Japanese university degrees

Bachelor´s, Master´s, and Doctorates

Japanese university degrees

In Japan, most university students study until they have obtained their Bachelor´s degrees. At this point, they transition into the work world. Fewer students go on to pursue Master´s and doctoral degrees.

The reason for this is that most Japanese students see a degree as a ticket to employment with a large firm. Long-term employment in the corporate world is highly respected in Japan, so it is not surprising that most students end their studies once they are able to obtain it.

Teachers, academics and professionals (such as lawyers and doctors) primarily go on to pursue higher degrees.

Japanese Bachelor degrees

Japanese Bachelor degrees take a minimum of four years to complete. However, many students take five years to complete their degrees and some take as long as six.

Bachelor studies are structured along a credit system. Most degrees require between 120 and 150 credits. These are spread out over a progression of elective and required courses. For specific course requirements, check with your university.

Undergraduate school years in Japan are divided into two semesters – the first runs from April to September, and the second from September to March.

Master degrees in Japan

Most Japanese Master programs last for two years. They require around 30 credits (MBAs closer to 50), and courses are spread out across semesters the same as undergraduate studies. Master´s courses are usually worth 2 credits each.

A Master´s thesis is required of each student, and the theses are worth credits that count toward students´ required totals. Exact thesis and credit requirements vary from university to university.

You will likely be required to take both oral and written exams in order to complete your degree.


Unlike Master and Bachelor degrees, the doctorate´s main focus is the student´s research. In the course of completing that research, however, students may take courses to supplement their independent work, and may even be required to attend certain seminars.

Doctoral programs usually take five years. The first two years are organized similar to a Master´s program with a structured course schedule. In later years, students devote almost all of their time exclusively to research.

While some schools may accept doctoral students immediately after they complete their undergraduate degrees, it is generally expected that doctoral students complete a Bachelor, Master and doctoral degree in order.

Further reading

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