If you want to be an English teacher in Japan people will tell you that you’ll need a TEFL qualification. This is not true, but you should get one anyway.

In our advanced guide to teaching English in Japan we pointed out that you don’t need a TEFL course at all. Lots of people who sell courses to you will tell you that you need a TEFL but if you just want to get a job teaching English at an eikaiwa or as an ALT, you won’t need it.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get one though. There are tons of reasons why a TEFL course will give you value for money far beyond what you spend on it.

Click here for the Advanced Guide to Teaching English in Japan: Raise your Income by 20% in 6 months.

When you do decide it is time to get qualified, you might find yourself like I did: feeling really confused about all the different kinds of qualifications out there and whether anyone will even recognise any value in them.

I for one came to Japan without any teaching qualifications or experience to work at an Eikaiwa. It wasn’t the best job but it gave me what I needed to start moving up. Now I work at a world famous kindergarten based on nothing more than a few years experience under my belt and a 120 hour online TEFL.

Huh? You just said you don’t need a TEFL course!

That’s true, you don’t need it, but getting qualified makes a big difference if you know how to leverage it. Use it to enchance the narrative of your resume and to legitimise yourself as a teacher.

If you wanted to be a ski instructor but all you had were a few hours on the slopes, they would rightly turn you away! While the industry of teaching English in Japan is about as easy to get into as it could be, that doesn’t mean that nobody has any expectation that their teachers should be qualified. In fact, that is how you get the best English teaching jobs in Japan – show them that you are more than just a “holiday” English teacher.

Just think about it from the perspective of a hiring manager.

Put two resumes side-by-side and tell me which one you would pick.

The left one has a TEFL and the right one doesn’t. It might not look like much difference but the left guy gets the interview every time – the right guy might not make the cut.

When people tell you that you will get paid more JUST for having a TEFL, they are not telling you the whole story. What a TEFL qualification does is let the person making the hiring decision easily choose you over a similar candidate.

The TEFL courses are all expensive, I can’t afford $400 or $500 for a qualification right now.

I totally understand and I actually waited a really long time before I got my TEFL; I had been in Japan for 2 years and hadn’t been seeing much increase in my salary, and just thought that having it was better than not. I found mine on a slight discount but still paid a sizeable chunk of what was left over from my salary for discretionary spending. I was sticking around in Japan for a few more years so I thought, “why not, it can’t hurt, right?”

Leveraging my TEFL on my resume made a massive difference!

After putting the TEFL on my resume I went from earning ¥265k as an ALT to making ¥280k, then ¥300k and then up to ¥320k a month (with company insurance and generous bonuses) as a full-time English teacher with no other qualifications.

What a difference!!! That’s ¥55k more per month!

I don’t believe that I could have gotten any of those prestigious jobs without at least a TEFL qualification, and while my experience teaching in similar situations was undoubtedly the major point, having the TEFL lowered the risk for the world-famous kindergarten in Tokyo that hired me on the spot.

Getting a TEFL has more than paid for the ticket price by earning me that much extra per month!

But I don’t want to be an English teacher in Japan forever!

That is true for a lot of people currently teaching English in Japan, and you don’t have to be. A TEFL course isn’t a huge investment in cash, but it is a huge investment as a security policy for you and your livelihood here.

A TEFL course is a lifelong security policy in Japan. Lose your job? Pay your bills teaching English while you look for a new one!

If you love Japan like we do, you might want to stay long-term. You might get married and have children, and find a different kind of career rather than English teaching, which doesn’t always have a good enough salary that can support a family. What happens if you lose your job, how are you going to support yourself, or your family, without any inflow of cash? Teaching English for a spell could be the best way to make rent if you lose your job, and give you enough time to find something new when times are tough.

I got an Online TEFL qualification at a Chicago school for which I received A+.

Then when I arrived in Japan on a tourist visa I immediately started sending out resumes to all schools I could find on GaijinPot. Because most of them asked for people who already have a visa I couldn’t apply through GaijinPot so I just looked at the schools that were hiring and then I googled them, got their email and sent a mail directly.

Thomas P. (Belgium)

The TEFL course was great preparation for my class. I still refer back to lesson plans and activities I did throughout the course when planning activities and assignments for my students.

Taylor S. (TEFL Certificate Holder)

Okay, I’m ready to start earning more. Now how do I choose a TEFL course?

You can go all over the internet looking for the right course that isn’t too expensive and gives you everything you need to become a better teacher, but how will you know that before you fork over the cash? I’ve heard of people seeing great marketing and thinking that they have the right course, but once they sign up they realise that the content isn’t as good as they thought.

That’s why we looked around and tested courses from all around the internet to find a course that we believe will set you up for success in Japan (and any other country you want to go). Getting an accredited course that is highly regarded and well known is critical to using this course not only to improve your teaching skills, but also to get you a job.

When you’re ready to invest in your success as a teacher in Japan, click the link below and get qualified with ITTT:


Disclaimer: This is an affiliate link. If you choose to purchase a TEFL course, we would take a small commission that would help us to continue running Live Work Play Japan.

But remember, like we said before, a TEFL course without context and application won’t be enough to get a great job in Japan. To get high paying English teaching jobs you need to use strategy because qualifications alone won’t cut it.

Use the methods we talked about in the guide here to apply your TEFL effectively.

Just ask Marco, who quit a job that was making him miserable, and went out and got a better job in a week using the Grandpa method. You can listen to the podcast about it here, a really cool technique to use especially if you suddenly become unemployed and need something fast to pay the bills.

Any little Jukus or Eikaiwas that I would see, I dropped off my resume. I got several interviews just by doing this.

Marco Ferreira

A long time friend of Martin and Charlie's, click here for Podcast #1 - The Grandpa Method

So now it is your turn. Are you TEFL qualified? Are you planning to get one, or just don’t see the use yet? Comment below!

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