Thanks to its ancient history, delicious cuisine, and incredible natural attractions, Japan has long been a popular teach abroad destination. And one of the best ways to teach English in Japan is with the JET Program! JET, or the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, places native English and other language speakers in various schools throughout the country as language and culture ambassadors.
Besides Japan's incredible culture, it doesn't hurt that the JET program provides ESL teachers with one of the highest salaries in the world, plus excellent benefits. That means with JET, you can experience the beauty of Japan, all while earning a stable income and gaining valuable professional experience.
This guide covers everything you need to know to teach English with the JET Program.
Snapshot of Teaching English with JET
Avg. Salary: $2,200-$2,600/month
Teaching Hours: 35 hours
Duration of contract: 12 months
Application period: October to November/December
Start date: July/August, April
School term: April to March
Visa requirements: “Instructor” work permit
What is the JET Program?
The JET Program is an educational initiative sponsored by Japan's government that stands for Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. The program aims to foster positive international relationships between visiting JET participants and local communities around Japan. There are three types of positions in the JET program. Most apply to be an ALT or Assistant Language Teacher. ALTs work in public and private schools teaching English around Japan.
However, if you speak Japanese, you can apply to be a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) and work as a translator in government departments. If you're a sports professional, you can also apply to be a Sports Exchange Advisor (SEA). SEAs help organize sports programs at the local government level and do not need to speak Japanese to be eligible.
What are the requirements to teach English with JET?
The JET program has a very specific set of eligibility requirements. You must:
- Have a Bachelor’s degree or higher
- Be a citizen of a participating country
- Possess native English speaking proficiency, or native proficiency in an accepted language
- Not have participated in JET in the past two years
- Be under the age of 40 years old
- Possess a strong interest and willingness to learn and adapt to Japanese culture
Once accepted into the JET program, teachers are eligible to renew their contracts every year for up to five years. Be sure to read through all of JET's eligibility requirements before applying.
Your Responsibilities as an ALT with JET
Assistant Language Teachers typically work during regular school hours Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 5:15 pm. As an ALT, you’re expected to assist a Japanese co-teacher with lesson planning, preparing class materials, leading and supervising classroom activities, and organizing and helping out with extra-curricular activities for students.
This program isn’t just a job opportunity, but a cultural exchange too. As a JET participant, you’ll also be expected to act as an international ambassador representing your home country while actively engaging with Japanese culture.
Read More: Is Teaching Abroad Alone Safe for Women?
JET Program Salary: How much can you earn teaching with JET?
JET participants are paid between 3.36 to 3.96 million yen ($26,500-$31,200) every year, which breaks down to 280,000-330,000 yen ($2,200-$2,600) per month. Your salary is dictated by how long you’ve been in the program, and you receive a small raise each consecutive year until your fifth and last eligible year.
The cost of living in Japan can be high, especially in the bigger cities, but the JET program salary is enough to live comfortably. However, ALTs and other JET participants are responsible for securing and paying for housing, which can be expensive in city centers.
Additional Benefits in the JET Program
The exceptional salary ATLs are paid isn’t the only benefit! Teachers also receive:
- Visa assistance
- Enrollment in Japan’s national health insurance programs
- Flight reimbursement to and from Japan
- A national pension that you’re entitled to a partial refund when you leave Japan
- 10-20 paid vacation days and all national holidays off
Some ALTs are offered subsidized housing from their school placements. This is a rare benefit and is typically only provided at rural positions, if at all.
Where are teachers placed in Japan with the JET program?
Successful JET applicants are placed in public and private schools throughout the country, which means not everyone can teach in Japan’s biggest cities. Most participants are placed in smaller or rural destinations around Japan.
However, you can list three placement preferences on your application. The JET Program tries to accommodate teachers, but it’s essential to arrive with an open mind and willingness to be placed anywhere with availability.
How to apply to teach English with JET
Once you’ve checked that you’re eligible, it’s time to apply! The JET application process takes place entirely online and requires many documents.
Here’s a step by step guide to how to apply to the JET program:
- An accurately filled out JET Program application form
- A two-page statement of purpose for why you want to teach with JET and your qualifications
- Two letters of recommendation
- University transcripts
- Proof of U.S. citizenship
- A medical self-evaluation
- Any supplemental documents like a copy of your TEFL certificate, teaching license, and Japanese ability level (if applicable).
3. After submitting your application, you'll be notified if you've passed the initial stage.
4. If so, you'll be invited to an in-person interview at the Japanese consulate nearest you.
5. Await final word on placement if officially accepted!
Submitting accurate and complete applications is essential. Any applications that have mistakes or are missing required documents may be automatically disqualified.
JET Application Timeline
The JET application process is notoriously long, and the application opens only once a year. That means aspiring teachers need to start preparing to teach English in Japan far in advance.
Here’s a rough guideline of the JET application timeline:
- October to November/December: JET Program accepts applications.
- January: acceptance or rejection notices and interview invites are sent.
- February: interviews begin at the nearest Japanese embassy for successful candidates.
- March/April: final notices are sent to those awarded a position with JET.
- May/June: submit final documentation and find out your placement in Japan.
- July/August: depart for two-day orientation in Japan and start teaching shortly after.
The Pros and Cons of Teaching English with JET
While teaching English with JET is a fantastic opportunity overall, it's important to highlight some of the key benefits and disadvantages so you can decide if the program is right for you.
Pros of teaching with JET
- Japan is one of the best places to teach abroad and save money thanks to the high JET salary and excellent benefits.
- The JET program is open to teachers of many nationalities.
- It’s an opportunity to experience life in Japan.
Cons of teaching with JET
- It’s competitive, and the application process is in-depth.
- You don’t get to choose exactly where you’re placed.
- Japan’s working culture can be strict.
What’s it like to teach English with JET?
Learn more about what it’s like living and working in Japan for the JET program through these helpful guides and personal accounts.
- Working for The JET Program – A Typical Day by The True Japan
- How to Pack for JET by ToFuGu
- JET Program: Pros and Cons by Jam Somewhere
- Guide to Japanese Culture Shock by Japan Switch
Do you need a TEFL certificate to teach with the JET Program?
A TEFL certificate is not actually a requirement to teach with JET. However, JET is very competitive and having a reputable TEFL certificate on your resume ensures you stand out from the crowd.
It's important to choose a TEFL certificate with at least 120-hours and a practicum, or in-class component. A practicum provides teachers with valuable first-hand teaching experience so you feel confident on your first day in the classroom.
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CIEE TEFL's 150-hour certification makes it easy to complete your TEFL training online in just three months. This comprehensive course includes:
- 130 hours of ACCET accredited coursework
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