How to Find a Teaching Job in Japan and Other Asian Countries

Teach ESL Overseas

National Concert Hall

Whether it's because of a tough economy or because they want to have an overseas adventure, many people are turning to teaching English in Asia for employment. This can be an excellent way to make some money and see the rest of the world at the same time. Teaching English in Asia is increasingly becoming a more viable profession for many people, one that many turn into a career. However there are some things to keep in mind while searching for your first ESL job.

1. Visa Requirements
In general, ESL is not a profession that requires credentials at the entry level. That means that even if you didn't study education or English, it's not impossible to get a job. So if you're looking for a change or break from your current career it's an excellent choice.


That said, each country is going to have different requirements for obtaining a work visa. These vary from pretty lax to strict, and sometimes they change for particular countries over time. For example, South Korea, where I taught for three years, gradually got much stricter with its visa requirements. In general, many jobs require things like criminal background checks, a college degree, and school transcripts. You will very likely have to submit medical checks as well. Regarding the criminal background check in particular - some countries require an FBI check for Americans, which can take several months.

Planning ahead is essential. In some cases, having your documents lined up BEFORE searching for work can make the process go much smoother - especially in the case of South Korea, but it's true for all countries. You will look much more attractive to potential employers if they don't have to wait for you to get your paperwork in order.

2. What the market is like
Check what the market is like in the country you want to teach. There are different kinds of ESL jobs available in each country, and a variety of ages to teach as well. Some countries, such as South Korea and Taiwan, have an influx of private institutions that provide extra, after school education for school age children, as well as adults wanting to learn new skills. Some countries let you teach at public schools without prior credentials; some require teaching certificates or experience (public school jobs in Taiwan, for example, require you to be a licensed teacher in your home country). 

You can also step outside the private or public education industries and even get a job teaching corporate English at big businesses. Checking what kind of jobs are available is a big part of making a decision to teach abroad. For example, if you want to live in Taiwan but don't like working with children then maybe it's something you should reconsider - as many ESL jobs in Taiwan involve working with children. And if you're very concerned about money, perhaps some Southeast Asian countries will be out for you - some lesser developed countries do not pay as well on average.

Causeway Bay

3. What the standards are like
As mentioned above, most entry level ESL jobs do not require any previous experience, education, or training. However there are some countries with higher standards than others. Getting an ESL job in South Korea doesn't usually require previous experience or certification, however on the flip side, Hong Kong has pretty high standards and a competitive market. With some countries it depends on the specific type of ESL job you want to get (For example, private academy jobs in Taiwan are easy to get, but as mentioned before public schools are harder). If you wish to teach in a certain country, or have access to certain higher level ESL jobs, then this is something to consider.

Check the kinds of training and certification necessary to obtain the kinds of jobs you want. There are many places in the world that offer ESL certificates such as the CELTA in order for you to upgrade your credentials. You can also obtain a Master's Degree in ESL or a related field - many places also offer online degrees so you can continue to work at the same time. Do note that certain countries - such as Taiwan - do not recognize online degrees as valid.

Moving to the other side of the world to live can be an exciting thing, but it's not a decision to be taken lightly. Thankfully with a bit of common sense and preparation you can avoid some of the pitfalls and have an excellent first time experience teaching English in Asia.