Life in Japan

Want to Teach English in Japan? Choose Wisely: ALT vs Eikaiwa

If you plan to come to Japan and work here,  the most common job you’ll end up with is teaching English.

But be careful! There is no such thing as THE teaching English job in Japan. In fact, there’s a huge variety and you might be confused when looking for a teaching position. So, today I want to introduce the two major options you’ll have:
Teaching at an eikaiwa (conversational school) or as an ALT (assistant language teacher).

Although both involve teaching English, there are some substantial differences and you should be well-informed before you make a decision.

 

ALT vs Eikaiwa – The Basics:

Work at an English conversation school (eikaiwa) almost always requires you to work from noon to late evening, simply because students are coming in after school or work. Class sizes are small, students are somewhat motivated as they (or their parents) pay for it. Usually you’ll teach the classes on your own. All (or at least the bigger part of) the responsibility (preparation, material, lesson plans) lies in your hands.

Working as an assistant language teacher (ALT) means that you’ll work in one or several Japanese schools (elementary, jr. high or high schools). Class sizes are huge (35-40 students are quite normal) and a lot of the students don’t care about learning English. Their motivation might be quite low. Usually you work during school hours (morning – afternoon) and a the Japanese English teacher of the class is in the room with you. While it depends on the school, you’ll certainly have less responsibility and less workload than in a regular eikaiwa school.

Here’s an overview infographic I created, for those of you who’re short on time: (*click to enlarge)

Teach English in Japan ALT vs Eikaiwa Infographic

 

This was just a rough summary of the differences. If you’re serious about landing a teaching job in Japan, you should read on:

 

The Salary:

I know that a lot of you are interested in how much you can earn as an English teacher in Japan. The average salary has been about 250,000 yen for many years now. A lot of “dispatch companies” providing ALT positions (e.g. Interac, ALTIA) often offer less than that. Unfortunately it’s common practice not to pay you the full salary in months with long vacations (August, December). Be very careful when choosing a job and read your contract thoroughly before signing it.

Your best option is to go with the JET Programme if you want an ALT position. They usually offer the highest salary of around 300,000 yen and pay the full amount even in months with a lot of holidays.

While the standard salary is 250,000 yen for eikaiwa schools, you’ll find a few that offer more. But be careful, often there’s a reason for the higher amount. It might be a position with a high workload or it might be in the countryside where a lot of foreigners don’t want to live it seems.

I wouldn’t recommend taking a job that offers less than 250,000 yen!

 

The Working Hours:

As an ALT you’re usually bound to the school hours and have the weekends off unless there’s a special event you might have to attend. Normally you’ll also have long vacations, though like mentioned, you might not get fully paid during that time.

I have no personal experience being an ALT and it certainly differs from school to school and city to city, but in most cases, you’ll have a lot of down time in the teachers’ room where you can pretty much do whatever you want. Most people use that time to study Japanese or read books. Others go crazy because they’re bored out of their mind. Some motivated ones try to create material they could use in class or come up with new lesson ideas.

As an eikaiwa teacher you’ll usually work from noon to the late evening (e.g. 1 p.m. – 9 p.m.) and most likely you won’t have the weekends off. Saturday is actually the busiest day for the majority of eikaiwa schools, so you’ll have to work on that day. Some schools are closed on Sun + Mon, so at least you’ll have two consecutive days off, but most of the time you won’t! In my first job I never had two days off in a row. That can be very exhausting.

Generally you’ll have less vacation time than an ALT teacher. You’re not bound to public schools’ vacation time. Depending on the conversation school you’re working for, you might get national holidays off or not. Pretty standard is to get 3-5 weeks off throughout the year, but each and every school is different, so check carefully before signing anything.

Working on Saturdays and until 10 p.m.  during the week also means that it’s harder to meet people or catch up with friends. But if you’re a night owl, then the working hours are heaven!

 

Duties and Workload:

Most likely you’re going to be busier as an eikaiwa teacher. You’re teaching several lessons a day with just very short breaks in between – if at all.

Your day is probably going to look like this: You’re coming in the early afternoon, preparing for all of your lessons at once. Then, you’ll teach one lesson after another. Finally, you can go home in the late evening.

It depends on how big the school is and how many teacher there are, but some small, family-run eikaiwas have barely enough staff members, so if you get sick, there might be nobody to take over your classes.

As an ALT, that’s not going to be such a big problem. If you’re sick, you’re sick. It’s not like they cannot do without you. Depending on the school(s) you’re working for, you might spend a lot of your time alone in the teachers’ room, bored. However, you might have to travel to different schools throughout the day.

There are special events you have to attend as an eikaiwa and ALT teacher such as school festivals, speech contests and usually there’s also an observation day where parents come in to see what’s going on.

Depending on the school, you might not only have to teach, but also help keeping the school clean, sorting material, creating new lesson material, selling products to students etc.

Especially when you’re teaching little kids as an eikaiwa teacher, you often have to be more of an entertainer than a teacher – being all happy-go-lucky, dancing and singing with the kids. This might not be for everyone – and that’s also a reason why some schools prefer younger teachers as they are worried older people won’t have the necessary stamina.

And I can see where this is coming from. If you teach little kids for several hours every day, it can be very exhausting. At least, I feel that way sometimes and I’m only in my early 30s. emoticon

 

Dress Code:

Most schools want you to wear proper business attire. As an ALT you might be allowed to come in casual wear. Again, this depends greatly on the school you’re working for. Some companies such as Interac have a rather strict dress code.

Usually business wear includes a suit and tie for men and a blouse and jacket for women, although as a women I’ve stretched the dress code quite a bit (especially in summer) and never got scolded. And just so you know, my Japanese co-workers did the same. emoticon

 

The Students / Customers:

Classroom sizes in public schools are fair big between 25 – 40 students. So, if you’re working as an ALT, it often feels rather impersonal. It might be hard to manage such a huge class even with a Japanese teacher around. Don’t expect all of them to be eager to learn English. Obviously, all the students in the classroom are pretty much the same age. You won’t get much of a variety throughout the day. If you want to learn more about what life is like as an ALT teacher, I highly recommend reading Baye’s book “Loco in Yokohama“.

As an eikaiwa teacher, you’ll have much smaller class sizes (1-9 students per class). Classes are much easier to manage and most(!) students are more or less motivated. You’ll teach the same students at least once a week which means it’s great for bonding with them. If you stick around long enough, you’ll see them grow up and you get to know them really well.  You’ll teach a variety of ages throughout the day. Usually you’ll start with the little ones at kindergarten age, then elementary and later that day jr. high and high school students or adult conversation classes. Of course, this means you need to be able to prepare a variety of lesson plans and get along with people of all ages, but it never gets boring.

 

Teaching Method / Material:

As an ALT, the teaching material depends on your particular dispatch company/school/team teacher. So, sometimes you’re allowed to design your entire lesson on your own, sometimes you have to stick to premade lesson plans.  Most of the time, you’ll be team-teaching with the JTE (Japanese Teacher of English), so especially for people who have no teaching experience this might be reassuring. Depending on your team-teacher it also can be hell, though. emoticon

As an eikaiwa teacher, you’ll be using the material and teaching method you’re school is using and promoting. There are several popular methods and materials out there and it would go too far to explain all about it. Most eikaiwa schools want their teachers to adapt to their system and then create their lesson plans accordingly. I’ve noticed that thus some schools are looking for young, inexperienced people as they fear that experienced English teachers might be too stubborn to follow the eikaiwa’s teaching method.

As long as it’s a good method, I don’t see any issues. You have a lot of freedom, but an already premade template you can follow. And most schools welcome new suggestions, ideas or material you created on your own as addition to what they’re offering.

The problem with the big chain eikaiwa schools is that you are often not only a teacher, but also a promoter. You’re supposed to sell things (CDs, books etc.) to your students. I’ve heard many people complain about that. As I’ve only worked for small, independent eikaiwa schools, I’ve never had this problem, though.

 

Speaking Japanese:

A lot of people ask me if it’s necessary to be able to speak Japanese if you want to teach English in Japan. The easy and short answer is: no!

BUT of course it will help greatly in your daily life if you speak the language of the country you’re living in! So, study, study, STUDY once you’re in Japan!

I’ll be honest. In my job as an eikaiwa teacher it helps a bunch that I can understand (and communicate) in Japanese. When I’m teaching 3-year-old kids who suddenly start crying and I’m the only adult around, I naturally speak Japanese with them to calm them down. It would be so much harder if they couldn’t understand me.
Junior high school students can be very rebellious and I’ve seen teachers who couldn’t manage a class simply because they didn’t understand enough Japanese to keep them under control.

That being said, a lot of eikaiwa schools actually forbid you (or at least ask you not) to speak Japanese with the students at all. It’s their only time when they’re immersed in English and if they think you cannot understand them, they’re forced to use English to communicate with you. While I understand this approach, it certainly doesn’t always work that way. And I get my students to speak only English with me, although they know I understand Japanese. Also, they know they can always ask me in Japanese if there’s a real problem (e.g. if they suddenly feel sick).

In most eikaiwa schools, the business language among co-workers is English. Usually all staff members can speak English to a certain degree, so you’ll mainly communicate in English (although that differs from school to school, of course). And I only communicate in Japanese with my co-workers these days.

As an ALT teacher, you’re immersed in Japanese. Everyone around you will most likely only speak Japanese. Some of the teachers in the teachers’ room won’t be able to speak English at all. Even the JTE (Japanese English Teacher) won’t be too fluent in English (trust me). It’s a great way to boost your Japanese skills and I can see it might be harder to work as an ALT if you understand close to zero Japanese.

98% of all job positions in the ALT and eikaiwa field won’t require you to speak Japanese, some might prefer Japanese skills, but it’s not a must. So, don’t be afraid of that, but make sure to study once you’re here (at the latest) because, hello, you’re in Japan now!

 

The Work Visa:

Last but not least we also have to talk about the work visa. Unless you’re a Japanese citizen, you’ll need a proper work visa. However, the type of visa you need for an ALT position is not the same as that for an eikaiwa one!

If you’re a native speaker of English, then you don’t have to worry. You can easily obtain either of these work visa types as long as you fulfill the requirements (passport of an English-speaking country, thus having been educated in English for several years, a BA / BS degree in any field). You can find the exact requirements for the “instructor visa” (for ALT) and “specialist in humanities” (for eikaiwa) when you click on the respective links.

It does, however, matter a lot if you are a non-native speaker of English. In my experience it is a little bit easier to obtain the “specialist in humanities” visa, simply because the rules about “being educated in English” are less strict than for the “instructor” visa. That means you’re probably going to have an easier time if you go for an eikaiwa position (and thus humanities visa) as a non-native speaker of English. Don’t take this for granted, though. You need a bit of luck as well and obtaining a visa in Japan is always an adventure anyways.

 

Where To Find Teaching Jobs?

Good question. Here are some great resources if you’re looking for an English teacher position in Japan:

The ones with the asterisk (*) are my personal favorites as I’ve found jobs through them.

 

ALT Teaching Positions:

The following companies offer teaching positions for assistant language teachers:

Eikaiwa Teaching Positions:

The following companies offer teaching positions for eikaiwa teachers:

 

What Should YOU Choose? ALT or Eikaiwa?

First of all, you should try to figure out whether teaching is for you or not. How? Well, just do it!

Before I came to Japan to teach, I thought I would hate teaching little kids. But I wanted to come to Japan so badly, that I just thought I should give it a try. I ended up loving it! You can read all about my “coming to Japan” story here.

This video shows the daily life of eikaiwa teachers. Take it with a grain of salt:

 

Like I said in the beginning of this article, ALT and eikaiwa positions are only the two major English teaching job opportunities. There are a lot more like working at international kindergartens or schools, working for companies to teach business English or even teaching at universities. The requirements for these kinds of jobs are usually higher and it’s harder to get in, so for “newbies” the two job types I introduced today are promising a smoother start into working life in Japan.

Which one is for you? I think one main factor to focus on is the working hours. Would you prefer “normal working hours” or are you a night owl like me? Then, working at an eikaiwa school might be the better option for you.

Another point you should consider is class size. As an ALT you’ll have huge class sizes versus smaller ones in most eikaiwa schools. Which would you prefer?

As an assistant language teacher you’ll be immersed into Japanese school life and it will also boost your Japanese skills (if you’re willing to study at the same time, of course). As an eikaiwa teacher you won’t see much of the typical school life, but you usually get to know your students really well and see them grow (up).

Only YOU can decide which is the better option. Sometimes it’s just best to try both. Maybe none of these two options is for you, but you won’t know until you try.

 

What’s Your Experience?

I know you might have a lot of questions even after reading this article. Feel free to ask me anything in the comments below and I’ll do my best to reply or write another article to help solve your fears, worries and any issues you might have.

However, I also think it would be very interesting to read about other people’s experience with teaching English in Japan. I’m quite sure that not everyone would agree to what I’ve written in today’s blog post and certainly everyone has rather different experiences, so please share them with all of us!

169 Comments

  • Thank you for wording this so carefully! I hope it is OK for me to add a couple of thoughts.
    Living arrangements are something anyone comparing jobs should look into. Some eikawa require employees to live in company owned housing. This can cause big problems for some people if they get married, want to get a pet, hate the apartment etc. Similarly on JET some ALTs get subsidized or furnished housing which is a great money saver but has the same problems of no flexibility. I know one ALT who wasn’t permitted to replace the bed she had been provided with even though she offered to buy a more expensive bed and leave it for her successor. Other JET ALTs get no assistance with housing at all, including no one to guarantee their apartments. It’s really important to find out these details before committing.
    I was a JET ALT for four years and I was worked ragged literally every day. I taught elementary and JHS, and if I was sick on an elementary day there was no one else to do the lesson~ the lesson was canceled and everyone would be very disappointed and sad. There was a lot of pressure not to take sick days! On the up-side, I had a very deep connection to my students and it certainly wasn’t “impersonal”. I taught the same kids through elementary and JHS, so I really got to see them growing up. I taught whole families of siblings and had tea at their grandparents’ houses. I still exchange letters with former students. As an ALT or as an eikaiwa teacher the relationship you have with your students is what you make it!

    • Sophelia, I really liked your comment!
      Thanks so much for adding some extra information. I absolutely agree that the “living situation” (apartment, utilities etc.) should be checked carefully before deciding on a company.
      I was lucky with my apartments thus far. My first eikaiwa even paid 50% of the rent. I could buy and put into the apartment whatever I wanted.
      The only thing that really bugged me was the fact that I couldn’t have any pets. Apartments that allow pets are usually a bit more expensive, so I guess that’s why most companies don’t provide those.

      I’m glad you shared your experience. It just shows how complicated it is to bring teaching jobs down to just a few bullet points. It’s impossible as experiences are so different. :)
      Sounds like you had an awesome time being a JET in Japan! ^___^

  • Hi, I’m an engineer in an electricity distribution company and manager from Australia. I’m interested in a 3 month – 6 month short term role in Japan.
    I’m 54 years young.
    I have rudimentary Nihongo skills, enough to get around on trains, shop, etc. I’ve been learning in an ad-hoc way for about 20 years and I’ve been to Japan 4 times on holidays.
    Have you got any suggestions about how to go about non-english-teaching and/or short-term roles?
    – Peter

    • Hi, Peter!

      I have to admit that I don’t know much about non-teaching job opportunities in Japan as I have no personal experience with it.
      I know, though, that there are some short-term teaching positions available, so check out the job sites I’ve linked to in this article.
      Westgate is a company providing short-term teaching gigs.

      However, I don’t think you’ll get a work visa for short-term employment.

      • Like Peter above, I’m 54 years old, but, I have 13 years experience teaching music to children in New York. I’ve been applying for ALT and Eikaiwa jobs for almost a year, and although I understand the amount of applications these companies receive for these jobs… It’s been a bit frustrating that I haven’t received responses for interviews. Am I over qualified? Do they only want 20-30 year olds for these jobs? They aren’t obligated to respond to applications they don’t accept, but it would be nice to hear from someone about why my resumes and cover letters get passed by.

        • I can only speak from my personal experience.
          Especially eikaiwa schools are generally looking for younger teachers as you do need a lot of energy to jump around, sing, dance etc. with the kids.
          That being said it’s not impossible to get a job. I would focus on those that don’t focus on little kids.
          Also, don’t apply in bigger cities, because everyone wants a job in a big city like Tokyo or Osaka. You have better chances in the Japanese countryside.

          Good luck and don’t give up! :)

          • Thanks for the reply.
            Yea, that’s a misconception on those companies part, since I do most of those things already. I walk up & down 6 flights multiple times a day with the kids, so energy isn’t a problem… I’m a musician teaching music… So singing isn’t a problem. These companies assume since you’re over 40 you’re ineligible. But, yea..I’ll keep trying. I’m cool with small cities. I just want to get out of New York!

          • I know and it’s sad, but it’s reality.
            There also are some schools who wouldn’t hire you if you look Asian because they prefer having a “Western face” teaching English. *shrugs*

            Good luck to you! ^_^

          • Hey,

            So im guessing all of these schools prefer Caucasian instructors over Asian instructor. I’m Asian, so how difficult would it be to find a teaching for me.

          • Not necessarily.
            I had two co-workers who were Asian. One was a Japanese-American, the other one a Vietnamese-American. They were both born in America and grew up there.
            They had no issues getting the job at all.

  • I was both when I was in Japan. Being in an eikaiwa sucked royally because you never had enough time to prepare for all your students during the day. Being an ALT was actually better depending on the teacher you had to assist. Some teachers were great and appreciated that a native English speaker was there to give the students extra help in pronunciation and just experience in general of how to read or speak. The bad teachers I worked with were bad in English and didn’t appreciate me being there. One kept spouting off English “rules” which in actuality are merely guidelines as there are more exceptions. And yes, you will find a lot of students who don’t want to learn English for whatever reason. These are the students that will help your Japanese improve.

    As for knowing Japanese, I recommend anyone going over there to at least pass the JLPT N3 first. Most people I’ve met are either really bad in English or they couldn’t care less in learning it. Besides you’re in Japan, so speak Japanese!

    For the companies themselves, Berlitz and Interac are terrible. The JET program is the best one, and there is a small company out of Tachikawa, Tokyo called CEC Gaigo that is really good, but they don’t sponsor visas. Most of the teachers for CEC have spouse visas through their wives.

    • Hi Jenny!
      Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. It’s great to hear from people who have actually worked in both fields and can compare accordingly. :)

      I have heard mixed things about Interac, but one definitely can’t go wrong with JET.
      I’ve only heard good things about Altia Central, although that was a few years ago. Things might have changed.

  • Great post Jasmine! Very detailed and informative. I’ve worked as both an ALT and Eikaiwa teacher in Japan and enjoyed both the experiences. They both have pros and cons to them, but I found the pros of the ALT position far out-weight those of eikaiwa. If you want to work in the public school system with professionally trained/qualified teachers then I would recommend going down the ALT route. The hours are usually somewhere between 8 am to 5 pm and I found that my Japanese ability really took off after becoming an ALT and using Japanese with my co-workers on a daily basis. The ALT life also offers you a great insight in to Japanese culture with all the events that take place around school.

    I can highly recommend ALTIA CENTRAL, who are based in the Tokai area of Japan. They have a great reputation for supporting their ALTs and providing them with industry leading training and teaching materials.

    • I would have loved to try ALT just for the experience, but it was very unlikely that I’d get the instructor visa. I really didn’t want to risk it.
      I’ve already been through a visa drama once because I’m not a native speaker of English, I didn’t want to have that again. ;)

      Seems like you really enjoyed being an ALT. Thanks for sharing your experience.
      I also only heard good things about ALTIA CENTRAL and they offered me a job once, but like I said, I didn’t want to risk not being able to obtain the instructor visa.

  • Hello,

    What an excellent and informative post! ZJ, you do a service to us all by hosting this awesome blog!

    I was wondering, does anyone have any further suggestions for reputable ALT and Eikaiwa programs? I’m tending toward the ALT programs, just because some friends who have taught in Japan had overall better experiences in the ALT realm, but I am definitely open to Eikaiwa programs.

    Also, does anyone have any advice on how difficult it is to obtain an ALT position? I know that the JET program is highly competitive, and ultimately, I’ve ruled that one out; nevertheless, I’m still intent on finding alternative ALT programs that treat their teachers well!

    Cheers!

    • Hello Rocco! :)

      Glad you find this blog post useful.
      I tried to list a few of the most ‘famous’ companies in this post, but in reality the list is endless.
      As for ALT positions, JET and ALTIA seem to be the best options, although I have somtimes also heard good things about Interac. People seem to have mixed experience with that dispatch company, though.

      As for eikaiwa, there are also the small, local, often family-run ones. You won’t find them unless they have a job offering on one of the job sites I listed above.

      I wouldn’t give up on JET from the start. Just apply. What do you have to lose?

      If you are a native speaker of English and have a BS / BA degree, then you’ll certainly find a job with either ALT or eikaiwa. The best positions out there are usually not entry-level jobs, so you’ll have to move on once you’ve got some teaching experience in Japan. Bigger cities are usually more competitive than smaller ones. So, if you don’t mind living in the Japanese countryside, you’ll have greater chances.

  • Hi,

    Thanks for sharing all that information.
    I was wondering, as a guy with no experience in teaching, no degree of any kind (I build Web Applications for a living), could I get a job as an English teacher in Japan,
    and if I can, is it nearly impossible and I should give up?

    Also my English is Fluent and my Japanese is OK.

    Thanks.

    • Hello Timur,
      You need to differ between getting a job and obtaining a work visa.
      Could you get a teaching job in Japan? Possibly.
      Could you get a work visa? Very, very unlikely.
      Now, if you were married to a Japanese citizen, that would make things easier as you could get a spouse visa instead.
      The working holiday visa is also an option, but only valid for a short period of time. Have you checked it you’re eligible to get it?

      • I did check it, and I was quite disappointed by the fact that I am not eligible since I’m not from any of the countries that allow it.

        Thanks a lot for the clear response, I guess I’ll just try finding a job in my field of work.

        • I’m sorry about that. It’s certainly easier to find a job in your field, especially if your Japanese is decent.
          It might be much easier to change jobs later on.
          Good luck!

  • Ken are you seeing this, yes this is what I mean by her incredible organizational skills!! Jasmine, You really laid this out so well and contrasted/compared the two major options available to foreign English teachers. When I saw the title, I thought, “Dang, I won’t be able to get much of this since I know I’m not going to teach English in Japan”, but WOW, I finally understood the (BIG PICTURE) system that they use in Japan for the first time.

    Even though I know becoming a teacher won’t apply to me, I found this post really really informative and very interesting! BTW, that video was like some gag anime (including the ever present falling boob grope – so Japanese). I really found it hilarious because it was so silly… No Duh; so thank you J., for giving me some great smiles and straightening out my views on the subject…LOL! :)

    P.S. I really liked Sophelia’s comments too.

    • I hope, Ken is doing well. He’s been rather quiet recently.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post although you don’t even intend to teach English in Japan. But I think it’s still good to know as it’s part of life in Japan. :D
      The videos are really nice. Kind of sad that they never continued after the few episodes.

  • I’ve always been interested in working & living in Japan but it seems difficult for non-native English speakers. Do you know if there are ways around the high demands like a Ba from an English-speaking country or 12+ years of education in a primary English environment, or companies that don’t have such demands? You went to Japan on a Working Holiday initially – if I remember that correctly? – but how did finding a job work concretely?

    • It’s not the companies that have the demands, really. It’s because you need to get a work visa which requires all that stuff.
      If you bring your own visa that allows you to work in Japan, companies might be willing to hire you even if you’re a non-native speaker of English … and maybe even without a degree.

      Usually, a company sponsors your visa, but they need to make sure you’re eligible to get it. That’s why most schools have those requirements.
      Well, and some really want super qualified people, but not all of them. ;)

      So, you could get a working holiday visa (yes, that’s what I did as well). It will certainly boost your chances!
      Or you could get a spouse visa if you’re married to a Japanese citizen.
      If you study in Japan, you’re on a student visa, but you can get a special permission to work part-time. Of course, you couldn’t work as a full-time English teacher in that case.

      I just applied to whatever sounded ok. At first, I only applied to jobs that didn’t say “native speakers only”, but “native English level”.
      Later on, I just applied to anything that looked ok.
      I did mention in my application that I already have a valid work visa (in my case the working holiday visa) and I also had certain qualifications and a MA degree which actually made me way more qualified than a lot of the native speakers who usually have a BA in a completely unrelated field. I guess that helped a lot. :)

      • Ah, then there’s a problem for me. I would need a company to sponsor my visa, as I can’t do a Working Holiday to Japan from my country & the only alternative would be finding a Japanese person to marry :bah:

        But thank you for answering my question! :D

        • Good luck anyways! I hope you can find a way!
          Prime Minister Abe is working on changes to get more (qualified) foreigners to Japan. So, who knows, maybe in a few years things will be a bit easier?
          (Though I really can’t imagine that.)

  • Thanks so much for the info! Every time I read more about the differences between the two, I am more confident that ALT is what I would like to try. :D It also makes me more impatient about visiting Japan already! Hoping to plan a trip for next year. Waiting is hard D:

    • Vettie,
      Waiting is hard, but it also has its good points. Pleasant anticipation is something great and you should enjoy it while learning as much about Japan as you can! ^___^
      I had to wait until I was 26(!) until I could finally visit Japan for the first time. Shortly after that, I moved to Japan and have been here ever since then.
      In my case, all the waiting was totally worth it.

  • What if one has a Masters degree in TESOL? Might one be able to teach at university, or is it something that is only attainable to people who already live in Japan and teach. Thanks, Nice article!

    • There are university jobs, but they are rare and thus highly competetive. Having a MA in TESOL will qualify you, but you’ll have to compete with others who have similar qualifications and maybe some years of teaching experience in Japan.
      You don’t necessarily have to live in Japan to apply for those jobs, though mostly it’s preferred. Things like that are usually stated in the specific job offer! :D

  • hi! i really liked how informative this post is. actually, just in the right timing to think things over.
    I saw in AEON’s website that they’re accepting applications here in my country and I’m just too enthusiastic to give it a go. I just came out fresh from college and I’ve been wanting to go to Japan in whatever means possible and with this i thought i should grab the opportunity. I think I have a decent command with the language and i definitely fit in with the work schedules though i personally didn’t have any teaching experience. Do you think AEON is a good start for me in gaining teaching experience? thank you so much!! :D

    • I have never worked for AEON, but there’s one thing I can tell you for sure nevertheless.
      You WILL get teaching experience there. To what degree might be another story, but that will qualify you to take ‘better’ jobs in the future.
      Teaching as an ALT or for eikaiwa schools (e.g. AEON) goes as “teaching English in Japan experience” right onto your CV and it can be worth a lot for future job / career aspirations.

  • Just stumbled upon this article while I was researching possible jobs in Japan and the idea of teaching students English actually seems like something I would enjoy. I’ve visited military friends who live on a couple of the bases there multiple times, and I’d like to try living in Japan for a while.
    My question is about the work visa part. I noticed on some of the companies websites that they require a BA/BS degree, but does the course of study matter? I have my BA in computer sciences and was wondering if that was relative.
    Also I have another friend who I mentioned this too and he is also interested, but he went to a technical / trade school and has certifications for his course of study but not a 2-3 year degree, is he eligible for either of the required work visas?

    Thanks in advance

    • For the work visa a BA/BS degree in any field will be ok as long as you are a native speaker of English (= holiding a passport of an English-speaking country).
      Most ALT and eikaiwa jobs also don’t care much about the details of your degree. All of my co-workers who were native speakers had degrees in fields that were totally unrelated to teaching. I’m the only one who has a MA degree in that field and that’s what helped me finding a job despite not being a native speaker of English.
      For “higher level” jobs (business English, university) you will need English teaching related degrees, certificates and most likely a MA degree! ;)

      The requirements for the work visa are clearly mentioning that at least a BA/BS degree is necessary. I think there are exceptions, but I wouldn’t count on it. I think it might be difficult for your friend.

      Hope that helps. :)

  • Hello, I just came across your blog today and I find it very informative!

    Anyways I am 27 (although people seem to mistaken me for 18 or 21, which is fine by me) years old and I just applied to ECC. I had debated for a while about teaching English in Japan, I have been interested in Japanese culture for as long as I can remember. I wasn’t able to do exchange but I kept coming across ads about teaching English in Japan. I first started off reading blogs of people who have taught or are teaching English in Japan and everyone does have different experiences but that inspired me to have my own. I did research on the companies and that’s when I took the chance and applied to the one I liked the most. That lead me applying through the Toronto office (it is closest to me compared to the others) and now I’m waiting patiently because I really would like to do this, and I think it would be an amazing experience.

    I will admit, I am VERY nervous. I think it’s more with the fact that I have never taught before than the fact that I will be about 6000 miles away from my hometown. Is that weird?

    I have done some of research about Japan, and still looking for more to learn about. I absolutely love how you give both pros and cons (at least of what I have read), that is really helpful and yes even knowing the cons I still really want to go to Japan. I want to have my own experiences there.

    I’m sorry for rambling, I just really want to say your blog is awesome and I would like to work and live in Japan as well.

    • Hello Christina! :D

      I’m glad that you find my blog helpful.
      I’ve mostly heard good things about ECC, so I’d say good choice.
      Everybody has different experiences with teaching English in Japan and nobody can tell you if it’s for you until you try it yourself, so I’m glad you chose to just try it. ^__^

      Not weird at all. I think that’s totally normal. It’s a big change in your life, so who wouldn’t be nervous?
      But don’t worry, things will fall into place! I also thought I wouldn’t be able to handle small kids and ended up loving it! :D

      Thank you. I try to give a realistic picture of what life in Japan is like and as everywhere there are good, but also bad things. People should learn about both before coming here. ;)

  • Thank you for all this lovely information! For the past several months, I’ve been scouring the Internet for everything I can find about eikaiwa life. I’m especially on the lookout for current info.

    I will be starting my year contract with AEON in November. I am excited, for many probably obvious reasons, and I’m also quite nervous, for probably equally obvious reasons. There is so much conflicting information on the Internet. So many disgruntled eikaiwa teachers proclaiming their horror stories for all to hear. Then there are the less frequent positivw accounts sprinkled here and there.

    My guess is that the really upset people are more likely to feel motivated to blare their trumpets online. Maybe just to vent, to garner sympathy, or to warn others.

    I appreciate all the horror stories, because they do allow me to mentally and emotionally prepare myself in a way that might have been inaccessible otherwise.

    I believe I can handle the workload and the sales responsibilities. I want to honor my year contract and not break it early. However I’ve certainly never had a job with this much responsibility and work. My biggest initial fear was that I’d fold under the pressure. I don’t expect that to be true so much anymore.

    Anyway, sorry for rambling. I guess I’d like to ask if you have any suggestions for coping as a foreigner, both assimilating and handling the demanding work schedule? Or do you have any other thoughts in general? I’m not sure what I’d like to ask. I just want to make contact with someone over there who might have some idea about what I’m going to be experiencing, come November.

    Are the horror stories a symptom of ill-preparedness? A hampered ability to cope? An unwillingness to work long hours? Mere inexperience? Do the majority of new eikaiwa (AEON) workers feel how the horror reviews suggest?

    • I know exactly how you feel because that’s what I went through many years ago.
      Yes, people who are frustrated are more likely to write about it online, so that’s why you can find so many horror stories out there and not so many positive words.

      I was worried about the working hours and that I might not be able to teach young kids. But I wanted to live in Japan so badly and make things work that I just focused on all the good things and I knew that it would be worth it. Once I was there, things were much better than I thought – although it took some time to get used to it, it’s really not bad at all.

      Relax, just let things happen and don’t panic. It will all fall into place! :)

  • I wouldn’t recommend taking a job that offers less than 250,000 yen!

    This is getting tougher and tougher! I recommend to new or future ALTs no less than 230,000. JET is def my first recommendation as well, but it is by leaps and bounds the hardest to get a job for. 230,000 is becoming the basic level for any ALT company that is not JET. Sad be true!

    • Yes, I’ve seen that trend with ALT jobs as well. There are just too many dispatch companies out there by now, I guess that’s why they can pull it off.
      Luckily you still can find some decent paying Eikaiwa jobs, though.

      I’d say it also depends on where you’re going to live. In a big and expensive city like Tokyo, 230.000 yen could be tough, depending on one’s lifestyle.

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