JET Programme Alternatives & Options

Hiring in English teachers in Japan

Can’t or didn’t make it onto the JET Programme? Still want to come to Japan? Here we discuss alternatives to the JET Programme. Please note the following links and/or comment can in no way be construed as recommendations for any particular website or business. You will need to do your research throughly.

Information about English Schools and private ALT positions in Japan

Some notes to remember. January until March is the prime recruitment time if you are seeking employment as a teacher at one of the small and/or independent English schools (eikaiwa) in Japan. The big English schools like ECC recruit all year round due to their large number of schools and the fact the average teacher at their schools only stay 1 or 2 years or less (i.e. found better jobs or returned home). Also some small English schools also recruit year round. Some recruit for private ALT postions or for conversation classes on sites. Conditions and locations can widely vary so make sure to do your homework. Listed below are links to some of the larger English Schools in Japan. You can find vacancies for some of the smaller school via the job links provided.

Please note, there are two broad kinds of English teaching jobs in Japan: ALT work and eikaiwa. One or the other might be better for you depending on your preferred lifestyle. Try to think of which suits you before you start applying. Working in colleges is also available but more difficult to obtain and also requires at least a Masters degree, if not a Doctorate.

ALT work is a bit like the JET Programme. In other words, a foreign speaker of native (or near native fluency) level is placed in a public school (elementary, jr. high, or sr. high) as an Assistant Language Teacher, where they work together with full-time professional Japanese public school language teachers to teach classes. ALTs keep the same schedule as the schoolchildren, so it’s an 8:00-4:30-ish job and generally has weekends off. ALT placement companies include Interac, Altia, Heart, etc. (see links below).

Eikaiwa, or “English conversation”, teachers work at private, cram school and night-school-like institutions. They teach children and adults who pay to attend their non-work/school hours English classes. In the case of kids, this would be extra cram school called juku; in the case of adults, this would just be English classes for people who want to learn English in their spare time. Eikaiwa classes have to be run when their clients are not busy at their jobs or, in the case of children, school, so work hours tend to run from the afternoon to fairly late in the evening, and you may very well find that your days off during the week don’t line up nicely on Saturday and Sunday. Eikaiwa schools include, amongst many others, AEON, the former NOVA, Gaba, ECC, Shane English, and James English School (see links below).

The two types of English teaching work are in reality quite different, leading to different lifestyles each with their own pros and cons. In addition to that, ALTs get more vacation and are usually more involved in their communities, but can often complain of lack of challenge to their jobs. Eikaiwa teachers have less freedom to take vacations, but are worked harder (sometimes to the bone…), and their students pay to be there, so theoretically are a little more motivated. Eikaiwa are also usually a bit more urbanly located than typical ALT fare (though there are sometimes urban ALT positions around too).

The pay for most entry level positions is usually pretty similar. Don’t settle for less than 200,000 – 240,000yen a month, but don’t really expect to stumble across something paying more than 300,000 either.

English Schools in Japan – Links

Please note that we have recently removed some links here as it was felt it was giving unfair advantage to large English schools who have plenty of money to do their own advertising. If you are in this category and would like to have a paid or sponsored link please contact us.

If you are non-profit organisation, a small local eikaiwa or are offering prefecture-sponsored positions please contact us with the details.

A to Z – recruiting mostly in Nagano

* This is a very handy comparison table put together by a poster on the JET Programme official forums (in 2010) for English schools hiring in Japan.

Japan Job Links and Research

O-Hayo Sensei – A very good source for finding English teaching opportunities in Japan. You can download the current issue online, or for a fee of $12 annually, the latest issue will be sent automatically to your e-mail address twice a month.

Genki English – The Genki English team are former JETs and well known throughout Japan for their English programs. They list some jobs here as well as some useful videos. – A site created by a community of English teachers and provides some excellent resources as well as inside articles which only those experienced in teaching English in Japan would know about. – The web site features an extensive list of opportunities for teaching English worldwide, and regularly posts lists of jobs in Japan.

ESL Cafe – Check out the Japan Forum – Offers regularly updated, on-line jobs boards for f/t and p/t ESL positions with smaller English and private schools

Gaijin Pot – A popular web site that lists full- and part-time ESL positions as well as non-ESL opportunities.

Career Cross Japan – This site features a searchable database with which you can specify your preferred location, your field of expertise, your level of experience, and other criteria to find a perfect match. Career Cross also includes many listings for jobs other than teaching.

JALT – University teaching positions are listed here

Debito: The green list – Check out Debito’s advice here and here for recommendations on some of the good (and not so good) English schools and universities in Japan.

Jobs at International schools and kindergartens in Japan

If you have a formal teaching qualification (such as a B.Ed) or graduate diploma (such as a G.Dip.Ed) a very good alternative are the many international schools and kindergartens in Japan. International schools generally like to recruit teachers with at least two years prior experience in the position you are applying for. You can try approaching the schools directly (as below) or look for jobs on sites such as TES and TIE Online.

International schools and kindergartens in Japan- contacts

This list is subdivided into the following sub-headings (first, Tokyo followed by other regions of Japan)

Tokyo: Preschool & Kindergarten Only – English
Tokyo: Schools with Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary &, in some cases, High School Programs – English
Tokyo: Tutoring and Special Education for Children with Learning Differences
Yokohama, Kawasaki and Kanagawa – English
Tokyo: Non-English International Schools
Yokohama: Non-English International Schools
Tsukuba: University town northeast of Tokyo – English
Tokyo: College and University – English

Other Parts of Japan (organized from North to South):
Nagoya / Aichi
Fukuoka / Kyushu

There are also international schools in Japan listed here on DMOZ and here on the Stanford site

Private or Alternative ALT positions in Japan

These positions are mostly staffed through the big English schools such as Heart, Interac and Altia. You may however still be lucky enough to find one advertised directly through a school. Many times these positions are filled through word of mouth. If you have friends already teaching in Japan try to get them to ask around for you. Be careful of the conditions you are offered – here is one example (in Fukuoka) of the poor conditions of ‘sub-contracted’ ALT’s

Kurashiki City in Okayama runs and recruits ALT’s directly for their NET (Native English Teacher) Program

Nagano Prefecture recruits private ALT’s to work in various areas, mostly in senior high schools.

If you are from Wisconsin you can apply for Chiba Prefecture’s special sister-state ALT exchange. A number of the ALTs in Chiba are not JETs but actually special Wisconsin ALT’s. For the most part they are identical to JETs – the only thing they don’t get is a Tokyo Orientation. Placement on this program guarantees placement in Chiba Prefecture at a senior high school.

‘Gap’ Programs and Working Holiday Visas in Japan

If you don’t have a degree the next option is to see if you are eligible for a Working Holiday Visa. There are positions that allow young people to work in short-term positions like golf caddying, ski lift attendants, etc. For information go to

Internships and Summer Programs

Princeton-in-Asia – Fellowships and Summer Internships Teaching English in Japan. Posts available for college seniors or graduates to teach English.

Student Internship Program at Ibaraki Christian University

Ibaraki Christian University offers opportunities for students from all American and Canadian universities.

Japanese University Scholarships – MEXT, Monbusho, etc.

You can apply for a research or teaching studies scholarship. For these you must be under 35 years of age and a college graduate (includes prospective graduates). Those who wish to undertake Japanese Studies must be under 30 years old.

Find the best deal, compare prices & read what others say about travelling Japan

Teaching English and Study Options – China

One can obtain a China Scholar Council Scholarship. You are paid to live in a Chinese university and study Mandarin. Apparently it’s not difficult to obtain if you are prepared to work through their torturous bureaucracy. If you’re looking for decent places to work, this might be a good place to start too…

CIEE’s Teach Abroad in China program is a sort of “poorer cousin” of the JET Programme.

China can be far more interesting than Japan, but also far less paid – not to mention (from personal experience) far more irritating too. Some interesting discussions can be found at the popular Chinese-Forums site

Note: English school work is also widely available, but be careful! There are a lot of really awful companies out there. Do your homework VERY carefully!

Teaching English – Korea

For these jobs there might be less competition, lower start-up costs, and a salary that will likely improve the longer you stay there.

Korea has a three similar programs to JET. They’ve had mixed reviews, but you get rent and utilities included in your salary and living costs are very low. Even at the current exchange rate, it’s a great place to save money, plus your return airfare is covered.

Unlike JET, you can get a guaranteed placement in a big city with SMOE, where you can be assured of getting placed in Seoul!

The nationwide equivalent is called EPIK

There also is provincial version in the area that surrounds Seoul called GEPIK. Some reports claim it is a bit better than EPIK

Note: English school work is also widely available, but be careful! There are a lot of really awful companies out there. Do your homework VERY carefully!

Teaching English – Hong Kong

HK recruits foreign teachers, called NETS, for placement in both the locally run primary and secondary schools. Contracts are for two years; most contractual details can be gleaned from this page. The salary for these job posts are among the highest in the world, although of course HK is not cheap to live in. Details can be read on various sites, including entry through the government’s Education and Manpower Bureau site, and following the link to the NET scheme.

Teaching English – Taiwan

A great country and good place to save money. Just like Korea, there’s plenty of Japanese influence here.

Some Thoughts on Teaching English in Japan
Teaching English and Living in Japan by Lindy Sinka
Live, Learn and Teach English in Japan by Christopher P. Cotter
Teaching English in Japan: How to Get Started and What to Expect by Jo Ebisujima
Teaching English in Japan: The Internet Job Search by A.J. Hoge
Point Your Cursor to a Job in Japan by Celeste Heiter
An English Teaching Assistant’s Introduction to Japan by Gabrielle Wallace
Short-Term Contracts Teaching English in Japan by Matthew Hernon
The JET Program: Teaching English in Japan While Getting to Know it as an Insider by Aaron Paulson
Tutoring English in Japan by Adrienne McPhail
Pros and Cons of the JET program (ESL Teaching in Japan)
The ALT Scam by the Fukuoka General Union
Alternative Lifestyles – Life in Japan without teaching English

How about becoming a rice farmer in rural Japan? Here’s a short documentary from PBS Frontline about an Australian who became a rice farmer in rural Japan on Shikoku.

Another Japan alternative is the volunteer WWOOF program which provides participants accommodation and all meals in return for assisting the host. Apart from working on organic farms in Japan, other possibilities include working at health and healing centers, pottery and arts, building and restoring traditional homesteads, timber working places, organic restaurants, martial arts, dealing with animals, Japanese tea house, pension in ski fields area, eco village, brewing and production of foods, fishing, bee keeping, nature guide center, centers for the environment, sea kayaking and more.

You could run a travel business like this ex-JET is doing. Or start your own English school.

You could always stay in Japan, get residency and get yourself elected. Check out the website of Anthony Bianchi (Aichi JET, 1989-91) – the first North American to hold elected office in Japan.

Another job could be to drive a taxi. In Hiroshima, Stephen Outlaw- Spruell at one stage was possibly Japan’s only gaijin taxi driver and somewhat of a local celebrity. Sorry no link available. Phone Tsubame Kotsu Taxi Company – 082-221-1955

Be an Au Pair and look after children.

Or you could just give up altogether and become homeless like the poor Vincent Dodson.