Teaching English in Japan – What to Expect

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The economic boom that swept Japan in the 1980’s brought with it not only a period of wealth and prosperity, but also a sudden surge in a desire to study English. Fueled in part by Japan’s role as an emerging economic force, the need to learn English became a necessity for many companies hoping to compete in the global marketplace. As a result of the affluence during this time more Japanese were also able to travel abroad, thus creating a demand for studying English for those who hoped to hone their English skills before making the journey to a foreign country. Entrepreneurs sensing an opportunity to capitalize on this trend began to open English schools in unprecedented numbers, from large Corporate chains that catered to thousands of students, to small neighborhood schools often employing only a handful of staff. Although the glory days of finding a teaching job on the basis of being a native English speaker alone have faded, the good news is there are still many teaching jobs available in Japan for those willing to make a modest effort to pursue them. Renewed economic growth in the last few years in conjunction with a recent ruling by the Japanese Ministry of Education to include English as part of the elementary school curriculum will also create a need for English instructors in the future.

English teachers in Japan fall basically under two categories, those employed via structured programs such as JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching), and freelance instructors. Teachers who have come to Japan under one of the structured programs can expect benefits which include pre-departure training, visas, flights, living accommodations, and health insurance. Free lance teachers are individuals who arrive in Japan looking for work on their own or who have found a job prior to arriving. In regard to working conditions both can expect to teach approximately 20-35 classes per week, with lessons spanning 50 minutes to one hour in duration. Most teaching positions are at private language schools, with the majority of classes being conducted in the afternoons and evenings. Students range from elementary school, high school, and university students, to housewives and businessmen of all ages. Many of the afternoon classes are typically made up of children who study English after their regular school day has finished, and the majority of evening classes are attended by teens or adults. Size of classes vary, but on average consist of 3-5 students for many of the smaller schools, and up to 15 for larger establishments. Most schools also offer students private lessons.

Entry level salaries for teachers is approximately 250,000 yen per month, though this can fluctuate depending on the company. Some of the larger chain schools such as Nova and ECC offer visa sponsorship and other benefits, such as arranging an apartment for newly arrived teachers. Most schools also subsidize daily train transportation costs. Teachers with experience and a post graduate level qualification in the form of a Masters Degree can expect to make around 400,000 yen a month or more, with the majority of high paying jobs in this category to be found in the High Schools and Universities.

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