Tips to Find and Apply for an English Teaching Job in Japan

If you are reading this, you have taken the first step towards moving to Japan and beginning your career as an ESL instructor… Great! Now, you need to find an English teaching job here in Japan. There are tons of resources online for finding and applying to teaching positions. However, the information overload leaves many people frustrated with the unclear answers and outdated or conflicting advice they find.

Teaching English is one of the most common and easy introductions to working in Japan as a foreigner. However, you’ll need to figure out what you are qualified for and the type of work you would like to perform. There are many types of English teaching jobs in Japan, but not all are found in the same place.

So, where are these jobs? Moreover, when is the best time to apply? Let’s look at some of the biggest sources of ESL teaching jobs and when you should start planning to apply.

Where to find jobs in Japan

There are many resources for finding a job in Japan: companies seeking instructors, job boards full of listings, and recruitment agencies hoping to get a commission off your new career. Each method will take varying amounts of effort or sacrifice on your part, so choose wisely.

Directly to a dispatch company or Eikaiwa

If you have decided to join one of the large “conversation school” (eikaiwa) chains or a dispatch company, you can often apply directly on their websites. Not every company has the best reputation. Be sure to get involved with the ESL community online to hear success stories or complaints from current instructors.

Dispatch companies usually focus on ALT roles, while eikaiwa companies hire instructors for their private tutoring or classes. Depending on the age groups and working hours you prefer, one might have an advantage over the other.

Both dispatch companies and eikaiwas usually offer support to some degree with your relocation to Japan. These positions are the most common first job in the ESL industry. Many instructors choose to stay at their school for their whole career or at least their time in Japan. Both ALT and eikaiwa roles can help you to become a part of the local community.

Job boards

Job boards, mailing lists, and other resources for jobs in Japan are everywhere. Job hunting in Japan for foreigners is not the challenge it used to be. Some of the most popular and reputable sources are: GaijinPot, O-Hayo Sensei, and JobsInJapan.

Here is a good rule of thumb for job boards containing all levels of Japanese. If you cannot read the complete job listing, your Japanese is probably not good enough for the position. Some job boards will let you sort by required Japanese level if you are still getting the hang of Nihongo.

Recruitment agencies

Many recruitment agencies are more interested in people who have already relocated and gained some experience living and working in Japan. However, if you are a beginner, you may still be able to find a recruiter willing to help you.

Just keep in mind that recruiters get paid from somewhere. They might be paid a headhunting fee from a school in need, or they might receive a cut from your first year’s salary. Be cautious dealing with a recruiter that asks for a fee directly from you — they might make most of their money off these fees instead of relying on successful placements.

Unconventional locations and connections

In Japan, just like the rest of the world, it often comes down to whom you know. Making connections through a teaching program or online community is an excellent way to build your professional network.

Even some large scale websites like Reddit have dedicated sections for teachers in Japan. The subreddit is the home to many discussions between current and aspiring English teachers. Furthermore, during hiring seasons, some jobs in Japan are advertised directly by hiring managers or teachers looking for their replacements.

The Board of Education

In recent years, the Japanese Board of Education has shifted away from mostly using ALT dispatch companies. To save their limited budget and find teachers that are more interested in a long-term position, many local BOE branches hire teachers directly.

It can be more challenging to find a position with a local BOE, but many ALTs have reported that their role at the school changes and becomes more rewarding. If you have teaching experience or a teaching certificate, it doesn’t hurt to apply directly to a BOE in an area you would like to live. If you are applying from overseas, it will be harder to secure a direct-hire ALT position.

Job placement assistance

Some of the best programs that provide real teaching experience or a certification assist their trainees with job placement. Many people work with a Japanese branch or partner of the organization where they took their first steps towards teaching. Even many volunteer opportunities can eventually lead to an offer of a full-time position.

There are many benefits for both sides. You know your teaching style will be a fit, you may know some colleagues already, and your success reflects positively on the training organization. Schools can rest assured that you – with a freshly printed certificate in hand – are coming to them with real skills and the foundation of a great teacher. STC’s CertTESOL course includes job placement support because we want to see every trainee succeed. A CertTESOL is also an essential qualification that can make the application process much easier and [boost your salary] throughout your English teaching career.

When to apply for jobs in Japan

For Board of Education positions, the best time to search through listings and apply is in November. The BOE handles almost all of its staffing in November and December to prepare for the following school year. Similarly, preschool and kindergarten jobs will be easier to find in between school years.

If you are not looking for a specific type of job in Japan, the best time to apply is now! Alternatively, if you need to improve your chances by obtaining a Certificate in TESOL, join a training course as soon as possible. Shane Training Centre has new courses throughout the year, so check the upcoming dates and get an advantage in your English teaching job hunt.

Applying for jobs, interviewing, getting paperwork in order and relocating is a long and potentially challenging process. Now that you know where the jobs are hiding, there is no reason to delay.

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