The JET Programme

The JET Programme is a unique opportunity for young people to experience Japan while earning a salary overseas. Run by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the JET Programme has been in establishment since 1987, with the goal of promoting internationalization in the local communities of Japan. Unlike other ESL schools and courses that focus primarily on the academic side of language learning, the JET Programme is primarily interested in cultural exchange. Each year thousands of people from over 44 countries participate in the JET Programme. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions of potential applicants and participants.

What does the application process entail?

Applying for the JET Program is a lengthy process. Japan is considered one of the most desirable locations for ESL workers, and there is a lot of competition for these positions each year. In most countries the application begins in September. Interviews begin in March and take place at the Japanese embassy or consulate in the applicant's country of citizenship. Those who are selected for the programme are notified sometime between May and August with departure to the Tokyo training centre taking place anytime during July and August. Applicants must have a minimum of a Bachelor's Degree. To be considered, future graduates must show proof that they will earn a degree by July 1 of the following year.

Who gets hired?

The JET Programme typically hires enthusiastic and energetic youth between the ages of 20 and 40. Most of the candidates who are hired are recent university graduates who have experience or show an interest in working with children and youth. No specific major of post secondary study is required, and teaching experience is not a requirement. Those who display a genuine interest in experiencing Japan are also favoured. Applicants must also be knowledgeable about their own country of origin and be interested in sharing their culture. People over the age of 40 are not encouraged to apply, since the exchange caters to youth.

It is not necessary to have a TESL or TEFL certificate to apply to the JET Programme. JET participants are usually assistants in whatever position they get placed in. Recruiters are more interested in an applicant's enthusiasm and experience with youth than his or her certification or formal teaching hours.

Do participants have to sign a contract?

Those who are accepted into the programme must sign a one-year contract. There are opportunities to extend this contract twice, for a maximum of three years. Teachers who do not complete their first year will not receive money for their return airfare. The employer is actually not the JET Programme itself. Participants sign contracts with the local institutions and organizations where they are placed.

What positions are available?

There are three types of positions in the JET Programme. Applicants must choose to apply as a Coordinator of International Relations (CIR) or Assistant Language Teacher (ALT). Some applicants are also recruited as Sports Exchange Advisors (SEA's). Here is a brief description of each:

CIR: These individuals work in offices of local authorities or organizations. Duties vary based on placement, however, CIR's may be involved in the planning and participation in activities related to cultural exchange. They are often called on to promote cross-cultural awareness within an organization or to assist in hosting foreign guests. They may also be asked to help edit or write text on behalf of their placement organizations.

Some Japanese language background is usually required for these positions. Contact your local Japanese embassy or consulate for more information on the requirements for CIR positions.

ALT: These participants usually work in public junior and senior high schools. The role is often as an assistant to a Japanese Teacher of English. They may be involved in the preparation of materials and the language training of the students. They may also assist in the training of Japanese teachers of English.

SEA: This is a type of CIR who is placed in a location where sports training is the focal point. These individuals assist in the coaching of various sports such as basketball, volleyball, and skiing.

Who looks after accommodation?

JET arranges housing for all teachers, but does not pay for accommodation. Some JET locations will pay for the "key money," while others will not. Applicants should find out ahead of time whether or not the key money will be covered in the prefecture they are assigned. Known in Japan as "reikin," which translates to "gift money," the key money is a gift given to the owner of the rental suite and is not refundable. It can sometimes be one or two months rent, but may also be as much as six months rent.

Foreigners often complain about the tradition of paying a landlord "key money". Some suites are now being rented without this charge. Make sure to find out what deposits and extras you will be expected to pay for housing before you sign a contract.

Will I need a work visa?

Yes, a work visa is required for all JET participants. If you are accepted into the programme a work visa will be issued to you at the location where you were interviewed. It is possible, but difficult, to apply for the JET Programme if you are already living in Japan. Interviews only take place in the applicant's country of citizenship, and no exceptions are made. Anyone who has lived in Japan for longer than 3 years within an 8 year period will not be accepted into the programme.

What is the salary for JET participants?

In the first year, JET Programme participants earn approximately 3,600,000 yen. Those who extend for another year earn slightly more. Teachers work a 35 hour work week from Monday-Friday, with weekends and national holidays off. Each worker also gets 12 personal days off. It is important to note that health insurance is mandatory. In Japan health insurance costs about 40,000 yen per month.

The health insurance premium will be deducted right from your paycheck. You cannot opt out of it.