This is the guide you should read if you’re looking at teaching in Japan. A lot of people actually do their whole job application process in their home country. This means that their expectations can be quite different to when they start life in Tokyo or wherever. I had the luck of already being in the country, so I’ve had interviews with just about every main company there is. Hope this helps you out!
Eikaiwa vs ALT
First off, do you want to teach eikaiwa or as an ALT? Never heard of those terms? No problem! Eikaiwa is mainly conversational school. You’d be teaching this to small groups of people – usually salary men – of up to ten, or privately one on one. An ALT is an assistant language teacher. This means you act as a back up / support teaching to a Japanese English teacher at an Elementary, Junior High, or Senior High School. Eikaiwa is usually paid higher, but you have irregular work hours and more of them. ALT’s get paid less, but have the liberty of working a 9-4 day.
What are some eikaiwa companies?
You’ll get the most money, and freedom in what you teach, if you go with a small or private company. That said, they’re hard to come by. Other than that, the highest paying is AEON. The salary is 280,000 yen per month ($US2,800), but you have 40 work hours a week and your days off are split – i.e. no proper weekend.
BERLITZ are also good. They pay upwards of 240,000 yen per month ($US2,400). The problem with these two is that it’s hard to keep a social life while working. I had a friend that worked with AEON, and despite it having the best pay he had a real struggle keeping his girlfriend.
The third one I’ll mention is NOVA. Since they bounced back from bankruptcy a few years ago (I know that gives a bad image), they’ve improved with how they handle their teachers. But their lesson based system of pay can mean that if you have no one turn up for one lesson, then you don’t get paid. I never really liked the set up of eikaiwa, and have only done it for small companies through introduction. In short, slightly higher pay = longer hours.
How about being an ALT?
This is what I ended up doing. Really needed that visa sponsorship….
The first company is INTERAC. They are the biggest company and the one you are most likely going to get a job with. They have basic pay of around 230,000 a month ($US2,300), but the Yokohama Branch gets an extra $US100 for some reason. “Yayyyy an extra $!00, I’m saved…” The experience you get here depends on school and location. Really mixed reviews.
Second is the famous JET PROGRAM. This one is always recommended, but is actually the most difficult to enter. I didn’t qualify because of my graduation period. JET people get the most help with living in Japan and a higher pay. But at the end of the day you’re doing the exactly same thing. If you can get into this program, I’d go for it sheerly for the pay and assistance. JET is often regarded as the pinnacle of ALT jobs.
For other choices there are quite a few. Tokyo dwellers can go with BORDERLINK is an option. They pay slightly less than Interac but it’s still a decent gig. SHANE ENGLISH SCHOOL pays better than Interac, but the hours are awful (split weekend) and the holidays are non existent. I have a friend who works here and he said if he uses a sick day he ends up paying to miss work. How that works is surely not legal? I’d steer clear at all costs.
If I had to pick one, I’d go with JET. Runner-up would be Interac, but these all depend on your placement. If you’re going to be an ALT, try and get the older kids. I was lucky to be at a really advanced high school so I didn’t have to act like a clown, as you would at elementary school.
Many people go for the eikaiwa, even after trying ALT. The main reason for this is because they go brain-dead from acting like a glorified babysitter for a year straight. ALT work can be pretty demeaning. Some people see it as a fun job that shouldn’t be taken seriously, while others hate it and often ridicule it. As I mentioned before, if you can get high school it’s pretty good. I remember one lesson I got to lecture students about memes. That’s right, MEMES!! Maybe I’ll write another post for that.
Anyway, hope that’s been helpful. As always, leave any questions in the comments!