Everything You Should Know About Becoming An Engineer In Japan | Top Universities

Everything You Should Know About Becoming An Engineer In Japan

By Stephanie L

Updated March 11, 2022 Updated March 11, 2022

Sponsored by Kyoto University of Advanced Science

Ranked first in the world for research and development in the Global Competitiveness Report 2019, Japan is renowned as a high-tech nation, with a thirst for innovation, technology and engineering.

Despite a population of almost 130 million, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry forecasts that the country will face a shortfall of 789,000 software engineers by 2030 – a gap that non-Japanese engineers will be fully qualified to fill.

If you’re considering pursuing an engineering career in Japan, here’s what you need to know.

What are the most in-demand engineering jobs?

Growth in software-based technologies and web-based services has seen demand for skilled engineers who can work for forward-thinking organizations rise significantly over the last few years.

Here’s a fun fact too – Japan is home to the largest number of industrial robots in operation in the world – so if your programming language skills are first-class, this can put you in good stead for working as a system engineer.

Daijob.com and GaijinPot Jobs are useful sites for searching for jobs which don’t necessarily require language skills. Many of the jobs listed are for international companies or Japanese companies which have strong international ties.

Location is an important factor

Japan boasts some of the world’s leading engineering and technology companies.

In Tokyo, you’ll find the headquarters for the likes of Mitsubishi Motors, Honda, Sony, Hitachi, Nikon, and Canon Inc., among others, while the city of Kyoto is home to world-renowned high-tech companies, including the world’s leading game company, Nintendo, motor company Nidec, and electronics manufacturers Kyocera, and Murata.

Location can have a real influence on how successful you are in finding promising job opportunities and salary expectations (more on salaries later).

While opportunities for those who are from overseas and are qualified for the role tend to be in or around Tokyo, engineering job opportunities are some of the most prosperous across the country.   

What about salary and working hours?

Japan is known for its strong work culture. However, the habits of the hard-working nation are changing as recent government policy has proposed reducing overtime and encouraging workers to take more vacation time.

One thing to keep in mind regarding salary prospects is they’re massively dependent on the type of job role, as well as your previous experience, skills and education.

If you have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant engineering discipline, such as mechanical and electrical system engineering, it’s likely that you can expect a starting annual salary of around ¥6 million (~US$56,900) to ¥10 million (~US$95,000).

Outside traditional engineering disciplines, entry-level pay range for engineers in IT for example, is around ¥4 million (~US$37,600) to ¥6 million (~US$56,400) a year.

You’re going to need a relevant bachelor’s degree to get anywhere

As we’ve mentioned, a relevant engineering bachelor’s degree is a great starting point (and you won’t get very far without one).

In April 2020, Kyoto University of Advanced Science (KUAS) established the first multidisciplinary all-English Faculty of Engineering in Japan where students can study a wide range of engineering disciplines, and learn about the most advanced technologies through its professional and practical four-year mechanical and electrical system engineering bachelor’s degree.

Which leads us nicely onto the next point…

Experience is required

This may not be true all the time, but JobQ, a Japanese career-advice website, says that Japanese firms consider practical experience as the most important factor when it comes to hiring. And of course, that’s easier said than done when you’ve been studying for the last three-four years. Where (and when) are you supposed to find the time to get the experience?

Fortunately, many degree programs, such as the mechanical and electrical system engineering degree at KUAS, integrate practical learning experiences, like the capstone project.

KUAS’s strong links with over 50 companies in Japan allows students the unique opportunity to work with such organizations, and train to become in-demand street-smart global engineers, equipped with the critical problem-solving and communication skills needed to work across every industry around the world.

You’ll need a visa too

Before even getting a job, you will need to have a Certificate of Eligibility, issued by Japan's Ministry of Justice. Only once you have received this can you submit your visa application. To find out more about this you will need to contact your country’s Japanese embassy.

Once you have this, you’ll need to obtain a highly skilled professional working visa in order to accept an offer for such a position, whether it’s permanent or fixed-term.

A good understanding of Japanese will help your application get noticed

If you’re serious about pursuing a career in Japan, then you should also be serious about learning the language. Some engineering jobs will require a higher level of language proficiency, whereas some Japanese organizations have started to relax stricter language requirements in order to help fill the growing gap in certain engineering roles.

International students at Kyoto University of Advanced Science can learn Japanese (at no additional cost) alongside their degree to develop their language skills, and offer a competitive advantage in their future career choices.

This article was originally published in September 2020 . It was last updated in March 2022

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Written by

As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com (until September 2021), Stephanie created and published a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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