The JET Program: Your Ticket to Living and Working in Japan

Not all ALTs can work in Tokyo and Osaka - increase your chances of being selected by being more creative with your locations!
Not all ALTs can work in Tokyo and Osaka – increase your chances of being selected by being more creative with your locations!


What is the JET Program and what can I do?

Established in 1987, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program) is a Japanese government initiative dedicated to placing university graduates, regardless of their field, in Japanese kindergartens, elementary, junior high, and high schools. Successful applicants take up positions as either Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) or Sports Exchange Advisors (SEAs). The aim of the JET Program is to promote internationalisation at the local level through exceptional foreign ambassadors. There are approximately 350 Australian JETs currently in Japan, which is very small compared to over 2500 American JETs. JET participants can nominate their favourite prefectures, but remember, not all ALTs can work in Tokyo and Osaka! The more open and creative you are with your choices, the greater your chances are of being selected.

Of all JETs, 90% are ALTs, and serve as classroom assistants for anywhere between one to four years. ALTs are involved with classroom team-teaching with Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs), help prepare lessons and materials, and are encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities with students, such as sports or music. After some experience, other English language schools can approach highly skilled JETs for more permanent positions in Japan.

Aside from ALT and SEA positions, applicants with strong written and spoken Japanese, holding a minimum of a N2 certificate in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), can be placed as a Coordinator of International Relations (CIR) in a nominated local government office. Generally speaking, selection of CIRs is based on Japanese language ability and personality. As less than 10% of all JET participants are CIR positions, they are becoming more and more competitive, with some countries selecting less than 20 people every year. CIRs may be responsible for welcoming international visitors, translating documents from Japanese into English, producing pamphlets in Japanese or English, and teaching English to government employees.


What do I need to be a JET?

For starters, you need to be interested in Japan and be willing to relocate. Additionally, you also need the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree of higher
  • Be a citizen of a participating country (ie. Australia). Furthermore, those who possess Japanese nationality must have submitted their applications to renounce their Japanese nationality before submitting their Reply Form. Applicants who possess multiple nationalities with countries other than Japan may only apply as a national of one of those countries.
  • Possess excellent language ability in the designated language. This includes pronunciation, intonation and sentence structure.
  • Not have participated on the Programme since the 2015-2016 JET Programme year (inclusive of April 2015 arrivals) or have participated on the Programme for more than five years in total.
  • Not have declined a position on the Programme after receiving notification of placement in the last JET Programme year (excluding cases where it is accepted that the Participant had a valid, inevitable reason for withdrawing).
  • Not have lived in Japan for six or more years in total since 2008.
  • Agree to reside in Japan under the status of residence stipulated in Article 2-2 of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and obey Japanese law.
  • Applicants with a suspended jail term must have finished their period of probation by the time they submit their application form.

Additional requirement for ALT applicants:

  • Be qualified as a language teacher or be strongly motivated to take part in the teaching of foreign languages.

Additional requirement for CIR applicants:

  • Have a functional command of the Japanese language (Japanese Language Proficiency Test N1 or N2 is desirable).


How do I apply?

Applications for the JET Program close in November of the preceding year for a July departure.

Please visit the Embassy of Japan in Australia’s website for details on how to apply though your local consulate.

For more information on the application process, eligibility criteria and other useful information, please see the official JET Program website.

Additional information and hints from past participants, especially surrounding crafting a perfect ‘JET Statement of Purpose’, can be found on the Tofugu website or the JETAA website.


For more information, read Leah Bramhill’s epic JET experience.

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Sarah Strugnell

Sarah Strugnell is a Project Officer at the Australia-Japan Research Centre and is a former Victorian Government Hamer Scholar to Japan (2017), Monash Yoshida Scholarship holder (2015 & 2016) and JASSO scholarship awardee (2016-15 & 2019-20). Sarah graduated with a Double Masters of Public Policy (MPP) from the Australian National University (Policy and Governance) and the University of Tokyo (Public Management & International Relations) in 2020. Sarah also holds a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours in Japanese Studies) from Monash University.

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