The Harsh Reality of Moving to Japan Without a Degree – What You Need to Know

Many Americans dream of starting a new life in Japan, enchanted by the country’s rich culture, stunning natural beauty, and unique way of life. But is it actually possible to make the move without a college degree? A recent post on an online forum sparked a lively discussion on this very topic.

The original poster, a 37-year-old female working in city hall administration, shared her long-held desire to move to Japan, dating back to when she was just 10 years old.

However, as someone without a specialized degree, she expressed doubts about the feasibility of this dream, noting that most people discussing moving to Japan online seemed to have advanced degrees in fields like law or IT.

Degree Requirements for Working in Japan

Forum respondents were quick to point out that a bachelor’s degree is essentially a non-negotiable requirement for obtaining a work visa in Japan. According to Japan’s immigration policies, applicants for most working visas must have either A) a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or B) 10+ years of work experience directly relevant to the job they are being hired for in Japan.

There are occasional exceptions made for people in high-demand fields like tech, but these are truly exceptions, not the norm. As one poster bluntly put it, “If you have no degree at all you’re basically out of luck.”

Even with a bachelor’s degree, jobseekers often need a high level of Japanese language proficiency (such as passing the N1 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test) to be competitive applicants.

As another commenter noted, “Based on what I experienced the past months here, you need JLPT N1 and be fluent in daily life. Otherwise why should the company hire you instead of a Japanese? Getting a visa for the candidate is also connected with costs and risks.”

Other Complicating Factors

The original poster later revealed some additional details that made her dream of moving to Japan even more challenging. She is a single mother of two young children and manages some chronic mental health conditions.

As one responder empathetically but firmly pointed out, moving to Japan as a single parent with young kids is extremely difficult even for those with substantial financial resources. Factoring in the lack of degree and health considerations, multiple posters agreed that visiting Japan as a tourist is likely the only realistic option for the foreseeable future.

Possible Alternative Pathways

While the responses were discouraging for the original poster’s current situation, there was also some constructive advice shared. Many encouraged her to look into completing her bachelor’s degree, even if it takes some years to do so part-time. Having the degree would open up possibilities like teaching English in Japan.

Another intriguing suggestion was to look for a job at a Japanese company in one’s home country, such as in the humanitarian services or engineering fields. With at least a year of experience working for the company, an “intra-company transferee” work visa could be an option that bypasses the degree requirement.

However, this would require working in the right industry and having some good fortune in finding such an opportunity.

User Comments and Reactions

The post generated many thoughtful comments from those with firsthand experience living and working in Japan. Here are some representative examples:

“I am working in Japan only for a project for my company. If I can not speak Japanese and don’t have a bachelor at least, I would not get a ‘good’ job with perspective I can safely say.”

“First, you have to have a bachelor’s degree. It’s a basic requirement. You will not be able to get a job or a work visa without one. Second, without any specialties, you’re limited to ALT/eikaiwa work.”

“You’re going to need that degree. Best time to start is now! Best of luck!”

“Harsh reality: You don’t have any chances. Completely agree what the other are telling you. Also your age is a problem IF you want to start a career from scratch.”

“I did it. It doesn’t require a degree, but the luck I happened to strike was working for a Japanese company. Intra-company transferee exists as a visa type. It could take less time than getting that degree, but you’d need to be in the right line of work (Humanitarian services or engineering), and have worked for them for a year prior to transfer.”

The Takeaway

While it’s not impossible to move to Japan without a college degree, it is extremely difficult under the current immigration rules. For most people, getting at least a bachelor’s degree is a necessary first step.

Even then, competition for jobs is fierce and Japanese language fluency is often a must. Those dreaming of a quiet life in rural Japan will find options especially limited.

Aspiring expats should research visa requirements carefully and evaluate their individual circumstances realistically. While “never say never,” moving to Japan is a challenging process that requires significant planning, qualifications, and a good dose of persistence and flexibility.

For many, visiting Japan regularly as a tourist may be the most realistic way to enjoy its many charms.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *