Requirements to Teach English in Japan

How would you like to travel to a beautiful country, earn an income and make a positive impact on a student’s life? 

It almost sounds too good to be true, but there are plenty of people teaching English in Japan right now (who once thought it was too good to be true, too).

Teaching English in Japan is a legitimate employment opportunity for someone who wants to pack their bags and move (and still be able to financially afford the experience).

If you’re reading this, then you probably already know just how amazing Japan is, but you’re currently looking for the requirements that you’ll have to meet to be able to physically teach English there.

So, let’s talk about exactly that.

Current Requirements to Teach English in Japan

  1. Bachelor’s Degree (ANY field is acceptable)
  2. Work Visa (can only get with a Bachelor’s degree)
  3. Job Offer (to be able to get the work visa)
  4. Fluent in English
  5. TEFL*
  6. Pass a Background Check*

If you were looking for the quick answer, then there it is.

But I’d like to go a little deeper into each so that you don’t prematurely cross off the idea of becoming an English teacher in Japan. 

1. A bachelor’s degree is required not by the company (although they likely would as well), but it’s a requirement by the Japanese government.

The reason for this is because you can’t get a visa to work in Japan WITHOUT a Bachelor’s degree.

Thankfully, your degree field is pretty much irrelevant when it comes to not only the work visa but when getting hired as an English teacher as well.

Just like the Japanese government, most companies don’t care what your degree is in either, as long as you have one.

2. In regards to the work visa, two types are likely going to be relevant to your needs. 

  • Instructor Visa
  • Specialist in Humanities Visa

An instructor visa allows you to work in elementary schools and high schools (or any public institution).

A specialist in humanities visa is for private language schools or private English teaching companies that physically operate in Japan.

Becoming an English teacher in Japan is dependent on the first three requirements because they rely on each other.

For instance, you have to have a job offer… before you can get either of those work visas.

3. Having a job offer is the key to being approved for a work visa (granted that you have a Bachelor’s degree of course).

It’s kind of a no-brainer once you think about it though because, after all, why would they give you a work visa if you don’t have work lined up?

If you get hired, by either a public or private institution, then they will likely sponsor you so that you can get your work visa.  

If I were personally looking to teach English abroad in Japan, I’d start my employment search with JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) because they are organized by the Japanese government.

No matter where you start your job search, you’ll need to meet the hiring requirements.

4. Speaking fluent English is a no-brainer requirement.

In fact, if you’re a native English speaker you’ll have a higher chance of getting hired over someone who isn’t.

That isn’t to say that non-native English speakers can’t get hired, but they’ll be required to have years of English “training” to show that they are fluent and that their accent isn’t swayed by their native tongue.

Let’s get into accents a bit more because this is an important factor that many people don’t mention in the ‘be an English teacher’ niche.

It is common practice by most hiring institutes, to focus on hiring teachers who have more of an American accent (or at least a neutral British or Australian accent).

Just because you have an American accent doesn’t mean you’re a shoo-in either because if you have an extremely southern ‘twang – that’ll hinder you big time if you don’t learn to tone it down or mask it with a neutral accent.

5. Having a TEFL certification (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is another common practice hiring requirement and I’m not sure why other helpful blogs don’t just go ahead and say it’s a requirement.

Most higher-paying companies will require it and honestly, I just think it’s extremely important for YOURSELF so that you have some technical training under your belt.

It just makes sense to invest some time and money into getting the TEFL certification so that you can move forward with confidence.

There are tons to choose from, but PremierTEFL is where I’d personally get a TEFL certification from because it’s accredited, affordable and online-based. 

(I received my certification from my employer because I’m a VIPKid online English teacher)

6. Passing a background or criminal check is not required by the Japanese government, but will likely be required by the hiring company.

You’ll most likely be teaching younger Japanese students how to speak English so it’s not far-fetched that they would like to make sure that you can pass a background check.

By the way, knowing Japanese is NOT a requirement to teach English in Japan.

Yes, it could help increase your hiring chances, but it is by no means a requirement.

Let’s recap.

Teaching English in Japan Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s Degree (any field is acceptable)
  • Work Visa
  • Job Offer (to be able to get the work visa)
  • Fluent in English
  • TEFL*
  • Pass a Background Check*

If you need a TEFL, again, look into PremierTEFL because they are affordable, accredited and online-based.

If you meet the requirements above and you’re ready to go teach English in Japan ASAP (or planning on it sooner than later), then I highly recommend that you start your job search out with JET!

Teacher Chelsey

Hi there, I'm Teacher Chelsey! As an online teacher that has taught over 10,000 classes, I wanted to create a website that could serve as a resource for a wide variety of teaching-related information. I'm a wife, a mom to 16 super spoiled fur-babies (15 rescue cats & a Yorkie). Some articles are written by me, others are written by my husband.

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