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Japan vs. the US on University Degrees

by Ewa Nowogorski

When you were a child, you had probably always been told that getting a university degree is super important in order to land a good job when you grew up. And that idea still remains very true today、although since the pandemic began society has begun changing in ways that makes the value of a university degree decrease. 

Japan is called a “gakurekishakai” (学歴社会) which literally means “educational history society”, and it heavily values a person’s education, especially university education. Previously, a university degree was also considered important in the US as well, and having one gave people a greater chance of landing a better job and a higher paying job. There were, however, always jobs available that did not require such degrees, and people could always manage to find themselves work regardless of their educational background.

Japan is a little different. It is essentially a must to have a university education because without one, getting a job at a prestigious company is impossible, and even getting average work will be extremely difficult. Having a degree is also an affirmation of status and worth. By proving that you have graduated university, you verify your status in society. Unfortunately, people without university degrees are looked down upon in Japanese society. In America, it is well known that many university and high school drop outs have gone on to become millionaires, so not having a degree in itself is not a sign of failure in American society.

Japanese society gets a little more superficial in that university name is also very important. You must not only have graduated university, but having graduated from a prestigious university also increases your social status and chances of landing a better job. Job recruiters always look at university name, but they rarely look at one’s actual grades, so one does not need to have actually done well in school. In America, university name can be important, but good grades are equally important.

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