Thursday, February 23, 2012

The age old debate: JET vs. Interac

This is post is largely due to the JET and Interac job controversy of which is better. 

Recently I was thrown in the debate of which is better with a fellow ALT...a JET. I was sincerely disappointed to find them uneducated in the topic and have therefore made this article to tell people that one is not better than the other for any one specific reason.
 It all depends on a personal preference. For myself, Interac is much better largely due to the choice of placement and the vacation time. Choice of placement was the most important thing to me. What you have to do when deciding if a job is right for you, is to determine what you value in it. I can promise you that JET pays for a lot more things and then, on top of that, they will pay you more for your work as well. So if it is money you are after, look no further. 
Here I have made a table, based on a lot of research and the help of my friend Ben Brannan that displays each company's values and what they have to offer. So I hope you will find this very helpful if you are considering a job in Japan. 

(Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme)

  • ¥3.6 million per year
  • ¥300,000 a month

  • Varied
  • ¥250,000 a month Rural placement with a vehicle
  • ¥240,000 a month Rural placement
  • ¥230,000 a month Urban/Suburban placement Months March, April, July, August, and December are prorated according to the number of days worked.
  • ~¥13,000 a day (rate may vary) domestic recruit 
  • Note that once you have completed a contract that you are then considered a domestic recruit.
    Rate varies from branch to branch and city to city.

  • ¥20,000 a month (additional) Transportation costs.
  • Vacation

  • 10 days leave (average 12-20)
  • 15 national holidays minimum

  • 10 assigned paid vacation days
  • 3-4 weeks in the winter 
  • (prorated salary)
  • 2-3 weeks in the spring 
  • (prorated salary)

  • 1 month+ in the summer 
  • (prorated salary)

  • All national holidays
  • Housing

  • Is subsidized up to 50%
  • Employer will find for you

  • Not subsidized
  • Employer will find for you
  • Airfare

  • Round trip airfare is paid for
  • Note that return airfare is only paid for upon contract completion.

  • Not paid
  • Location

  • Minimal to no choice (circumstances of choice: need to be near a hospital or have a spouse who is already settled in a specific city)
  • Mostly rural
  • Cannot reject given placement or will face termination as a candidate and rejection of any future applications.

  • Choice of region
  • Can reject given placement and the placement office will find a new placement offer.
  • Rural or suburban placements depending on preference 

  • Large city placements, like Tokyo or Osaka, typically go to people with experience.
    Number of Employees

  • 4,334 ALTs (2010)

  • 2,500 - 3,000 ALTs
  • Insurance

  • Required.
  • National Health insurance
  • Pension options

  • Required.
  • National Health insurance or InterGlobal Insurance
  • Pension options

  • * Do not physically help in the acquisition of National Health insurance, as it is government issued insurance and Interac is a company (whereas JET is a government program). 
    Time Restraint

  • 5 year maximum
  • After third year the renewal process is more rigorous requiring additional interviews and essays.

  • None
  • Age Restriction

  • 40 years of age

  • No limit
  • Suggested that BoE's prefer younger candidates.

  • Moving up to an office job and upper management is possible for older employees, but they must have first worked as an ALT.

  • Limited to none

  • Very easily acquired 
  • (based on the mutual needs of a BoE)

  • Placement preference given to those with experience
  • Application Process

  • Longer process
  • More difficult 
  • Less likely to be accepted.
  •  *see statistics in article

  • Shorter process.
  • Easier. 
  • Find out results quicker.
  • Employer

  • The government.
  • You are employed by the Board of Education.

  • Interac.
  • You are not regulated by the school and do not have to do things that are not sanctioned by Interac (grading papers, joining a club, making tests, etc)
  • Secondary Jobs

  • Not allowed

  • Allowed but cannot work for competing companies (other ALT companies such as JET)
  • Not allowed to private tutor students from classes. (students not from your classes are acceptable) 
  • Future Resume Opinion: It is a government sponsored position and would likely look a bitter better on a resume. Opinion: It will look like a typical ALT teaching job. Better than an eikaiwa.
    ***Application process: I discovered this interesting bit of information in the midst of my research, which could be a really important factor for some.
    My references for this chart are the employees of JET, the employees of Interac and employees who have been one for a time and then the other, personal experience, as well as a few facts found from the page below as well as a few other pages. This does not mean that any of this is set in stone. Personal experiences vary. BOE's vary. Schools vary.

    "The ALT applicant success rate varies from year to year. For the 2002 JET Program, 320 out of about 500 applicants were granted interviews at the Consulate General of Japan at Chicago; out of 320 interviewees, 185 were selected as short-list candidates, with 80 on the alternate list. Thus, for this year, 64% of applicants were granted interviews, and 58% were selected as short-list candidates. This adds up to an overall success rate of 37%." found at
    Actually that site is full of useful information if you are researching about JET.

    In recent years, I have found that JET and Interac are both always changing and progressing (or regressing). Interac has been pulling out of many areas and but still managing to grow in numbers. JET has changed their rules a lot in recent years including extending the period of stay from 3 to 5 years, as well as removing the paid for pension and health insurance, which you now have to pay for out of your salary. Also worth a mention is that the salary can possibly vary with JETs. I do have one friend who is a JET and makes a cut about the others, with ¥310,000 a month.

    As far as their reputations go. I will leave that to you to research and come up with your own opinion.

    Or you can check out The Rising Daikon for more information on the categorical subjects. As well as for a few case stories of both sides.


    1. wow, a very well written post. I've been teaching in Seoul in EPIK for 3 years, and I'm looking to move to Japan. Though I'm looking to take my experience to a private school, this is still very good information.

    2. Great collection of information!
      From a stylistic point of view, I humbly suggest changing the body text in your style sheet (CSS) from brown to something a bit darker since it's a bit hard to read in some parts as you scroll over the fuchsia parts of the flower. I emphasize the humble part. Just trying to help!

      1. Thanks Tito, I have actually been meaning to change it for a while...I have just been very very lazy....;;

    3. The secondary job information is really interesting. I knew a girl in JET that got deported for working as a hostess. Does Interac not care at all so long as you aren't teaching English as a side job?

      1. As long as it does not interfere with your job with Interac, it is perfectly alright. In fact they really help you when filling out taxes if you are holding more than one job, which is really considerate of them.

    4. The best is non-JET direct hire, if you can get it, and then putting in the effort to get a 教員免許 and stop being an ALT altogether. That's my route.

      The ALT system is badly broken. In my BoE the JETs are overworked because the Japanese government insists they be paid over 300,000 a month, and the Interac ALTs make a good 8 man en less and and the BoE both resents ALTs and the national requirement they exist. They will do anything to avoid JET or Interac ALT in every way they can. The fact this is allowed is a really issue. On the other hand, I worked for a small, rural "dispatch" company once (indeed, one guy with a sweetheart deal) and we might as well have been JETs (in fact, we were replacing JETs, a JET got caught with drugs, and so the BoE tossed them out. Our guidelines from the BoE still identified as as JETs, being from previous years and not updated).

      Japan needs to essentially end the ALT system (except maybe in elementary schools). At the secondary level, however, they should be hiring qualified teachers. Given the reason I came to Japan (my region was no longer hiring new teachers because of the economy slow down), I very quickly proved far more capable and competent than my JTEs were expecting. Over the years it has caused conflicts when a JTE wanted me to be no more than a human tape recorder or curiosity. The fact I speak Japanese, and can teach the English grammar lesson in Japanese (一日の基本文) is often greeted by amazement, sometimes shock, and often enough resentment.

      I'm ready for my own classroom now, please.

    5. Those acceptance stats are very old. I applied to JET this year and there were over 1,500 people getting interviews.

    6. Yeah, just an expansion on the Interac salary. With increased tax rates and cost of living, being a non-JET ALT in major cities like Tokyo has become nearly impossible. Only 230,000 to begin with and then 5 months of the year that are severely pro-rated. You will be lucky to get 90,000 in August, and then the other 4 months are all about 170,000. It's a struggle every month because you are always having to work to pay off debt accrued in the months where you don't get paid as much.

    7. Thanks for this. I was a JET from 1995-1998 (the max was 3 years then), got a job at NOVA for one year (no.), and then a kids eikawa that lasted another 2 before heading home to get that mythical 'real' job everyone talks about. And today I was thinking about how much I miss Japan, because reasons, so when I saw an Interac ad I clicked on it. And registered. After doing a bit of googling I came across this post and a few others that have been verrrry enlightening. I think my next trip to Japan (fingers crossed in the next month or so) will just be as a tourist.

      Gotta say, though, in reading these posts I've realized how lucky I was to be accepted to JET in the first place. I was a screener for three years after grad school and I don't think I'd be accepted with all the new requirements. You couldn't pay me to revisit my 20s but you COULD pay me to move back to Kobe. :)