What Kind of AI Engineers Does Japanese Companies Want?


Currently, AI engineers are the first on the list of most demanded engineers around the world. In Japan, the battle for talented AI engineers has begun, regardless of the size of the company, and of course foreigners are also targeted.

This article summarizes the job description, salary level, and necessary skills for foreign IT engineers seeking a place to work as an AI engineer in Japan. Please make use of it to prepare for job-hunting in Japan.

AI Engineers in Japan

AI engineers job description

AI engineers are professionals who develop systems that use AI (artificial intelligence) and analyze data accumulated in AI. AI engineers are still new positions, so the names may differ depending on the industry or company. In terms of recruitment guidelines, you may see names such as machine learning engineer and data scientist, but they can all be regarded as a kind of AI engineer.

To put it simply, machine learning engineers develop systems using AI, so you can say they are, “AI construction experts”. A data scientist analyzes the data learned by AI and improves the system. In other words, it is like an “expert who uses AI”.

What’s the difference between AI engineers from overseas and Japan?

There is no big difference between an overseas or Japan role as an AI engineer. Basically, the work of AI engineers is to think about how to process data and how to use it in business, and to construct and verify an optimal AI system.

What is the income of AI engineers?

Compared to general IT engineers, AI engineers with advanced expertise have a higher annual income level, which goes from around 6 million to 12 million yen, depending on their ability and experience. In particular, the demand for engineers with practical experience in AI development is high, and there are many great positions that exceed 10 million yen in annual income.

It is said that AI-related technologies in Japan are falling behind compared to overseas, but potential AI Unicorn led by AI Unicorn “Preferred Networks” have been born one after another in Japan for the past few years. There are many AI-related startups that have succeeded in raising large-scale funds, and many companies are hiring AI engineers with high treatment. Companies such as Sony, Toshiba, and Toyota that represent Japan are also investing heavily in AI human resources.

In this way, a number of Japanese companies are starting to focus on business development using AI to strengthen their competitiveness, and actions toward the acquisition of AI engineers are active. There are many opportunities for foreign AI engineers in Japan.

Now is the time to start your career as an AI engineer in Japan!

According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s “Survey on Supply and Demand for IT Human Resources” (March 2019), there is a shortage of 34,000 AI engineers in Japan in 2018. Looking ahead, we expect AI demand growth to be “average”, and if we do not take into account productivity increases, we will have a shortage of 97,000 AI engineers in 2025 and 145,000 AI engineers in 2030.

Unless the gap between supply and demand for AI engineers is filled, the competition for human resources should continue, and naturally, foreign AI engineers are also the target. In this situation, it is now a good time for a foreigner to find a job at a Japanese company as an AI engineer.

Skills Required of AI Engineers

Compared to general IT engineers, AI engineers require a high level of expertise. To be active as an AI engineer, at least the following knowledge and skills will be indispensable.

Deep understanding of AI including machine learning and deep learning

Of course, the most important thing is to understand AI. If you do not understand the essence and concepts of AI, like what is AI and what can be done with AI, you will not be able to work as an AI engineer.

A general IT engineer has a strong image of building a system according to specifications, but an AI engineer is different. Rather than work as instructed, it is the AI engineer who participates from the upstream process of the project and makes a plan about how to solve it by using AI.

If an AI engineer does not understand the characteristics of AI deeply, there is a high risk that the project will fail, and you may end up with a system that is completely useless.. To avoid this, it is important to know the essence of AI and understand the basics of machine learning and deep learning.

Programming skills

Programming skills are required in order to develop systems using AI. Currently, the most popular programming language for AI development is “Python”. Python is an easy-to-use language for AI development, and has a rich library of machine learning and deep learning. As an AI engineer, programming skills in Python and skills to master Python libraries are indispensable.

Other programming languages often used for AI development besides Python include C ++, Lisp, and Julia.

Mathematics knowledge

To understand AI and machine learning algorithms, mathematical knowledge like differentiation, linear algebra, vectors, matrices, and probabilities is required. In addition, parameter adjustment is repeated to improve the accuracy of the AI model, but understanding mathematics is indispensable because the parameters are also based on mathematical expressions.

Knowledge of database operation

To predict the future by referring to a huge amount of past data, and to find the optimal solution from this big data is AI’s job. But the data given to AI is important in order to obtain a highly accurate output. In order to handle the data given to AI efficiently, it is desirable to have knowledge of database applications, like MySQL and NoSQL.

Follow Your Ideal Career

AI engineers in large companies

As an AI engineer, if you are involved in a big project while earning a stable and high income, you should aim to find a job in a large company. Large companies such as Toshiba, Panasonic, NEC, Toyota, and three megabanks are focusing on acquiring AI engineers both in Japan and overseas. Large companies have not only AI engineers but also excellent IT engineers, so if you want to improve yourself in a high-level environment, you should try to find a job at a major company.

AI engineer in a startup or a venture company

As mentioned above, AI-related startup companies have been launched one after another in Japan. Employing or changing to an AI startup venture can be an attractive option. Of course, startups and ventures may not reach the salary you want because some companies don’t have abundant funds. However, the experience of joining and starting up a business from the beginning of the company’s founding should have a significant positive impact on the career development of AI engineers.


In order to strengthen Japan’s competitiveness, the government has formulated an “AI Strategy” to train 250,000 human resources who can master AI each year. Although there is a shortage of AI engineers, human resources will definitely increase in the future. If that is the case, the skills and experiences of individual AI engineers will become more powerful.

Whatever job method you choose, whatever kind of company you work for, if you are an AI engineer who will be chosen in the following 5 or 10 years, it is important to accumulate knowledge and improve your skills every day.