TEFL Courses and
Teaching in Japan - What to Expect

We probably get more questions about TEFL Courses than any other. Frankly, there are literally tons of different courses out there.

To make things even more confusing there are different terms for essentially the same thing. TESL, TEFL, TEOSL and CELTA.

Most importantly, is it worth your time and money to get a TESL certificate if you'll be teaching English in Japan?

To help you get to the bottom of this, we’ve cut through the clutter and answered some basic stuff in our FAQ.

I’m just starting out. Any advice on TEFL courses?
If you’ve never taught ESL in Japan, I’d say wait before you blow your hard earned money on high end programs like CELTA. Having CELTA certification won't help you get a bigger salary from the large chain schools like G. Communications etc. How do you know teaching English in Japan will be right for you?

If you find you don’t like it, you’ll be kicking yourself for blowing the thousands it’ll take for certification. Instead, we recommend that you try one of the following... teach for a year and if you really like it and can see yourself spending some serious time in Japan, go for a CELTA or a big on-site TEFL course program of at least 120 hours.

If you want to give yourself an advantage over other teachers but don't want to invest thousands in an a on-site TEFL degree, go the cheaper and faster route of getting an on-line TEFL degree. Just like the on-site degrees, there are hundreds of programs to choose from. One that has an excellent reputations and is widely known is i-to-i.  Definitely worth checking out.

Do I have to physically go to the class?
You can if you want to. There are both on-site and on-line TEFL courses available in every flavor imaginable. Considering just CELTA programs, there are over 230 locations worldwide. When you add in other on-site and on-line TEFL courses the numbers are in the thousands.

If you want the convenience of home study, there are many distance learning courses available everywhere. Take a peek around the net. You’ll see courses in all lengths and price ranges.

Can I get hired to teach English in Japan without taking a TEFL course?
Absolutely. Large chain schools like who do the bulk of the hiring in Japan like ECC, Berlitz and Aeon don’t require any type of teaching certificate whatsoever. And these guys hire by the thousands.

I'm extremely busy and need the flexibility of an on-line course but am worried about the lack of hands on experience. Any ideas?
If you're so busy that you can't take a full on-site 4 week course. You can get experience just by volunteering to teach an ESL class in your community. Every little bit of classroom time helps and you'll be surprised at how much you can learn.

Another option is to do a weekend course. They're way cheaper than the full-blown on-site courses but give you some of that valuable "hands-on" time. Plus it gives you a chance to see what other professionals are doing, helps you get a network started and cuts time off your learning curve.

Is CELTA and TESL the same?
Not exactly. CELTA stands for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. (TESL is a generic name given to any program that focuses on ESL certification) University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) fixes the assessment criteria and validates the course.

Basically it’s a stamp of approval from Cambridge. (Even the CELTA trainers are approved by (UCLES). A CELTA certificate definitely carries more punch – but it will cost you. Both in time and money. You can complete a CELTA course in as little as 4 weeks or you can chop at it bit by bit on a part-time basis over the course of a year.

How much do TEFL courses cost?
There is a really big swing on course costs. Expect to drop anywhere from around $100 U.S.(on-line types) to 2,000 dollars for standard 4 week 120 hour intensive CELTA TEFL courses. Click here to see our online TEFL comparison chart.

How hard do Japanese language schools look at where the certification comes from?
Not as hard as they should. Many schools are quite unfamiliar with TEFL courses in general. If you’ll be applying to your average language school in Japan and believe that a CELTA certificate will get you more in terms of salary, you’ll probably be disappointed.

Why is this you may be thinking to yourself. The answer is generally that entry level positions offered by these companies offer employment without these qualifications. Keep in mind that these positions are the typical "grunt work" eikaiwa positions and not the nicer higher paying gigs like business English classes  and other high dollar classes etc. For these positions, because of the competition TEFL certification helps a lot and is almost mandatory if you want to compete in this market.

Ok. What about smaller schools?
Smaller schools don’t have the well-oiled recruitment departments like G Communications (formerly Nova and Geos). Smaller schools survive by eliminating student turn-over. So higher quality lessons is their focus. More experienced teachers (read those with certificates) get hired by them. These guys are more willing to pay more for an ESL instructor with a certificate. Teaching certificates can definitely open doors to higher paying jobs.

Do English schools in Japan give heavier weighting to longer online course than shorter ones?
The long and short of it is generally not. Those who opt for longer courses in the 120 hour range in general don't have an advantage over those who opt for shorter courses. However getting an online certificate will give you an advantage over other entry level candidates that have the same experience base as you as it indicates a level of commitment that those without certificates don't have.

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