Can You Teach English in Japan without a Degree?

By Geddy Gee
Teach English in Japan

Why is Japan such a popular destination for English teachers in Asia? It’s not only because of the high standard of living, well-developed infrastructure, and delicious food. It’s also about the culture! With an interesting culture and a unique history, this island nation is the perfect place to teach English as a foreign language.

Japan has the most beautiful Zen gardens and temples, and they are all over. Everything is so well kept, it’s amazing to see. It makes even the busiest of places in Tokyo feel surprisingly peaceful. On top of that the cleanliness is second to none. When I first arrived in Tokyo, I took a pair of earphones and went on exploring the city. I made it a point to find some dirt, some grit, but there was none. No litter, and even the public bathrooms were spotless. I was also amazed that it’s impossible to find garbage bins. No bins plus no litter. Now that’s a community I want to be a part of.

As a foodie, the best thing about teaching English in Japan is that you have access to some of the best food on the planet here. The Japanese have a thing with attention to detail and not only do they create their own specialties such as sushi, ramen and my personal favorite healthy snack, roasted sweet potato, the Japanese are also known for taking any food from abroad and making it better. That’s why you can find the best McDonalds and Starbucks in Japan.

One of the first things you will notice when in Japan is that there are many convenience stores. At Least one on each corner and they never close. You can buy pretty much anything there and they even sell very decent cooked meals. If that’s not enough there are also vending machines everywhere that have anything from drinks and soups to medicine. So if you love convenience you will love Japan.

When you start working in Japan you will see the importance of being punctual. It is considered extremely rude to be late. There was famously a train that left 20 seconds early from the station and an article was published to apologize for the error. This is a huge contrast from teaching English in Thailand where life is much slower. Thai people enjoy a more relaxed, slow-paced life compared to Japan’s high pressure environment. This is very evident in the classroom and you will definitely work a bit more in Japan than in Thailand, but there are pros and cons to both of these approaches.

Teach English in Japan without a degree

Since Japan is such a well oiled, efficient machine. You will have to also accept that to achieve that there needs to be rules. A lot of them. That’s what keeps Japan organized. Because of that there are strict requirements for foreign English teachers and you will need a degree to teach English here. Whether you apply through the JET government program or apply directly on job boards to companies such as Gaba and Interac, you will see that a bachelor’s degree is always listed as a requirement.

The thing is, if you are smart and likeable most schools would hire you with or without a degree, but it is a government requirement to have a BA degree in order to receive a working visa as a foreigner in Japan. Another thing is that because of this schools have used the degree requirement as a filter when sifting through resumes to fill positions. No degree, no interview. Japan is one of the most competitive countries because of how awesome it is. However, if you were to go in and they liked you and your ability, they would hire you if they could. One thing to note is that if you have 5-10 years experience it’s possible to receive a work permit with no degree. Most employers don’t know this so let them know! Anyway, so you don’t have a degree and really want to teach In Japan, here are some options:

  • Working on a Tourist Visa (90 days x 2 = 180 days)
  • Working on a Student Visa (Arranged by the school)
  • Working on a Working Holiday Visa (1 year, 1 time, not extendable)
  • Working on a Spousal Visa 
  • Working on a Japanese Passport   

If you have a Japanese passport, no need to read on, you are free to apply to any job and work in Japan. If you have a spousal visa the same applies to you, you can work in Japan and teaching English is a great idea.

There are some teachers who work in Japan on Tourist or Student visas. Now this is technically illegal and I wouldn’t recommend it. But it does happen so let’s talk about it and discuss how it works. So most passports get 90 days on arrival in Japan and this can be done for a total of 180 days in Japan, so teachers have done this and worked at language schools in order to spend a few months in Japan. Others have come over as students to learn Japanese or other subjects on a student visa. They then also teach English either part time or full time to earn some money. This is just not a good idea, it’s risky and also opens up the opportunity for employers to take advantage of you. If you want to give teaching a try on a less serious note you should explore the Working Holiday Visa.

Teach English in Japan on the Working Holiday Visa

One way to teach in Japan without a degree is with the Working Holiday Visa. This is a great option if you want to get a taste of teaching and learn more about the country before you commit. If you are interested in living in Japan and don’t know what profession to pursue, teaching English on the Working Holiday Visa will help you to settle in and learn about the culture of the country.

The Working Holiday Visa is meant to allow you to live and work in Japan for a year. You can’t use it for full time employment, but it’s a great way to experience teaching and living in Japan without committing to anything long-term. You can do this for one year and then decide if you want to teach full time.

What are the requirements for the Working Holiday Visa?

Not everyone is eligible for the Working holiday visa as there are a few requirements:

  • You should be a citizen of one of the following countries: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Iceland, Czech or Lithuania, Hong Kong, Taiwan.
  • You should be living in your country of nationality.
  • Be between the ages 18 – 30, 18 – 25 if you are from Australia, Canada or the Republic of Korea, or 18 – 26 if you are from Iceland.
  • Not being accompanied by dependents or children.
  • You need to have a valid passport as well as a return flight ticket or enough money to purchase one.
  • You should have some money to initially support yourself in Japan.
  • Being in good health.
  • You have never been issued a Working Holiday Visa before.

If you really want to teach English to Japanese students but want to stay home and finish up your degree first you can always teach English online. This will help you gain some understanding of the field of teaching English and once you have your degree you can add that as experience on your CV which will make getting a top job super easy.

Find an English teaching job in Japan

In Japan the government JET program employs the majority of English teachers at public schools around the country. All the other jobs are at private schools or language schools called Eikaiwa’s, and you can find a job here:

Written by Geddy Gee for TEFL.net August 2021
Ex-teacher, unvaccinated traveler and amateur writer

One Comment

  • The King Of Love From IRAN says:

    Greetings!

    I’m ready for teaching English in Japan!

    What do I do & how much money do they give me, please?

    Best wishes,

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