TEACHING ENGLISH IN JAPAN
If you’ve recently graduated from school and are at a crossroads in the start of your career, teaching English in Japan might be worth looking into. Believe it or not, the English language learning industry is a multi-billion dollar one that employs over 65,000 ESL teachers.
WHAT’S NEEDED TO TEACH In order to get a job teaching English in Japan, you’ll need to be a college graduate from any field (sorry, but two-year degrees don’t cut it.) You pretty much also need to speak English at native level fluency. Some people do find teaching jobs in Japan even though English is not their first language, but this is an exception to the rule. You’ll also need a working visa in order to work legally in the country. Most employers will take care of this for you. Working visas are good for one year with extensions available from one to three years. Another helpful trait is an interest in Japanese culture. When you fly 10,000 miles east, things get pretty different pretty fast. So having a desire to experience Japanese culture is a plus – not from the standpoint of getting a job but from the standpoint of enjoying the experience. Those who don’t have a natural curiosity or desire to experience foreign cultures usually don’t last that long.
GENERAL INFORMATION Let’s start with money. You should expect a wage of at least 250,000 yen per month. This is an entry-level salary for those with little or no experience. This won’t go that far in large cities like Tokyo or Osaka. You should expect a bit more to compensate for the cost-of-living factor in these large cities. Large English schools like Nova, Aeon, Geos, Berlitz & ECC will also offer two weeks’ paid vacation and most national holidays off. Schools differ on which national holidays they observe but the norm is eight to 10 per year. Expect to work close to 40 hours per week. Each school is different but you can expect roughly 20 to 25 actual teaching hours per week, with the rest being office hours. A typical teacher will work five days per week with Sunday and another weekday off. Teachers with seniority may get Saturdays and Sundays off. Typical office hours are filled by grading student work, taking class notes, preparing future lessons or just chatting with students. Larger chain schools usually have a fixed curriculum. This means you’ll be using their in-house texts, tapes and other support materials for teaching. For those who don’t have a lot of teaching experience, this is helpful in reducing stress (which you may be feeling with adjusting to the culture, learning the language, etc). Students in your class will probably be of all ages, literally from 5- and 6-year olds to people in their 70s. Some schools deal specifically with children or adults but because of the competitiveness of this industry, most schools cater to all ages. You can expect a healthy mix of children and young professionals, like office ladies and salary men as they’re called, to make up the bulk of who you teach. Most large chain schools will provide you with some type of residence. This is a big help as it’s difficult to find accommodations on your own without the help of a local person. Not to mention being very expensive. Although the type provided will vary, expect things to be on the small side. Teaching English in Japan is an experience best taken with an open mind. For those with an interest in Japanese culture it can be one of the most enjoyable and lucrative ways to experience the land of the rising sun.