So you’ve decided to teach in Japan. Mount Fuji is calling your name. You can practically see yourself indulging in the world’s best ramen (controversial, we know) and sipping sake after work. The only thing is that first, you need a teaching gig in Japan. In the old days, that was as easy as being a native English speaker who was willing to travel to Japan. That was when teaching abroad was a strange idea touted by eccentric relatives who disappeared for years on end and returned with an ability to use chopsticks like a pro. A lot has changed since then, we all look reasonably competent with a pair of chopsticks, and Japan is one of the most popular places to teach English in the world.
Both public and private schools in Japan want to see that candidates are: serious about embracing Japanese culture, willing to do the job well, and aren’t going to be a complete wild card. The presence of a TEFL certification in a job interview helps ease their minds — it says hey! I want to teach and I want to do it well. We see teachers who are perfectly qualified being turned away from jobs because their competition has taken care of getting TEFL certified and they haven’t.
You may have read online that you don’t need a TEFL certificate, and that’s technically true. But unless you’re an experienced teacher with at least a couple of years of full-time teaching under your belt, then TEFL is going to be pretty much mandatory. You’ll find jobs here and there that will accept a novice English teacher without it, but be wary! A lot of the schools that accept teachers without TEFL can be the sorts of places you hear horror stories about. One of the best ways to ensure you get a good school is to make sure you’re a good candidate.
So, what is the best TEFL certification for Japan?
There are a couple of things you should make sure your TEFL certificate does before signing up. We recommend giving the company you sign you sign up with a call, this can help you determine how hands-on they are, make sure they can answer questions about their course and give you an idea of the sort of customer-care you’re going to receive. If you’re signed up and have technical difficulties, you’re going to want to go with a program where everything will be addressed in a timely fashion. The same goes for reference letters, certificates of completion and grading — if you go super-cheap (Groupon TEFL = sigh!), you’re going to encounter a hundred little tiny roadblocks.
If you’ve done your research you know there is no such thing as an accredited TEFL program, so selecting a course can be a bit of a wild west experience. But not really, the safest thing to do is make sure it’s attached to a legit educational body.
One of the big questions potential teachers ask us is whether they should do an online or offsite TEFL for Japan. We have some good news here, there’s no reason to go to the expense of an in-classroom TEFL for teaching in Japan. Schools won’t be fussed one way or the other and the onsite courses tend to cost quite a bit more (once you tack on accommodation, travel, and other expenses). Japanese schools just want to see that you’ve got the right certificate.
We recommend taking an online course of at least 120 hours (this keeps your options open and is the standard number of hours expected by most countries). Try to choose a TEFL course that will let you pick specializations, these can help you if you are very specific about what you want to do. i.e. you want to teach business English to adults or your heart is set on an adorable gaggle of Kindergarten students.
Our checklist for the perfect TEFL certificate for Japan
Okay, so now we’re going to break down what our checklist actually means. Because it’s no good giving you a list you can’t use!
A minimum of 120 hours
Although there is no requirement for a certain number of hours to teach in Japan, this is the industry standard. TEFL isn’t just for a year, it’s for a lifetime 😉 and you never know when it might come in handy again. Can you honestly say you know what country you will be living in ten years from now and what their requirements will be?
As the market gets flooded with TEFL teachers, you will need to do everything you can to keep your qualification relevant and 120-hours is the holy grail. Think of TEFL as a passport to some countries — and the 120-hour TEFL as a passport to the world. Hello wanderlustians* – we’re looking at you. 🌎
(*totally a word)
Online & fully flexible
Making sure your TEFL course is online and flexible is for your own sanity. Life happens and having a TEFL course you can live around is important to most people. The likelihood is you’re going to be working or studying or traveling while you complete the course.
Making sure your TEFL course is fully online means you don’t have to worry about the expense of the in-classroom component and also that you can study at times that are convenient for you. We see loads of teachers logging on in the early hours of the morning and knocking out a few hours before their normal day begins.
Okay, so this is when you get into the nerdy teaching stuff. Usually, courses will have a single unit on a subject, but the good courses tend to offer some TEFL specializations. This means you do the regular TEFL course load and are fully qualified to teach English in Japan, but it also means you get an extra little bow in your cap.
Specializations are also a great way to find out what kind of teaching you’re into – maybe you want to teach Business English or English to Early Learners. Whether or not you’ve got your mind made up, these add-ons will put an extra pep in your lesson planning. It’s even just interesting to see how basic TEFL principles are used to shape classroom content for different audiences.
You get what you pay for. Personally, we believe in investing in the best possible education. But hey! That’s just us 🤷 Maybe you’re okay with a TEFL course that barely covers the bases. The price point for a decent 120-hour course with specializations is going to set you back about $ 1,000 USD.
Anything way above or way below, should be treated with suspicion. Do your research and check out TEFL reviews online, so that you make sure you’re making the right decision for you.
From a reputable institution
Oh my! We could go blue in the face trying to explain that there is no such thing as TEFL accreditation. Seriously! It’s not real, ignore it. If you want our full-take on TEFL accreditation you can read our blog: why there’s no such thing as TEFL accreditation.
That does not mean it’s a free for all and all TEFLs are created equal. It does mean you need to be extra vigilant in your research. We recommend going with TEFLs offered by well-regarded education institutes. As one of the top universities in the world, I think you’ll find our course is top of the line.