If you are interested in moving to Japan, working as an assistant language teacher is an excellent way to make the move to the Far East. An assistant language teacher (ALT) teaches at elementary, junior or high school. It is possible to find an English teaching position like this prior to moving to Japan.

There are a variety of ways to find an ALT job. Most famously there is the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. JET is renowned for its high wages and has a good reputation amongst English teachers in Japan. One of the down sides to the JET Program is that they only recruit once a year.

Private dispatch companies also recruit foreigners outside Japan. As these companies are commercial ventures the salary is not as high as JET. The companies themselves take a large chunk out of your wages. These companies are more likely to hire at various times throughout the year. That said, the current English teaching market in Japan has a higher supply of teachers than there is demand for them so finding an ALT teaching position is much harder than a few years ago.

Typically the best jobs financially are working directly for a Japanese local board of education. After working for a dispatch company for a year, followed by a year as a private tutor, this is the job I moved into. As there is no middleman, it is possible for the board of education to save money, relative to using a dispatch company, while paying their ALTs higher wages. In effect I do the same job as a dispatch company ALT but get paid substantially more.

Working as an ALT is often fairly relaxed. In my experiece the job is less about "teaching English" than it is about introducing foreign culture and customs to Japanese youngsters. It can be major culture shock when you first arrive in Japan and begin working in a school where you are literally the only foreigner. I have since been to some schools where there are some students who were born overseas too. It always amazes me how quickly youngsters can pick up the Japanese language.

As well as attending English lessons, ALTs are expected to eat school lunch with the students, attend sports clubs and join in with school events. There is a real sense of community at Japanese schools where I work. Moving to Japan to work as an ALT has brought me many new experiences. Being able to study Japanese and work on my own little projects in my free time at work is a definte plus.

To be an assistant language teacher in Japan, all that is required is a positive and out going attitude. To acquire a visa a college or university degree is necessary. Teaching qualifications and Japanese language skills may help in the job but are not always requirements to gain an ALT position.

Working as an ALT will provide a host of cultural learning experiences that you can tresaure for the rest of your life. I love working in Japan. This kind of job is one of the easiest options to choose if you are looking to move to Japan.

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