Teach English in Japan: programs, jobs and salary

Gert Svaiko

Curious about what it’s like to teach English in Japan coming from the UK? Whether you’re an experienced educator or just considering this career path, you’re probably interested in what you can expect.

The unique blend of tradition and modernity make Japan a popular destination for many expats, especially English teachers. This guide will inform you on salaries, requirements and reasons to teach English in Japan.

We’ll also show you a cost-effective way to manage your finances while in Japan. The Wise account, from the money services provider Wise, allows you to send money between the UK and Japan for low fees and mid-market exchange rates. You can also rely on the Wise debit card to help you handle all of your expenses.


Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

Table of contents

Why teach English in Japan in the first place?

According to the most recent English skills ranking survey from Education First, Japan holds the 87th place out of 113 countries. Since this puts it in the low proficiency category, you’ll most likely be able to find a good job as an English teacher in Japan.¹

One of the top reasons people teach English in Japan and not somewhere else are the salaries. Japan is one of the best places for those who teach English as a second language. Your employer may even help you cover your rent and flight expenses.²

Just like anywhere else, living in Japan comes with its pros and cons. However, many expats agree that life in the Land of the Rising Sun is a priceless experience. Teaching English there is a great way to really get to know Japanese culture and form your own opinion.

📚 Read more: Buying property in Japan as a Brit

Can you get a visa sponsorship for teaching English in Japan?

In order to move to Japan and work there long-term, you first need to get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). The COE is a document issued by Japan's Ministry of Justice. You need to apply for it through a sponsor which already lives in Japan. In this case, your employer can be your sponsor and be the one to contact the local immigration office on your behalf.³

Although the COE is not a visa, it’s the first step to getting one. Once your sponsor does their part, you can continue with the visa application process.

Are English teachers in demand in Japan?

There is a high demand for English teachers and tutors in Japan. Being a native speaker will help you find a good job quickly.⁴

Requirements for teaching English in Japan

Those who teach English in Japan full-time usually do it on either an Instructor or Humanities Specialist/International Services visa.⁶ Requirements vary based on your position and experience.

In most cases, you’ll be required to have a bachelor degree. It doesn’t have to be a degree related to the English language or teaching, just any university degree. Having a TEFL certification is not a requirement, but it’s certainly a big advantage.⁵

The Japanese government does background checks on those who apply for a work visa. This means you need to have a clean criminal record in your home country in order to work in Japan.⁵

Also, coming from an English-speaking country will open many doors for you. It’s not a formal requirement, but many employers only hire native speakers.⁵

Do you need to speak Japanese to teach English in Japan?

You don’t need to speak Japanese to teach English in Japan, but it certainly helps. If not for your classes, then to communicate on a daily basis. But, if you’re wondering whether it’s required, the answer is no.

Can you teach English in Japan without a degree?

You can still teach English in Japan without a degree, but you’ll have to do it on a different type of visa.

The first option is a Working Holiday Visa, made for those who come to Japan on holiday. This visa allows you to work, but solely for the purpose of covering your travel costs. Only people from certain countries can apply, including the UK, and they can only get it once. Other requirements include being between 18 and 30 years old and not bringing your dependents or children with you.⁷

You can teach English in Japan without a degree if you’re in the process of getting one, that is, if you have a Student visa. Those who are planning on or are already studying in Japan can work part-time during that time. It might not be enough to pay off student loans, but it can cover some of your living costs. As a native English speaker, this is one of the best work options for you.⁷

Another category of people who can teach without a degree are those on a Spousal visa. If you’re married to a Japanese national, you have more of a chance of getting a teaching job, since hiring you will require less paperwork.⁷

Finally, if you happen to have a Japanese passport, you can teach English without a degree. However, if you just plan on getting it in the future, you might want to consider other options. The process of naturalisation is 5 years long in Japan, so you won’t be able to find a teaching job quickly.⁷


English teaching programs in Japan

There’s a number of government and non-government programmes for English teachers in Japan. Here are some of the popular ones.

JET Programme

The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, more commonly known as JET, is a government-supported initiative created to promote international exchange. Young people from all over the world can be cultural ambassadors while teaching in Japanese schools and working in local governments.⁸

JET lets you choose between two main positions: Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) and Coordinator for International Relations (CIR). Read more about application deadlines and requirements on their official UK website.⁸

Interac ALT Programme

Interac is a private company that provides foreign English teachers to the Japanese government. Those teachers are known as ALTs or Assistant Language Teachers and they work in the Japanese school system.⁹

Most Interac ALT teachers start working in April and finish in March. You can find out what the job looks like on a daily basis on their website.⁹

English teaching jobs in Japan

The three main types of jobs for English teachers in Japan are those in public schools, private language schools and international schools.

When it comes to public school jobs, they are often given to teachers coming through the JET or Interac programs. They work in elementary, middle, and high schools.¹⁰

Jobs at private language schools, also known as Eikaiwas, sometimes require longer working hours. However, teachers have bigger salaries than in public schools. If you prefer working with adults, this might be a better option for you.¹⁰

Although most English teaching jobs in Japan don’t require teachers with degrees in education, international schools do. You would also need a teaching licence. The salaries in these schools are big and the job comes with different perks, such as flight reimbursements.¹⁰

Can you teach English in Japan online?

Besides these options, you can also teach English in Japan online, while in Japan or back home. If you plan on doing it in Japan, you still need a suitable work visa.⁷

What’s the average salary for English teachers and tutors in Japan?

Your salary as an English teacher in Japan can vary based on where you live and work. The demand for English teachers is bigger in the cities than in the rural areas and so are the salaries. On average, the salaries range from 200,000 to 600,000 JPY (roughly £1,050 – £3,190).¹¹

📚 Read more: Can you keep your UK bank account when moving abroad?

Volunteering to teach English in Japan

If profit is not your primary goal, you can always be a volunteer English teacher in Japan. Many non-profit organisations would be happy to have you on their team. Sometimes teachers get free accommodation or other perks in exchange for their work. You could volunteer to teach English in Japan on a tourist visa.⁷

And there you have it - your complete guide to teaching English in Japan. After reading this, you should have a better idea of how it all works, and be ready to start planning your move.

And, if you need a transparent, low-cost way to handle your finances while abroad, check out the Wise account. It’s not a bank account but offers many similar features.

You can manage your money in 40+ currencies, including JPY. You can also make international payments for low fees and mid-market exchange rates. And, you can get a Wise debit card and spend like a local from the moment you arrive in Japan.

Sign up with Wise today 💰

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

Sources used for this article:

  1. EF - English proficiency index 2023
  2. Go Overseas - highest salaries for teaching abroad
  3. Embassy of Japan in the UK - Certificate of Eligibility
  4. TEFL Org - teach English in Japan
  5. TEFL Org - requirements to teach English in Japan
  6. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan - work or long-term stay
  7. TEFL Org - teaching English in Japan without a degree
  8. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan - JET Programme
  9. Interac Network - FAQ
  10. CIEE - types of teaching jobs in Japan
  11. TEFL Org - salaries for teaching English in Japan

Sources last checked on: 12-Nov-2023

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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