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Is a bachelors degree necessary to teach in Japan?

Q:  For Teaching English in Japan, do I need any qualifications beyond my
12 years of schooling? I’ve checked the sites of the English schools like Nova, Aeon etc and they talk about a bachelors degree being necessary but is it really? SAYS it isn’t but when the major sites say it is I wonder who’s telling me the truth. If it is, are there any other gaijin friendly jobs in Japan you’d recommend?

A: In your case,  other good Japanese jobs for a gaijin would be IT and graphic design. That said, here’s hard way and the harder way to work in Japan.

Basically, the Japanese immigration rule is that to teach engrish, you need a 4-year college degree to get a “work visa” for teacher.  There are ways around that:  “spouse visa”, “studying in Japanese school” visa, “staying-with-my-Japanese-grandma” visa, “Working Holiday” visa (for EU people mostly not Americans), “self-sponsor” a visa by opening a $100,000+ company in Japan, etc., etc., etc.

For example, if you catch a Japanese wife, you can get you a “Pet License” aka a spouse visa that allows you to work here—-no degree is required. Likewise, if you 5-7 years provable  experience at a valuable trade like a chef or real-world-salaried graphic designer you can get a “special skills visa”. Please don’t ask me ALL of the loopholes because nobody can know them all. HOWEVER. without a college degree or special skills life is gonna be a bitch. Even the engrish schools will be harder on anybody without a degree (that is, the better paying schools will ignore you or start you at a lower pay-scale). Larger Japanese companies, prefer degrees for white-collar workers—smaller Japanese companies who may ignore your lack of a degree can be hell holes. The good thing about Japan is it can be a great place for a talented but young gaijin trying to break into a crowded field like design or graphics. Just being a Japanese-speaking gaijin can open a lot doors normally closed to a smart younger gaijin in the West.

It boils down to what are your skills and what does your professional resume look like? Without a 4-year college degree, life can be hell if you cannot prove your skills with a  resume of  real work in a skill field for 5 to 7 years. That means you better have a great portfolio preferably with big-name, mega-corporation clients and proof you worked in a real business with your skills which in your case is graphics/design.

Bottom Line: Unless you want to suffer, be paid crap, and be discrimated against, you need a 4-year college degree.

Posted by Taro in General | 15 Comments »


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15 Responses to “Is a bachelors degree necessary to teach in Japan?”

  1. Wessel Says:

    I have lived in Japan for a while, in a host family. Thanks to that, I decided to become an English teacher, and alot of pushing from some Japanese ministers also.
    When I was back home we had a formal dinner at the Japanese Embassy, some minister of foreign affairs/education and etc. were also present at that time.
    They pretty much pushed me to get a bachelor degree at either the uni. or from the teacher college.

    So yes, a 4-year college degree is prefered. A 4-year college degree in English + being a native speaker is even more prefered.

  2. Taro, at Says:

    The only problem with a “4-year college degree in English” is that outside of Japan, companies will HATE to hire a person with just a a BA in English and being a school teacher is the main job option. Likewise if not worse, a BA in Japanese is actively despised by private industry and only qualifies a person to teach or translate (maybe).

  3. Wessel Says:

    I’m planning to get my MA as well. The thing is, if I can get a scholarship to go to Japan for an unknown amount of time, I will.
    After this period – when I’m back in Europe – I would like to get my MA, if not right away.
    I would also like to get my BA/MA in History at some point in my life.

    The main thing which draws to Japan are the children at the moment. I really liked doing small classes when I was there, so teaching isn’t that bad.

    Thanks for the useful information, by the way,

  4. Aerodine Says:

    Just out of curiosity why is the IT and graphic design market such a lucriative field right now?

    I think I’ve heard this from time to time elsewhere but I’ve never understood why. One of the reaons may be how easy a field it is to outsource.

  5. Taro Says:

    Aerodine asks,  “Why is the IT and graphic design market such a lucriative field right now?”
    Hey, that’s an interesting philosophical question.

    For aliens in Japan, IT and graphic design have less of a language barrier so there’s a bigger draw.

    In the case of IT, Japan (and all rest of the developed world) does not have enough people with PROPER skills. Hell, I have to turn down IT jobs all the time because I don’t have one particular skill needed for a project (yesterday it was “Ruby-on-Rails” which I don’t even know what it is, ha, ha).

    In the case of graphic design, Japan needs people with a “fresh” approach and gaijin certainly have that. Other reasons include that Japan is more of a visual based language so making graphics are more important, and Japanese read TEN times more magazines/manga than people in other countries.

    You other question is even more fun: Why don’t the Japanese just outsource such an easy fields as IT and graphics?

    Japanese have an impossible time outsourcing “thinking” fields like IT and graphics. Japanese need face to face, daily contact to explain their need ideas, needs and goals to one another. Japanese is a “high context” language with so much left unsaid that written instructions such as email to an outsource company in Japanese (or worse Japanese-engrish) is nearly useless. I’ve worked on many outsourced projects for Hitachi and the results were laughable because poor communication (in any language). Basically, Japanese can only outsource projects with blueprints—even things like mainframe computer software gets screwed up in translation.

  6. Mayumi Says:

    Is there really a “staying with my japanese grandma visa” or something like it? I’ve never heard of it, but would like to know more. As a half-japanese with a bachelor’s degree who speaks fluent japanese, I thought it would be easier for me to get a visa but that hasn’t exactly been the case. Maybe it’s because I’ve been trying to avoid english-teaching jobs.

  7. Taro, at Says:

    Yes, there’s a “staying with my japanese grandma visa” which is available to those with Japanese ancestry.

    See the official Japanese MOFA’s Guide “2. Statuses of residence without restrictions on activities in Japan…SPECIFIED VISA” for the “heritage visa” You will need to get more information on this visa by visiting the nearest Japanese consulate or embassy. This is the best visa since you can come here WITHOUT a job, live with Japanese relatives (or on you own), and find a job here which is MUCH easier than tying to get hired from overseas.

    However, Japan is in the process of ending ther special visa program for foreigners of Japanese ancestry. foreigners of Japanese descent were treated as privilaged characters. They could do no wrong because they had Japanese blood, hee, hee, according Japan’s 1990 immigration law which established a renewable ‘long-term resident’visa category for non-citizens with Japanese ancestry (Nikkeijin).

    Background info…

    Immigration Debates, – 2004 08 23, Dr G. Clark
    A major source of foreign crime here, namely the Latin Americans (mainly from Brazil and Peru) allowed to remain permanently in Japan simply by virtue of some claim to Japanese ancestry.
    Many of these people have low education and few skills; they are clustered in non-Japanese speaking ghettos close to the vehicle factories of Hamamatsu, Aichi and northern Gumma. Their children often drop out of the Japanese education system; many are now unemployable and turn to crime.
    The officials who once naively thought that the principle of blood would guarantee quick assimilation into Japanese society bridle at the suggestion that their policies resemble closely the Australian “White Australia” policies — which they used to condemn so bitterly — that were also based on a racial “ease of assimilation” principle.

  8. Q Says:

    Quit saying gaijin you lamewad. thatd be like me tossing in onculet ever time i wanted to tell you you got fucked in the ass. why would i put french in a sentence where the rest is english? man. you are lame.

    That said, good information.

  9. Yves Says:

    “Onculet”?? Ha ha! Please! Learn how to spell before you talk about French words.

    Gaijin is gaijin is gaijin, because it is one of those words which so many subtle meanings that just can’t be translated. Live with it, TIS.

  10. Taro Says:

    Why would I put French in a sentence where the rest is English? man. You are lame.

    Thanks Q!

    I always need a reminder that I’m lame paraplegic. Now, how to get best, “fucked in the ass” in Japan….There’s a good inculet legal question.

    Tonikaku/anyway, gaijin is in the English dictionary but onculet ain’t in any dictionary, hee, hee.


    Taro, the certified lame

    The Controversy

    The use of the word gaijin is often a source of controversy. While the term is not necessarily pejorative, its use can be considered offensive in some circumstances, in part because it is a contraction (and thus less formal than other terms), and in part because of mixed perceptions of its specific meaning. For example, while a non-Japanese person might not object to being referred to as gaikoku no kata (roughly, a person from another country), in some situations—such as a business setting—gaijin would be inappropriately informal. Since there are specific rules for polite speech in Japanese, and since Japanese people are sensitive to differences in nuance of different speech styles, the use of the word gaijin is usually deliberate, that is, it is either deliberately deployed as a pejorative—as in the terms baka-gaijin (stupid foreigner!) or gaijin-kusai (literally, “it stinks of foreigners”); only used when it is assumed that any non-Japanese present will not understand what is being said—asoko no gaijin (”that foreigner over there”); or used only in situations where its intended meaning—whether neutral or otherwise—will not be ambiguous. The standard form in government and media is gaikokujin.

    Some non-Japanese also object to the use of gaijin as a form of address (as in gaijin-san). It is common in Japanese to address others by title rather than name. For example, customers are customarily addressed as O-kyaku-sama (”honorable customer”); a person who works in a bookshop might be addressed as Honya-san (Mr. Bookseller); a butcher might be addressed as Nikuya-san (Miss Butcher), and so on. However, addressing others by a physical trait is not usually seen as polite. For example, it would not be acceptable, in most cases, to address someone as Debu-san (Mr. Fatty) or

    Megane-san (Ms. Eyeglasses). The term gaijin-san is almost akin to calling someone Mr. Foreigner and especially when combined with Japanese difficulties with intonation, can be objectionable to a neutral non-Japanese. Some object to the word gaijin on the grounds that it is inappropriately broad. Japanese speakers often use gaijin as a convenient catch-all descriptive term. Indeed, many foreigners in Japan refer to themselves and each other as gaijin in certain situations, such as in conversation with Japanese friends, just as many people might describe themselves as “Asian” when speaking English.

    Others object to the term based on a literal reading of the kanji with which it is written. While Japanese words, like English ones, are most often more than the sum of their parts, and while the etymology of the word “foreigner” is in fact similar (coming from the Latin foranus, meaning “on the outside”), it is felt by some that the term is overused in the Japanese context, whereas an English speaker might prefer other terms in certain situations. Specifically, since even long-term ex-pats in Japan are referred to as gaijin, many foreigners feel that the word symbolizes their cultural and social exclusion from the Japanese community and the reluctance of some Japanese to accept Japanese citizens of non-Japanese ethnicity and of the government to acknowledge persons of non-Japanese ethnicity as citizens even if they are born in Japan. In contrast, for example, a person from Japan who is a long-term resident of Canada might be called “Japanese-Canadian,” “of Japanese descent,” or even simply “Canadian.” It is also pointed out that gaijin can suggest “stranger,” “outsider,” or even “enemy.” This exclusion from the Japanese “we” can be especially trying to those who have made great adjustments to their behavior to conform to rigorous standards of Japanese etiquette and especially considering that other major powers such as the UK and the US have inclusive conceptions of social identity. Some English speakers point out that even in English the term “foreigner” or worse, “alien,” can have negative implications in certain contexts. For example, it would not usually be considered polite to refer to someone as “the foreign man,” or to describe someone as being “foreign,” particularly when that person is a long-term resident or even citizen of the country. It is pointed out that such phrasing is often chosen for reasons of racism. See also Ethnic issues in JapanEthnocentrismJapanese abbreviated and contracted wordsSangokujinTension between social groups in sento bathhousesZainichiO-yatoi gaikokujin

    Related concepts in other languages Allochtoon from DutchLaowai in Mandarin ChineseGweilo, a Cantonese term.Gringo, used in Latin America.

  11. Thomas Hashimoto Says:

    I want to let you know that if you are an Issei dual national Canadian male, you can have two wives legally. In Japan, you can marry a Japanese national, while at the same time, marry a caucasian wife who is Canadian. With either children, only acknowledge citizenship of the country you are together. You can register your Japanese wife in the Koseki, and not your caucasian Canadian wife. You register your white Canadian wife with the Canadian registry. You can fly back and forth and have a double life.

  12. Rod Says:

    I like the term Nikkeigaikokujin. Especially to those who are Japanese American second lieutenants who are serving in Okinawa. They are in every sense of the term, an American, as they are even willing to serve in the US uniform in their ancestral homeland. The Okinawans hate seeing their descendents stationing in Okinawa under the US flag. Even those who are dual citizens with Japan are serving as officers and enlisted in Okinawa, and this infuriates the Japanese/Uchinanuchujin alike.

  13. Rod Says:

    They perceive this as an act of dishonor to their ancestors. While the Japanese Americans take pride in having served in the US armed forces that won their American identity in the second world war with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Japanese find this hitting too close to home, having “their own” betray them by coming as service members in the uniform of the enemy that many of their very own grandfathers fought against in the Imperial Japanese Navy and Air Force.

  14. Seth Says:

    Yeah, I hate the U.S. armed forces stationed in Okinawa too, and I’m American. Their actions and mentality are embarassing and they no longer have any business being stationed in Japan. If forced to choose, I’d sooner join the Jietai.

  15. Rick Says:

    So basically, if you’re Dutch (like me), fluent in English (also me) and not in the possession of a BA (due to, ehm…lacking funds), and have the sincere wish to teach English in Japan, you’re saying I’m fucked?


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