Is TEFL Certification Required to Teach English in Japan?

by Adam
(Madison, Wisconsin)


Thanks for all the work on this site. It's a life saver. I do however have one question. I will graduate this spring and I am wondering if it is a requirement to be TEFL certified in order to find teaching work in Japan? I see so many ads that are asking for TEFL certification that I am getting discouraged. I will graduate with honors in Journalism from UW-M.

Any advice is appreciated!

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Dec 23, 2016

by: John

Hi Adam,
Thanks for visiting the site and congratulations on graduating with honors from that high-power research university.

Your question is a bit complex. Is TEFL certification required? NO. Absolutely not. Does it make finding a job easier?
Yes. You need to think about market realities. For example, 20 years ago teaching in Japan was not so competitive, wages were higher and you could clean up in the career area with a Masters degree. But that was 20 years ago.

Fast forward to today. Nowadays, tons of recent grads are piling into these teaching jobs. Tons we say. Market reality now accurately reflects supply and demand. Remember large English schools like Geos, Berlitz, ECC etc. have large well-oiled recruitment machines based in the U.S., Canada, UK etc. and they recruit by the thousands to fill ALT positions etc. all over Japan. These guys will hire you without teaching certification.

But if you fly over and set up shop here first and then go looking for a job you are now competing in a different world. Why do I say this?
Because you are not only competing against all the recruitment action going on outside of Japan but in addition to this you are also competing against seasoned, experienced ESL teachers in Japan. Half of them or better have teaching certification and they ALL have teaching experience which trumps everything.

So if you get hired in the U.S. by a big chain school, you don't need TEFL certification (unless you just want to be a better teacher) but if you intend to compete here in Japan get yourself something to give you some edge or in other words don't show up to a gun fight with a knife.

Hope this helps and good luck!

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