Requirements to Teach English in Japan: What Schools Are Looking for

Unlike many countries popular with ESL teachers, the requirements to teach in Japan are quite mild.  In fact, there are only 2 things the government looks for when deciding whether or not you are eligible for a Japanese working visa.

Schools and employers, on the other hand, are a different story and tend to be a bit more demanding when screening applicants.  You can also expect even more variation across different school types, something we will discuss in greater detail below.

First, let’s look at the bare minimum requirements to teach English in Japan.

Requirements to Teach in Japan According to the Government

  • Bachelor’s degree in any major
  • Native speaker

That’s it – not too bad, right?  To drive the point home, here is a recent posting from an ESL job in Japan:

japan requirements posting

Let’s look at each teaching requirements individually:

Bachelor’s Degree

Your bachelor’s degree should be from a 3- or 4-year university depending on where you’re from and can be in any discipline.  If you have an associate’s degree you are going to find it very difficult to find a teaching job as you only qualify for one type of visa.

Native Speaker

Unsurprisingly, Japan wants teachers with a strong command of the English language to educate their students.  It will be easier for you to land a job if you hold a passport from a native speaking country, but there are also two provisions for those who don’t that makes it easier to meet the requirements to teach in Japan:

  • 10+ years of education in an English-speaking school
  • 3 years of teaching ESL

This means that if you were educated in an English-speaking school system or have previous experience teaching English, you are still able to teach in Japan.

Here’s a great video that breaks down the requirements in a really simple way:

Now, let’s take a look some teaching requirements that schools might require in addition to these:

Requirements to Teach in Japan According to Schools

In addition to the government requirements, many schools like eikaiwas have their own additional requirements – here are the most common:

  • Background Check
  • A Maximum Age
  • Teaching Experience

Background Check

Unlike Korea, background checks are not yet a requirement to teach in Japan (unless you are applying for the JET Program).  However, more and more employers are asking for some sort of check and many teachers expect that it will soon be mandatory.  Reports vary but for not most applicants say a basic online or local check will suffice for most employers (note: the JET Program requires a national check like the FBI).

A Maximum Age

While not specifically stated by the government, older applicants will find it harder to get a job the closer they get to Japan’s retirement age of 60.  After 60 it’s still possible to get a job, but you will likely need to search much harder unless you have connections.

Teaching Experience

In almost all cases, teaching experience is preferred but not required.  This means preference will be given to applicants with a TEFL certificate but it will not prevent you meeting the basic requirements for schools in Japan.

If you’re looking for a TEFL, we recommend International TEFL Academy – take $50 off your course with this link!

Requirements to Teach in Japan by School

All jobs were not created equal in Japan and it’s worth spending a bit of time looking at the teaching requirements generally associated with the different types of schools.

Private Schools (EIKAIWA)

The requirements to teach in an EIKAIWA in Japan are generally the most varied of all the school types.  Due to being privately owned and operated, these schools are free to be creative with their requirements, but in the interest of staying competitive they almost never ask for more than the basics:

  • Native Speaker
  • Bachelor’s Degree

Public School (ATL)

The requirements to teach at a public school in Japan are very similar to those of a private school, but due to the popularity of such positions, the schools are much more selective.  What this means is that in order to land an ALT position in a good location you are going to need the basics plus:

  • TEFL or ESL certificate OR
  • Teaching experience

It is not impossible to get a public school job without these, but you will have a much easier time with at least one under your belt.

Related: The Complete Guide to the JET Program in Japan


Universities are the most selective employers in Japan and as such their requirements go beyond being a freshly-graduated native speaker.  Expect quality university positions to require the basic requirements in addition to:

  • A master’s degree in a related subject
  • Teaching experience or high-level certification (like a CELTA)


  1. hi i taught english many years ago in kyoto having just a bachelors degree. Now my son wants to do the same thing.. Can i ask you some questions please? thank yu!!


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