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

  • Hi!

    I’ve been dating a Japanese girl and we’re talking about moving to Japan. Because I’m a US citizen, obviously, the easiest job for me to get, right of the bat, would be as an English instructor. I’ve been crawling your site for the past few hours at work (shhhh) and it’s been a huge help so far! However, I have a question that I don’t think I’ve seen anybody ask before.

    Even though I was born and raised in the US, my family comes from the Philippines, so I look Filipino. Is this important when considering how easy it’ll be to find a job as an English teacher in Japan? I’ve heard before, at least for Korea, that they prefer the typical white American when it comes to hiring ESL teachers because…well..they “look” American. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Hi Julian,

      It’s true that some schools prefer a “white face”, but there are lots of schools that don’t care especially if you’ve been born and raised in the US.
      Good luck to you! ^__^

  • Hello! Thank you very much for explaining the differences between being an ALT and teaching at an eikaiwa! I loved how organized your post is! Very helpful to find everything in just one place without scrolling dozens of websites. It made me realize I would probably like being an ALT more than teaching at an eikaiwa.

    As you probably imagine I wan
    t to live in Japan too. Unfortunately I am 31 years old, not from an English speaking country, I don’t have access to working holiday visa from my country, I don’t like teaching under 12 years old children, my Japanese is basic and I don’t have any diploma to certify my English level which I don’t think is native anyway…

    What I do have is a bachelor diploma (Faculty of Letters), a master diploma (Marketing), a high school diploma of Philology – English Intensive (I consider my English level to be fluent), I am currently learning to pass the N5 this December, 1 year experience in teaching elementary school children (but I don’t have a teaching diploma because my bachelor diploma allowed me to teach Romanian language if I would pass the national contest which of course I did), 4 years experience in Procurement-Logistics, 1 year experience in customer service (4 months I’ve remotely worked for Amazon US – phone and chat) and… the will to do what it takes to make my dream come true.

    I felt in love with Japan when I was in the 5th grade and saw Sailor Moon on TV but I’ve never had the confidence I can make it so I just read about how it’s like to live there. Luckily I was able to visit Japan last year for 10 days and since then I’m craving to go back and experience it more… Now I’m determined to do my best and find a way to get there but I’m afraid it is too late and all the doors are closed for me…

    What do you think? Is there a way to make my dream come true? I am prepared to learn, work, wait as long as it has to, but in the end to fulfill my dream. Question is: what should I do?…

    Thank you very much for your patience during my long message! :D

    • Hello Alexandra,

      From what you’ve told me it looks like you won’t get a work visa for being an English teacher in Japan.
      Please note that I’m not an immigration officer and immigration laws have become less strict recently, but from all I know it would be extremely difficult to obtain the instructor or specialist in humanities visa.

      Have you considered another job field instead and looked into that?

      There’s also the option to sign up to a Japanese language school in Japan and obtain a student visa, although you’d need some savings in order to do that.

      But don’t let this get to you. People also told me it would be impossible, but in the end I found a way.

      Good luck to you! ^___^

  • Thank you for your support! Yes, I was afraid you will say that… :( But I’ve came up with a plan: I will try to obtain a master scholarship next year (I will have 3 times to try that before turning 35…), I will continue learning Japanese and pass the JLPT tests, I will improve my English and get a diploma to certify my skills (which one you think it would be best? TOEIC, TOEFL, ESL, Cambridge?…) and it occurred me this crazy idea: to do a web design course (I think I would like doing that no matter if it would help me go to Japan or not). I wonder if front-end developers are wanted in Japan… I couldn’t find any on gaijinpot… :( Anyway, what do you think about my plan? Is there something more I could do?…

    • Always keep in mind that they have no reason to hire a foreigner for a job that a Japanese person could do as well. Why should they?
      Teaching English is such a great option, because a Japanese person cannot do it as well as most native speakers could.
      Engineering is also big. Apart from that most foreigners work as models, actors, translators or in the tourist field. Some even work as fake priests, but that’s usually only a part-time job.

      Gaijinpot displays what kind of jobs are available for foreigners who aren’t fluent in Japanese. If you couldn’t find any jobs there, that’s probably because there aren’t any available for foreigners.

      Browse various job ads and see what certificates schools are usually asking for. If I remember correctly ESL is quite popular, but things might have changed.

      All I can tell you is that you should study / learn something you’re personally really interested in without thinking if that’s something that could bring you to Japan or not. Because once you live in Japan you might relize that you don’t like Japan that much after all, you know.

      Good luck!

  • Hey, thanks for the great post! I have a question about Ekaiwa jobs and work hours. I’m looking into teaching for ECC in Tokyo. I taught English in Korea for a year, and my job required me to work 24 teaching hours. But the “hours” were actually just 24 40 minute classes. So I was wondering if the jobs that say they require 25 teaching hours are actually 25 full hours?

    • Hi Aaron,

      This cannot be answered easily. It really depends on each and every school.
      I’ve never worked for ECC, so I don’t know how it’s there.
      At the eikaiwas I worked for most classes were between 40 – 90 minutes, the majority 1h. I had about 4-5 classes a day on average.
      Kids classes are usually shorter, adult classes longer.

      I hope that helped.

  • Thanks for all of the detailed information here. It has been very helpful without having to scroll through multiple websites.

    I am 24 years old and currently a high school teacher here in the United States. I hold a Bachelors degree in Health and Physical Education and am also certified in Special Education. I have been teaching SPED at the high school level for the past 2 years (inclusion classes rather than self contained classes). I co-teach Multicultural Literature, 9th Grade Literature/Composition, World History, Environmental Science, and Coordinate Algebra, so I have had my hands in many different environments at the high school level. From all of the information that I have gathered, this seems to make me very qualified to be an English teacher in Japan. I would love to hear your feedback on this and what you would suggest as far as job searching and which route I should go (based on my work experience here).

    Also, with being in education here, my job goes from August – May. How does that conflict with the application process and starting dates for teaching in Japan. Would I need to stop teaching in May and find an odd job to keep me going until the Japanese School year starts? Can I find teaching job in Japan in the summer here?

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!

    • Hi Chris,

      There are different kind of schools and so you can find a teaching job all year round in Japan.
      There certainly are times where it’s easier to find a job but with your qualifications I wouldn’t be too worried.
      Why don’t you get the latest issue of “Ohayo Sensei” to see what’s currently being offered? You’ll also see that there are job positions all year round that way. :)

      I hope that helps.
      Good luck to you! ^__^

  • Hi, I am an aspiring teacher here in the States, but I would rather teach in Japan. I am 19 years old and am working on an AA while I teach a robotics class I began teaching halfway through my senior year.

    I am wondering if it is absolutely necessary to have a BA/BS to get a job in Japan? Even if I were to have a couple of years experience in teaching as well as a TEFL certification, will I still have to have a BA/BS.

    • I beg to differ between finding a job and obtaining a work visa.
      You could certainly find / get a job teaching English, but not a work visa without a BA / BS degree. There are other ways to get a work visa (e.g. working holiday visa, but US citizens cannot get that one, spouse visa etc.).

      So, yes you’ll find a job, but you probably won’t get a work visa. Depending on the kind of school you’ll be working for you either need a “instructor visa” or a “specialist in humanities visa”. You can google and read about all the requirements yourself to see if you qualify or what you have to do in order to obtain either. :)

      Good luck to you!

  • I love this article! I am starting with Heart School once an opening comes up and I am super excited. At first I was all for eikaiwa, but I decided that having time to learn Japanese was top priority. The pay will be lower with Heart, but I feel like I can make up the money by tutoring after school is out.

    How do you recommend getting students to come to you for tutoring without harassing them?

    • Hi Ashley,
      I’ve never done tutoring outside of school because my contract forbade it.
      I remember there was a website that brought teachers / tutors and students together, but I forgot the name of it.

      I know of teachers who started self-employment by just “stealing” some of the students of the school they previously worked for. That’s what a lot of contracts nowadays forbid such actions.

      Good luck to you! :)

  • Hello,

    First I’d like to say thank you for all this information. Teaching in Japan has always been on my radar, but I was alway afraid because it seemed like you had to jump through a lot of hoops to do so. But after seeing an old high school friend make her way to Korea to teach, I was encouraged to give it a try.

    I am hoping to go the ATL route because it seems to fit me the best for me (I currently have a second shift clerical job which blows). I am just unsure about certain topics that come up in the comments.

    1) What was the interview process like? Are they looking for a specific person other than someone who is young. I’ll be 25 beginning the next year but honestly, I don’t want to be a teacher. I do; however, want to experience a new culture and see what opportunities are available for me (and for all I know, I may like teaching).

    2. How long does it take to secure a visa? I’m a native English speaker (US Passport). Is the visa something you get after landing a job? (I know nothing if this process, so forgive me if the question sounds stupid)

    3. How did you handle your housing situation? Did you receive help for the company or did you have to figure it out on your own? The salary you posted looks to be around 2000USD, which doesn’t seem like much. But when I look around the internet for housing cost, sans insurance, it seems very manageable. At least to me, utility cost are low (or lower than what I expected), and the higher cost of consumer goods outside that are offset by a low cost of rent. Is there more there that I am missing (like insurance, which I have unfortunately not researched)?

    • Hi Meghan,

      I’ll try to answer your questions. :)

      1) It really greatly depends from school to school. I have very little experience as I’ve only had 2 jobs in Japan and both of them were with eikaiwa schools. I have no idea how the ALT interview process is, so I hope somebody else can share their experience with this. :)
      With 25 you have a very good age. Most schools prefer younger teachers. Of course there’s the image that younger people are fitter when it comes to teaching little kids, but most schools also have their specific teaching methods and they fear that older teachers (with more experience) might not want to accept their ways.

      2) I’m not sure if this has changed. I heard it has gotten faster in the past few years. Usually it takes about 2 months to get the visa. Your school will sponsor that visa for you. You shouldn’t come into the country before you haven’t gotten the visa. It’s illegal to work on a tourist visa, yet a lot of schools and teachers do that because the position needs to be filled right away and they cannot wait. That’s why you’ll see a lot of schools who look for teachers who’re already in Japan because chances are high they already have a visa and changing a visa or renewing one doesn’t take long at all. ;)

      3) I didn’t have to handle it. A lot of schools (and that’s pretty much the same for ALT and eikaiwa) will provide you an apartment or at least help you in finding something suitable. The really great jobs (e.g. JET) will even fully pay your rent, but don’t expect such a thing. ;)
      Haha, I can only tell you that I was able to save A LOT of money when I still lived and worked in Japan compared to now back here in Germany. My salary in Germany is higher, but after taxes it’s so much lower than in Japan. I cannot save any money at all although my general lifestyle hasn’t changed. So, all I want to say is that you have nothing to worry about. If you want to save MORE money, I suggest staying away from big cities, especially Tokyo. ;)
      Insurance isn’t so expensive. Depending on your school you’re gonna be enrolled into “shakai hoken” (google it) or you can apply for “kokumin hoken” (national health insurance) yourself.

      I hope that helped a little.
      What I did back then when I literally knew nothing was browsing the “GaijinPot” forums. The forum has shut down, but I think you still can browse old threads. It’s very helpful. :)

  • This is probably one of the best descriptions I’ve ever come across regarding teaching English in another country. Thank you so much for making the internet and world a better place:)

  • Thank you so much! This article was very helpful. And thanks for the wonderful resources and links. Very neat. Now I know that I certainly prefer eikaiwa to ALT.

  • Hello, I’m doing a HNC in Travel and tourism this year along with advanced higher Spanish. I’ve applied to 5 universities that would get me either an MA hons or BA hons it depends on which one accepts me, but the courses are, English and European Languages (MA hons), European Studies and European Languages and Culture (MA hons), Languages (Interpreting and Translating): French and Spanish (MA hons), Applied Languages and Translating: French and Spanish (MA hons), French Spanish and Professional Education (BA hons).
    I am a native English speaker but I don’t know if i would meet the requirements to work as an Eikaiwa, after I do a TEFL course. Would the working visa requirements accept an MA hons ? I heard it’s the Scottish equivalent of a BA hons. It’s really confusing me ><

    • Hi Bambi,
      if you’re a native speaker of English and you hold a BA/BS degree or even higher, then you shouldn’t have problems AT ALL!
      Actually, if you seem overqualified, some eikaiwa might hesitate to hire you because they prefer younger, inexperienced people that won’t complain about the school’s system too much.

      My German degree had a completely different name and Japan’s immigration offices couldn’t handle it, so I had my professor write an explanation in English that it’s equivalent to a MA degree. That was sufficient. Just to give you an idea.
      You shouldn’t have any issues at all! :)

      Good luck! ^^

  • Hi I am a native speaker but don’t have the darn BA because I really couldn’t be bothered to finish my BA. Is there any loophole or a way for a guy like me to work there even though my English skills are pretty good and all I’m missing is the darn paper. I understand they require it because it acts like a filter. Anyways if there is a way it would be nice thanks.

    • If you have at least 10 years of experience in the job you’d like to do in Japan, then that’s another option.
      You can obtain the working holiday visa depending on where you’re from. That will allow you to work in Japan for about a year.
      Or you can marry a Japanese (spouse visa).
      Or you can study at a language school and work part-time as an English teacher to support yourself (student visa).

      I’m quite sure there are no other options than that at the moment. :(

  • Hello Jasmine, thanks a lot for the article; I didn’t even have a clue about this system until I came across this post and that of Ken’s. I have a BA and a MA respectively in journalism and communication; worked as a newspaper reporter in English. The thing is I’m not a native speaker and totally have an Asian face. After reading your post I realized I should look at the countryside for an eikaiwa position, if there’s any chance for me to get a working visa to go over there. I’ve quit my job in order to go and only started to learn Japanese. My question is what certificates I should work on now to match the visa requirements. Ah, and I’ve taught Chinese for private tutoring. (btw, no schools want someone to teach Chinese in English?)

    • I’m very glad to hear that! ^__^

      Anything apart from teaching English in Japan is pretty rare. I once wrote about teaching German in Japan. It’s sad, but there are only very few opportunities and the competition is high.
      Actually by having a degree and work experience in doing something IN ENGLISH might(!) be enough to obtain a work visa. The thing with visas is that it’s not entirely set in stone and it depends on various factors, even the mood of the immigration officer. T_T …
      I fear you won’t know until you try!

      I’m not sure if you’re eligible for the working holiday visa, because that would be the best start for you. :)

      Good luck! ^^

  • Hello there,

    This is really an inspiring article! Hats off to you!
    I have a small clarification and would really appreciate if you could answer that. As for my background, I come from India(Non-native English speaker of course). I am currently applying for both Eikaiwa and Elementary schools directly and I personally believe that I have more chances of getting into an Eikaiwa job since I don’t have any professional experience teaching. But I do have voluntary experience though. I’ll be getting TEFL certificate in few months too. Now my question is that, if I am lucky enough to land on an Eikaiwa job, will it be possible to change jobs from Eikaiwa to a regular Elementary school? Will they consider my Eikaiwa teaching experience as a qualification to teach at a regular Elementary school?
    I am just worried that whether I have to live as an Eikaiwa English teach forever!

    • Hello,

      That all depends on whether you fulfill the visa requirements or not (you can easily google these). You need a different type of work visa for eikaiwa job (humanities visa) than you do need for elementary school (instructor visa). If all requirements are fulfilled, changing from one type of visa to another is usually not an issue at all. :)

      • Thank you for your reply!

        yes, I understand that there are two Visa categories for Eikaiwa and regular Instructor. If I have to rephrase my question, Can a non-native English speaker be considered eligible to apply for an Instructor visa?
        Because, as long as I have researched articles online, they have mentioned about Non-native English speaker getting job an an Eikaiwa teacher only. Are there chances for a guy like me to apply for Instructor visa?

        Thanks,
        Niranjan

        • I’m sorry. I have no idea. I only ever got the other type of visa, never an instructor visa.
          I don’t know how your chances would be and I’m quite sure that nobody can answer this question. You probably will find a few non-native speakers who somehow managed to obtain it, but that’s probably just pure luck.

          Have you ever tried eikaiwa before? Maybe you like it so much that you won’t even think about changing. ;)

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