How to Teach English in Japan Without a Degree

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

Like many Asian countries, Japan has strict visa requirements and in order to get a work visa to teach in schools or with the government-run JET programme you must have at least a BA degree. But is there any way round this? While there’s no negotiating with visa requirements, there are a few options to teach in Japan if you don’t have a degree, so let’s take a look at them!

How to teach English in Japan without a degree

If you want to teach English in Japan and you don’t have a degree then, unfortunately, your options are pretty limited. A degree – in any discipline – is required to get a work visa to TEFL in Japan, so without one you aren’t eligible.

Your options to teach English in Japan without a degree require you to have one of the following:

  • A Working Holiday Visa
  • A spousal visa
  • A student visa
  • Or a Japanese passport

Out of these four options, the Working Holiday Visa is likely your best bet, and is what the rest of this article is going to focus on. But let’s look at the others briefly before moving on.

If you marry a Japanese national then you’ll have the right to work in the country on a spousal visa. Keep in mind that most employers do prefer teachers to have a degree, but you will have the advantage of being an easier hire as employers won’t have to deal with the paperwork involved with sponsorship and hiring from abroad.

If you go to Japan to get your degree then you can work part-time teaching English on the side. There are options to study in English at certain Japanese universities, or if you can study in Japanese if you have the language skills.

The final option requires you to have Japanese citizenship. If you have a Japanese passport you’ll have the right to work in Japan and be able to find work teaching English even if you don’t have a degree. If not, then there’s not really much hope of obtaining one as naturalisation requires you to have spent at least 5 years living in the country.

Mount Fuji in Japan

Teaching English in Japan on a Working Holiday Visa

If you’re desperate to live and work in Japan it can be seriously disappointing to discover a degree is required when you don’t have one. But the good news is Japan offers a Working Holiday Visa, which can enable you to TEFL in Japan – no degree required!

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.

Who can apply for a Working Holiday Visa in Japan?

The Working Holiday Visa has strict requirements, so it’s not an option for everyone. You’re eligible for a Working Holiday Visa in Japan 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

A cityscape shot of Tokyo

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.

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.

A bamboo forest in Japan


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.

To find out more about teaching English in Japan check out our Japan Country Guide. Download our FREE Guide to Teaching English in Asia for information about TEFL in other countries.

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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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