Develop real-world fluency and go beyond “konnichiwa” with a major in Japanese

From pop culture to cutting-edge technology, Japanese influences are woven into the fabric of our world. Want to explore the fascinating culture and beautiful language of Japan? The University of Missouri–St. Louis major in Japanese goes beyond the surface, offering small, interactive classes led by dedicated professors. Develop real-world fluency through a focus on spoken language and cultural immersion. Join a vibrant student community, explore study abroad options and build valuable skills for your future. From communication and critical thinking to intercultural understanding, this modern language degree prepares you for a connected, globalized world. No prior Japanese experience required — just an open mind.

Why you should major in Japanese

The world is getting smaller, and understanding Japan, a global economic powerhouse and cultural trendsetter, is more important than ever. In fact, since Japan is a top trading partner with the United States, the State Department has designated Japanese as a "critical language."

Our Japanese degree will give you:

  • Career edge: Land exciting jobs with Japanese companies or organizations.
  • Global communication: Connect with over 125 million Japanese speakers.
  • Japanese immersion: Dive into Japanese traditions, art and history.


Program type:

Major, BA



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Person writing in Japanese language on chalkboard

Why earn your Japanese degree at UMSL?

UMSL’s major in Japanese isn’t your average modern language degree. We offer a unique blend of academic rigor, Japanese immersion and real-world experiences that will set you apart:

  • A faculty focused on you. Learn from passionate professors in classes that average 10–15 students, ensuring personalized attention and support throughout your journey.
  • Build real fluency. Our program prioritizes spoken language proficiency. We emphasize conversation and communication skills instead of focusing heavily on grammar drills.
  • Live the culture. UMSL offers the Japan Study Tour, a faculty-led Japanese immersion trip that allows you to explore the culture and language firsthand.

At UMSL, you’ll gain confidence and skills to not only speak Japanese but also understand and appreciate its rich culture. Our program is your passport to a world of possibilities!

What can you do with a Japanese degree?

Your passion for the Japanese culture and language can translate into a rewarding career. A modern language degree in Japanese equips you with valuable skills that are highly sought after in today’s globalized job market. Our graduates develop:

  • Strong communication skills. Effective communication skills are essential for any career path. Our Japanese degree emphasizes fluency and cultural understanding, preparing you to confidently navigate business meetings or casual conversations.
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving. A modern language degree hones your analytical skills and your ability to think creatively. You’ll learn to approach challenges from different perspectives — a valuable asset in any career.
  • Intercultural competence. Our Japanese degree sets you apart and equips you to navigate cultural nuances and build strong relationships with colleagues and clients from diverse backgrounds.

Employment of translators and interpreters is projected to grow up to 4 percent through 2032, with a median annual salary of $57,090, according to wage and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Median annual salary


Employment growth by 20232

Career Opportunities

  • Foreign Correspondent 
  • Foreign Service Officer
  • Translator/Interpreter/Localizer
  • Intercultural Training Consultant
  • International Analyst
  • International Business Consultant
  • Japanese Educator
  • NGO Specialist


Plan of study

All majors must meet the general education requirements of the university in addition to completing degree-specific curriculum requirements.

Review Full Degree Requirements Review Sample Four-Year Plan Download 4-Year Academic Map

Non-Missouri Residents: Prospective students are responsible for reviewing the NC-SARA state authorizations page to see if this program is offered in their state throughout their program and to review the licensure or certification requirements for the state in which they reside.

Native Speakers

For departmental purposes, native speakers are defined as individuals who completed their secondary education or above in the target language. Students will submit an official transcript to the University.

The Modern Language Minor is not an option for Native speakers. 

The Modern Language Major for emphasis areas in French, Japanese and Spanish:

  • Native speakers will complete 3 classes at the 4xxx-level and at least 3 classes at the 3xxx or above. AND, FL2100 (3) and FL2294 (1). Total numbers of credits: 22 credits total, including FL2100 and FL2294.

For Dual Language Professional emphasis area:

  • Please see a content-area advisor for more information.
  • Native speakers will complete 3 classes at the 4xxx-level and at least 3 classes at the 3xxx or above. AND, FL2100 (3) and FL2294 (1). Total numbers of credits: 22 credits total, including FL2100 and FL2294.

Heritage Speakers

For departmental purposes, heritage speakers are defined as individuals who have been raised in a family or social environment in which the target language is habitually used for day-to-day communication but have not completed their secondary schooling in the target language. 

The French Minor, Spanish Minor and Japanese Minor: Students will take a nationally-normed proficiency test (STAMP or equivalent) to determine placement:

  • Students who receive a score at or above Intermediate Mid across all skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) must complete 9 credits in the language, including the following courses: 
    • Any 3-credit hour course at the 2xxx level above 2101
    • Any 2 3-credit hour courses at the 3xxx level or above 
    • Students who receive a score below Intermediate Mid in any skill must meet with an advisor to determine proper placement. 

The Modern Language Major: Students will take a nationally-normed proficiency test (STAMP or equivalent) to determine placement: 

  • Students who receive a score at or above the Intermediate High level of proficiency in speaking, and listening, and at or above the Intermediate-Mid level of proficiency in reading and writing will be eligible to pursue the requirements of the Modern Language Major at the 3xxx and 4xxx levels. Total number of credits: 28 in Spanish or French, (XX in Japanese) including FL2100 and FL2294.
  • Students who receive a score below Intermediate Mid in any skill must meet with an advisor to determine proper placement.

Japan Study Tour

The Japan Study Tour is offered in even-numbered years and, while the itinerary varies from trip to trip, participants can look forward to an astonishing array of authentic experiences in Tokyo, Nikko, and Nagano.

Student organizations

Make new friends and learn new skills by joining one of our Recognized Student Organizations. Here are several opportunities you may be interested in as a student majoring in Japanese:

Honors College

The UMSL Honors College is a certificate program that can be paired with any major without adding extra classes or extending time to graduate. Classes in the Honors College are seminar-style, meaning that they are based in reading, writing, discussion, and critical thinking. This unique class format fosters an intellectual climate centered around democracy, diversity, civility and academic excellence.

Undergraduate research

We encourage and support students as they engage in exciting activities in and outside of the classroom that enrich their academic and professional understanding of their chosen area of study. All majors are encouraged to participate in Undergraduate Research and Scholarship to produce discipline-specific intellectual or creative innovations to their field.