An ALT Japan Journey: Teaching English and New Opportunities

An ALT Japan Journey: Teaching English and New Opportunities

Whether you want to be an ALT in Japan or looking for new opportunities afterward, you’ve come to the right place.

What is an ALT in Japan?


ALT stands for Assistant Language Teacher in Japan, and they are to assist in teaching English in Japanese schools.

They work with the Japanese-English teacher to help with language instruction and English conversational practice, as well as offering cultural insights related to English-speaking countries.

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Requirements to be an ALT in Japan

Assistant language teachers need to have these qualifications to be able to teach in Japan.

1. Hold a bachelor’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum to teach English in Japan as it is part of a working visa requirement.

Additionally, it would be most beneficial to have 12 years of schooling taught primarily in English.

2. Native-level English proficiency.

Native English or near-native English proficiency is a requirement for most teaching jobs in Japan.

While most schools would prefer native English-speaking teachers, some may hire non-native speakers if the individual can demonstrate strong enough skills in speaking, reading, and writing in English.

3. Have a clean record.

The Japanese government wants students to receive English lessons from qualified and reputable educators. So, hiring anyone with a criminal record would undermine this effort.

To teach in Japan, you can not have any convictions, including felonies or misdemeanors. And if you have a criminal record and want to teach in Japan, you will need a waiver.

Even without a criminal record, a background check is done before being officially hired.

Additionally, you will need to pass a health and drug test as part of a requirement for a work visa to ensure you are healthy to work.

Pass the health and drug test. This test wants to ensure you are healthy enough to work in Japan.

4. Be 20 years and above.

The minimum age to teach English in Japan is 20 years old. While there is no age limit, most schools prefer English teachers to be under 50.

A couple of reasons that the age requirement is 20 include:

  • School insurance rates are lower for younger teachers

  • More younger teachers can relate to the students and share more recent experiences

However, there are plenty of opportunities for all ages to teach in Japan, such as private language schools or Eikaiwas.

Bonus advantages

While these items are not required, they certainly do help you get the chance of being hired:

  • Have a driver’s license: while Japanese cities have an expansive public transportation system, being able to drive in more suburban and rural areas of Japan will help you get to your schools.

  • Have teaching experience: it will show you are familiar with teaching English, engaging with students, and supporting them.

  • Have a teaching certificate: for example, TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, and DELTA will certify your skills and knowledge of teaching English. Though it is not required, it certainly does help your position.

  • Speak some basic Japanese: While you will be speaking, assisting, and teaching in English, having basic Japanese knowledge lets you communicate with your Japanese colleagues.

What is it like to be an ALT in Japan?

Whether you teach in elementary schools or a junior high school, everyone will have a different, yet similar experience being an ALT in Japan.

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ALT Responsibilities 


Alts are responsible for assisting the Japanese-English instructor by helping students communicate better in English through fun and engaging activities. Additionally, ALTs act as ambassadors to encourage cultural exchange and understanding.

While the responsibilities will vary from schools, programs, and Japanese teachers, you will:

  • Assist with lesson planning: collaborate, plan, and prepare English language lessons and activities with the Japanese teachers teaching English (JTEs).

  • Provide English language support: you will be leading activities and facilitating language practice sessions by helping students with their pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and conversational skills.

  • Support extracurricular activities: as a teacher, you will support your school by helping with clubs and setting up school events as part of the school experience.

  • Help with administrative tasks: including maintaining records, preparing materials, and attending meetings.

Additionally, the work culture will vary between schools.

Salary for an ALT in Japan

According to Payscale, the average ALT salary in Japan is about ¥3M per year; however, that will vary depending on location, experience, qualifications, and other factors.

For example, a starting salary for ALT programs will be between ¥2.4M-¥3M per year for the JET Programme and Interac.

However, working in a private setting can range from ¥3M to ¥4M per year.

Additionally, many ALTs will also receive other benefits such as housing subsidies, transportation allowances, health insurance, and paid vacation days based on their contract and work policies.

ALT programs in Japan

ALT Programs are the most well-known organizations that hire people to be ALTs and then dispatch them around Japanese schools.

1. JET Programme (Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme)


The JET Programme (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) is the most well-known ALT program in Japan. It is administered by the Japanese government, which collaborates with certain countries to promote international exchange and enhance English language education in Japanese schools.

ALTs hired by the JET Programme are placed in schools throughout Japan, as they work with Japanese teachers to plan English lessons, assist with language activities, and promote cultural understanding.

Those in the JET Programme have one-year contracts, but it is renewable for up to five years.

2. Interac


Interac is a private company that dispatches ALTs to public schools in Japan. The company provides a solution for English teaching around schools in various regions in Japan, including rural areas.

ALTs in Japan support Japanese teachers in charge of English lessons at the school. As such, they will engage with students in English conversations, lead language activities, and help with the English curriculum.

3. Private language schools

Private language schools, also known as eikaiwa, will hire ALTs and dispatch them to their schools. The most well-known and largest eikaiwas are:

  • Berlitz

  • ECC

  • Aeon

  • Nova

These schools cater to learners wanting more English lessons outside their regular school curriculum.

ALTs in these private settings will work in smaller groups or with individual students, focusing on specific English skills such as conversation, grammar, and vocabulary.

What to do after being an ALT in Japan?

Skills to showcase


Being an ALT provides valuable experience in skills such as:

  • Adaptability: as an ALT, you work in dynamic workplaces with different teaching environments, school cultures, and education systems.

  • Japanese proficiency: if you have downtime, it’s time to brush up on your Japanese language skills.

  • Public speaking: you will gain experience leading and assisting class lessons and presenting materials.

  • Time management and organization: from managing lesson plans, extracurricular activities, and administrative tasks, you will be able to handle multiple projects and deadlines simultaneously.

What jobs can I do after being an ALT in Japan?

With your educational background, degree, and networking, there are plenty of opportunities to grow your career after being an ALT in Japan.

Here are some popular post-ALT job opportunities.

1. Translation and interpretation

While living in Japan, you may have picked up the Japanese language. Having an N1 or N2 certificate will certify your Japanese language. Being bilingual allows you to be a translator or interpreter.

As a translator, you can consider translating documents, websites, and other materials as a freelancer or in a Japanese company. While as an interpreter, you can provide interpretation services for meetings, conferences, or events.

2. Coordinator

Other similar jobs include being a cultural ambassador, where you can work with organizations and be involved with international exchange programs, sister city relationships, or cultural exchange initiatives.

It would involve working with government agencies, non-profit organizations, or cultural institutions.

3. Official English teacher

With enough experience and networking, you can become the official English instructor for classes at a Japanese school. Your experience as an ALT gives you a solid foundation to instruct and plan out English lessons.

Additionally, you can put your ALT skills to use as you can train new ALTs or English teachers and develop curriculum materials.

In closing

Being an ALT is a great way to live and work in Japan, as it opens the opportunity to provide an enriching experience for both you and your students. As you navigate being ALT, remember that being one is a great career stepping stone in Japan.

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