People decide to come to Japan for so many interesting reasons. Some expats have an extreme fascination with Japanese culture: anime, J-pop, Japanese festivals, and the Japanese language. Others may be seeking a way to broaden their horizons, broaden their resumes, give their dating game a much-needed boost (let’s be honest), or even find a professional change of pace.
Regardless of the reason, one of the most common vehicles for people to realize their live-in-Japan dream is via teaching English. While teaching English here in Japan is quite common, not all English teaching companies are created equal.
Some of them suck...hard!
Let's take a look at five companies that don't. Here are my top five, best companies to teach for in Japan:
Before we look at the five best companies to teach for, let’s quickly look at a quick list of different styles of teaching we can encounter when teaching English in Japan:
英会話 Eikaiwa - English Conversation School
These are tuition-based, English conversation school businesses;
Student base - Adults and kids
Kindergarten (幼稚園 - youchien), Elementary School (小学校 - shougakko), Middle school (中学校 - chugakko) or
High School (高校 - koukou)
Schools created by the Japanese government and in close conjunction with Japan’s Ministry of education
Student base - Kids/teenager
Private Kindergarten (幼稚園), Elementary School (小学校), Middle school (中学校) or High School (高校)
These are also tuition based schools
Student base - Kids/teenagers
One-on-one lessons arranged through intermediary company's student database, or on your own;
Student base - Usually adults, but parents will sometimes request private lessons for their children
English lessons can either be taught as extracurricular courses at a university or as classes for college credit;
Student base - College students
Business English Dispatch
Teachers are sent to businesses to teach employee groups or one-on-one business English lessons
Student base - Business professionals, managers
1. THE JET PROGRAMME
Perhaps one of the most coveted Assistant Language Teaching (ALT) positions to get into. Although I haven’t had the chance to work for them personally, I’ve only heard good feedback from friends and other colleagues who have worked for JET.
Here's Why It’s Good:
JET appears to be one of the best hybrids English teaching positions you can find in Japan. What do I mean by hybrid? You get the best of two very important things:
- 1) Schedule - You get the benefits of an ALT schedule, which means having a summer vacation.
- 2) Salary - Often the biggest gripe for public school teachers is that the salary sucks big, fat bootie cheeks (and from my experience it does). However, with JET (from what I understand) your pay would be comparable to what you receive at a good-paying English conversation school. While this doesn't mean you'll be rich, a $500-$600 each and every month (the difference I saw between eikaiwa and ALT pay) is VERY noticeable.
(if any JETs or former JETs care to share salaries, I’m curious to know).
Being that you’re in a school where people speak Japanese every day, and you eat lunch with the kids everyday, it's kinda hard not to pick up some useful Japanese. JET is like having your English teaching cake and eating it, too!
The downside is that unless you’re a member of management, the number of years you can teach for JET is limited.
This is a smaller, tighter-knit company that focuses primarily on teaching kindergarten. I just joined them this year. As far as teaching jobs go, it’s one of the best deals you can find.
Here's Why It’s Good:
JIEC has a great system set up for its teachers.
- a) Staff - JIEC is every bit as professional as any other English-teaching company that I’ve taught for.
It’s professional, but in a laid back way (if that makes any sense)
- b) Pay - My probational salary was 280,000 but jumped to 300,000/month after the first 60 days on the job. For a first year salary, you’d be hard pressed to find an English-teaching company to match that.
- c) Schedule - Although I don’t have a full summer vacation anymore. The kindergarten schedule is one that allows me to have some form of work-life balance. SUPER IMPORTANT!
- d) Japanese - You will often be the only foreigner in the kindergartens you teach for. This means you often have no choice but to interact in Japanese.
- e) Resources - Teaching kindergarten means you're going to have to do some preparation to keep kids engaged. However, JIEC really goes out of their way to make sure you have access to resources
(both physical & digital resources) that make your job both easy and fun to do.
Honestly? Sometimes kindergarten kids can wear you the freak out (if you’re not a kid person, this won’t be the job for you). Energy required.
3. AEON & ECC
Aww, this was the company that got me started on this Japan journey. Sure, I’m a bit biased on this one because I worked for them and had a good experience. Not every company I’ve taught for will be on this list.
Here's Why It’s Good:
- a) Professionalism – You may think this doesn’t matter, but when you encounter a company that isn’t so professional, you instantly feel the difference.
- b) Salary- I’m not sure about you, but this DOES MATTER. Being a nice teacher is important, but working for a salary that leaves you struggling downright sucks. AEON offered a very comfortable 280,000 to start (I’m not sure if it has changed) with raises every year until reaching salary cap.
- c) Assistance – Don’t take this for granted, but having a company that offers top notch assistance when you don’t understand something is worth its weight in yen. AEON was very good about that.
- d) Logical System – AEON trains you on exactly what you need to teach and it takes away so much of the guess work.
It’s much harder to get a grasp of Japanese language at this job (and most English conversation school jobs). More than likely will be expected to speak English whenever you’re at the school. Freedom to teach the lessons you want to is another issue for some teachers mention.
*ECC and AEON are similar eikaiwas which is why I grouped them together. I haven’t worked for ECC, but from what I hear the overall systems are quite similar.
I actually interviewed with Westgate because it was recommended by two friends. I landed the position but ended up going the JIEC route instead. Westgate appears to be a very solid choice because it gives you a chance to teach English at the university level. People drool over the opportunity to do that, especially teachers that don't want to teach kids; not everyone does.
Here's Why It’s Good:
- Salary: At 275,000 yen to start, Westgate's pay is competitive.
- The Magic Words: Flight Reimbursement! For those who are coming to Japan for the first time, that flight isn't cheap.
Westgate reimburses up to $1200 USD of that flight! I can't say whether that will change or not (AEON used to do something similar) but it's a wonderful perk.
- Breaks: Although I don't think these are paid, teachers at the collegiate level have more vacation blocks/per year than most teachers.
I'm not exactly sure how it works. But if Westgate is on a university term system, I would imagine you may have to be reevaluated term by term for employment.
5. JAPANESE BOARD OF EDUCATION (BOE)
Okay maybe this isn’t a company, and maybe it’s a little easier said than done. But if you get hired directly by a BOE, you can bypass the public school middle man. Often the low pay you receive as a standard ALT is the result of the dispatch company you work for. The dispatch company gives you a cut of what they receive from the BOE.
Here's Why It’s Good:
- a) Salary: Getting hired directly means that your salary can be SIGNIFICANTLY higher than the cut you receive from a dispatch company.
- b) Schedule: You still would have the ALT schedule with the full summer vacation.
- c) Japanese: Public school is one of the best places to improve your Japanese skills.
I've never had a direct BOE job, but if the summer pay cuts (which some English teaching dispatch companies do) still hold, it's a DEFINITE downside. Another one I want mention, is the isolation you can feel as the sole English teacher on staff.
Honorable Mention - SIMUL
I had a good experience with this Simul, but it was only for part-time work. Simul is a company that connects its teachers with business English clients. Because it's not full-time, it's on the honorable mention list.
Here's Why It’s Good:
This is another one of those "have your cake and eat it, too" situations.
- a) Flexibility: Simul jobs are contract based. Some can be shorter, some can be longer. You can choose whether or not to take a particular assignment. This is great for working around a busier schedule.
- b) Pay: Although this is a part-time gig, if you land a string of evening jobs (Simul teachers are paid more in the evenings and for longer lessons) you can earn really good coin for the hours you invest.
- c) Clients: You can end up teaching business English classes at some really cool places. My first assignment out of the gate was at Sony.
I'm sad to say that Simul is no longer doing dispatch business English lessons. However, there are other companies that do the same. AEON has a corporate business English division (only available to teachers who've successfully completed conversation school contracts). There is also another similar company called Alpros.
Japan can offer the ultimate teaching experience if you’re truly interested. I know it’s been life-changing for me, in a good way. However, not everyone who comes to Japan loves it as much I do. A major part of having a Japan lifestyle you can enjoy is being happy with your job.
For the vast majority, the workplace is where you will spend the majority of your time. If you hate the company you work for, or if your job has you locked into a miserable situation, guess what? You’re probably not going to enjoy your stay in Japan either.
When it comes to selecting a school or company to teach for, weigh your options well and choose wisely.
Before You Go!
I created a short list of some frequently asked questions that prospective English teachers have before coming to Japan to teach. No email required for this one, guys.
Just click the book cover below. ENJOY!
What are Your Favorite Companies to Teach for in Japan?
I can't claim to have worked for every teaching company in Japan. Collectively though, I think there are a lot of readers out there who have worked for other companies. Maybe you had a great experience.
What English teaching company, here in Japan, gave you your best teaching experience?
What do you think are the best companies to teach for in Japan? Please share in the comments section below.
Feel free to give your own top five list and let's see where everybody's lists overlap.