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
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.
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:
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.
JIEC has a great system set up for its teachers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is another one of those "have your cake and eat it, too" situations.
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.
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!
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.
Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of thejapanguy.com blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.
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