Since I have the privilege of loafing in my 100 degree apartment for an hour on account of two students being absent, I thought I’d answer some questions about teaching English in Japan.
Though it may seem far and the language barrier can be daunting, Japan is one of the few countries that doesn’t require TESL (teaching English as a second language) or TEFL (…as a foreign language) certification. That’s not to say that no employers require or even prefer it; it’s just not as common.
Types of teaching jobs
There are more or less two job descriptions for English teachers here in Japan: ALTs (assistant language teachers) and eikaiwa teachers (English conversation teachers). ALTs work in the public and private school system. Eikaiwa teachers, like myself, are generally at an individual school or work with a large company, such as AEON or JET.
The school system
Basically, students start learning English in junior high (12-15 years old). Before they enter high school they take an English exam. The level of stress associated with this test is akin to the SAT in the States. So, many Japanese children go to these secondary schools to beef up on their English ability. They also go to juku (cram school), but that’s another story…
The one site you may have the best luck with is GaijinPot. Not only do they have plentiful resources about learning about Japan, but there are also many job and apartment listings. My boyfriend, Mike, had several interviews both while we were at home in NY and a few after we moved to Japan.
Each employer is unique and wants different things. Some may want TEFL/TESL certification, some may want experience. Other requirements are that you already live in Japan. When we started applying for jobs in June of 2010 things were kind of tough, but after the Great Tohoku Earthquake I’d bet employers are more lax with their qualifications. And, if they’re anything like my boss, they’re just looking for a smart person with a lot of optimism. My best advice would be to be as cheerful and polite as possible.
As far as applying for jobs, don’t be surprised if potential employers ask you to send a photo along with your application – it’s standard procedure.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment! This has been a really great experience for me thusfar, and I encourage you to give it a shot.