With college tuition costs soaring worldwide, many people don’t have the time (or money) to earn a college or university degree.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean your lack of a degree is an automatic barrier to teaching English abroad. In fact, we wrote a blog post listing countries that don’t require a degree to teach English - many of which offer a ton of well-paying English teaching jobs.
With the good news out the way, let's break the bad news to you.
Japan is not one of those countries. Cue sad violin music.
By and large, your college major is unlikely to have any bearing on whether you land an English teaching job in Japan. Your degree doesn’t have to be in English, education or linguistics, for example. But an undergraduate bachelor’s degree in any field is still a hard requirement for English teaching jobs in Japan..
Can I get accepted into the JET Program without a degree?
We’ll keep this short and sweet. You can’t land a job as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) with the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program without a degree.
Bummer! Is there any way to find teaching work in Japan without a degree?
As a rule of thumb, reputable private ESL schools and language centers in Japan do require, along with native-equivalent English proficiency, an undergraduate degree.
Why’s this? Well, it comes down to visa eligibility requirements. The Specialist in Humanities visa for English teachers in Japan require applicants to hold, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree.
Exceptions to this rule are incredibly rare and are usually reserved for highly experienced ESL instructors. So if you have the experience but not the degree, all is not lost - and an ESL certification like a TEFL will certainly help bolster your application.
So, what are your options if you’re dead set on Japan as your teaching destination of choice?
1. Try teaching English to Japanese students online.
How does the life of a digital nomad, traveling the length and breadth of beautiful Japan, sound to you?
If exploring the world of remote work is something you’re down for, then select online English teaching companies catering to Japanese students will hire online ESL teachers without a degree.
2. Try volunteer teaching in Japan.
There is some demand for volunteer English teachers in Japan, not least in some of the bigger cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Numerous non-profits are in operation across the country, that will offer free accommodation, a modest stipend and a flexible teaching schedule to international volunteers.
You in? Go Abroad is our go-to source for great volunteer teaching opportunities in Japan.
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3. Try a working holiday in Japan.
Are you aged between 18 - 30? How about being a citizen of one of the following countries: UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Germany or Austria?
Then you’re in luck - your country has a reciprocal visa relationship with Japan! This means you could be eligible for something called a Working Holiday Visa, which lets you stay and work in Japan anywhere from six to 18 months. This way, you could start your job hunt for a full or part-time English teaching position in Japan, either in advance or when you arrive.
Again, check out Go Abroad for more info on working holidays in Japan.
Note:This isn’t an option that’s open to US citizens, but you could still be eligible for a student work permit for Japan if you’re currently enrolled in an undergraduate program.
Word of warning re. getting a teaching job in Japan while on a tourist visa:
This one almost goes without saying, but it’s also illegal to teach in Japan while you’re on a tourist visa.
Commenters on online teach abroad forums and subreddits could encourage you to enter Japan on a 90-day tourist visa, start your job hunt from there and transition to a work visa later on.
Aside from the obvious risks (not finding an employer willing to sponsor you, being unable to rent an apartment, needing to return home when your three-month tourist is up without a whole lot less money in your bank account), heading to Japan on a tourist visa with the intention of looking for a job is actually illegal.
The Japanese government are increasingly looking to crack down on these sketchy job-hunting tactics so we strongly advise you not to go down this route.