What Are The Basic Requirements To Teach English in Japan? (2023)

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Wondering how to become an English teacher in Japan? Learn what qualifications you need to teach English in Japan including education, citizenship, visa, and age requirements.

Written By: Chelsea Hendrickx|Updated: December 19, 2022

(Video) BECOME AN ENGLISH TEACHER (ALT) IN JAPAN | Complete Requirements | My Journey

Written By: Chelsea Hendrickx

Updated: December 19, 2022

What Are The Basic Requirements To Teach English in Japan? (1)

What Are The Basic Requirements To Teach English in Japan? (2)

Is the land of the rising sun beckoning you to its shores? Do you dream of having a picnic under cherry blossoms by day and drinking sake at the karaoke bar by night?

The Asian market is one of the largest in the world for English teachers. Japan, in particular, has one of the longest traditions of employing English instructors. The Japanese Government started an official English Teaching Recruitment Program as far back as 1978, bringing native English speakers to the various islands of Japan to help teach Japanese speakers. In addition, thousands of Americans & other foreigners teach English in private language institutes that cater primarily to adults.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become an English Teacher in Japan?

There is a high demand for English teachers in Japan and high competition. To teach English in Japan, you will need a TEFL certification and a 4-year college degree. You must be a native English speaker without a criminal record. You can expect an average salary of about $2,500 - $3,000 USD per month.


Qualifications to teach English in Japan

Now let's look at the following requirements to teach English in Japan in detail:

  1. Hold citizenship from a recognized English-speaking country

  2. Have a Bachelor's Degree from an accredited college or university

  3. Possess a clean criminal background check

  4. Pass a health exam & drug test

  5. Meet the age requirement

  6. Pay basic start-up costs

  7. Hold a TEFL certification (typically required)

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1. Hold Citizenship from a Recognized English-Speaking Nation

Citizens from the 'Big 7' (U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) are highly desired. However, highly qualified candidates from English-speaking countries in the Caribbean may also get hired in some cases.

Citizens from other countries may also be eligible for a work visa if they meet the following condition: they must possess documented 12+ years of education in an English-speaking school or hold 3 years of experience teaching ESL. However, bear in mind that many schools still prefer to hire exclusively from the Big 7.

2. Have a University Degree

Another requirement for how to be an English teacher in Japan is having a university degree. A Bachelor’s degree/diploma from an accredited college or university (4 years in the U.S./3 years in the U.K.) is required to teach English in Japan. This degree does not need to be in Education.

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3. Possess a Clean Background Check

By clean background check, we mean an original national-level criminal record check (from the FBI for those in the U.S.) free of charges or convictions. A criminal background check is not technically required to receive a work visa to teach English in Japan. However, many schools will require it. If something shows up on your record, it will be up to the school to decide if they want to extend an offer or not based on the offense.

For the JET Program specifically, an FBI background check is required. Furthermore, if you have ever been arrested, charged and/or convicted of any offense other than minor traffic violations, including any juvenile offense, you will not be eligible for the program.

Read more: How Do I Get a Criminal Background Check for Teaching English Abroad? [U.S. citizens]

4. Pass a Clean Health Check & Drug test

Japan is very intolerant of drug offenses as a whole. Anything drug-related will likely bar you from most schools in Japan, as will violent crimes or crimes against children. Many schools will also conduct drug tests for their teachers.

(Video) Qualifications You NEED To Teach English in Japan🇯🇵

What Are The Basic Requirements To Teach English in Japan? (3)

5. Meet The Age Requirement

The mandatory retirement age for Japanese citizens is 60. As such, schools are often reluctant to hire teachers above that age.

In practice, schools strongly prefer teachers in their 20s and 30s due to various cultural perceptions of English teachers.

However, if you’re outside the demographic and have your heart set on Japan, don’t give up hope just yet. If you show patience during your job search and flexibility with the schools, you may still be able to secure a position in Japan. Additionally, knowing that you can be hired in advance from abroad means there is little risk in trying.

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6. Save For Start-Up Costs

While schools in Japan tend to pay very well and provide great benefits, we recommend teachers go to Japan with between $2,600 to $4,200 in savings.

Japan has a high cost of living. Landlords sometimes employ a concept called “key money,” which is a mandatory “gift” payment to the landlord upon rental of the apartment. This is usually anywhere from 1 month’s rent to 3 months’ rent which you won’t get back (think of it as a security deposit that doesn’t get returned when you move out).

Not every landlord will request key money. If your tenant does, you should have enough savings to be able to pay it upfront. Rest assured, given the high pay for teachers in Japan, you’ll be able to recoup this cost over the course of your contract and still be able to save money.

7. Hold a TEFL Certification

Reputable private language schools in Japan will typically require that their teachers be TEFL certified. Though TEFL certification is not technically an application requirement to teach English in Japan with the JET Program, it is highly recommended due to the competitive nature of the program.

Here are some recommended options for getting your TEFL certification for teaching English in Japan:

(Video) Everything You Need to Know About English Teaching Companies in Japan ll 2022/2023

  • 4-week TEFL Course in Nagoya, Japan
  • 11-week 170-Hour Online TEFL Course

What Are The Basic Requirements To Teach English in Japan? (4)

Finally, during the process of applying and interviewing for English teaching positions, prospective teachers should expect to be able to produce the following documents. This list also works for when you're getting your visa processed at the consulate after signing a contract:

  • A Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degree/diploma;
  • A Sealed college or university transcript;
  • An original national-level criminal background check (FBI in the U.S.);
    • *Note: Some schools will require this while others do not.
  • Passport photos;
  • The Original contract (to be provided by your employer for visa processing at the consulate);
  • An original passport that is valid for at least one year.

Go Further:

  • Japan is One of The Best TEFL Countries to Make Money
  • Japan is One of The Best Countries for Teaching English Abroad
  • What are The Basic Requirements for Teaching English Abroad

Chelsea Hendrickx

Chelsea grew up in South Florida and attended the University of Florida. Following graduation, she hopped on a plane to Japan and participated in the JET program for two years. Chelsea has worked as an Admissions Advisor at International TEFL Academy for more than 3 years and has assisted hundreds of ITA students to teach English in Japan and around the world.

Want to Learn More About Teaching English Abroad & Online?

(Video) WHAT ARE THE BASIC REQUIREMENTS TO TEACH ENGLISH IN JAPAN? #howtoapply #englishteacherinjapan

Request a free brochure or call 773-634-9900 to speak with an expert advisor about all aspects of TEFL certification and teaching English abroad or online, including the hiring process, salaries, visas, TEFL class options, job placement assistance and more.


What qualifications do I need to teach in Japan? ›

Bachelor's degree: A bachelor's degree is essential for any formal teaching job in Japan, but any major will suffice! Native English speaker: You must be a native English speaker from one of the following seven countries: U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa.

What are the basics of teaching English? ›

7 tips for teaching English to beginners
  • Keep instructions clear and simple. ...
  • Let them listen first. ...
  • Drill, repeat, drill, repeat, drill… ...
  • Establish classroom language early on. ...
  • Avoid metalanguage. ...
  • Don't forget that your students are fluent in their own language(s) ...
  • Prepare well, prepare a lot, keep them talking.
Jun 15, 2017

What are the essential qualifications of a English teacher? ›

Qualifications for English Teacher
  • 2 years of experience teaching.
  • Comfortable working with students of different levels.
  • Great speaking and writing skills.
  • Ability to create lesson plans.
  • Certified by the state board.
  • Ability to pass a background check.
  • Great interpersonal skills.
  • Great grammar knowledge.

How much Japanese do you need to know to teach English in Japan? ›

You don't need to speak Japanese to teach English in Japan. Your classroom will be held entirely in English to fully immerse your students. However, you can learn Japanese if you wish, and many schools offer free Japanese lessons for teachers.

How hard is it to get an English teaching job in Japan? ›

Teaching English in Japan without a degree is close to impossible. In fact, landing a job in Japan in general as a foreigner without a degree is really, really tough. That's because regular working visas in Japan require you to have a university degree (a four-year Bachelor's degree in the United States).

Can you teach English in Japan without being a native speaker? ›

Teach in Japan

It is possible to get a job in Japan as a non-native speaker, but it's not easy. If you can prove you've received twelve consecutive years of English-only education, and you have a four-year college degree (in English), you may be eligible for a job in Japan.


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