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 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.

Do I need a university degree the take a TEFL course?
No you don't. But you need to speak, read and write English quite well. Remember you're taking the course to teach ESL in a foreign country so your English skills need to be good to get through the course work right?

How hard do Japanese language schools look at where the certification comes from and course length?

The long and short of it is 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, university positions  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. This is of course in addition to teaching experience and a well written resume.

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. These types of  teaching certificates are long ones with lots of hands on physical contact hours or "real teaching."

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 so much of a career 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. Longer courses with hands on practicums will also help  you feel more comfortable in the classroom because you will be better equipped in terms of knowing what to expect.

More TEFL Related Pages...

Leveraging your position and speeding up the job search by breaking into  ESL fields with TEFL placement agencies.

Many looking to teach abroad have trouble picking the right course...Here's some help and things you might want to consider before getting TEFL certification.

Looking at TEFL certification from the perspective of the actual market and recruiters involved in placing TEFL grads in their first paying "gig."

And Some More TEFL Related Pages...

Is an on-line TEFL certificate enough or do you need to
step it up to on-site ESL certification?

The Gap Year. Millions Take a Shot at Japan...

Doors open and shut. Graduation closes the door on that phase of your life at home and opens up the next one. The gap year. What to do with it?
How can you convince your parents to let you travel abroad
and try your hand at teaching in the glitzy neon cities of Japan?  Plus a whole lot more  info. on  what separates Japan from other common ESL teacher destinations tucked into this article.



Scroll Down Just a Bit For Our Visitor Questions & Stories on TEFLing in Japan

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Many out there have similar questions about finding choosing courses, teaching qualifications etc. You name it and we get them via e-mails.

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Your Site Stands Out. I Have Dual Citizenship of Australia and Greece 
Your site stands out as I could tell from the rest that you really cared to help people around the planet and share your knowledge. I am the same - I …

My Girlfriend and I Want to Teach English in Japan, But We Don't have degrees.  
Basically me and my girlfriend really want to go and teach English in Japan, but we don't have degrees. This has obviously made our search for work really …

TEFL Degree And 2 Years Experience in Brazil 
Hi I am now retired and have time on my hands and have always wanted to teach English in Nagoya. I have a TEFL cert, have 2 years teaching experience …

Non-native English teacher with a Bachelor's from The Netherlands 
I've been looking at TOEFL and Cambridge certifications, but I'm not sure it's redundant for me. I'm Dutch and have a bachelors degree in Teaching English …

TEFL certificate + Bachelors Degree 
I have a Bachelors degree in History and by the time I would go to Japan I will have a year of teaching experience through the Americorps. Would it be …

Davidss 
I want to apply to JET program. If I start a TEFL course now, I won't be finished by the time I turn in my resume/application this fall. Should I mention …

Can I Get a Job Offer With Just a TEFL Certification 
I've noticed that most job offers require not only TEFL certificate, but a university degree. Is it realistic to expect to find an offer after only having …

Value of TEFL Courses in Comparison to other Degrees 
Hi, I'm a qualified doctor with 3 years of on the job teaching experience. Mostly I have taught groups of medical students on wards but have also …

Degree vs TEFL certificate 
Hi Fantastic Site! If I don't have a degree, can I still teach ESL in Japan with just a TEFL certificate? Sonny

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