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How to Teach English in Japan Without a Degree

Japan has been a popular destination for EFL teachers for many years.  It’s a country with so much to offer teachers – an abundance of jobs, good salaries and benefits, and incredible culture and history.

To teach English in Japan full time, whether in a language school or on the JET scheme, you need a degree to get a work visa.  This can be disappointing to discover for anyone desperate to live and work in this incredible country, but the good news is Japan offers a Working Holiday Visa!

The primary purpose of a Working Holiday Visa is hinted at in the name – it’s to take a holiday.  This means that while you can legally work teaching English on this holiday visa, you can’t do it full time and it should primarily be to fund your travels.  So, if you love the idea of exploring Japan for a year and teaching English on the side, then a Working Holiday Visa is perfect for you.

A man standing in a Japanese forest

Who can apply for a Working Holiday Visa in Japan?

You’re eligible for a Working Holiday Visa if you:

  • Are aged between 18 and 30
  • Possess a passport from one of the following partner countries: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, France, Germany, UK, Ireland, Denmark, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Iceland, Czech Republic, Lithuania.
  • Are in good health
  • Haven’t previously been issued a working holiday visa

What you need to apply for a Japanese Working Holiday Visa

  • A valid passport from a partner country
  • A visa application form
  • A passport-sized photograph
  • A CV, resume or personal history
  • An itinerary for your time in Japan
  • A written reason for applying for the Working Holiday Visa
  • Either £2,500 in cleared funds or £1,500 and a return ticket

The application form

Visa application forms can be downloaded online from the Embassy website.  They are pretty simple to fill out, covering basic personal details and some additional information.  You also need to include a 2in x 2in photograph of yourself, which must have been taken within the past 6 months.

A person writing in Japanese with a paint brush

Your CV

Your CV details your qualifications and employment history. Everything from your education to any work experience should be stated on it. It should be clear and easy to read and no longer than two sides of A4. For some great tips for writing a CV check out our CV Guide.

The itinerary

The itinerary details what you intend to do in Japan and also provides information about any pre-arranged employment you may have found.  It’s essential that the Japanese authorities know where you are in case of an emergency or in case they need to contact you.  Try to put in as much detail as you can.  If you don’t provide enough, you could only be granted a holiday visa, which you can’t work on.  The working holiday visa is primarily about holidays, so it’s important to remember this – the reason you’re allowed to work on this visa is for you to be able to fund your travels while in the country.

Your written reason for applying for a working holiday visa

The written reason is your own personal statement detailing why you want to obtain a Working Holiday Visa for Japan.  Think very clearly about what you are going to write – this is where you need to detail what draws you explicitly to Japan.  The statement should present a genuine interest in experiencing Japanese culture.

Photograph of a street in Kyoto


The money is significant.  The Consulate wants to give a visa to applicants with a means to both support themselves in Japan and ensure they have the means to get home at the end of the visa. Traveller’s cheques, credit cards and overdrafts are not accepted. Traveller’s cheques, credit cards and overdrafts are not accepted.

You will need £2,500 in your account or £1,500 if you have booked a return flight (you’ll need to provide evidence of this). You will also need to provide bank statements for the previous three months.

Other requirements

There are a few other requirements for applying for the visa. Children can’t accompany you, and any spouses or partners you wish to go with must also have a Working Holiday Visa or a similar visa (and the amount needed for funds will be higher).

Some jobs that are considered to be damaging to public morals are strictly prohibited for anyone coming to Japan to work on a Working Holiday Visa. These jobs include work in bars, cabarets, nightclubs, and gambling establishments.  Failure to comply with the terms of your visa can lead to detainment by the Japanese authorities followed by deportation and even a ban on re-entering Japan.

The Working Holiday Visa is an excellent option for anyone wanting to visit Japan and work there for a short amount of time.  For more information about applying you can visit the embassy website.  Visit our TEFL Jobs Centre to find teaching jobs in Japan and around the world.

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9 thoughts on “How to Teach English in Japan Without a Degree

    1. Ryan, Clive,
      This is something that I have run into as well. My husband is from Japan, and I asked him about this.
      Basically, in short, this is a weird, cultural, age discrimination thing. And yes, it’s stupid. I agree. For whatever reason, once you hit 30, if you don’t already have work experience in your field of choice, you’re basically done. I don’t, nor do I think I can, understand the logic behind this. My argument was exactly the same that you would want someone with more experience. Unfortunately, this is what it is…

  1. I’ve already done a working holiday in Japan, I’d like to go back to work there but have no degree… any other options?

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