Possible to work as web developer with a marketing degree?

Hi Paul, and fellow Tokyo Dev peps!

I guess the quick version of my question is, is it possible to work as a web developer with a visa other than an engineering visa or working holiday visa?

Ok so now to give a bit of context and background to my question, I hold a bachelors degree in marketing and until recently I spent 3 years working as an account/project manager at leading mobile marketing and development company. While I was there worked a lot with the developers and found what the work they were doing to be really interesting and I enjoyed learning about the development side of the business. Long story short, I decided I really wanted to get into web development and so am currently attending a 6 month Developer Bootcamp which I’m thoroughly enjoying!

From a professional point of view I have always wanted to live/work in Japan as it is a country that provides unique challenges, but also the chance to work with a truly global community and it provides career opportunities that I wouldn’t get in my smallish home city here in New Zealand. From a personal point of view I have been there numerous times on holiday, have friends living there and do have some understanding of the language as I actually spent two years studying/learning it while at university (and still practice when i can even now).

If I could I would get a working holiday visa and be on my way, but unfortunately I’m 32 so am over the age limit. So back to my question: Even if in say two years time when I have some development experience, would it possible to work in web development in Japan by way of some other visa type? (Would Marketing fall under the Specialist in Humanities visa?). Would it be possible to work in say a creative agency as a developer? (There would be a bit of a link between a marketing degree and type of business environment a creative agency operates in…)

Realistically I know the chances are pretty low, but would be good to know if it is something that would be at all possible or is there zero chance of working in Japan as a developer unless you have an engineering degree (or 10+ years experience?)

Would be great to hear any thoughts/advice.


Visas, and Japan more generally, doesn’t have a lot of black and white answers. While in principle you need an engineering visa to work as a developer, a company could hire a marketer who happens to write code without one. I’m not clear exactly what visa you’d need, but I’m guessing Specialist in Humanities.

To get a visa though, you’ll need a company that wants to hire you. The more they want to hire you, the more willing they’ll be to adapt to your situation. Even if you fit into the standard visa, you’d still be facing an uphill battle getting a job here, so the barrier to getting a job here is quite high, though not insurmountable.

I’d work on marketing yourself as a developer, as this will help you get a job in Japan or anywhere. I’d try to figure out where you can provide unique value over other developers.

One idea would be to see how you can combine your development skills and marketing background. For instance, someone who can not only come up with good A/B tests to run, but also implement them by themselves, is a lot more valuable than a marketer who can just come up with them, or a developer who can implement them. Another would be to help companies with lead generation through tools you can build. It could be as simple as something like this A/B Significance Test calulator, or something more involved.

Even if you decide you want to focus on something like backend development, and not use your marketing background in your day to day work, I’d use it to sell yourself. Developers tend to be quite bad about demonstrating value to potential employers, so you’ll have a leg up on others.

I’d also consider holding off trying to get a job here until you have more experience as a developer. Pivoting your career and moving to Japan might be too challenging to do at once. Even if your local town doesn’t have so many opportunities, I’m guessing places like Auckland and Christchurch have a decent market. Even Australia would be easier, as you don’t face the same language and visa hurdles. Once you have proven experience, Japanese companies will be much more willing to take a shot on you.

Hi Paul,

Thanks for coming back to me on this, really good to hear your thoughts and opinions. Also really nice to hear that a lot of what you noted above also aligns with my general thinking on the matter. I still enjoy marketing and I can see it being a real asset in the development world and like you said I also think there is real value in a developer who can bring a skillset other than just development (and a marketer who can just do something other than marketing!). Great to hear you agree as well.
I also absolutely agree with you on being able to market yourself as a developer - I think it’s important for a developer (or any other professional for that matter) to have a strong personal/professional brand, and as someone just starting out in the development world I think it would be a great way for me to differentiate myself from other candidates.It’s definitely something I’m aware of and am working on so once I finish my studies I should (hopefully) be in a good position!

Thanks also for your thoughts on how I would get on visa wise, and your advice on how to get there - again it sort of follows my own thoughts on this as well. In an ideal world I would enjoy the opportunity to work in japan once I finish my studies, but I’m a realist and realise that chances of that happening are slim to none! I expect to be working in NZ or AU for the next few years once I finish my studies, which is fine, but I would like to get experience further afield at some point so it’s nice to know that it wouldn’t be impossible to work in Japan without a Bachelor of Computing etc (although I know there would be plenty of other barriers to overcome as well!)

Thanks again for your thoughts on the matter (and for putting together this site!), is good advice to know and have in the back of my mind, and in a few years who knows maybe it could all come together… :slight_smile: