Work

How Much Does a Foreign Engineer Make in Japan in 2019?

Understaffing and Japan’s tourism boom are creating openings–even for the inexperienced–in IT engineering jobs for foreigners.

By 6 min read

If you are interested in entering the high-paying IT industry, now is the time to act. Understaffing and Japan’s tourism boom are creating openings – even for the inexperienced – in IT engineering jobs for foreigners.

The term “engineer” applies to people working in a vast range of jobs in Japan

It includes those qualified in a branch of professional engineering–like the mechanical, chemical, electrical and civil engineering disciplines–and those skilled in creating or managing a system or situation.

Job titles for engineering positions in Japan include software engineer, process engineer, project engineer, R&D engineer, sales engineer, web engineer (front-end, back-end, full-stack) and service engineer–just to name a few.

Since all industries that produce services, systems or mechanical products require engineers, there is a multitude of engineering jobs out there.

You don’t need to speak Japanese to be an engineer in Japan

Jobs in fields related to our new indispensables–smartphones, apps and the internet of things–are growing, and are expected to continue to do so.

A huge bonus for foreign engineers in this field is that because computer-programming language is generally universal, they will not be held back by a lack of Japanese language skills.

As Japan’s shrinking population makes it harder for employers to fill posts, more of them are opening their positions to foreigners who don’t speak Japanese, particularly in this area.

Engineers in Japan don’t need tons of experience

Japanese career-advice website JobQ (Japanese only) says that practical experience is the most important factor for companies that are hiring, for example, a web engineer.

But understaffing is so bad in the IT industry, that many wanted ads no longer even ask for experience.

So, if you can learn programming languages and skills, you can set yourself up for a system engineer or web engineer job.

And financially, it’s probably worth the effort.

As Japan’s shrinking population makes it harder for employers to fill posts, more of them are opening their positions to foreigners who don’t speak Japanese, particularly in this [engineering] area.

The IT industry in Japan offers the highest average salary

In our article “What is the average salary in Japan in 2019,” we saw that the IT/communications industry offers the highest average annual income in Japan. The figure reached ¥4.61 million, topping the all-industry average of ¥4.14 million.

In that data, from the Japanese online job-search website doda, the average monthly salary at the entry-level for IT consultants was ¥376,000 a month, while web engineers earned ¥300,000.

Salaries in the IT industry beat typical monthly payments for most types of English teachers, which is about ¥275,000 a month, or ¥3.3 million a year.

Pay for those IT jobs jumped as seniority rose. Experienced IT consultants averaged ¥552,000 each month, and managers ¥678,000.

Gains for web engineers were also most pronounced in the step up to the experienced level, paying ¥405,000 a month, with managers making ¥477,000.

The pay spectrum for engineering jobs is as wide as the range of roles, expertise, and education that engineers possess.

Those who have bachelor’s degrees or higher in traditional engineering disciplines can expect a starting pay range of around ¥6 million to ¥10 million in pre-tax annual income. Senior positions will boost that upper limit to ¥15 million or more.

Be aware that many Japanese companies might not view non-native Japanese as appropriate management material, even if they have excellent Japanese language skills.

Consequently, your career may progress further with a company that has the same native language as you or is international.

The entry-level pay range for engineering jobs outside the traditional engineering disciplines, such as those in the IT industry, is a more subdued ¥4 million to ¥6 million a year.

Engineers are needed throughout the nation, and particularly in manufacturing regions, like Aichi Prefecture’s automotive industry, which the Toyota Motor company is part of.

The vast majority of jobs in Japan for qualified foreigners are in or around Tokyo. But jobs for engineers are available across Japan.

However, engineering jobs in Tokyo offer the highest salaries. 

Looking at job ads from throughout the country, you will see those based outside Tokyo as offering lower pay. This mostly reflects the much higher cost of living in the metropolis compared to the rest of Japan.

The Japanese website heikin nenshu (literally “average annual income”) estimates the national average yearly salary to be ¥4.86 million, but the Tokyo average at a much higher ¥6.13 million.

Even the gap to second place–¥5.36 million in neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture–is big. The website puts average incomes in most prefectures in the ¥4 million range. The lowest is ¥3.77 million, in Aomori.

The figure it gives for annual income in Osaka is ¥5.23 million, and in Aichi Prefecture, an average of ¥5.04 million, which come third and fourth in the ranking, respectively.

So, do expect a lower salary for a job outside of Tokyo. Also, since those averages include incomes of various levels of pay and experience, an entry-level salary will be more modest.

The Japanese website heikin nenshu (literally “average annual income”) estimates the national average yearly salary to be ¥4.86 million, but the Tokyo average at a much higher ¥6.13 million.

The most fascinating function of the heikin nenshu website is that it provides a list of average annual incomes for specific job titles. Although it is based on data from Japanese employees, the basic, entry-level figure gives us a figure unskewed by issues of seniority. The website’s youngest age range is for 20-24-year-olds.

Average annual incomes for different engineering positions in Japan

Job Title Earnings (¥)
Programmer  2.37 million*
System engineer 3.14 million
Database engineer 4.28 million
Network engineer 3.73 million
Security engineer 3.14 million
CISSP engineer 3.71 million
Robot engineer 5.01 million
AI engineer 5.70 million
Blockchain engineer
4.56 million

*It gives the current top-earning programming language as Scala, followed by Python, then Swift.

Since the Japanese language is not usually an issue for employment in computer programming fields, pay rates should be the same regardless of nationality.

If you’re interested in shifting into an engineering role, particularly an IT one, do it now.

As we saw in our article on the average salary in Japan, the potential to boost your earnings depends not only on the job you do but what industry you do it in. So do some further reading there to help plan your career path.

If you’re interested in shifting into an engineering role, particularly an IT one, do it now.

While Japan’s tourism boom continues, and particularly ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, there is demand for people who can create applications and websites in English, Chinese or other languages. And that just might be the start of a brilliant career.

For more on finding a job in Japan

  • Check out GaijinPot Jobs for the latest job postings across a variety of industries.
  • Living outside of Japan? Take a look at these jobs that accept applicants from abroad.
  • Can’t speak Japanese just yet? These positions don’t require Japanese ability.
  • If you did want to learn Japanese, GaijinPot Study is a study platform that helps set you up at a language school in Japan.
  • For resources and information on working in Japan, our Japan 101 section has all you need to know on employment.
  • For real-life experiences from our community of writers, dive into the jobs in Japan and working culture in Japan blog archives.

Related

Work

How Much Does an English Teacher Make in Japan in 2019?

JET? Dispatch? Eikaiwa? University? Knowing which organizations in the English teaching industry in Japan offer the best pay and benefits can help you make the right decision.

By 17 min read

Work

Top Jobs in Japan You Can Apply to From Overseas – Week 42, 2019

Ski instructor, full-stack engineer, and game producer among our top picks for those living overseas who want to come and work in Japan.

On

Work

What Is the Average Salary in Japan in 2019?

Which jobs in Japan offer the best salaries and what the future holds beyond the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

By 11 min read