand from a reputable provider.
If that’s the case, TEFL International might be for you.
However, the company offers a much-scaled-down version of services and features compared to other courses. For example, the job support offered by the company consists of a list of outside resources to utilize rather than actively helping you locate a job based on your individual preferences and qualifications.
Again, if your sole reason to enlist in a TEFL course is the credential that an employer will recognize and respect without all of the “frills” of other courses, then you are wise to consider TEFL International.
TEFL International’s TEFL courses are accredited by the Teacher Training Council, Online TESOL and TEFL Standards Agency (OTTSA), and the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL).
- Extremely affordable.
- A decent reputation.
- High cost-benefit ratio.
- Generally positive online reviews from course graduates.
- Poorly developed website and platform.
- Limited job support.
Study CELTA – Best CELTA Course
CELTA is an acronym that stands for “Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults.” Despite common confusion, CELTA is actually a form of TEFL certification – and, in the eyes of many employers, is the most desirable.
If you browse ESL job boards, you’ll notice the frequency with which advertisers specifically list CELTA certification as a job requirement.
Study CELTA hosts in-person TEFL courses in Japan at two locations: Kobe and Tokyo. These courses run 5 weeks – a slightly longer commitment than the in-person industry standard of 4 weeks. Depending on financial concerns and how keen you are to explore surrounding Japanese destinations, this distinguishing feature could be a positive or a negative.
Just like Lexis TESOL, Study CELTA offers its learners the option as well of a “blended” online/in-person option.
The total course costs for Study CELTA courses are $2,500 for the in-person option and $2,750 for the blended.
All Study CELTA courses enjoy the iron-clad backing of the University of Cambridge.
- Highly-sought type of TEFL certificate (CELTA).
- Expertly developed British curricula.
- Backed by leading accrediting service.
- Popular with non-native speakers.
- Relatively heavy workload.
- Higher price tier.
International TEFL Academy — Best Online Option
While other TEFL providers perform in-person trainings or “blend” their courses, International TEFL Academy’s bread and butter is online TEFL training.
As such, the learning experience and curriculum is targeted for maximum effectiveness in an online model – rather than simply being adapted from in-person learning models without careful consideration of logistical challenges.
For this reason, many high-profile groups have recognized International TEFL Academy as the best online TEFL provider. The company has also been well-represented in media reports of the TEFL industry.
International TEFL Academy’s training is 170 hours (a significantly heavier time commitment than others). However, the course is stretched across 11 weeks, allowing for a more manageable workload.
The course costs $1,399.
- Lifetime of job guidance.
- Accessible from anywhere.
- Easy admission process (no tests).
- Regular live lectures, webinars and chats accessible to students.
- Lengthier course (11 weeks).
- No option for in-person consultation or training (a drawback for some).
Important: A Note on TEFL Credentialing
The reality is that the TEFL industry has been and remains a “Wild West” frontier. In terms of raw numbers of TEFL course graduates, the industry has grown astronomically larger and more unwieldy in recent decades.
As a result, you must rely on the guidance of TEFL accrediting bodies to steer you in the right direction. Look for a TEFL course that is certified – at a bare minimum – by at least one of the following TEFL accrediting groups:
- IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language)
- Teacher Training Council
- ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training)
- Training Qualifications UK (TQUK)
- ALTE (Association of Language Testers in Europe)
- British Council
- OFQUAL (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation)
- WTEFLAC (The World TEFL Accrediting Commission)
- ODLQC (Open and Distance Learning Quality Council)
With that caveat established, below is a roundup of the top TEFL courses in Japan that can help develop your skill set as an English teacher and ultimately land you a coveted ESL position at your school of choice.
Do you need a TEFL certification for Japan?
The requirements to teach English in Japan vary depending on the institution, but you generally only need the following to teach English in Japan:
- 4-year university degree.
- Native speaking status (hold a passport from a native English-speaking country OR have received 12+ years of education in an English-speaking environment).
Some teachers will benefit more from TEFL certification than others. If you have years of teaching experience under your belt already, for example, you may not need to “pad” your resume with additional credentials.
On the other hand, although many employment opportunities are open to you in Japan without a TEFL certificate, you will likely need TEFL certification to access certain higher-paying positions, such as those at private schools and international schools.
Factors to Consider When Selecting a TEFL Course in Japan
Smart TEFL course shopping should include weighing each of the factors below to determine if the course you are considering meets all of your needs and expectations as a learner.
Online vs In-Person
TEFL courses can be broadly divided into three distinct categories: all-online, online/in-person hybrid, or all in-person.
All-online TEFL courses are more convenient (assuming you have reliable internet connection) and can be equally effective for gaining skills and developing strategies for English teaching. They are also arguably safer in the COVID-19 social-distancing era.
Some people, though, prefer in-person learning modules because they are more “social” and because some learning styles are better suited to in-person environments.
Observation or Not?
For developing ESL teachers, observation by a seasoned professional can equip you with insights and tips that can prove invaluable once you find yourself “in the field” – i.e., in a classroom, on your own.
A key difference in many TEFL courses is that some offer an option for in-person observation and others do not.
Typically, 100 to 120-hour online TEFL courses do not offer their student-teachers the benefit of in-person observation. Other more comprehensive courses, on the other hand, often include observation sessions at the end of their courses to round out the instruction and instill confidence as you transition to your new job.
If you value observation by an experienced ESL professional, you may want to select a TEFL course with this feature.
Aside from gaining tangible teaching skills, of course, landing a lucrative and satisfying ESL job is the top reason why you are likely enrolling in a TEFL course in the first place.
In this pursuit, many TEFL providers offer assistance to their students following completion of their courses. When you take advantage of these resources, you are tapping into a network of schools, administrators, and fellow teachers that you would not otherwise have access to.
Because the English-teaching industry can be quite lucrative, the web hosts a myriad of companies that offer TEFL courses of varying quality – ranging from highly respected, established industry standard-bearers like the examples offered here to total scams.
Unfortunately, the burden falls on you as the consumer to navigate the TEFL waters – ideally, with the help of resources like this article that can guide you to the right course.
The Bottom Line on Finding the Right TEFL Course in Japan
The five companies that we discussed earlier are each reliable TEFL providers whose credentials can help you land your dream job in Japan. Although not having a TEFL certification is not necessarily a disqualifier for a position in Japan, having such an accreditation can significantly boost your attractiveness to a potential employer and ultimately get you where you want to be.