Table of Contents Hide
- Overview of the JET Program
- Benefits of Participating in JET
- JET Program Eligibility Requirements
- JET Program Application Process
- JET Program Interview Process
- JET Program Placement Locations
- Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) Positions
- Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) Positions
- JET Program Salary and Benefits
- JET Program Accommodations
- Daily Life as a JET Program Participant
- Teaching in Japan as a JET ALT
- Coordinating International Relations for JET CIRs
- JET Program Contract Renewal
- Life After JET and Alumni Opportunities
- Frequently Asked Questions About the JET Program
The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program) is an international exchange program sponsored by the Japanese government. It aims to promote grassroots international exchange between Japan and other nations.
The JET Program began in 1987 and has brought over 70,000 young professionals from around the world to work in Japan as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) and Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs). It is one of the largest exchange programs in the world.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about the JET Program, including:
Overview of the JET Program
The JET Program aims to enhance internationalization in Japan by promoting mutual understanding between Japan and other nations. It does this by inviting young professionals to come work in Japan as either Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) or Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs).
The goals of the JET Program are to:
- Improve foreign language education in Japan
- Promote international exchange at the local level
- Develop cultural ambassadors for Japan
The JET Program is overseen by the following groups:
- Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC): Oversees the Japanese government’s role.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA): Oversees the diplomatic aspect.
- Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT): Oversees the education aspect.
- Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR): Handles operational aspects.
The program is open to citizens of 40 different countries around the world. There are usually around 5,000 participants each year.
The most common positions are Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) and Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs):
- ALTs: Assist with foreign language education. Most teach English, but some teach other languages like German, French, Chinese, etc.
- CIRs: Work in local governments to promote international exchange activities.
Other, less common positions are Sports Exchange Advisors (SEAs) and Assistant Language Teachers for Pre-school (ALTPs).
JET Program participants engage in a wide range of activities to promote grassroots international exchange. They work in elementary, junior high, and high schools throughout Japan. Some are also placed in government offices, boards of education, and other public organizations.
Contracts are for one year and can be renewed up to 3 times. Most JETs stay 1-3 years before returning home or transitioning to new careers.
Benefits of Participating in JET
There are many benefits to participating in the JET Program:
The JET Program provides young professionals with a wide range of skills and experiences that are attractive to future employers and graduate schools.
As an ALT, you will gain invaluable teaching experience. You will develop confidence in a classroom setting and learn techniques for instructing students of different ages and skill levels.
CIRs develop a broad set of skills in areas like business, communication, research, event planning, and more.
Both roles provide project management experience and require initiative to get things done independently.
Immerse Yourself in Japanese Culture
Living and working in Japan allows you to fully immerse yourself in Japanese culture. This will lead to increased language proficiency and cultural awareness.
You’ll get to know Japan at a deeper level by forming connections with locals. This provides insight into the values, customs, and nuances of Japanese society.
Japan has a wealth of cultural and natural beauty to explore. From the bright city lights of Tokyo to the hot springs of rural towns, Japan offers endless possibilities.
JETs have the opportunity to travel around the country and see famous sites like Mount Fuji, historical Kyoto, tropical Okinawa beaches, and more.
You’ll also uncover hidden gems off the beaten path during your time living locally in Japan.
Jumpstart an International Career
The JET Program is an excellent way to jumpstart an international career. It provides work experience abroad, builds cross-cultural communication skills, and creates a network in Japan.
Many JET alumni leverage their experience to land international careers in fields like education, tourism, business, translation, and more.
It’s also a good resume boost for those interested in working for multinational companies or organizations like the UN, UNESCO, or OECD.
JET Program Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for the JET Program, you must meet the following requirements:
You must hold citizenship of one of the 40 participating countries. These include:
- New Zealand
- And many others
Dual citizenship with Japan is not allowed.
Applicants must be between the ages of 20-40 as of April 1st in the year you wish to depart for Japan.
At minimum, applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree or obtain one by the time of departure. Note that the degree must be completed; prospective graduates cannot apply.
For ALT positions, your degree can be in any field.
CIRs must hold a degree specifically related to their CIR duties. This is often international relations, business, communications, cultural studies, or languages.
CIRs must be fluent in English and Japanese. Proficiency in other languages like Korean, Chinese, French, etc. may also be required for certain CIR roles
You must be physically and mentally healthy to work overseas in Japan.
Other criteria include:
- Willingness and ability to adapt to living abroad
- Interest in becoming a cultural ambassador
- Desire to promote mutual understanding
- No major criminal history or disciplinary issues
JET Program Application Process
Applying for the JET Program is a competitive process that takes place over several months. Here is an overview of the process:
1. Research and Decide to Apply
First, do thorough research to determine if JET is right for you. The official JET Program website has detailed information to help you learn more.
If JET looks like a good fit, review the eligibility criteria carefully to ensure you qualify.
2. Prepare Application Documents
The JET Program application has several components:
- Application form: This covers your personal details, education, work experience, languages, and more.
- Statement of purpose essay: A short essay explaining why you want to join JET. Focus on how you’ll contribute to the program goals.
- Letters of reference: You’ll need two references who can speak to your character and work abilities.
In addition, all candidates must submit:
- Official university transcripts
- Criminal background check
- Certificate of health from a physician
Note that all required documents must be submitted by the application deadline. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.
3. Submit Application by Deadline
Application deadlines are usually in early November for the following summer departure. Double check the deadline and submit all materials promptly once applications open.
Applications must be submitted to your country’s JET Program office. This is often your local Japanese embassy or consulate.
After submitting, you’ll receive confirmation that your application was received successfully.
4. Await Notification of Initial Screening Results
The application is first reviewed in an initial document screening stage. All applicants will be notified, usually by early February, whether they passed initial screening.
Those moving forward will be invited to an in-person interview. Unfortunately, many applicants are cut at this first screening stage due to high competition.
5. Prepare for and Attend Interview
The interview is the most important part of the JET application process. It consists of a 10-20 minute formal Japanese-style panel interview.
Come prepared to discuss your interest in Japan, qualifications, cultural adaptability, and how you’ll contribute to the program’s goals. Practice your interview skills and come dressed in formal business attire.
Interviews are held in major cities around February and March. JET will arrange your interview time and location.
6. Await Final Notification
After interviews, the entire application is reviewed to make final participant selections. All applicants are notified of results in April or May.
Those accepted will receive a formal acceptance letter and contract. You must accept within the designated period or lose your placement.
7. Complete Pre-Departure Paperwork
Accepted applicants have to complete some final pre-departure paperwork. This includes forms for payroll, insurance, accommodations, etc.
You’ll also work with your contracting organization in Japan to determine details like your placement location and position.
Once all paperwork is processed, it’s time to get ready for your new life in Japan!
JET Program Interview Process
The JET Program interview is a formal 10-20 minute panel interview conducted in Japanese style. Here’s what to expect:
1. Interview Format
- A panel of 3-5 interviewers will be seated across from you
- The lead interviewer will begin with a self-introduction
- When you speak, look at the lead interviewer
- Be prepared to introduce yourself briefly at the start
- Interviewers will take notes during the interview
2. Sample Interview Questions
Interview questions may cover topics like:
- Motivations for joining JET
- Interest in Japan and knowledge of Japanese culture
- Teaching or international business experience
- Adaptability and cultural sensitivity
- Ideas for cultural exchange activities you could organize
- Scenarios to test your problem solving
It’s helpful to practice responses to common JET interview questions prior to your interview.
3. Interview Tips
Follow these tips for a successful JET interview:
- Dress professionally in business formal attire
- Arrive early – punctuality is valued in Japan
- Be concise and direct in your responses
- Provide specific examples from your experience
- Emphasize your flexibility, initiative, and desire to learn
- Close by expressing enthusiasm and readiness for the program
With thorough preparation and practice, you can put your best foot forward in the JET interview!
JET Program Placement Locations
JET Program participants are placed across a wide range of locations throughout Japan. You can request your preferred geographical area, but the final placement decision lies with your contracting organization.
Here are some of the most common JET Program placement regions:
Major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Fukuoka, and Hiroshima often hire JET ALTs and CIRs. Life here will be fast-paced and modern.
Located in southern Japan, Kyushu has several JET placement locations such as Saga Prefecture and Oita Prefecture. The climate is mild.
The northern Tohoku region places JETs in prefectures like Aomori, Yamagata, and Fukushima. Winters are cold with heavy snowfall.
As the northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido has many JET placements. Cities like Asahikawa or smaller towns are common sites. It is known for its wilderness, skiing, and hot springs.
Okinawa Islands place some JET ALTs each year. Expect tropical weather and gorgeous beaches if placed here.
Many JET participants are placed in rural towns or villages around Japan. These regions provide an immersive experience away from the big cities.
You may be somewhat isolated, but you’ll find tight-knit communities and local culture. Popular rural prefectures that hire JETs include Shimane, Kochi, Gifu, Toyama, and Ehime.
Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) Positions
Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) make up the majority of JET Program participants. Here is an overview of the ALT position:
Duties and Responsibilities
ALT duties typically involve:
- Teaching English alongside Japanese teachers of English (JTEs) in elementary, junior high, and high schools
- Collaborating with JTEs to prepare engaging lessons suited to students’ English level
- Assisting students one-on-one or in small groups to provide guidance
- Visiting multiple schools throughout the week and adjusting teaching methods for different age levels
- Promoting cultural exchange by sharing your customs, food, activities from your home country
- Preparing supplementary materials like flashcards, posters, activities
- Helping with English camp programs, speech contests, or English clubs after school
ALTs must be flexible, creative, patient, and adaptable when teaching. You should feel comfortable in front of the classroom.
ALT work schedules align with the Japanese academic calendar. Your schedule will follow your schools’ schedules.
Contracts officially require 35 hours per week. In reality, your schedule may vary between full days teaching to days with no classes. You will have ample free time during school breaks.
The dress code is business casual. ALTs have their own desk in the teachers’ office at each school. English classes are typically held in a general classroom.
ALTs report directly to their supervisor within the contracting organization, such as the board of education. JTEs help oversee daily teaching duties.
New ALTs receive orientation training upon arriving in Japan. There is also an annual national JET conference.
Ongoing teacher training depends on your contracting organization. Some provide regular seminars or workshops.
Some of the great perks of the ALT position include:
- Gaining teaching experience with students of all levels
- Learning effective language instruction approaches from JTEs
- Immersing yourself in Japan’s education system
- Flexible schedule with lengthy vacations
- Chance to implement creative lesson activities
- Developing confidence in public speaking and classroom management
- Building relationships with students and faculty
Overall, the ALT role provides a solid experience in foreign language education in Japan.
Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) Positions
Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs) are the less common JET position. Here’s information on the role:
Duties and Responsibilities
CIR duties are wide-ranging depending on placement, but often include:
- Planning, implementing, and promoting international exchange activities in the community
- Assisting with translation and interpretation
- Publishing materials or operating social media sites for international public relations
- Teaching culture or language classes
- Researching, developing, and advising on international policies or economic affairs
- Organizing cultural events, festivals, sports competitions
- Hosting international delegations or site visits
CIRs typically interact with local government officials and community organizations. Strong Japanese language skills are required.
CIRs are placed in local city halls, boards of education, or government offices.
The role involves both desk work and active collaboration with colleagues. Business attire is standard.
Your supervisor will be determined by your specific placement. CIRs often have autonomy to develop their projects and activities.
CIR training emphasizes language proficiency, cross-cultural communication, and international relations or policy topics.
Ongoing training depends on your contracting organization but may cover government protocols, translation skills, event planning, etc.
Benefits of the CIR position include:
- Gaining broad experience in local government, policy, and international exchange
- Chance to organize impactful cultural events and activities
- Utilizing your advanced Japanese language abilities
- Networking within the local community
- Developing project management skills with a high level of responsibility
- Building relationships with international delegations
Overall, CIRs have a more challenging but also more rewarding role. It’s ideal for those interested in cross-cultural careers.
JET Program Salary and Benefits
JET Program participants receive a competitive salary and benefits package:
The annual JET Program salary is approximately 3.6 million JPY. This equates to around $33,000 USD.
The pay scale is based on experience and education levels:
- 1st year JETs: 3.6 million JPY
- 2nd year JETs: 3.9 million JPY
- 3rd year JETs: 3.9 million JPY
- JETs with Master’s degree: additional 0.1 million JPY
Participants are paid monthly. Your first month’s pay may be delayed as payroll is set up.
Taxes are deducted from your monthly salary based on your tax treaty with Japan. Generally, U.S. JETs have around 23% in national and local taxes deducted.
In addition, 10% of your pay is deducted into a leaving allowance. This is paid out in a lump sum at the end of your contract.
JETs receive free housing provided by their contracting organization. This is typically a modern, furnished apartment. Urban areas may offer single bedrooms, while rural areas are more likely to provide stand-alone units.
Housing differs by location but generally includes basics like:
- Bed, desk, chairs, shelves
- Kitchen with stove, refrigerator, cabinets
- Washer machine
- WiFi/internet access
- Bicycle for travel
- Some costs like gas and electricity may be subsidized
The only major out-of-pocket cost is your food budget.
JETs are enrolled in Japan’s National Health Insurance. You pay into the premiums via taxes deducted from your paycheck.
The insurance covers 70% of medical costs like doctor visits, pharmacy prescriptions, and hospitalization.
Other benefits provided to JET participants include:
- Return airfare: A flight to Japan at the start of your contract and a return flight home at completion.
- Paid holidays: 10 national holidays, summer/winter/spring breaks, and 10-20 paid leave days.
- Professional development: Opportunities for teacher training, conferences, workshops, seminars.
- Support network: Local JET Program coordinators assist with any issues. Annual JET conferences allow networking.
- Completion bonus: An additional 1-3 months pay at the end of a complete 3-5 year appointment.
- Travel reimbursement: Partial reimbursement for trips related to official JET business.
Overall, the JET Program provides participants with a good quality of life and professional experience in Japan. The pay allows you to enjoy your time while saving funds for the future.
JET Program Accommodations
A major benefit of the JET Program is the furnished accommodation provided in your placement location. Here’s an overview of JET Program housing:
Types of Accommodations
The most common options are:
- Apartments: 1LDK or 2LDK modern units with living, dining, kitchen, bedroom(s), bathroom. Urban JETs tend to be placed in apartments.
- Single occupancy homes: A basic stand-alone house, though quite small by U.S. standards. Very common in rural areas.
- Shared housing: Two or more JETs placed together in a larger apartment or house. Allows for socialization.
Some less common options include private homes with host families, teacher dormitories, or private rental apartments.
Housing assignments are made by your contracting organization based on availability. You can submit location preferences but have limited choice.
A major advantage is that housing costs are covered by your contracting organization:
- Rent: Fully subsidized
- Utilities: May be partially or fully subsidized
- Furnishings: Provided (bed, desk, appliances, etc.)
- Repairs: Landlord/supervisor will handle any issues
You’ll only need to budget for food, wifi, and other personal expenses. Furniture, bedding, and kitchen items are sometimes left by previous tenants.
What to Expect
Some things to expect from standard JET accommodations:
- Modern/simple design: Plain walls, tile floors, simple bathrooms. Newer construction.
- Compact size: Japanese homes are highly space efficient. You may need to adjust to a smaller living space.
- Essential amenities: Furniture, wardrobe, mini-kitchen, washer machine, AC unit. Don’t expect extras like a TV.
- Japanese style: Convertible floor furniture, shower/bath rooms, Japanese appliances.
- Quiet neighborhoods: Often suburban residential areas or outskirts of a town.
With an open mind, the JET housing experience lets you live like a local. Embrace the minimalist, efficient aesthetic.
Daily Life as a JET Program Participant
JET Program participants quickly adapt to new daily routines in Japan. Here’s an overview of typical daily life on JET:
Most JETs live in compact apartments or single rooms often located on the edge of their city. Rural participants may be further out in a small town.
The housing is modest but functional, with the basics like bed, desk, wardrobe, washing machine, AC unit, and mini-kitchen.
JETs rely heavily on public transportation. Many take trains or buses to work. Bicycles are also commonly used. Some locations may provide a car for JETs to commute between schools.
Outside work, trains give you the freedom to explore the country during your downtime.
ALTs follow the school schedule, with full days teaching during academic terms and holidays/breaks off.
CIRs tend to work a regular weekday schedule at their office, though special events may require occasional weekends or longer days.
There are often opportunities to get involved in additional activities outside regular working hours.
Work attire is business casual for ALTs and business professional for CIRs. You’ll find dress codes are quite formal by U.S. standards.
Japanese foods like rice, noodles, fish, pickled vegetables, tofu are diet staples. Most towns also have international foods. Grocery stores carry essentials but selections are smaller than in Western supermarkets.
Your salary covers a comfortable living standard. Many JETs can afford to regularly dine out, shop, or travel locally. Saving money requires more discipline in Japan compared to living at home.
Japan has the most extensive and efficient public transport system in the world. Buses and trains can get you anywhere. Many JETs rely on bicycles as well.
Most socializing revolves around other JETs. It’s common to meet up for dinners, drinks, or weekend trips. JETs in the same town form close bonds.
You may also socialize with Japanese co-workers, community members, or international friends.
Outside work, there is plenty of time for sports clubs, studying Japanese, artistic hobbies, or volunteering.
Teaching in Japan as a JET ALT
As an Assistant Language Teacher on JET, you’ll quickly adapt to the Japanese education system. Here’s an overview of teaching culture and practices:
Japanese Teaching Methods
Teaching in Japan follows strict methodology in line with national curriculum standards. Expect:
- Heavy emphasis on grammar, reading, writing, translation, and exams
- Frequent drilling, repetition, and oral recitation
- Lecture-style lessons with teachers at the front of the classroom
- Spacing of desks in orderly rows; students remain at their desks
- Structured routines for standing, greeting, sitting, class transitions
There is high value placed on focus, discipline, and respect in the classroom.
You’ll work alongside Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs) rather than independently. Lesson planning and execution involves close collaboration.
Observe their methods at first. Offer ideas once you’ve established yourself as a partner.
ALTs have a chance to:
- Introduce communicative teaching techniques like discussions or dialogues
- Incorporate activities and games to motivate students
- Develop English camps, clubs, speech contests, and events
- Create supplementary materials like flashcards or posters
- Provide one-on-one guidance to students who need extra help
With flexibility and creativity, you can enhance the educational experience. However, certain aspects of Japanese school culture remain fixed. Learn to work effectively within the system.
Some challenges to expect as a new ALT:
- Overcoming language barriers with students
- Adjusting to passive student participation
- Feeling isolated if rotating between schools
- Having limited authority in the classroom as an assistant
- Placing unrealistic expectations on what you can achieve
With patience and an open mindset, these challenges become manageable over time. Focus on making incremental positive impacts.
Coordinating International Relations for JET CIRs
Coordinators for International Relations have a unique role focused on international exchange and outreach. Here’s what to expect:
CIR duties often include projects like:
- Writing newsletter articles or website content
- Organizing cultural events like festivals, sports tournaments, art exhibits
- Serving as an interpreter/translator for visiting delegations
- Developing sister city relationships
- Teaching language or culture classes in the community
- Promoting international tourism and business
- Researching policy topics and making recommendations
- Advising municipal leaders on multicultural issues
CIRs may also help with PR, social media, editing translated materials, grant writing, and more. You’ll get experience in many areas.
CIRs are typically placed in:
- Municipal/prefectural offices
- Boards of education
- International affairs or tourism departments
The work setting is an office environment with mainly Japanese colleagues. The dress code is business professional.
Keys to Success
To excel as a CIR, you must:
- Have strong Japanese skills for interpreting and translation
- Take initiative on projects with minimal direction
- Build trust and relationships within your office
- Understand local needs and provide suitable ideas
- Balance desk work with active community outreach
- Handle the pressures of an ambiguous, challenging role
It’s immensely rewarding to have such involvement in local internationalization efforts.
JET Program Contract Renewal
JET Program appointments are for one year initially. There is the option to renew your contract up to two times for a total appointment of 1-3 years.
Here are key points about renewing your JET contract:
To be eligible for renewal, you must:
- Have completed your initial one year contract
- Maintain enthusiasm for continued participation in the program
- Receive a positive evaluation from your contracting organization
- Abide by all terms of your contract and uphold your duties
- Not have significant disciplinary issues
Most JETs who wish to renew are able to do so without issue. Contract renewal is not guaranteed, however.
Around December-February of your first year, JETs must confirm whether they intend to renew their appointment.
Your contracting organization will ask you to submit this decision along with a statement explaining your reasons for wanting to continue.
If approved, you’ll sign a new contract extending your appointment.
JETs who complete the full 1-3 years may decide to apply for Special Advisor for International Education positions. Otherwise, your appointment ends after the third year.
Benefits of Renewal
Benefits of extending your time on JET include:
- Continuing personal and professional growth and fulfillment
- Honing your skills and experience in Japan
- Having extra time to achieve your goals or projects
- Further developing relationships within schools and the community
- Gaining a higher salary in your second and third years
Many JETs find the initial year goes quickly. Renewing gives the chance to sustain the JET experience.
Life After JET and Alumni Opportunities
After an impactful time in Japan, JET Program alumni enter into diverse career paths and opportunities around the world.
Future Career Prospects
Former JETs leverage their experiences in fields like:
- Education – teaching, administration, curriculum development
- International business – jobs with a global scope or focus on Japan/Asia
- Tourism – especially roles involving Japan travel expertise
- Translation/Interpretation – build on Japanese language abilities
- Public Policy and Diplomacy – utilize cross-cultural understanding
- Non-Profits and NGOs – contribute to mission-driven global organizations
JET strengthens skill sets prized in these sorts of internationally-minded careers.
JET Alumni Network
The global JET alumni community contains over 70,000 former participants. JETAA chapters exist worldwide to connect alumni.
- Networking for careers or further opportunities in Japan
- Local events, mentorship, and support
- Ways to continue engagement with Japan
- Leadership roles in the organization
The JET alumni network creates life-long connections.
Additional Opportunities in Japan
Former JETs have access to various other programs and positions in Japan, including:
- Special Advisor for International Education positions – contract roles within Japanese schools similar to JET
- JapanExchange and Teaching Alumni (JETAA) Coordinator – liaison role between JETAA and JET Program
- J-Sharp – supports Japanese studies and networking for JET alumni in Japan
- Mombusho Scholarship – provides funding for graduate studies in Japan
For many, the relationship with Japan continues long after the JET years.
I hope this comprehensive guide has provided helpful insights into the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. Please let me know if you would like me to elaborate on any part of the JET experience in more detail. I’m happy to answer any other questions you may have!
Frequently Asked Questions About the JET Program
Here are answers to some common questions about the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program:
Do I need to speak Japanese to apply for JET?
Japanese language ability is not required for Assistant Language Teacher positions. Some conversational Japanese is helpful for daily life, but training is provided.
Coordinators for International Relations do require advanced Japanese skills.
What qualifications do I need to be a JET ALT?
At minimum you need a bachelor’s degree in any field. Teaching or tutoring experience is preferred but not required. A desire to live abroad and interest in Japan are most important.
How competitive is the JET application?
The application process is very competitive – only about 1 in 5 applicants are accepted each year. Having related experience and a strong interview increases your chances.
Can I choose my JET placement location in Japan?
You can list preferences for regions of Japan in your application, but your contracting organization makes the final placement decision based on their needs. Urban JETs have less control over location.
What are the technology and internet capabilities provided in JET housing?
All JET housing has basic necessities like AC, heating, washing machine, and wi-fi connection. Apart from that, you should not expect amenities like a TV or dryer.
Can I travel while on JET?
JETs have ample time off to explore Japan during vacations. You can travel freely around Japan and on short trips to nearby Asian countries. Longer trips generally need approval for leave time.