Becoming a Japanese Teacher

becoming a japanese language teacher


Where can I teach Japanese?: Overview of Japanese language education in America
What do I need to become a Japanese teacher?
who can be a japanese teacher?
Teacher training
Getting a license/credential to teach Japanese
Teaching at the college level
Japanese teacher preparation programs in the US
Teaching in a different state
Coming to the US to teach Japanese

Permission to work in the US



where can I teach Japanese?: Overview of Japanese language education in america

There are many types of places that teach Japanese language in the US:

  • Public schools (preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, universities)
  • Private schools (preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, universities)
  • Saturday schools (補習校/日本人学校): These usually teach Japanese citizens or heritage language students, but some also have classes for Japanese as a second language
  • Non-profit organizations (Japan-America Societies, Japan Foundation, Los Angeles and New York, etc)
  • For-profit businesses (one on one tutors, adult group classes, company language training, etc)
  • Online schools: (state-sponsored virtual schools, for-profit online classes, etc)

who can be a japanese teacher?

Anyone can be a Japanese teacher, as long as they are passionate and wanting to spread their passion to students! Ever wonder how you could use Japanese as a career? Look no further! We interviewed some of our lovely senseis in US who learned Japanese as a second language and embarked on a career in teaching Japanese. Not only did they talk about their experience as a Japanese learner but their experience becoming a sensei and the positive effects it has had in their lives! We hope these videos encourage you in continuing your journey in learning Japanese and that you too, can be a sensei! 

What do I need to become a Japanese teacher?



Teacher training


There are several ways to gain skills to teach Japanese:

  • Get a degree: Many universities offer teacher training programs and degrees. Click here for a list.
  • Join a Japanese teachers association: Dozens of Japanese teachers associations operate in the US, and they often offer workshops and seminars specifically dealing with teaching Japanese.
  • Check out JOINT: the American Association of Teachers of Japanese holds regular webinars about Japanese language teaching


Getting a license/credential to teach Japanese


Private schools

If you are interested in becoming an elementary or a secondary school teacher at a private school or at a university, check with the schools individually to ask about requirements. Many do not require a license.

Public schools

If you are interested in becoming an elementary, middle, or high school teacher at a public school, you will first need to obtain certification in the form of a teaching license, certificate, or credential. You must apply for a license from your state's Department of Education.

Step 1: Research

Visit your state's Department of Education website, and research the license requirements.

In general, you need:

  • An appropriate academic background (Bachelor's degree or Masters degree. If you got your degree abroad, you will need to have your transcript evaluated)
  • Japanese language skills
  • Basic skills in English reading, writing and math
  • English language proficiency (for non-native speakers of English only)
  • Teacher training from a teacher preparation program: Here's a list of Japanese Teacher Preparation Programs in the US
  • Student teaching/internship, usually obtained through the teacher prep program

Visit! You can search by state, filter for Japanese, and compare certification routes side-by-side. They also have a database of teacher preparation programs, and an excellent FAQ.

In fact, the Japan Foundation supported's free webinar about Japanese language credentialing, which you can now find here.


Step 2: Decide which license to get

States usually have several different ways to get a language teacher license. There is usually a "traditional route" which starts with getting a bachelor's degree in education, and an "alternative route" for people who got their bachelor's degree in a different subject, or in a different country.

This picture shows two flow charts which describe the traditional route to teacher certification and the alternative route.


Choose your certification route very carefully. What kind of school do you want to teach at? Call that school and ask which teacher's license they require. Ask their advice on how to get it.

Step 3: Find a mentor

Getting a license is complicated, but don't give up! There are communities of Japanese teachers that can give you advice. Visit our list of Japanese teachers associations to find one near you.

Also, find a mentor at the university where you decide to get your teacher training. They can help you through the application.

Step 4: Apply to the state

All states manage applications differently, so please thoroughly research the process on your state's Department of Education website. Don't be afraid to call them and ask questions!

Note: a few states do not even offer a teaching certificate in Japanese. In such cases teachers must be certified to teach some other subject area as a springboard (ie: Math, P.E., American History), or receive an "emergency certificate" which may last a year or longer as you work toward getting a more permanent license.

Note: once you have obtained a teaching certificate in one state, you cannot freely use it in any other state. However, many states will accept another state's certificate as full or partial fulfillment of requirements in the certificate application process. This is called "reciprocity."


Teaching at the College Level

If you are interested in teaching at the college level, you need to have an MA or Ph.D. in an appropriate field of study. The majority of current teachers of Japanese have typically earned their MA or Ph.D. degrees in such fields as Japanese Linguistics, Japanese Literature, East Asian Languages & Literatures, Applied Linguistics, Educational Psychology, TESL, or Curriculum and Instruction. Some institutions offer MA programs in Japanese language pedagogy. You should be aware, however, that it has been extremely difficult recently to locate a permanent college teaching position without a Ph.D. The majority of the positions offered to MA holders are limited to one year temporary positions or annually renewable positions that are typically subject to the program's funding situation.


Japanese Language Teacher PReparation programs in the us (Updated april 2021)

This summary of licensure programs in the US was created as a resource for potential Japanese-language teachers of elementary/secondary and post-secondary levels. The list includes contact information for institutions that offer a program which leads to licensure as Japanese language educators. It is based on a survey conducted by the Japan Foundation, Los Angeles, and is updated semi-annually.

Degrees vary between Bachelor's degrees (BA), Master's degrees (MA), and Doctoral degrees (PhD), teaching certificates and teaching licenses. This information should be used as a reference to get you started and is not comprehensive. If you are interested in one of these programs, please contact the school directly for more information. We are still currently updating this list and if you know of any other programs not on the list, please contact 


Note: Some of the information in the list was compiled from data received from the National Council of State Supervisors for Languages (NCSSFL). Without their contributions, this page would not have been possible.

Teaching in a Different State

All public school teachers must be certified in the state in which they teach, and the requirements vary greatly between each state. Some states will accept another state's license as full or partial fulfillment of their requirements. has entries for every teaching license or certificate in the US, and many entries have notes about which other states accept that license under "reciprocity." has entries for every state, and explains how that state deals with out-of-state teachers.


Coming to the U.S. to Teach Japanese

1. If you are a native speaker of Japanese and you're considering a short-term teaching experience, you may want to consider the following options:

ALLEX (Alliance for Language Learning and Educational Exchange) has the IEP (Intercultural Exchange Program) in Japanese, which enables post-secondary institutions to begin or maintain a high quality Japanese language program by providing them with professionally trained, native Japanese instructors who teach in exchange for tuition waivers to pursue a master's, associate's or second bachelor's degree.

J-LEAP (The Japanese-Language Education Assistant Program) is coordinated by the Japan Foundation, Los Angeles and the Laurasian Institution. It focused on bringing native Japanese assistant teachers to K-12 schools in the US.

2. If you are a native speaker of Japanese, are interested in a teaching experience, and do not need to support yourself, there are some agencies in Japan that send volunteer assistants to U.S. schools and universities.

ISECE (International Society of Educational and Cultural Exchange) has a program that sends teaching assistants to immersion programs in the US.



Permission to work in the US

To explore your options for obtaining a work visa in the US, visit the State Department's Visa Wizard. It will help you start your research. This temporary work visa explanation page may also be helpful.

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