Teach English in Japan with the JET Program: Walking through the Application Process

Guest post by Catherine Perkins

As an expat, teaching English abroad is a terrific portable career. If you’re a college graduate and interested in Japan, check out the JET program.

New participants for the 2013 JET Program have recently arrived in Tokyo for their orientation, which means that applications for 2014 are being released soon!

JET is a program where people can apply to teach English in Japan. The best part? You don’t need a teaching certificate to participate (though having one won’t go unnoticed on your application). You only need to obtain a bachelor’s degree before July 1, 2014.

The official Jet Program website

The official Jet Program website

Requirements for Applying

Forget TEFL certificates and other training programs – you don’t need them to apply for the JET Program.

Here’s what you do need:

  • a bachelor’s degree (must obtain before the departure date, which is around July 1st, 2014)
  • strong English-speaking ability
  • to be a national (not just a resident) of the US, Canada or other country where the recruitment takes place (see a list of countries here) – note that you can’t possess a dual citizenship with Japan at the time of applying
  • an interest in Japan and teaching children

Here’s a complete list of eligibility requirements.

Photo by Molly on flickr

Photo by Molly on flickr

Timeline for Application Process (Regular Departure)

The application should be available in October or November.

If you’re from the United States, the country which contributes the highest number of JET participants, the process is relatively straightforward. Application materials haven’t been released yet, but you can sign up on the website to receive email updates.

The application deadline is in November or December. This means that you shouldn’t wait to start collecting all the other documents you’ll need for the application once the JET materials are released – you should be preparing ahead of time!

Interview candidates will be announced January/February, and interviews will be conducted in February. There are various interview sites, but the candidate is responsible for getting him/herself to the site.

Results will be announced in April, and placement locations in May-June. Then, for the lucky ones, departure is in late July-early August.

Required Documents

The list for everything you need to include in your application is long, and you need to be very careful to follow all the rules, or your application will be disqualified. You can see the entire list of required documents here – and keep in mind that this list may be updated this fall, so make sure you’re signed up for email updates!

For most items, you need to submit one original and three copies, but for irreplaceable items (passports, birth certificates, etc) you can submit three photocopies.

Also note that you MUST have at least one set of original signatures on the main application, authorization and release, and self-assessment medical forms or your application will be disqualified. Remember to send two copies WITH the original forms you’ve signed.

photo by J.R. Photography on flickr

photo by J.R. Photography on flickr

Will be available later this fall:

1. Main Application form
2. Authorization and release form
3. Self-Assessment Medical Form

Required for all candidates:

4. Statement of Purpose

A 2-page essay in English that includes relevant experience and motivation for participation. Anything longer than 2 pages won’t be read.

5. Transcripts of all College Courses (both Undergrad and Graduate, if applicable)

You must provide OFFICIAL, hard-copy transcripts with the registrar’s seal and/or signature from all undergraduate and graduate course work.

6. Proof of Graduation or Expected Graduated Date
This can either be:

  • three copies of bachelor’s diploma
  • one original and two copies of official transcript IF it lists the type of degree and date of completion of your degree (since you’re already submitting your college transcripts, you don’t need additional copies if you’re using them to qualify for proof of graduation)
  • if you’re earning your bachelor’s degree after the application deadline, you must submit both a Proof of Expected Graduation Date AND a Proof of Current Enrollment (can be requested as official letters from your university’s Registrar)

7. Proof of Citizenship
You need three photocopies of ONE of the following:

  • a valid passport
  • a birth certificate
  • naturalization papers

8. Reference Letters
You must have two references. They may be academic or professional, not family members and friends.

9. Self-Addressed and Stamped Envelope

Not required for every candidate:

10. Physician’s Form

You only need to submit this form if: “you indicate a physical or mental condition in the Self Assessment Medical Form, if you currently hold a prescription for a medication (including emergency inhalers, epi-pens, etc.), or if you have had a medical condition in the past which requires further explanation.”

11. FBI Criminal Background Check

This is only required if “you have ever been arrested, charged and/or convicted of any crime other than a minor traffic offense (ie. speeding or parking ticket), including a juvenile offense.” OR if applying for early departure.

12. Certificate of Health Form

Only required if applying for early departure. Must be completed within three months of the application deadline to be considered current.

13. Proof of Study Abroad

If applicable.

14. Proof of Teacher’s Certification and/or TEFL/TESL Certificate

If applicable.

photo by uncorneredmarket on flickr

photo by uncorneredmarket on flickr


That’s about it. The qualifications are easy, but the application process is lengthy. This is just a guide to the JET Program, so don’t take it for gospel – read the information on the website carefully and make sure that you fulfill all the conditions for applying.

As a graduating senior this year with a double major in English and Asian Studies (and a concentration in Japanese), I’ll be applying for the JET Program this year. I hope you join me, and I’ll see you at the orientation next summer!

Visit the official JET Program site here.

Visit the official site for U.S. citizens.

Visit the JET Program Facebook page.

The author with cherry blossoms

The author with cherry blossoms

Catherine Perkins is an English and Asian Studies double major at Wheaton College, Massachusetts. After she graduates in 2014, she plans to teach English in Japan.



  1. Hi, Catherine, As an ESL/EFL teacher for over 20 years and having taught abroad in various countries, applicants need to be aware of some factors that will affect their decision to accept such a position. First, it is not cheap to live in Japan. Secondly, salary correlates with related education and work experience. There are lots of native-speaking English backpackers who hop the globe but barely make ends meet. There is no savings in such a scenario. Third, applicants should be aware that in most Asian countries, preference is for applicants in their 20-30-40s at best. In fact, in many Asian countries, one cannot obtain a visa if over age 50-55 and in the Middle East, over 60. Fourth, appearance is important. I knew two young ladies with MAs in TESL who had accepted job offers in an Asian country (withheld for anonymity), but when their host saw one overweight young lady and one with “darker” complexion, he left them in the lurch at the airport. So, for anyone aspiring to land a solid EFL teaching position overseas at a reputable institution, yes, the M.A. in Applied Linguistics with TESL certification and at least 1-2 years teaching experience post-MA are the rule of thumb. I just want readers to be aware of the various factors to consider before pursuing such an endeavor. Good luck to you!

    • P.S. I neglected to mention that with respect to landing a job in European countries, one must be an EU passport holder. This wasn’t the case years ago but is, with rare exceptions, the status quo. So, unfortunately, Americans will be hard pressed to find teaching opportunities in Greece, Spain, Germany, etc. There is also a website Dave’s eslcafe.com where you can click on FOR TEACHERS – International Teacher Forum – select Region and then Country of interest to read all the posts on essential info regarding various institutions, their requirements, benefits, administration issues, etc. To be armed with knowledge and insights before making that big leap are imperative. Good luck.

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