The Complete Guide to Teaching with Interac in Japan
An Overview of the Interac Program in Japan
Founded in 1972, Interac is Japan’s largest private provider of foreign teachers to the Japanese government. Interac teachers, commonly known as ALTs (assistant language teachers), work in elementary, junior high and high schools throughout Japan, with many teachers assigned to teach in at least two school levels.
While the main duty of ALTs is to be a language instructor, the position is more than just a teaching role as they also serve as cultural ambassadors, promoting cultural understanding and international communication.
Interac hires all year round, but tends to place the most teachers in schools for the Spring and Fall terms. Most of their positions are in rural areas, so Interac participants should be open to a quieter existence. They do recommend that candidates are able to drive because of these rural settings, but having a driving license isn’t an essential requirement. There are positions available in more urban areas, however, these are highly competitive and may be easier to transfer to once one or two years on the program are complete.
While the salary may be less than JET and other popular English teaching program in Japan, the Interac application process is shorter and appears less rigorous. Requirements include being a native-level English speaker and holding a bachelor’s degree. If you’re keen to teach English in Japan with a program that allows you to develop your teaching skills and provides opportunities for career advancement, Interac could be a great option.
In order to be considered for the Interac program, you’ll need to ensure you meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Be a native-level speaker of English
- Have received an education conducted in English for at least 12 years
- Have a bachelor’s degree or above, in any subject, from an accredited university
- Have the mental aptitude and desire for living and working overseas
- Be a team player who is professional, flexible, cheerful and energetic
- Be under 60 years of age
All applicants recruited from outside Japan are required to undergo a company paid health check upon arrival and annually thereafter.
Interac maintains a drug-free workplace and conducts drug screenings and random testing to all employees.
If you don’t think you can meet the essential Interac requirements, you won’t be able to apply to the program. If this is the case, don’t let this put you off teaching English in Japan, as there are plenty of other teaching English opportunities available.
According to the Interac website, the following criteria can help your chances of getting on to the program. However, they aren’t essential requirements:
- Hold a driver’s license
- Have teaching experience
- Have a teaching qualification, such as a CELTA or TEFL
- Have studied a second language at school or university
- Can speak some basic Japanese
Interac’s Global Resource Management Division in Tokyo provides ALTs with all of the necessary documentation, including a Certificate of Eligibility issued by the Japanese immigration authorities. This is needed in order to apply for a Japanese visa. The visa process can take up to eight weeks starting from the submission of the application and will be managed by Interac’s Global Resource Management Division.
FAQs About the Interac Program
Do you Need a TEFL Certificate or Teaching Experience?
Technically a TEFL certification, or any teaching qualification, isn’t an essential Interac requirement. The same applies to having previous teaching experience – it’s not part of the eligibility criteria.
Related: The Best TEFL Courses in Japan
However, as stated on the Interac website, having qualifications which go above and beyond the minimum requirements can mean additional consideration could be given to you during the selection process.
Do you Need to Speak Japanese?
No, speaking Japanese isn’t part of the eligibility criteria for an ALT on the Interac program. However, being able to speak Japanese may give you an edge over other applicants.
If you Haven’t Graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree Yet, Can you Still Apply?
Yes, but only if you’re graduating in the next six months.
Does Interac Require a Criminal Background Check?
Yes. Your recruiter will give you more information on how to obtain a criminal background check during the application, as this process varies from country to country.
Interac Salary & Benefits
Interac ALTs receive an annual salary of approximately ¥2.4 – ¥2.7 million yen (around $21,500 – $24,100 USD), paid in equal monthly payments. If money does become tight, Interac ALTs can take on secondary jobs without breaching their contract, as long as it falls within the limits of their visa and doesn’t tarnish their image as an educator.
Initial Money Requirements
ALTs arriving from overseas will need to have approximately 500,000 yen (around $4,500 USD) available in accessible cash (not credit card). This is to cover costs associated with setting up an apartment and sustain an ALT until the first payday.
Interac ALTs generally live in their own private apartments and are responsible for the moving-in costs, rent, furnishings and utility charges. Set up costs range from 250,000 to 300,000 yen (approx $2,200 to $2,700 USD) in suburban or rural areas, to 350,000 yen (approx $3,100 USD) in Tokyo or other urban areas.
These set-up costs include the total amount for the first two months of rent up-front. Rent itself ranges from 50,000 yen (approx $450 USD) in rural settings to 80,000 yen (approx $700 USD) in urban areas, a month. Interac does assist ALTs in the search for an apartment and will act as a guarantor if required.
Interac ALTs are responsible for organizing and funding their own transportation to Japan, including airfare.
Interac will reimburse commuting expenses.
On top of the weekends and national holidays, Interac ALTs are usually given a two-week break from the end of December until early January, to cover the Christmas and New Year period. The Interac contract also entitles ALTs to 5 personal days after the first 90 days of continuous employment. It’s recommended that these days are used to cover sick days.
ALTs are required by law to enroll in a health insurance plan recognized by the Japanese government and will be able to enroll in the National Health Insurance (NHI) system. In the first year, Interac participants pay about 5,000 yen (approx $45 USD) a month. In the second year of employment, this fee will likely increase.
Training and Orientation
Interac provides a pre-departure E-learning program, initial orientation and training, ongoing training and living support.
Skill Development Programs and Career Progression
Being an Interac ALT is a great opportunity to develop skills that will benefit you in any career you may undertake. Interac claims on its website to be the only ALT company that takes the career development of its employees seriously by supporting their self-study, growth and development.
Interac have designed a Career Navigation Program (CNP) to help ALTs understand their motivations, preferred communication and learning styles, and then provide them with tools to enhance their skills. The CNP also provides opportunities for advancement within their organisation into positions such as Head Teacher, Management Trainee, Trainer, and Managing Consultant.
Interview Process, Timeline & Location
If you’re interested in becoming an Interac ALT you can apply through the Interac online system – this is a great summary video of the process overall:
The application process is shorter and quicker to complete than the counterpart JET program, but is still pretty comprehensive. It can be broken down into 7 steps:
Seminar and/or Online Interview
Interac may invite you to participate in a seminar and/or interview. If you live in the United States, Canada, Jamaica, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland this usually involves attending an event in a major town where applicants complete a grammar test, one-to-one interview, and a recorded demonstration lesson. Details about this, including what you need to prepare, will be sent to you in advance. If you don’t live in one of the countries mentioned above, an interview will likely take place by Skype.
Your recruiter will provide you with a list of documents you must submit, but expect to provide the following:
- A copy of the photo page/inside cover of your passport
- Two identical ID photos in business attire, taken within the last 3 months in exact accordance with certain specifications
- Resume (in addition to your application)
- A photocopy of your university degree
- One original, non-returnable, certified letter of graduation that certifies your graduation status OR one original academic transcript issued by your university
- Results of your Criminal Background Check
- Copy of your TEFL, CELTA, TESOL, PGCE or other types of certification (if applicable).
- Copy of your driving license (if applicable)
There are two tracks for Interac ALTs when it comes to placement and arrival in Japan: regular track and alternate track.
ALTs on the regular track will likely know their placement at least one month before their scheduled arrival in Japan. Upon arrival in Japan, these ALTs will complete their initial orientation and training before moving to their placement and beginning their teaching assignments.
ALTs on the alternate track will likely not know nor be confirmed into their placement prior to arriving. There may be some time between completing the initial orientation and training upon arrival in Japan and their placement being notified and confirmed. In the interim, these ALTs stay in temporary accommodations on full salary and may be requested to complete short teaching assignments and/or office tasks until the final placement is notified and confirmed.
Generally, Interac ALTs who haven’t been notified and confirmed into placement by one month before the tentative arrival will be offered the opportunity to come to Japan on the alternate track. Every year it’s routine for Interac to ask a certain percentage of new ALTs to come to Japan on the alternate track as some positions open up late in the process.
When to Apply
Applicants can apply all year round, but the main hiring seasons are Spring and Fall. These seasons coincide with the Japanese school year, which begins in April, and the end of the summer vacation, which is late August. Most ALTs beginning their teaching positions in April.
Spring is the larger of the two recruiting seasons, and applicants are recommended to apply by early November, but applications are generally accepted between June and December. Fall recruits are recommended to apply by early May, with applications generally accepted between January and May.
Many of the Interac ALT positions are in rural areas and will require driving. Interac will consider any location preferences applicants may have, but their FAQs about the positions state that they are ‘more likely to entertain’ the application of a candidate who is willing to take any placement and is willing to drive.
It’s recommended that Interac candidates are flexible with their location preference, are open to living in most, if not all, prefectures and willing to accept a rural assignment. Positions in urban areas like Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka are very competitive and are usually filled by domestic candidates who are already living and working in Japan.
What’s the Job Like?
Interac ALTs work with Japanese teachers to facilitate the teaching of a school’s English curriculum. Working hours are 8:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday, typically teaching three to five 45-minute classes a day.
Duties may include preparing worksheets, modeling pronunciation and reading, demonstrating target language dialogues, along with other similar tasks. ALTs are commonly asked to review and comment on students’ homework notebooks and other written work, as well as conducting one-to-one or small group progress assessments.
On top of being a language instructor, ALTs are cultural ambassadors, sharing their background and culture to give meaning to what the students are studying.
When researching Interac, we came across mixed reviews. Similar to other teaching programs, experiences seemed to be dependent on the schools the ALTs were placed in and what their Japanese coworkers were like. Some raved about their placements, others struggled with dominant coworkers and language barriers. The salary got its fair share of mentions about not being substantial enough, while the work-life balance seemed to be a popular positive.
Japan Guy Review: My First Year Teaching As An ALT In Japan (Part 1)
“Looking back on my first year, the best thing that happened to me was that I got placed at a great school, with great kids, and genuinely nice teachers”
The Japan Guy writes about all the ‘gooey goodness’ of being an Interac ALT in part one of his review. Part two of the review is all about the downsides. Both articles offer an insightful look into the world of an ALT.
A Day in the Life of an ALT in Japan
“Basically you’re a jack-of-all-trades- relating-to-English.”
Finding Kendra writes a blog breaking down a typical day as an Interac ALT in Japan. It’s quite a detailed insight into the duties and responsibilities inside the classroom as well as what life is like outside the classroom.