Enhancing Your Japan Career with Certifications

Your first step into a career in Japan can be made easier with the right certificate. Boost your confidence (and your resume) and get ahead of the competition with our suggestions of certifications to get started on right now - from English teaching to Project Management and other career related certifications.

Table of Contents

  1. Importance of Certifications
  2. TEFL and CELTA Certifications
  3. PMP Certification
  4. Career-specific Certification
  5. Language Proficiency Certification
  6. Summary

Importance of Certifications

Whether it’s for your career, an education, a challenge, or plain self-interest, a certification can be very useful. In Japan, where education and qualifications are of utmost importance, a certification would certainly make you stand out from the rest of the competition and increase your credibility.

Reasons to Have Certification in Japan

Stickman climbing up the career ladder

Competitive Edge 

When it comes to employment opportunities, the first hurdle to cross before the interview and tests is the profile review. This is where a preliminary check on your personal information, education background, work history, and qualifications will be considered. Having the relevant certification is a bonus that serves as an excellent reference point of assessment on whether you are suitable for a position.

Evidence of Capabilities

Certifications don’t just drop out of thin air. It is proof that you have completed an education or gained skills that have made you worthy of receiving it. It is not the certification itself that matters to others, it is what it symbolizes - you are learned. 

Wage Calculation

Did you know that certifications can also increase your potential income? Employers take into consideration certifications when deciding your base income. Getting a new relevant certification to your work may also get you a pay raise.

Convert your skills into money

Confidence and Respect

Aside from the practical advantages, certifications also go a long way in improving your social life. Being on the same wavelength as your peers, doing better at your job, or as a hobby; similar to passing a test, successfully getting a certification boosts your confidence and can be a topic of discussion with family and friends. 

From a career perspective, taking the initiative to improve yourself will earn you respect from your colleagues and your boss.

Difference Between Certifications and Licensure

The words “certifications” and “licensure” are often used interchangeably because of misunderstandings of their definitions. Let’s not make the same mistake by learning the differences between these two very different words. 




Dictionary Meaning

A certificate attesting the truth of some statement or event.

The granting of licenses, especially to engage in professional practice.


Certificate: A document that serves as evidence of status, qualification, or privilege.

License: Formal permission from a government or authoritative body to do something.  


Education or Skill

- To prove knowledge and skill.


- To work or provide a service. 



Yes, if code of professional conduct or ethics is violated.


Language (IELTS, JLPT, ILCE)

Musical (ABRSM, Yamaha)

Sports (ITF, RYT)


Driver’s License 

Legal Practising License

Medical License

Public Accountant License

TEFL and CELTA Certification

For most people, teaching English is a good jumping-off point to living in Japan. While it is not absolutely necessary to have to teach English in Japan, having English teaching certifications like TEFL or CELTA will be an obvious advantage in jump-starting an English teaching career in Japan, especially at a private institution or a higher education position.

TEFL Japan

Teaching English as a foreign language tefl

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is an internationally recognized English teaching course that aims to prepare English teachers to teach English to non-native users.

There are many course providers for TEFL and no overseeing organization which makes picking a good school difficult - the key is to select an accredited course provider and to check reviews about the school beforehand. Some schools offer post-course support like practical internship experiences or worldwide job searches which can help you find a job. You may even choose to take your TEFL
course right in Japan

Generally, the standard to obtain a accredited TEFL Certification are:

  • 100 to 120 hours long course

  • Minimum 6 hours practice teaching

  • Accreditation from an external body

※ International TEFL Academy, "What is TEFL and What is TEFL Certification?"
※ ESL Base, “TEFL accreditation: What is it and why is it important?


Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA), though having the same aims as TEFL, is considered a stricter, more intense course. Unlike TEFL, CELTA courses can only be provided by authorized institutions that strictly follow the syllables and course specifications as stipulated by Cambridge Assessment English.

The standards to obtain a CELTA Certification are:

  • 120 hours course

  • No 100% online classes; 100% in-person classes or online classes blend

  • Classroom teaching practice

  • Homework and graded classroom teaching practice

Although the heavier workload and strict assessment may seem troublesome, it is also a comfort to have a standard curriculum and a proper course-provider search function without having to worry about whether your school is a fraud or not.

Both CELTA and TEFL have their own pros and cons, ultimately whichever is suitable for you depends on your needs.

※ Cambridge Assessment English, “What’s in the CELTA course?”
※ Go Overseas, “What’s the Difference between CELTA and TEFL?

PMP Certification

Project management group discussion

Project Management Professional (PMP) is a project management certification by Project Management Institute (PMI) that is globally recognized including in various Japanese industries like marketing, IT, consulting, and more. Having this certification will not only help with improving your management skills, it can also advance your career and build your career network.

PMP Certification Eligibility Requirements

Before you can obtain the PMP Certification however, you will need to satisfy the eligibility criteria:

  • A Bachelor’s degree

  • 3 years project leading experience

  • 35 hours of project management training or CAPM Certification

If you do not have a Bachelor’s degree, a high school diploma or associate degree is acceptable provided you have 5 years of project leading experience.

※ Project Management Institute, “Project Management Professional (PMP)®”

Exam Outline

The PMP exams consist of 180 multiple choice questions. Starting this year of 2021, the exams outline has been revamped into three domains or main subjects (previously five) where the questions will be taken from. The domains are:

  1. People 
    Covers the social aspect of projects like conflict management, team leading, team support, team building, and team rules.

  2. Process 
    Covers the actual project flow and management like risk assessment, budget planning, resource management, project scheduling, and project issues.   

  3. Business Environment
    Covers issues in business environment like project’s legal compliance, security compliance, external factor, environment changes, and organization changes, 

※ Project Management Institute, “PMP Exam Preparation

Career-specific Certifications

Certifications are regarded highly in Japan. It boosts your credibility, especially when trying to establish your career in the country. Here are some examples of certifications that can boost your career advancement. 

IT Certification

IT Certification example

Information Technology (IT) is a huge expansive industry that covers anything to do with computers. The non-exhaustive list contains software, hardware, network, data, artificial intelligence, robotics, infrastructure, platforms, databases, data science, automation, games, etc. Let’s not forget that it can also crossover into other industries. It comes as no surprise then that there are many certifications available for almost every sector. 

Here are some examples of certifications:

  • AWS Certifications

  • Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

  • Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)

  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)

Translator Certification

There is always a need for translators in Japan, and not just for Japanese-English. There are plenty of translator certifications available around the world, but consider getting one from Japan. The Japan Translation Association has 10 types of certifications for different languages, translation levels, and industries. At present, the translation languages available are Chinese, English, French, German, and Japanese

※ Japan Translation Association, “Certification and Accreditation Tests

Read these to learn more about working as a translator in Japan:

Language Proficiency Certifications

Studying hiragana through writing practice

Japanese Certification

Having a Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) certification will be very helpful when seeking employment in Japan. In some cases, even a necessity. There are 5 proficiency levels, N5 (the easiest) to N1 (the hardest). Most Japanese companies expect a minimum of business level proficiency (N2).

Other advantages of having JLPT include discounts at certain language schools, and points earned for migrating to Japan.

※ The Japan Foundation/Japan Educational Exchanges and Services, “N1-N5 Summary Level”
※ The Japan Foundation/Japan Educational Exchanges and Services, “Advantages of JLPT

Other Japanese language certifications you can get include the
Business Japanese Proficiency Test, the J-Test and Kanji Kentei (Kanji Proficiency Test).

English Certification

Regardless of your actual language ability, some companies (or education programmes) will request foreigners from non-native English speaking countries to provide TOEFL, TOEIC, or IELTS results, also stipulating a required minimum grade. Japanese people often include such scores on their resume, so while it is not always mandatory, if you are from a non-native English speaking country, it might be good to preemptively take the test. 


The Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) is most commonly used in Japan. It is therefore the most convenient certificate to get in Japan as there are centres available everywhere. Its founder is Educational Testing Service (ETS). It is administered by the Institute for International Business Communication (IIBC) in Japan.

TOEIC does not have an all-in test but has 2 combination tests; Listening & Reading, and Writing & Speaking. In Japan, there is also a speaking only test.


The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is one of two most used English proficiency tests in the world, alongside IELTS below. It has the same founder as TOEIC. 

TOEFL has several types of tests including for children, for academics, paper test, home test, and computer test. It is an all-in test comprising listening, reading, writing, and speaking.


The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the other most used English proficiency test in the world. Its managing bodies include the British Council, Cambridge Assessment English, and IDP Education. 

IELTS has two types of tests; general and academic. Both tests have four parts comprising listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The general test is aimed at those intending to migrate to an English-speaking country, whilst the academic test is for those seeking undergraduate or higher education. IELTS test can only be taken on-site.

Test scores for these are only valid for 2 years.


Studying can be fun, and sometimes a certificate is a reward by itself, made even better when you get a promotion or career advancement. Thinking of changing jobs? Get an extra qualification to impress a headhunter. There’s no limit to education so don’t limit yourself. Perhaps not now but in the future, you can always strive for more, not just for your career or to live in Japan, but even just for yourself.

You don't have to worry alone anymore A Q&A community about Japan

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