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Types of School Where to work in Japan

ALT or eikaiwa teacher? Maybe you'd prefer to try your hand at university teaching?

There are a number of common teaching jobs in Japan which we compare here.

Although we do compare ALT against the other options, it also has its own page where we go in-depth into its differences to a usual teaching position and the different ALT options available.

Kindergarten

Like Kindergartens in most countries there’s not much straight up English teaching at this level, it’s mostly games and some minor educational activities like songs and flashcards. There’s less preparation, because of the kinds of activities you're doing and the hours are shorter because of the age of the kids.

We have an interview with a Japanese kindergarten teacher on the blog, part 2 in particular talks about the experience of teaching in a kindergarten, what an average day is like and the classroom environment.

ALT

There are opportunities to work in the Japanese public school system. Nearly all of them are as an ALT.

An ALT is an Assistant Language Teacher, who works in tandem with the native Japanese teacher.

There's more information on the actual duties of the ALT in its own section.

Important points

  • Less responsibility because you’re a teaching assistant.
  • Regular schedules, following the school day. Less work than teaching privately, partly because of the lower responsibility.
  • Salary and benefits will change depending on who you work for, JET has some of best in the country. Check out the ALT section for a detailed list.
  • You’re working at a public school not a business, as is the case with an eikaiwa. No need to worry about customer service or business targets.
  • A lot of the positions are likely to be rural especially on JET.
  • Class sizes are large.
  • More Japanese immersion. You'll probably be the only native English speaker at your school.

Private Language School (Eikaiwa)

These are private language schools, sometimes called English conversation schools and they provide a huge number of English teaching jobs in Japan.

English teaching in the public school system focuses on grammar, part of the reason eikaiwas sprang up were to supplement it with conversation.

Important points

  • You're a proper teacher and you'll get more responsibility than an ALT. You’ll be completely in charge of lessons and there’s a heavy focus on results and progression (it’s a business).
  • Less regular schedules, you’ll often be working evenings and weekends.
  • Salary & Benefits: Salary is usually 250,000 yen plus one month's bonus on contract completion. Accommodation is usually provided but not paid and airfare isn't provided.
  • It’s a business, you’ll have to be on the ball with customer service, be measured on targets etc.
  • A good social environment, lots of foreign teachers and your students are usually adults.
  • Class sizes are small, often just a couple of people.
  • Locations can be anywhere but the majority are in large cities like Tokyo.
  • The larger chains will often have all the materials prepared and ready for you.
  • You’ll be teaching people with a higher level of English, proper conversations are easier.
  • Because these schools are English immersion, it makes it harder to learn Japanese.

University Teaching Japan

One of the most highly desired teaching positions in Japan, University positions have good salary, excellent hours and vacation time. As you can probably imagine the competition for them also tends to be the highest.

You can split the jobs into three groups. Part time contracts (usually one year, set number of lessons per month), full time contracts (one – two years, usually renewable a couple of times) and tenure (contracted forever, the ultimate goal).

Qualifications

To start getting the part time and full time positions you’ll need at least:

  • An MA in Applied linguistics, TESOL, TEFL etc.
  • A couple of years experience (Preferably in Japan)
  • Japanese language ability
  • Publications (doesn't necessarily have to be in large journals)

As well as the actual qualifications, being involved in the community is a good way to in-directly improve your chances of getting these jobs. The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT), is the largest and most popular organisation of English language teachers in Japan with most areas having their own groups which you can join. JACET is another association specifically for college English teachers.

You might have noticed that teaching English at a Japanese University can be quite a hard to job to get (comparatively), to go for it properly you need some very specific advice and thankfully there are one or two excellent in-depth guides on how to transition into it:

Guides to Teaching English at a Japanese University

This is the best guide (2013) I’ve seen, written by a tenured professor at a Japanese university. The first half describes how to get contract work at a university, the second half focuses on how to get tenure. It also describes the market, salaries and plenty more. Click here to read it.

Slightly older (2010), this is a Q&A with a professor who has been teaching for 13 years in Japan. Again it’s more top class advice, although not quite as comprehensive or as recent as the previous entry. Click here to read it.

Both these links are a good place to start if you're thinking about it.

Business English Teaching

Teaching business English means you’ll be employed by companies who want to teach their employees extra English, usually because they have global clients and work.

It’s very similar to Eikaiwa work with a couple differences:

  • The salary tends to be slightly higher.
  • The level of English of your pupils will be higher

Private Teaching & Tutoring

Unless you’re with JET (who forbid teaching outside the job), teaching private lessons is usually legal in Japan.

Rates vary depending on where you are, usually somewhere between 2000 - 4000 yen per hour. Although they’re great supplementary income it’s usually difficult to support yourself with just private lessons if you’re considering switching over to self-employment.

Finding students is usually the biggest challenge, word of mouth is as always the best way to find people and spread your reputation, although a quick google for “private English lessons in Japan” will show up a raft of companies who offer to take a percentage in return for pairing you up with students.

Unlike working at a company, you’re now in charge of your own professionalism, you’ll have to organise lessons, set up all your own materials etc, but if you’re willing to put in the time it can be a great way to supplement your income.