As Japan continues its march towards improving English language proficiency throughout the country, jobs as an English teacher are on the rise. There are many different agencies in Japan that can find you a placement quite quickly, however, the government-funded JET Programme is perhaps one of the most rewarding ways is to become an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT). Lets look into the JET programme in more detail below.

What is the JET Programme?

JET stands for Japan Exchange and Teaching and what it is an official Japanese Government scheme that selects graduates from all over the world to come and work in a school in Japan to teach English and to promote international understanding.

The cultural exchange aspect of becoming a JET is perhaps just as important as the teaching in the programme. Young school students throughout Japan outside of the countries main cities may never have seen someone from a different ethnicity to their own before. This is why it is all the more important for them to develop an international understanding from a young age as Japan looks to the future.

Japan is likely to open up more to immigration in the coming years and with an event such as the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics, it is important for Japan to improve English proficiency and international understanding across the whole country.

There are two positions which you can apply for on the JET Programme. The first is as an Assistant Language Teacher, the second is as a Coordinator for International Relations.

Assistant Language Teacher (ALT)

As an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) on the JET programme, you will work alongside an English teacher with a focus on verbal communication with the students. In this role, you will also assist the language teacher in preparing teaching materials for the class and provide support with extracurricular activities with the pupils.

Coordinator for International Relations (CIR)

A Co-ordinator for International Relations (CIR) for the JET programme works with Japanese colleagues in government offices to promote international exchange at a local level. In the role of a CIR, your duties can vary from receiving guests from abroad to planning exchange events in the community. For this role, you will need a high level of written and spoken Japanese which is either or equal to the JLPT level 2 certification.

Application Process for becoming a JET

October – Complete your JET application

Every October the JET website opens up to new applicants for a start in April or July the following year. It’s important to note that if you know you cant start in April, don’t say that you can on the application! If you do and can’t make it, you will no longer be considered for the JET programme.

It’s best to read through the website before October to grasp the full application process as it is quite lengthy. The application for the JET programme requires the following:

  1. Complete an online application form.
  2. Complete a self-assessment medical form.
  3. Complete a personal statement of which is between 800-1000 words.
  4. Provide a signed ‘Statement of Physician’ which is simply a sign off from your GP.
  5. Obtain two references from different people.
  6. Provide an academic transcript of your degree.

Full details can be found here on the official JET website.

Completing the application can feel like a weight off your shoulders but don’t sit back just yet, now is the time to start prepping for your interview.

December – Interview Offer

Throughout December, you should find out whether you were one of the lucky chosen few who have been selected for an interview. There are many horror stories about the JET interview across the internet but do not let them shake you.

The purpose of the interview is for the team at JET to get a good feel for who you are and what your motivations are for wanting to work as an Assistant Language Teacher or Co-ordinator for International Relations in Japan.

Your interviewers will also try to gauge how you would feel about being placed in some of the more rural parts of Japan as it is unlikely that you will be based in the centre of one of the main cities.

April – Will I stay or will I go?

If on your application you said that you were able to begin your JET adventure in April, then you would have received the good news in March. For everyone else – April is the time when you find out what path your life will take next.

When you receive communication from JET, you will be told whether you have been selected, placed on the ‘alternate’ list or rejected for the programme. The ‘alternate’ list is essentially a waiting list which you will be called from if any of the selected applicants drop out for any reason. If you have been placed on the ‘alternate’ list, then there is still every chance that you may still be selected.

July – Fly to Japan and meet your fellow JETs

Usually, on either the last or second to last week of July, you will fly out to Japan with your fellow Jet Setters. All successful JET applicants will receive a post-arrival orientation in Tokyo before you are whizzed off to the prefecture that will become your new home.

Life as JET participant

The JET experience will be unique to every participant. Factors such as the prefecture you’re assigned to or the age of the students that you will teach will no doubt shape your time in Japan. However what is true of the programme is that there is life before JET and life after JET and at the end of each year, you will have to decide whether to continue or whether to fly back home.

Living your everyday life in Japan will be vastly different from a holiday as you learn more and more about the culture at a local level. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a person that regrets entering the JET programme as the memories and experiences you will encounter will carrying on with you throughout the rest of your life.

If you have reached the end of this article and are still considering whether to apply for the JET programme or not, check out some videos on YouTube from other JETs such as Abroad in Japan or Caradventures for a unique perspective of daily life in Japan.


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