Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme

Become an assistant language teacher in Japan with the JET Programme. Find out everything you need to know about requirements, salaries and more!

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What is the JET programme in Japan?

The Japan Exchange & Teaching (JET) Programme—commonly referred to as JET— is a government-sponsored program that invites university graduates to participate in an international exchange opportunity in Japan. Participants can be placed anywhere in the country, including major cities like Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Osaka. Through their work as Assistant Language Teachers, JET participants act as representatives of their home countries and play a crucial role in promoting international understanding and cultural exchange.

Japan is a country that has been enticing EFL teachers for decades. With a fascinating culture, ancient traditions, and a strong TEFL jobs market it’s easy to see why. Japan is one of the world’s most developed nations. And with a population that’s hungry to learn English, the JET Programme gives graduates the chance to experience Japanese culture and etiquette. Furthermore, the programme offers a gateway into the Japanese professional world, the chance to help young learners, and the opportunity to travel around the country. 

With more support than a typical TEFL job, the JET Programme in Japan is an excellent option for new teachers and those who have little experience living abroad. But, how to become an English teacher in Japan? What are the requirements, what’s included for participants, and how do you apply? We take a look at everything you need to know about how to become an English teacher in Japan and securing a coveted place on the JET Programme!

The History of the JET Programme

The JET Programme started as the “British English Teachers Scheme” in 1978. It then opened up to American teaching assistants in 1977, before adding additional countries and becoming the JET Programme in 1987. Today, it currently accepts participants from over 57 nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland. 

The Japanese government states its aims are to: "increase mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the people of other nations, to promote internationalisation in Japan's local communities by helping to improve foreign language education, and to develop international exchange at the community level."

By 2020, JET had over 3,105 US participants, 560 British participants, and 343 Australian participants, amongst many others.

What do Assistant Language Teachers do on the JET Programme?

Assistant Language Teachers act as assistants to Japanese English teachers, so you’re not expected to take classes solely on your own. For newly-qualified EFL teachers this can be a great way of easing yourself into teaching as you’re not fully responsible for classes and have the support of another teacher.

The exact duties of ALTs can vary depending on the school, but typically you’ll be involved in preparing teaching materials, teaching classes alongside a Japanese teacher, taking part in extracurricular activities, and possibly working across different schools in the same area.

Children in Japan start learning English in schools at the age of 10, but with English education largely focused on reading and writing, speaking skills are often not as advanced. As a fluent English speaker, your role will be to help enhance these communication and oral skills.

What’s Included in the JET Programme?

The package offered to ALTs participating in JET includes a good salary and a level of support you wouldn’t necessarily get with other employers in Japan. This makes it ideal for those teaching English abroad for the first time. The employment package includes:

  • 1-year contract (participants can renew their contract for a maximum of 5 years)
  • 36 million yen annual salary (£24,000 / $31,500)
  • Accommodation assistance
  • Flights
  • 10 to 20 days paid annual leave
  • 5 to 10 days of sick pay

What are the requirements for the JET Programme?

The requirements for JET are relatively straightforward, but the Japanese government does have specific criteria you must meet. These include:

  • A bachelor's degree in any subject.
  • You must be a citizen of a country where recruitment can take place.
  • You cannot be a Japanese citizen; you must renounce your citizenship to join the programme if you’re currently a Japanese citizen.
  • You must have superb speaking skills in your designated language.
  • You need fantastic writing skills in your designated language.
  • You must have a profound interest in Japan and the culture of Japan.
  • You must not have lived in Japan for 6 years or more since 2000.
  • You cannot be a former participant in the JET Programme.

The JET Programme Salary

The JET Programme offers a competitive salary for participants, starting at ¥3,360,000 per year (approximately $26,000 USD) for first-year participants. The salary increases with each additional year in the program, reaching ¥3,960,000 (around $30,000 USD) for participants in their fourth and fifth years. 

Read more: Teaching English in Japan Salary

The JET Programme Application

Now let’s go through the application process.

Accepting Your Role on the JET Programme

Once applicants are offered a position, they must formally submit their letter of acceptance or rejection. Furthermore, you must present the results of a physical examination from the last three months. Successful applicants then must send their contact information to allow officials to send materials and information closer to the departure date. 

Applicants learn about their placement details by July; however, they often learn about their placement by May. The departure date is either late July or early August. The JET Programme requires applicants to depart in a group from the same city—typically the city in which they were interviewed. Once applicants have arrived in Japan and begun working, they must attend post-arrival orientations and annual mid-year conferences. 

It’s important to note that you won’t be reimbursed for the cost of acquiring the various documents required during the application process and anything you send off won’t be returned to you. The JET Programme application process is very strict, so you really need to take care at every stage that you’ve done everything correctly.

Applying for the Jet Programme

First of all, you need to complete an online application, which can accessed be via the JET website. Applications usually open around October. Next, you’ll need to get your application pack ready. There are a lot of different documents you’ll be required to attach, including several photocopies of each. Once it’s complete, participants need to go to the Japanese Embassy before the deadline. Prospective participants must send their application—with a self-reported medical form and a statement of purpose—in November or December of the year before they depart. 

Interviewing for JET

Those who pass the initial phase will then have interviews in major cities. These interviews usually take place in February. People can apply from within Japan—which is superb if teachers already live there—but the programme doesn't offer any interviews inside Japan. Applicants must conduct their interviews in their home nations, so prepare yourself to travel to your home country. A panel of former JET members, embassy officials, consulate staff, and government officials conduct the interview. It’s likely to last twenty minutes. 

Download our teaching English in Asia guide

The benefits of the JET Programme

You’ll Work in Japan 

Let’s face it: there are so many reasons why you’d want to work in Japan. The nation is home to one of the world’s most fascinating cultures, and the JET Programme allows you to witness it all. However, one of the most stressful things about teaching in Japan is finding a job. For most people, the thought of moving to a foreign country and finding work is daunting. 

You may find a job after arriving in Japan, but it’s not a certainty. Japan is an expensive nation; it can eat your savings quickly. JET, however, provides you with a job before you leave your home nation. As a result, you can feel assured that you’ll teach English in Japan without stress and aggravation. And whenever you're not working, you can visit Japan's most popular destinations.

You’ll Have Your Own Apartment

The JET Programme sets you up with your own apartment. Finding an apartment can be daunting in Japan when you're teaching English abroad. In addition, apartments in Japan tend to work differently from your home nation. For example, you may need to have up to six times your monthly rent in fees. Sure—it’s super expensive—but that’s the reality of apartments in Japan. 

Although the accommodation provided might not be your dream home, it’s still your own place in Japan. You won’t have to worry about wasting money in hotels whilst you stress about finding your own place. You’re even free to leave your JET apartment and find your own place if you wish. 

Excellent Pay and Tax Advantages

Yes, the experience of teaching abroad in Japan is incredible, though the excellent pay makes it even better. The JET Programme often begins at ¥3,360,000/yr in the first year before moving to ¥3,960,000/yr in the fourth and fifth years. Not only do you have enough money to pay your bills, but you’ll have enough to explore Japan, travel around Asia, and live an incredible lifestyle. 

For the most part, the JET Programme is the highest paying ALT gig. Although you can find companies who’ll pay more after a few years of teaching, the JET Programme’s starting salary is unbeatable. And on top of the high pay, you also receive a tax exemption in the first two years. Many nations—including the United States—have a tax treaty with Japan, whereby your first two years of salary is tax-free. 

You’ll Have Time to Enjoy Japan

Of course, working hard is important, but having the time to explore Japan is also essential. After all, Japan has so many amazing sights to explore. JET, however, offers an incredible amount of holidays. 

Although the exact amount depends on your contact, it rarely disappoints. Typical vacation days range between 12 to 20 days per year and sick days span from 5-10 days. Either way, you’ll have ample time to witness the country. Remember, it’s unlikely that you’ll teach in a popular tourist spot, such as Tokyo or Osaka, but the holidays make up for that.

FAQs about the JET Programme

  • Q. Do you need a TEFL qualification for JET?

    A TEFL qualification isn’t an essential requirement, but it will give your application a real boost. Keep in mind that positions are competitive, so to be in with the best chance of securing one, a 120-hour TEFL qualification is highly recommended. A TEFL qualification will perfectly prepare you for teaching in Japan. You’ll learn the fundamentals of teaching English to foreign students, so you’ll be prepared with some initial confidence when it comes to teaching.

  • Q. How long is the JET Programme?

    JET can last for up to five years. Typically, participants will sign a one year contract before extending it for up to five years throughout elementary schools and public schools in Japan.

  • Q. What qualifications do you need?

    All applicants require a bachelor's degree in any subject. However, applicants don't require any educational or separate qualifications in teaching to participate in JET.

  • Q. Is the JET Programme in Japan hard to get into?

    Yes, JET is competitive and challenging to get into. As a result, your application and interview must be excellent. You should also ensure you have ample qualifications to prepare you for the challenge—such as a TEFL certificate. The Japanese government can be strict about which teachers they allow into their senior high schools and elementary schools, so ensure you take your time with your application.

  • Q. Can I choose where I’m placed?

    While JET allows you to list your top three preferences there’s no guarantee the placement you’re offered will be in any of them—in fact, it’s quite common for it not to be. If you have your heart set on Tokyo, Kyoto, or other major cities, then JET is probably not for you. Your chances of being placed in a big city are small and you'll likely be on rural placements around Japan, so applicants really need to be open to the idea of working anywhere in the country.

  • Q. Can non-native English speakers participate in the JET scheme?

    Yes, as long as your country is listed as a participating country then you’re able to apply. From 2019 to 2020, the JET Programme included 57 nations and, of course, most of those nations aren’t native English speaking countries.

  • Q. Can I apply if I’m in my final year of university?

    Yes, as long as you are due to complete your degree before the programme starts in July or August, you can still apply. You’ll need an official letter from your university to confirm your enrollment and when you’re due to complete your degree.

  • Q. Is there an age limit?

    No. There is no age limit for JET participants. If you meet the requirements, you can participate in the japan exchange and teaching programme, regardless of your age.

  • Q. What qualifications do you need for the JET Programme?

    You'll need either a Bachelor's degree, in any subject, or a three-year teacher training certificate to be an assistant language teacher in Japan.

  • Q. How long does the process take?

    Applications usually open in October, with the deadline for submission set sometime in November. If your application progresses, you’ll be invited to an interview in January at the Japanese embassy and find out if you’ve secured a position sometime in March/April.Successful applicants usually start in July/August, but there are a small number of early-start positions in April.

  • Q. What are my full job responsibilities?

    • Helping children in primary and elementary schools with English language training activities 
    • Aiding schools with the preparation of materials
    • Assisting with extracurricular activities and clubs 
    • Helping with English language speech contests
    • Delivering information on language and other related subjects to Japanese teachers of English, such as pronunciation and word usage.

  • Q. Which countries participate in the JET Programme?

    From 2019 to 2020, the Japan teach English programme welcomed participants from 57 countries. These include:

    • The United States 
    • The United Kingdom 
    • Australia 
    • New Zealand 
    • Canada
    • Ireland 
    • France
    • Germany 
    • China
    • Korea 
    • Russia 
    • Brazil 
    • Peru 
    • Spain 
    • Italy 
    • Mexico 
    • South Africa

Start Your JET Programme Journey in Japan

Japan is an incredible country with a fascinating culture, mind-blowing technology, and ample career opportunities. JET isn’t the only route to teaching English in Japan; there are plenty of other TEFL jobs in Japan if you fancy teaching there.

You can even find jobs that allow you to teach English in Japan without a degree. Either way—whatever your teaching goals are—Japan certainly won’t let you down. 

If you're looking to teach English abroad , be sure to check out the best teaching English abroad programs available.