Finding an engineering job in Japan as a foreigner
You do not need to speak Japanese to find a job as an engineer in Japan, but the lack of advanced Japanese (speaking and reading) may affect your chances of finding a management position or being promoted into management.
There are some companies in Japan that are actively recruiting English-speakers who are at native or near-native level. One of the most prominent is Rakuten Inc., the e-commerce giant headquartered in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.
Head over to GaijinPot Jobs to find job listings for engineering and IT jobs that you can apply to from Japan and overseas, some of which offer visa sponsorship and many of which do not require Japanese!
Average Salary for a Software Engineer in Japan
At traditional large Japanese companies, average salary level is highly correlated to age. People are hired straight out of college and promoted as a group as they put in their time at the company. Because of Japan’s severe labor shortage, the government is pushing Japan Inc. to base pay raises on performance, rather than seniority, but this is still in the early stages. Average salary in Japan is also correlated to gender. On average, across all professions, men earn more than women.
Average salary, of course, also depends on job title, job type, and industry. Some of the best data sets on average salaries in Japan are compiled by private sources, especially recruiting and outsourcing companies. According to Recruit, Japan’s leading talent support-services company:
- The average salary for a software engineer in Japan in their early thirties is ¥5,250,000 ($47,500).
It’s also important to know that annual or semi-annual bonuses are an important component of salary for most employees in Japan. The data in the tables below do not include bonus payments.
Main factors affecting salary level
In addition to the factors mentioned above, salary levels for foreign software engineers (and for most professions, in general) also depend on the following factor:
- Whether you are transferred from your home country to Japan or are hired locally in Japan. In general, average salaries for intra-company transfers are higher.
- Whether you work for a foreign-affiliated company or more purely domestic company. Foreign-affiliated companies tend to offer higher salaries.
- What industry you work in. As detailed in the tables below, average engineering salaries in certain industries (finance and insurance, foreign-affiliated consulting firms, and large machinery manufacturers) are higher than in others.
- Size of company. Large established companies sometimes (but not always!) are able to offer higher salaries.
- Another thing to keep in mind when job hunting is that traditional Japanese companies tend to hire for general background, education and experience, rather than specific skills, even in engineering fields.
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