TokyoDev forum

Language School Path For Experienced Developer

Hi folks,

I have around 5 years of experience (mostly frontend), and I wonder what would be the best option for me to find a software development job in Japan.

As far as I can see, it is possible to find a job sooner or later from abroad, especially if you are experienced enough. Also, it looks like I have enough points for the Highly skilled professional visa.

But the more I read job descriptions the more obvious it seems to me that moving to Japan first would be so much better to land a job in a timely manner.

Hence, I have a question. Is the difference between a 3-month language school course (no student visa) and a 6-month language school course (student visa) important for potential employers? Implying that I would be actively looking for a job 2-3 months before classes start.

With a three month language school course, you’re on a tourist visa, so from an employers perspective, there’s not really any difference than if you came over on a holiday for three months. You also don’t have to actually attend the school (apart from wasting whatever money you paid them). You’d also have to leave the country to change to a working visa.

With a six month visa, you’d have a student visa, and could theoretically get part time work for instance. But you also have to actually attend classes, or your visa would be revoked. You could change visas to a working visa without having to leave (at least that’s my understanding).

Personally, rather than attending language school with the sole goal of getting a job, I’d make studying Japanese the primary goal, with finding a job being an incidental one. If you’re living in Japan, more Japanese abilities are always useful, and if you come up with a plan that’ll work even if you don’t land a job, you’re reducing the pressure you’re putting on yourself, and also having a plan for what happens after if you can’t find something.

Thank you so much for your answer.

It looks like the short-term option might be better for me since I am also also married with a kid, and if I am on a student visa, a potential employer would have to sponsor me like I am actually abroad anyway.

I am also considering language school. Quite honestly I don’t have the skills for a developer role yet. I have five years in the tech industry as a “software engineer” but really it is more IT/sysadmin with some scripting, and the knowledge needed is really only company-specific. I want to live in Japan long-term, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to attend language school.

Here is my plan:
Attend language school

Before/While in language school
Build up my technical skills and portfolio
Attend networking events (Found some meetup events in Tokyo)
Apply like crazy for jobs
If I can’t get any offers, try teaching English
If I can’t teach English, hopefully with my Japanese skill level I can find a different job in another field
Otherwise, if no offers come in, at least I learned a new language. Graduate and go back home

Other details:
I will be 30 next year
I will have enough money saved up to attend language school for 2 years
My Japanese skill is below N5. Want to get to at least N3 if realistically possible

I figure I have five years of experience maybe not necessarily as a developer but if I can show I have the skills and show I can fit in with the company there’s a good chance I can get a job offer. Let me know what you think!

Keep in mind that attending a language school is basically like a full time job. You typically will spend the mornings in class, and if you want to do well, the afternoons doing homework. Attending networking events shouldn’t be an issue, but I’d temper expectations to improve technical skills and a portfolio concurrently.

Yes, that is true and I would also have a part-time job to worry about too. So are you suggesting just focusing on building skills and not worrying about a portfolio? If you were in my situation what would you do? Thanks for your advice too

If I was attending language school full time, I’d have difficulty doing anything else. If you’re going to work part time, it will be even more challenging.

Since it sounds like you’re working full time right now, if you’re also able to build up your technical skills and portfolio on evenings and weekends, then you could continue to do so in Japan. But I wouldn’t expect to have more free time here.

I think for both of you, the advantages of being in Japan while applying for jobs vs. being abroad are minimal.

In both cases, you’re still going to be asking companies to sponsor your visas, and you’re rolling the dice a little on whether a company would consider your short-term student visa to count as “residence in Japan” in their eyes. Plus there are the added risks of not finding work before your student visa runs out, meaning you need to either return home anyway or move sideways into a non-tech role (eg. English teaching, which will eat up all the business hours of your weekday, making it harder to interview) for an indeterminate amount of time - where you’ll then have to explain to employers why you are interviewing for a tech role mere weeks/months after starting a different job, after studying at a Japanese language school. These are all marginal drawbacks that must be balanced against the marginal benefits of applying from within Japan - it may or may not be the best move.

Not to mention that you’ll be spending a bunch of money on language school and moving/accommodation costs, with no income (unless you get a part time job, which will only take even more time away from job-hunting / networking / portfolio-building).

Applying for jobs (and connecting with recruiters) from your home country and going through the regular Engineer/Highly Skilled visa routes seems to make more sense, in my mind. The reason to go to language school would be if you primarily and mainly want to study Japanese, not as a way to get a coding job.