Preparing For The JLPT: Do You Need It For A Job In Japan?

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* * * Be sure to read this ultimate guide at BFF Tokyo: “How to Get a Job in Japan From Overseas.” I list 7 different ways you can get a job in Japan! * * *

[Guest Blog Post] Eli Wood is a freelance content writer from Massachusetts. Eli studied and tutored Japanese throughout college and now helps businesses grow by using the right words. You can connect with Eli on LinkedIn or visit their website.

This is part 1 of a 5-part series. Be sure to check out the rest!

Part 2: JLPT Online Training Programs

Part 3: The JLPT: Do You Need It For A Job? (US version)

Part 4:The JLPT Got The Coronavirus

Part 5: Stop Interviewing & Hiring Based Solely On the JLPT

Do you have to take the JLPT to get a Japanese-speaking job?

The short answer is no. But that doesn’t mean it can’t help you! If you have the certification, that’s proof to your employer that you have some official credentials to help you excel in your new role. The level of benefit can also depend on the type of career you’re looking at. 

If you’re considering a career when you’ll speak Japanese, you’ve probably already heard of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. If you haven’t, the JLPT is an international Japanese language exam that scores you based on how well you understand written and spoken Japanese. It’s held twice a year, in July and December, at various locations in each country.

There are 5 levels: N5, N4, N3, N2, and N1. N5 is the easiest level and you work your way up to N1, the most advanced. Many job postings for Japanese-speaking roles want you to have either passed the N1 or speak at that level.

Reasons to Take the JLPT


If you want to work and live in Japan, you’ll be dealing with the Immigration Bureau of Japan. If you pass the JLPT N1 or N2 level, you can get 10-15 out of 70+ points needed to get preferential treatment, which has its advantages for professionals in Japan.

Requirement for Medical Practitioners

If you want to be a medical practitioner of any kind in Japan, you have to take the JLPT and pass at the N1 level. A passing N1 score is required if you even want to take the national exams for practicing medicine in Japan.

Junior High Level Education

If you pass the JLPT at the N1 or N2 level, you won’t have to take the accreditation exam that says you’ve completed junior high school level Japanese education. At this point, your Japanese will be good enough to show in the national exam that you have enough Japanese knowledge to put you at the level you would need to be to pass the exam.

Looks Great on Your Resume

Some Japanese-speaking jobs in the US ask that you pass the N1 or N2 level of the JLPT. Since not all Japanese jobs require you to work in Japan, this is a good way for your employer to know whether you have the knowledge they need. You might be interviewed in Japanese (at least in part) to show your speaking skill, but since the JLPT goes beyond speaking alone, it’s good to have the certification.

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Alternatives to taking the JLPT

There are some other Japanese language tests you can take, though the JLPT is the most widely known and the one that carries the most weight. In my search for Japanese jobs, I’ve never come across one that asks for any other test results. But that doesn’t mean the alternatives can’t help, too!

The Kanji Kentei

The Kanji Kentei, or KanKen, isn’t as comprehensive as the JLPT. It tests your knowledge of kanji over 12 levels, starting around a first grade equivalent. It’s more of a benchmark test than one that’s useful for employment – though it may be helpful in a writing/reading-heavy field.

The J-Test

The J-Test isn’t as widely known or offered as the JLPT, and it’s not as varied. The JLPT spans 5 different levels and has a separate test for each of those levels. The J-Test doesn’t. Each applicant takes one exam and that’s it, even if you’re not as advanced as some of the other examinees. The good thing about this test is that if you can find a place to take it, it’s offered 6 times a year.

Business Japanese Proficiency Test

The BJT tests your knowledge of using Japanese in the business world. It tests how well you can communicate using keigo, a more professional and polite form of Japanese language. This exam schedule is more flexible than the other tests. On the BJT website, you can find test times and locations.

The Final Word?

The JLPT is generally preferred over the alternatives. That said, it’s not strictly necessary. If a job posting mentions the JLPT, the company usually asks for an N1 or N2 level certification. Anything below that isn’t usually enough to qualify you for a Japanese-speaking job.

Sometimes an interview in Japanese is enough. Some companies have their own tests they use to check your knowledge. It varies so much that there isn’t a surefire answer as to whether or not the JLPT will help you in landing your dream job. However, it’s not a bad thing to have on your resume because it can show a company that you do have a level of Japanese knowledge beyond the average applicant.

Have you taken the JLPT or another one of these exams? Do you have experience with a Japanese company that required it (or didn’t)? Tell us your story!

This is part 1 of a 5-part series. Be sure to check out the rest!

Part 2: JLPT Online Training Programs

Part 3: The JLPT: Do You Need It For A Job? (US version)

Part 4:The JLPT Got The Coronavirus

Part 5: Stop Interviewing & Hiring Based Solely On the JLPT

Illustration by Jordyn Karpinski – Photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash

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8 thoughts on “Preparing For The JLPT: Do You Need It For A Job In Japan?”

  1. Since I plan to work in Japan starting next year, my Japanese teacher assigned JLPT N5 lessons to me. It is very helpful thus far! I plan to take the N1 exam at some point, but I will study Japanese for a few years first.

    Very informative article! Thanks!

  2. Hi,

    I am looking to settle down in japan and teyingto learn japanese ! Where are you learning it and how is your progress ? Also can you please tell me how to be eligible to get visa for japan

  3. Ikigai Connections

    Hello Sabarish-san, thanks so much for reading this blog post! Good for you to want to settle down in Japan and learn the language 🙂

    For me personally, I learned the language in my high school, college and graduate school programs that were located in USA and Japan. Currently, I continue to use the language in correspondence with my friends, watching Japanese TV shows/movies, and listening to music. Take a look at this blog post for ideas on how to study the language outside of a language program:

    The visa situation is different depending on what country you live in. For the US, we are able to enter Japan on a 90-day tourist visa, but if we want to study or work there, we have to apply for a special visa that takes some time and usually requires a school/company to apply with us. Please check your country’s governmental websites for more information, or search for a local Japanese embassy or consulate.

    Please reach out if you have more questions!

  4. Barbu Alexandra

    Hello, if you pass the JLPT N1or N2, is it necessary to have a college degree? Or highschool is enough to work and settle in Japan? Thank you.

  5. Ikigai Connections

    Hello Alexandra!
    Thanks so much for reading my blog 🙂
    I am beyond impressed if you are in high school and already have (or are on your way to) N1 or N2 – wow!!
    In my opinion: I don’t think that a college degree is 100% necessary in any career, but it will definitely help you find a job in Japan. That said, it does depend on what you want to do. Take a look at this blog post to get more ideas:
    Also, you need to consider the visa situation from your home country so you can legally work in Japan. If you’re still in high school, and if your school doesn’t offer exchange programs to Japan, consider organizations like Youth For Understanding ( or Japan Bound ( to at least get you there.
    Please keep in mind that the JLPT doesn’t necessarily test your speaking skills, so I would highly recommend ideas like getting a language partner to practice speaking.
    Feel free to reach out with further questions, especially if you have a better idea of what you want to do: Thanks!

  6. Now I’m preparing N5 for last 6 months …so I’ll plan to write N5 on Dec 2020….If I pass…is there any possibile to get job in Japan…

  7. Ikigai Connections

    Hello Rish-san,
    Thank you for your question! I think it depends on what kind of job you are seeking. One of the biggest concerns is finding an employer that can support you in getting a work visa, so it would help to start doing some research now. Also, you can consider enrolling in a Japanese language school in Japan that can help with visa sponsorship, and then once you’re there, you can search for jobs.
    がんばってくださいね ♫

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