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Career Prospects for a Long Term Immigrant 2021/1/13 12:34
Thanks for reading my post. I hope its not too redundant as I know this gets asked semi frequently on this sub. I have taken a read at older posts and wanted to tweak the question to my situation for some more relevant information. I apologize for the very long post and in advance I'd like to thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts if you choose to do so. It's very helpful for me.

Some info about me; I am married to a Japanese national (born and raised) from Yamanashi, with one toddler. My spouse currently has permanent residency in the U.S. Due to the recent political climate among other factors we are becoming more interested in raising our child in Japan and are making plans to move in the next couple of years. I am active duty in the U.S. military working in the field of pollution response, port-state control and facilities inspections in the maritime environment/maritime transportation system; and the federal (international for port state control such as SOLAS, MARPOL etc) regulations regarding these fields. I have a BS in Biology from a state university with a ~2.7 GPA. I was born in a Latin American country and am fluent in Spanish (first language) but have been in the U.S. education system, fully fluent in English since second grade. My wife has a Bachelor's from a Japanese university as well and as her father owns a company in her hometown he has some contacts for networking etc (apparently is friends with a Mercari exec). In terms of assets we'd be moving around $60k USD to Japan with us and would hope to be able to purchase a home ASAP although I don't know if we'd qualify for a loan too quickly.

Though I aspired to continue this career to retirement as we are looking to move I am trying to branch out into other fields/skills that would make me more marketable to work in Japan. Let me preface with the understanding that the more fluently I can speak, read and write Japanese, the more opportunities and the better my prospects will be in Japan. I saw how much my parents were hindered by their lack of English after moving to the U.S. and I do not want to be in their shoes. I speak good enough Japanese speaking with my wife at home and have studied on and off for a couple years but I intend to study seriously and achieve at least N3 around the time of moving, and continue working to N2 or N1 while in Japan. I have the opportunity to pursue a master's degree while on active duty to complete prior to moving as well as using my GI bill to attend a physical university in Japan after moving.

I imagine the most accessible field is that of English teaching, be it as an ALT, at an Eikaiwa, etc. I am of course open to these positions especially fresh off the boat although I'd like to move up to a better position with time and experience hopefully being employed full time as a teacher in a public or private school, or full time at a prestigious eikaiwa. I admit I don't have much knowledge with this world. My understanding is for someone to be marketable for these kinds of positions, they need to possess a degree in either education or teaching (or maybe only teaching/teaching license) to be considered. I have thought about teaching high school science in the states post-military before and therefore have looked into getting a MAT or M.ed in the past. I don't know if that, especially without teaching experience, would actually be helpful to me in Japan.

Aside from teaching, I've been looking at other fields to branch out into, especially if they would be marketable overseas. My wife (probably just guessing) has mentioned accounting (wouldn't be able to get the CPA license before moving due to no experience) or CompSci/IT/Cybersecurity/Sysadmin . I can possibly complete a master's degree program prior to moving in Accounting or in IT/ Related fields using my Tuition Assistance.

With all of the above being said, my main questions are as follow:

What certifications/degrees or skills can I acquire now to make me more marketable for English teaching positions in Japan? Is vertical growth in this field still viable long-term with work and experience or is it a "dying industry" as many have written online? Would getting a Master of Arts in Teaching (With or without a teaching licensure in my state) or a Masters of Education in curriculum/TESOL (Without a teaching license) be beneficial to get, or would simply getting a TESOL/TESL/TOEFL/CELTA certification be enough to start with? Is a MAT or M.ed even desirable without teaching experience? If I am able to enroll and pay for (with GI Bill) a teaching program at a Japanese university after I have experience teaching in Japan, would that help me to be offered a position at a school?

What fields/skills are marketable in Japan for an immigrant? Is accounting (with our without a CPA) or computer/IT related skills in demand? Would I be marketable only with having completed a master's degree in the field without relevant work experience (as we are planning to move right after my service contract is up, I wouldn't have civilian work experience in other fields)?

Any other advice on what I can do right now to help establish myself long term as a resident in Japan with a job that can put food on the table and become a career?

I realize that this is quite a lot to digest and there are a LOT of questions in my post. Again, I appreciate the time and effort someone takes to read the post and answer any questions they can. My wife and I are talking to relatives in Japan and to friends we know that have made the move themselves to get info, but asking online is also a valuable resource.

Thanks again!
by snicket  

Re: Career Prospects for a Long Term Immigrant 2021/1/13 12:50
Learn Japanese. Biggest plus to long term employment in Japan.
by H (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Career Prospects for a Long Term Immigrant 2021/1/13 13:55
There are basically two types of English teaching in Japan. One I know little about (actually teaching English as a second language) and one I know a lot about(teaching a subject in English to expat or like minded Japanese parents). Just to let you know - I'm a Science/Math teacher who has taught in Japan and other countries over the world for around a decade.

When it comes to teaching in Japan - it's highly competitive and normally requires a minimum of 2 years experience after certification (along with holding a teaching license). In general - Singapore, Japan and South Korea are the most competitive countries in Asia and the better schools in Japan are more competitive than Europe pre-covid.

As such - the better schools often have over 100 teachers apply for a position through agencies that have confidential references. To be honest - it will take a long time for you to get to this state to be competitive.

One thing you have going for you is the partner visa. This means that some schools which are mainly Japanese students learn subjects in English look for these types of people. Think of these as private schools with some of these students attending universities in the US, UK, Canada, Australia etc. These schools often prefer people with permanent residency as they don't have to sponsor a visa, pay for flights home every year, pay housing etc. Speaking Japanese at a reasonable level will also be highly advantageous as they don't run like an American school AT ALL!!

Please feel free to ignore the following comment - but I think it's quite important. Please carefully consider moving children to Japan if they are going to complete their entire education in Japan. If I had my own kids - I'd consider sending my kids to a local elementary school but the middle school and high school system is VERY DIFFERENT than the west. Quite often - a lot of elementary school is used to give students the skills to read and write (I'm sure your wife can talk about this). Many ms/hs's can be quite high pressure.

Speaking to some people who are part Japanese who grew up in Japan would also be a good idea as it's very different than growing up in the west. However - Japan does this better than some other countries in asia where it can be absolutely hell growing up half local half <<add nationality>>.

I'm also not asking this question meanly - but do you actually want to teach or do you want a job that gets you out of the US? If you want to teach then it's all good but if you see it as a job then you might find it difficult. Others will know way more than I on visas and English teaching outside of international schools and the like.
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Career Prospects for a Long Term Immigrant 2021/1/14 07:02
As @mfedley said, do you actually want to teach? Doing a job you hate is a terrible way to live.
Also, as the first reply says, learn more Japanese. Mine is terrible, but in my work/life, I actually don't need much. There are some jobs that don't actually require Japanese language, but they are not common.
Also, given your military background/links, you do know that there are lots of US bases around Japan and they have lots of English speaking people working for them. Your background in biology and pollution - you should go to Okinawa - there is lots of work there that you could help with. The USA tries to cover up the mess they make there, but there are enough reports to indicate they (and Japan) have a huge problem.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Career Prospects for a Long Term Immigrant 2021/1/15 00:35

Thank you for your detailed response, its really appreciated. I completely agree that reaching fluency in the language of the country where you are residing is of top priority. If I am going to live in Japan, I am going to speak the language fluently. Period. Same thing I told my wife when she moved to the U.S. - you must learn to speak English fluently, and she did. I didn't even realize until recently that an English speaking teacher could teach a subject other than English at an international school - makes sense though! I would love to teach science, especially biology and chemistry, I am still very passionate about both topics. In the past when considering career post-military in the U.S. secondary school education was high on my list, as I enjoy teaching others at least in an informal setting, I've never taught in a classroom setting except to other adults in the military. So to answer your question - teaching is a field that I would not dislike being in. I'm sure it has its pros and cons as everything else though. If we have to move to Japan I will work in what pays the bills, at the end of the day you need to do what you need to do and I doubt any other work has more BS to deal with than the military.

What I am trying to determine at this point in time is how much a lack of classroom teaching experience, or a lack of a teaching license will hold me back. Is it worth investing in a master's in teaching/education and a teaching degree without experience backing it up? If not it would be more prudent to invest in something such a I.T. as the only required qualification to teach at the entry level is a bachelor's and a pulse.

Since you teach math and science, may I ask what type of setting/school you teach in and how you reached that point? Were you a licensed teacher in your home country and were you teaching in your home country prior to going overseas? Is a teaching license from the U.S./country of origin required to be considered for those types of positions - or are people with subject knowledge without a teaching license considered for employment (as is the case in private/charter schools in the U.S.?)

Lastly in regards to raising a child in Japan, its one of the main motivators of moving there - between my wife and I we're not very confident in the environment our daughter may grow up in in the states and we're not very happy about the quality of the education system either. If we stay in the U.S. we will probably homeschool or invest in private school. I understand the pressure teenagers face when it comes time for university entrance exams. We don't necessarily view that as a negative. Even education in Latin America is better quality than in most of the U.S. in my opinion.


Regarding the military, I'm not discarding working for the USG entirely but I'm treating it as a last resort. I'd rather stay outside of the U.S. ecosystem if I'm going to be living in Japan long-term (read: for life). I don't want to be dependent on the U.S. government or foreign companies if I can help it. The reason I have this stance is not so much because the job is "too American" but more of the fact that if I'm going to raise a family outside of the US I don't want to be one foot in one foot out. I would like to be self sufficient in that country without needing to rely on the USG to provide. Lastly working for the USG will make it much harder to reach fluency and prevent me from gaining work experience in a Japanese work environment and networking with Japanese people for future work. Now if I can use my pollution and industry knowledge to use at a Japanese company, that would be great.
by snicket rate this post as useful

Re: Career Prospects for a Long Term Immigrant 2021/1/15 07:09
Comments about the US eco-system here in Japan and what you are trying to achieve is noted - it was a suggestion. I see some of the nearby US base workers locally as my local Tokyo city is nearby and affords them a change of scene, and some operate quite happily in Japanese, but others are still happy to make do with English. How much you choose to operate in English versus Japanese depends on how you work/live. Obviously outside of work you could operate in Japanese, but with an English speaking wife, being strict on that all the time could be challenging.
Pollution/waste management issues in Japan are certainly around, there are probably opportunities, but a bit outside my field.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Career Prospects for a Long Term Immigrant 2021/1/15 07:43
I was a teacher with experience from my home country and internationally before I got a job in Japan. However - I got a job at one of the top 3 schools in the country which is something that most people don't get so remember this when I make comments (aka - does not fully line up to what you may want or your particular pathway).

To get a job at an international school traditionally in Japan - there is an expectation of 5 years experience (with some international) along with AP and/or specifically IB experience. It's fair to say that these schools will not be on your radar straight away. These schools include but may include others: Canadian Academy, Amercian School in Japan, St Marys, Osaka Senri, Seisen, Nishimashi, Yokohama IS, St Mary's et al.

Then there are a group of schools which caters more for a local clientelle or is a lower tier of school. Having some type of certification with a visa that allows you to work means that they do not have to pay thousands of extra dollars a year on getting you a visa, moving allowances, housing allowance etc. I do see you completing some type of teaching degree to get you certified - but I don't know the US system that well. There is another forum/website called international schools review which will be more helpful in that regard.

In general - if you don't have certification then you can't get a job at the better international schools. If you will have conversational Japanese then have you considered working for the Jet program which does not run in schools. I've heard of quite a few people who work with government departments using their English to do things with travel and other documents. Others in the forum will know much more than I do on this but it's something I would have liked to have done when I was going through my Japan travel stage.

Once you have a job in Japan teaching - then it will be a lot easier to move to better schools as you gain experience and get to know people. Having experience, being known and being cheaper to employ due to be an "on island" candidate will be an advantage in a couple of years. Do note that private schools are prohibitively expensive (like $20,000 USD a year for international schools).

I also have very strong views about Japanese middle and high schools. I personally don't think they are a good fit for western kids due to the rigid structure and always being behind in learning the language. Elementary school can be great for western kids if they are not too old - but a lot of time is used to learn the language (aka - writing) which allows for academic work to be further completed in middle school and high school. Your wife will be able to speak about this in a bit more detail.

I do not know why you exactly want to move away from the US and I don't need to know. But I also wanted to make you aware that in general the Americans who tend to teach overseas tend to be very left leaning and can be very forceful in their views. I'm not American but most of my last department was (not in Japan). I'm also not a fan of Trump but I basically most comments they would talk about all day was negative Trump comments for 2 years which was excruciating. I don't know your politics but if you are leaving for that reason I just wanted you to know as this often (or should I say always) pops up at the better schools in asia with US teachers.

I'd expect to see this a lot less at your starting schools which cater more for Japanese students though. I'm sure there are some Japanese people in this forum who could speak more about American co-workers and how they are different and can cause friction in the workplace specifically due to political views (every country has their quirks!).

On pressure for exams for kids - many of the better schools in Japan are a lot more exam focused than most western countries which is what I wanted to say. My former Japanese, Chinese and Korean students mostly used to love international school (from an educational perspective) as they did not have to mainly focus on a test score with critical thinking and voicing your own opinion being encouraged. That's not to say that the North Asian education system has no things to teach the west - which it obviously does!
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Career Prospects for a Long Term Immigrant 2021/1/15 22:16
you can't become a teacher in real schools which are authorized by the government. you need to have a teaching license in Japan. the licenses are complicated. if you want to be a teacher in elementary or junior high school, you nee to graduate department of education, w, in universities, with some exceptions.
if you graduate some departments related to science (or technology), you may be able to have an appropriate teaching license for senior high school (but, you have to take additional subjects in university.)
if you want to become a teaching staff in university, you don't need to have any teaching license, but, in general, you are requested to have a PhD.

ALT seems to behave as teacher of English, but they are assistants. they may be treated as "automatic language tape-recorder". by that reason, their working conditions may not be good. school (or agency) may not hire the same person for a long time, to avoid the duty followed by labor laws.

international school is not authorized by the government and not treated as real school.
if you graduate international school (high school level), you can enter university. but, no education record of high school officially.
by ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Career Prospects for a Long Term Immigrant 2021/1/15 22:41
school teachers in public schools are the same situation to public officers in city office. (actually, I believe 8-10% higher salary than city office staffs.) they have "tenure" from the beginning. no lay-off. they get the same salary even in summer vacation. that is different from USA.

living in Japan is not so difficult, especially with your Japanese spouse.
you believe that you need to have some qualification to get a job. however, the most important is lԐ, . ask it to your wife.
by ken (guest) rate this post as useful

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