tokyodev forum

What to expect as a new graduate

Hi, I am a 4th year student in university studying Computer Science and I am about to graduate this summer. I really want to live in Tokyo and am looking to find a job within the next year.

I am currently learning Kotlin and trying to get some projects on my portfolio this year in hopes of landing a mobile developer job when I graduate. However, I am not sure what to expect in terms of salary and job opportunities even in my home country of the US, let alone Japan. For instance, in terms of salary, I would expect to earn around $80K a year since that is what most of my friends are averaging, but I’m not sure if this is reasonable for Japanese standards --especially since I am a new graduate. My hope is to land a job at an American company and be paid a salary comparable to if I were to work in that company in the US.

I have worked at two start-up companies in the past, one in Irvine, California where I was developing their website using Ruby on Rails and another in Seoul, South Korea where I was building a part of their application using Node.JS. I am not very particular about which field of CS I would like to work in, but have always wanted to work in mobile development. I am learning Kotlin because I have heard from other sources that iOS development is saturated in Japan and that android development is more in demand (please correct me on this otherwise).

Here are the things that I am going to do this year in order to make myself a better candidate for potential employers. Please let me know of other things that I can do!

  • Studying Japanese
  • Learning Kotlin and preparing projects for my portfolio
  • Completing atleast 1 Leet Code problem a day
  • keeping up to date with job opportunities on hiring sites.

Any help is much appreciated. Thank you!

I previously found that international software developers with under two years of experience made an average of ¥4 million. While there are outliers, and it would theoretically be possible to earn more, it’s probably challenging to do so.

Working on projects is great, and may help, but I’ve also seen people who just push a lot of half-baked projects to GitHub, and point companies to them. Unless a project is quite polished looking, or has actual users, it can be hard for someone to actually evaluate it (and often they’re unwilling to spend time digging through your source code).

So in addition to the projects themselves, consider if they can inspire something like an article on a technical topic. Writing can be much easier for someone to quickly glance at, and get a feel for what you’re like as a developer, than code itself. An article doesn’t need to be anything revolutionary, and can simply be about a challenge you’ve faced and how you’ve overcome it.

Contributing to an open source project is another way of quickly demonstrating your abilities. If you were to get a contribution accepted to a major Kotlin library for instance, even if it is something as simple as a documentation or small bug fix, that’s something you can point to that helps as by it being accepted, another developer has already judged it as worthy.

Thank you for this. Now I can know what to expect when I apply and not be disappointed when I get an offer that is much lower than I was thinking. From what I understand, it is in my best interest to get an initial high paying salary since pay progression is difficult in Japan and because they base your offer on your last salary. Since computer science pays higher in the US I may consider getting a job here first then leveraging my pay off of my previous salary. However, I really want to spend my early 20s in Japan to experience what it is like living in another country and getting a higher paying job first may derail my dream of living there by a few years. What would you recommend I do in terms of pay? For instance, if I were to start at ¥4 million yen how long would it take to make it to, say ¥8 million yen? If I could start in the U.S. and make around $80K a year and then move over in one to two years maybe that would be faster, but also I would lose 2 years of living in Japan.

The market rate for developers is lower in Japan than the US (like pretty much everywhere else in the world). So even if you were to get a higher initial salary in the US, you might end up needing to take a pay cut when you want to live here.

For me personally, I was never so concerned about salary. It might have helped that I’m Canadian, and so my potential salary domestically was never so high, nor did I put so much importance on maximizing individual wealth.

Being a single person in my twenties, I could more or less break even on a salary of ¥4 million per year. I had my own (small) apartment in central Tokyo, and didn’t worry about being especially frugal beyond my natural instincts. Not having any dependents or debts, I was able to have a good life on a meagre salary by Silicon Valley standards.

Rather than salary, I focused on being in an environment where I could develop my skills and enjoy my work. I ended up going a different route than most people as I started my own business, but if I had of gone the traditional employee route, I think I could have made the switch to focus more on well-paid positions if I had to.