Published 30th October 2019
The land of cherry blossoms, samurais and hot springs is a very tempting destination for TEFL teachers. Being able to speak English is becoming more and more important in Japan and so there are no shortage of students for you to teach. This also means you have your pick of jobs. So the obvious question is, do I need a TEFL to teach English in Japan? You might think that such a simple question has an easy answer, but it doesn’t! The answer is, in fact, yes and no.
Confused? Let us explain.
Do I need a TEFL to teach English in Japan? No
Strictly speaking you don’t need a TEFL certificate to get a job teaching English in Japan. What you do need is a Bachelor’s degree, but that can be a degree in anything – it doesn’t need to be English or Education. A Bachelor’s degree is necessary to qualify for a work permit, which is obviously needed to be able to work legally. Your work visa will be sponsored by your school or company so you don’t need to worry about the logistics, but know that you won’t be offered a job unless you have a degree.
Apart from a degree, you also need to be a citizen from a recognized English-speaking country – also known as the Big 7: the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. If you are not from one of these countries but you can prove you have been educated in a school with English as the medium of instruction for 12 years, or you’ve got three or more years EFL teaching experience, then you will also qualify.
Finally, you will need a clear criminal check from your country of residence. If you have not been resident in your current country for very long then they will require one from any country you have been living in for the recent past, usually the last five years.
Do I need a TEFL to teach English in Japan? Yes
On the other hand, legal requirements should not be the only reason you do a TEFL course and get a TEFL certificate. A TEFL course will provide you with the training you need to be able to teach English as a Foreign Language effectively. It will refine your grammatical knowledge of the language, as well as introduce you to theories of learning and techniques of teaching. It will show you how to plan the best lessons for your students and give you practice in the classroom. This is why job requirements should not be the only reason you do a TEFL course; you should want to do one for yourself, to make sure you are fully prepared to be in the TEFL classroom.
At the same time, though strictly speaking it is possible to secure a job without a TEFL, more and more schools are preferring candidates with a TEFL certificate. Private language schools especially are more likely to hire TEFL graduates, as is the JET programme. Having a TEFL certificate from a recognized TEFL provider on your CV is more likely to get you through the first hurdle of getting an interview for that job you want.
A Job Like No Other
When you think about it, that’s not really surprising. If you have a law degree and have been a lawyer for the last ten years, why would that make you a good TEFL teacher? If you have teaching experience and/or a teaching degree, that’s a different story (though we’d still recommend getting a TEFL). Being a TEFL teacher is like no other job so it’s necessary that you receive training on how to do it appropriately and effectively. Consequently, it’s not surprising that teachers with a TEFL can expect higher salaries than those without.The bottom line is, if you’re willing to take a chance and fly by the seat of your pants, then don’t do the TEFL and see if you can find a job teaching English in Japan. If you do, prepare yourself for a very bumpy introduction to teaching. A much better idea would be to do the TEFL, find a job you really want, and be happy knowing that you are ready for anything that can happen in the classroom.