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34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/17 01:35
Hello everyone, I'm a new poster who has started to seriously look into working in Japan.

I'm a UK national and in a few months I'll be turning 34. Even before COVID-19 I've been feeling frustrated with my life and that I've squandered the opportunities of my youth and I've been wanting to start over somehow,

one idea I had was to retrain for a career in IT possibly with a bachelors degree in computer science which seems to line up with getting a Engineers work visa. I was initially thinking about a computer science or other IT related degree just as a career change in the UK but when I saw that it could offer a pathway to working in Japan it just seemed like a big bonus that was too good to be true.

I've had a modest cash inheritance form my grandparents that would be enough for a four year degree in the UK with a small bit left over plus their house which I plan to sell at some point so financing education or training would not likely be a problem.

At this point though I can't tell if this is a practical option or if I'm simply deluding myself. The biggest concern I've got is how employable would a foreigner be at that age with that amount of work experience in the industry?

I don't currently have any form of higher education or work experience in the IT sector so anything I do would be from square one. I don't want to give up on moving to and working in Japan but if it's unlikely to work out with my age then I'll simply have to accept that I've left it to late.

On other hand if there's another pathway to working in Japan I'm open to ideas or suggestions.

Many thanks for your time.

by Steel Sentinel  

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/17 09:24
Regarding your chances of working in Japan, it is difficult to say. I'm a few years older than you and I had a couple of job offers (marketing) a little while before covid happened. It is very possible to land a new job in your 30s, but I also have experience in my field. There is a chance you might be able to get an entry level job in programming, network engineering, that kind of thing but it isn't guaranteed.

As for alternatives, teaching English in your mid to late 30s would be a mistake in my opinion, unless you actually wanted to become a real, career English teacher, which is much more difficult than just landing a job as an Eikawa sensei or ALT. You could of course go to language school in Japan. A place on a course at a school that helps with visas is pretty much guaranteed to get you in unless you are wanted by Interpol or something crazy. Pretty much the biggest hurdle that exists for most people is money and it sounds like you've got that covered. The problem is you have to leave Japan when you finish your course which for most people is a few short years at most.

It doesn't sound like you have worked in Japan before so one thing I will say is that being British and in your 30s you probably have certain expectations about what work should be like. The hours, the conditions, the general workplace culture. Unless you get a job at a foreign company or a company which hires an awful lot of foreigners, all of those things will likely be very different at your workplace in Japan. It's true that things are changing but change happens very, very, very slowly in Japan and to be frank working in Japan kind of sucks in a lot of ways that it doesn't suck in the UK. I am not trying to put you off, it's just that there are a lot of things you should make yourself aware of. Moving to Japan for work is a much easier decision in your early to mid 20s than it is for someone our age. If I put myself in the shoes of a man in his 30s starting a brand new career in Japan and then think about what my life might be like in 5-10 years; I'm working long hours every day but still close to the bottom of the food chain at my company. I can use the language but not very well because I'm working too hard to put time into studying it to a high level. It's very late at night, my Japanese wife is at home in our tiny apartment alone while I'm pouring drinks for my boss (whom I hate) at nomikai. It's not really where I, or I think most Europeans would want to be in their 30s or 40s. Maybe Japanese work culture is something you would be okay with, but for most of us, it doesn't align with our values or just how we want to live our lives.

I mean, you said you were thinking about starting a new career with a CS degree before you even considered that it could help you move to Japan, so I recommend you just try and see what happens. Obviously we have no problem going back into education and starting new careers at pretty much any age, since things are different here to Japan, so if you work hard and take it seriously then probably the worst that can happen is you end up with a new career in the UK. If you are genuinely interested in this line of work then you should definitely do it.
by LIZ (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/17 15:08
Your age is not what I see as the biggest barrier - but more experience once you get your degree.

Every profession is different - but in general expats often bring skills that may not be commonly found in Japan. Often in the IT industry - it's the ability to complete the job in English for a Japanese multinational company. People that can converse in both languages of course have an advantage.

I'm aware that Japanese companies often hire people directly out of university - but I have not heard much about this happening for people outside of Japan due to the extra cost in getting visas and the like.

Working at an English tutor/teacher is often seen as a limited prospect position for progression in that field. However - I have heard of multiple people who have pivoted jobs once they have been in Japan. Others with more experience can comment on the last part I just mentioned.
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/17 16:56
Hello Friend,

I am 61 years old and still exploring new jobs and opportunities here in Japan. Just a few thoughts.

You are still young. Itfs definitely not too late to go to school and it seems you have the resources to do so. My only caution would be to really think about what you want to study and why. I wouldnft just rush into a degree program without really thinking about other possibilities and deciding what you want to do.

And I wouldnft worry too much about the past. Itfs over and canft be changed. Focus on the future and think about what you would like to do.

Also you can also come to Japan as an English teacher or doing other kinds of things. Maybe you should take a trip here before you decide about pursuing living and working here.

You are young. You have some money to help you achieve your goals. I would say you are in a great place. Go for it.
by John (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/17 19:57
Companies in Japan tend to seek either: young people who (they consider to be more adaptable and) would be able to take on demanding projects, or those experienced with certain types of programs, and by the time you graduate youfll be 38, no hands-on experience in programming yet. And at that time when you plan to look for employment in Japan, it must be exactly your skillset that they seek, so that theyfd hire you over others, including locals. So thatfs where my doubt comes in.

Of course, generally speaking Ifd say gyou are never too old to start anything new,h but youfd need to assess your chances realistically.
If you are interested in studying computer sciences on their own rights, why not. But I would not bank on it that exactly that would bring you to Japan.
Just my two cents.
by AK rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/17 21:39
Thank you for all you comments,

AK, mfedley,

What you mention are some my biggest concerns for getting a job over there. However, as I wanted to pursue a change in career even before I found out it could at least theoretically get me a work visa to Japan. So I'll still be doing at least that much, though maybe with an eye to what would be better in Japan than the UK and most likely get some experience before thinking of working in Japan.


you mention some of my other concerns for working in Japan and something I would like to avoid, though like you say retraining for a career in IT would not be a bad move regardless of working in Japan.


Thank you very much for you advice, you make several sensible points.

I'm not stressing to much about about what I did before, as you said whats past has passed and I'm only trying to use it to avoid the same mistakes. I simply put that in my original post to explain my situation and motivation.

If I might ask how do you find working in Japan and have you had any issues getting jobs at your age?

by Steel Sentinel rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/18 07:10
34 and re-training - sure, you have the funds to support that and getting more education/qualifications is a good idea/opportunity.
Other posters have written a lot and some good content there.
One point to note, you don't get a work visa and then look for a job, typically you need a job offer and sponsor in order to get residency status. Plus, like many countries, you do not have a right to live/work/stay in the country, you are here while your SoR is valid. If it is not renewed, you need to leave.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/19 06:15
"One idea I had was to retrain for a career in IT possibly with a bachelors degree in computer science which seems to line up with getting a Engineers work visa." --Steel Sentinel

The first thing is that working in IT and having a degree in computer science are not quite the same thing. The degree in computer science would usually be for becoming a programmer. However, you don't necessarily need a degree to become a programmer, as it is possible to go through a programming boot camp or even learn on your own. As far as IT is concerned, there are many types of certifications that you can get (instead of college) that will allow you to work in the field.

Something to know is that if you attempt to get a work visa (via being an engineer) in IT or programming, without a degree, then you need to have 10 years of work experience.

If you do have a college degree, then the issue will become not having work experience and not being able to speak Japanese. So while you are getting your degree, it would be a good idea to take the JLPT exams and try to get N2 or N1.

If you are going the programmer route, try to get into some type of apprentice program or do freelance work. This will help create a portfolio of applications that you built, in addition to help with the issue of experience and makes it more likely to get hired. An advantage to being a programmer, if you are good, there tends to be less of a Japanese language requirement. You might be able to get away with only having JLPT N3 or even just speaking conversational Japanese, depending on the company and how much in need they are.

If you are going the IT route, depending on the type of job, they still might have a heavy language requirement, to include reading Japanese. Often better to be at least JLPT N2 level. The more the job requires you to interact with Japanese customers and staff, the higher the language requirement. You also might want to get the harder IT certifications, so there is less competition or more leniency about Japanese language skills.

A possible alternative route is becoming an English teacher. For that, you just need an associate's degree. It would be best to establish some verifiable work experience doing such. It sounds easier than it seems, because to get a work visa can be tough, since lots of people try to go this route. However, I have seen people come to Japan on tourist visas and then do massive interviewing at various companies, and land a job. The thing about that, it's "hit or miss", and can burn through a lot of money. Once you are in Japan, it is much easier to find other jobs and become fluent in Japanese.
by Rejo rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/19 07:23
Getting residency with an associate's degree and no work experience is, unless things have changed in the last few years, not possible. A Batchelor's is required, no?

Additionally immigration have (anecdotally) become much less forgiving of late. Doing a change of status from tourist to work visa is not as easy as it was say, 5-10 years ago when it was (relatively) commonplace. I recommend against flying to Japan with the intention on working until employment and residential status is secured, for this and a number of other reasons.
by LIZ (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/19 10:18
I agree with LIZ on the issue of changing from temporary visitor to work visa. That route has been basically closed since August of 2019 (verified with an immigration expert, though the immigration authoritiesf handing has been ginconsistenth). So I would not recommend that path.

Unless you have a few yearsf experience teaching English already, an associatefs degree is not sufficient, as far as I know.
by AK rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/19 18:22

Thanks for your input on the differences in the tech world, I'm still looking into the different options so any guidance is welcome.

That said I'm definitely looking to do a degree, while I was originally just looking to retrain for a career here in the UK the fact a bachelors degree could at least theoretically give me a straight forward path for a work visa is to good of a bonus to pass up.


Thanks for the clarification, I'm even more set on doing a degree.
by Steel Sentinel rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/20 03:11
Liz and AK

I think you got what Rejo was saying wrong. If on a tourist visa, you can do job interviews. I don't think he is saying to work on a tourist visa, which you can't. Interviews, yes, you can do that.

How easy or difficult it will be to change from the tourist visa to work visa depends on the company. If a larger company, they might have immigration lawyers to take care of that, and that would be a much different situation.

Where you are, when processing the application, doesn't necessarily matter. There is no requirement that you must be sitting at home, and not on travel. You can also have the response sent from your home address to Japan. It might be that the person has to leave Japan for a few days and then return, but that likely will not be a problem if they will be getting the job.

I know people that were hired as English teachers with associate's degrees, and became successful at it. I think it's depends on person, job, and circumstances.
by Tango (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/20 04:33
You can definitely get a job teaching English with an associate's degree. You can get a job teaching English with no qualifications whatsoever if you apply to the right places. The right to legally live and work in Japan however, is a different story. For that you need a Batchelor's, or experience at home or in some other country. Under normal circumstances, immigration, unless as I said things have gotten more relaxed in the last few years, will simply not grant what's commonly called a "work visa" to someone with anything less than a Batchelor's unless they have experience.
by LIZ (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/20 09:06
I donft think I misread it - certainly you can do job interviews on a gtemporary visitorh status. However, I took his description to suggest coming to Japan on gtemporary visitorh status, then doing job interviews, AND landing a job and switching to gworkh status. That is the part I was commenting on.

I knew he was not suggesting working while on gtemporary visitorh status.
by AK rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/20 09:21
A bachelor's degree might be needed for a work visa as a teacher but not in IT (and other fields).

For IT, an associate degree in IT or even an approved IT certificate will satisfy immigration's requirements. The experience requirement would differ from employer to employer but immigration doesn't have any requirements for experience.

The 10 years experience requirement are for jobs such as cooks.

BTW, is "batchelor's degree" the correct spelling in some countries?
by . (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/21 20:09
Hi. I am even older than you but I will study access to nursing course here in the UK from next month. I will be 42years old by the time I finish university. Although my parents in Japan are wondering why I still persue my dream of becoming a nurse in my late 30s, I believe age is just a number.

However, when it comes to Japan, age can be an issue, especially if you haven't got any working experience in an industry where you want to work.

My British spouse worked as an database admin in Tokyo years ago. He has plenty of experiences of having worked in IT field, yet it took considerbly long time for him to get a job. He had to work as an English teacher in order to feed my children and me. My husband has said he would work as an English teacher to start with and slowly change his career if he was in your situation.

Do you speak Japanese ? If not, you should learn it as much as possible. I still think it is a great idea to study at university. If you have a degree as well as a Japanese language skill, it will be a big advantage. I wish you all the best !
by tattooedhiroko rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/21 22:09

Thank you very much for both your input and your husbands.

From what people have written here and on another forum I posted on the most practical path would be;

1) Get a computer degree of some sort.
2) Find a relevant job in the UK to gain experience.
3) Study Japanese while working.

This might not get me a job in Japan but it seems the most likely to succeed.
by Steel Sentinel rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/22 05:31
It was typed that the 10 year experience requirement (if you don't have a degree) was only for jobs like cook, but that's not true. You can check the requirements yourself, either you have a degree or 10 years experience.

Even if you have IT certifications, if you don't have a degree, then the 10 year experience requirement is in effect. They are also very particular about which IT certifications they consider to be valid, so they have to be the widely known ones. They will check.

However, it doesn't state that you must have a bachelor's degree. It does look possible to have an associate's degree and the IT certifications or certain computer programmer certifications. There are various certification tests if studying C++, C#, Java, or Python.

For becoming a programmer, something to know is that you can't rely on programmer certifications to get jobs in the same way as the popular IT certifications. Companies will still want to see a portfolio of applications that you have built and/or experience.

If you apply for a company in Japan or talk to a recruiter, usually they will know if you meet the requirements to get a work visa or not. You can also ask an immigration lawyer (they will charge you a consultation fee) to double-check.

Interestingly, just having an associate's degree works for getting hired to be an English teacher, so it might work for IT or programming (provided you have valid certifications too). It would probably be about what certifications you have, any experience doing the job, and how much the company you found wanted to hire you.

Whenever you obtain your associate's degree, you might want to dig deeper into if you can come to Japan sooner, rather than later.
by Tango (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/22 22:20
Have you been to Japan? A good start might be a few trips where you stay 4-5 weeks getting to learn the country?
by sullon rate this post as useful

Re: 34 too old to start degree to work in Japan? 2021/8/22 22:33
At sullon

I agree with you, that a trip to Japan will be helpful, but I think it better that he saves his money and at least gets his associate's degree first. Once he has obtained that, him taking a trip to Japan will likely be more useful because he can do job interviews and personally meet recruiters. Because then, even if he doesn't land a job, he will probably figure out what extra level he needs to meet and establish good verified contacts, in addition to some sightseeing.

If he simply came to Japan before getting a degree and being prepared, it would probably just burn through some money, though it might be an enjoyable trip. We have to keep in mind that he appears to be someone that would like to move to Japan or at least stay for several years. The money that he would blow on a fun trip, could be money spent getting various IT or programmer certifications.
by Tango (guest) rate this post as useful

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