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What is the Japanese Exchange & Teaching (JET) Program?
Written by: Chelsea Hendrickx
Last Updated: July 19, 2021
How do you teach English in Japan on the JET Program?
JET stands for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, which is a cultural exchange and teaching program sponsored by the Japanese government that employs university-educated, native English-speakers to teach English in Japan. Accepted participants are placed in positions throughout the country, so while you can request preferences, your teaching location will ultimately be chosen for you.
Japan's JET Program Overview
- The JET Program hires for three different positions with three different acronyms (ALT, CIR and SEA). Ninety percent of program participants are ALTs, short for Assistant Language Teachers;
- ALTs work in public schools in Japan as assistants to Japanese teachers of English (known within the Program as JTEs), though what this means in terms of teaching responsibility can vary widely from school to school;
- Every ALT, regardless of location or level of students, will sign a one-year contract and can spend a maximum of 5 consecutive years on the JET Program;
- Participants typically work Monday - Friday, 35 hours a week as an assistant English teacher, with 20 paid vacation days per year;
- Participants may submit preferences for where they want to teach, but assignments are determined by JET and are given when acceptances into the program are announced;
- Roundtrip flights are provided for JET participants, housing may or may not be paid for or subsidized;
- First year JET participants receive an average yearly salary of ¥3,360,000, (approximately $2675 per month) with yearly pay increases.
Eligibility to participate in the JET Program
JET applications are evaluated based on a list of criteria that are indicative of a candidate’s potential for successful participation in the program:
- Have a sincere interest in Japan and have a willingness to learn & adapt to Japanese culture.
- Strong interest in Japan, potentially by studying/learning the Japanese language and the Japanese education system;
- U.S. Citizen by date of application;
- Bachelor's Degree before designated date of departure;
- Haven't previously participated in the JET program in the last 3 years or for a total of 5 years, or previously declined a position with JET;
- Haven't lived in Japan for a total of 6 years in the past 10 years prior to departure;
- Be interested in working with young learners;
- TEFL/TESOL Certification – greatly improves a candidate's chances for acceptance
The Application Process for JET Program
Applying to the JET program is a lot like applying to a university or graduate school program. The application is completed via an Online portal and applications must be submitted during the fall period. The applicant will be expected to provide information on their academic background; Japanese language level & experience; experience working or teaching children and young adults; and experience with living abroad. Documents applicants can expect to submit will also include:
- The Main Application Form
- A Self-Assessment Medical Form
- Official University Transcripts
- Degree or Proof of Expected Graduation
- A two-page double-spaced essay explaining motivation and qualifications to participate in JET.
- Two letters of reference
- Proof of American Citizenship
How Competitive is Japan's JET Program?
JET has a prestigious reputation and is therefore a bit more competitive than other teaching programs for teaching in Japan. Having an Internationally accredited TEFL Certification is a great way to boost your resume and validate teaching proficiency.
Is a TEFL Certificate Required to Participate in Japan's JET Program?
A TEFL/TESOL certification is not technically required for the JET program. However, program applicants are encouraged to pursue the certification, as acceptance is becoming increasingly competitive, and holding a TEFL/TESOL certification shows that an applicant has invested in and studied the methodology behind teaching English as a foreign language. It is also useful to have gained practical teaching experience included in your TEFL/TESOL certification as practicum. Expect your interview to contain many questions about teaching methodologies.
Some other factors to consider regarding the question of whether you should get a TEFL certification if you want to teach in the JET Program (or elsewhere);
- Your teaching experience will be far easier and more rewarding if you possess basic teaching skills in areas like classroom management, teaching methodology, and error correction. A primary complaint and reason for drop-outs in programs like JET is that participants without training feel lost and unable to cope with their classroom assignments because they are totally unprepared.
- Your students will learn more from you and respect you more (as will your colleagues and peers) if you are trained and possess professional level teaching skills.
- TEFL certification will provide you with the skills and qualifications to gain employment teaching English in up to 80 other countries worldwide and will qualify you for other teaching opportunities in Japan and elsewhere around the world.
Salary & Health Insurance for the JET Program
First year JET teachers receive a yearly salary of ¥3,360,000 (about $2675 per month). This is enough to live comfortably in Japan. Teachers will join the national social health insurance and will also be contributing to the pension fund program and paying employment insurance. Part of these costs are paid by the participant and deducted from monthly post-tax pay each month on payday. JET also pays for your initial flight to Japan as well as your flight back home when your contract finishes, which is a huge bonus!
Other JET Program Details From JET Alum & ITA Admissions Advisor, Chelsea Hendrickx:
- The informal motto of the JET Program is, “every situation is different,” a phrase with which every participant is intimately acquainted with (and truly is the informal motto of teaching abroad in general!)
- An ALT may be assigned to one or multiple schools to serve as either a daily English teacher (this is the case for higher levels, like high schools) or a weekly or even monthly visiting teacher (more common in elementary schools).
- I worked as the ALT for two local high schools, one that was my “home school” where I worked Monday - Thursday, and another where I worked only on Fridays. I had friends who worked in 20+ elementary schools, friends that worked in a single high school school, and friends that worked in maybe 5-6 varied-level schools including preschools. Every situation is different!
- Depending on how your JTE wants to run their class (and you’ll work with many different JTEs), you will either be a true assistant teacher, helping with group activities and demonstrating natural, native English speaking, or you may run the whole show yourself as the lesson-planner and runner of the class while the JTE assists or observes.
- JET provides a great support system for its teachers, which is a big part of its draw. Each ALT is assigned a supervisor at their school who speaks English (they may be a JTE) and assists with every part of transitioning to a new country, including airport pick up, housing, cell phones, bank accounts, legal and even medical matters. Every ALT has housing set in advance, though whether this means a studio apartment or a two-story house, it's up to your local Board of Education and how they’ve set things up for their teachers. Many ALTs move into the apartment that a previous ALT occupied. Your school or Board of Education may even subsidize some or all of your rent, though it’s not required for them to do so.
- ALTs also receive a 3-day orientation in Tokyo where they can participate in a wide array of workshops with topics ranging from teaching, to daily life in Japan, to learning Japanese language. There is a mid-year conference every year as well as “Returner’s Conference” for when you are headed back home.
Chelsea grew up in South Florida and attended the University of Florida. Following graduation, she hopped on a plane to Japan and participated in the JET program for two years. Chelsea has worked as an Admissions Advisor at International TEFL Academy for more than 3 years and has assisted hundreds of ITA students to teach English in Japan and around the world.
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