The Complete Guide to Teaching with Westgate in Japan
Founded in 1983, Westgate is a private corporation with the aim of producing fluent English speakers to a global society. They contract to universities and schools in various locations throughout Japan with the goal of providing them with EFL teachers.
Westgate employs over 250 teachers (instructors) to teach in one of their 57 campuses and schools. They offer three programs: an International Career English Program for universities, a Secondary School Academic English Program for junior high schools and high schools, and a Young Learners English Program for elementary schools.
If teaching English in Japan is an option you’re considering and you’re especially interested in teaching at a university level, then the Westgate program could be a strong option for you. They offer a typical Monday to Friday working week, short contracts, a competitive salary and benefits such as flight reimbursement.
Westgate requirements are slightly stricter than other teaching programs in Japan, as they do prefer that their teachers hold a teaching qualification or TEFL certificate plus ESL teaching experience on top of the usual Bachelor’s degree.
The requirements to teach with Westgate vary slightly depending on whether you’d like to teach at universities or schools.
In order to teach at a university with Westage, you must hold the minimum of a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university as well as ONE of the following:
- EFL classroom teaching experience along with a TEFL certificate and/or a teaching qualification
- 1000+ hours of EFL classroom teaching experience instead of a teaching certificate or qualification
To be eligible to teach at schools with Westgate, you must have a Bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited institution, some classroom experience with young learners and ONE of the following:
- 500+ hours of EFL classroom teaching experience along with a TEFL certificate and/or a teaching qualification
- 1000+ hours of EFL classroom teaching experience in place of a teaching certificate or qualification
Westgate fully sponsors Japanese work visas for those coming from overseas while also applying for your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) on your behalf. This COE is then required to apply for the visa in your home country. More details can be found on the Westgate visa page.
FAQs About Teaching with Westgate
Do you Need a TEFL Certificate or Teaching Experience?
Their website states that they require their applicants to have teaching experience, ideally in an ESL classroom. Having a TEFL certificate and/or teaching qualification is also asked for, though if you have 1000+ hours of teaching experience they do accept that in lieu of a teaching certificate. They also say that non EFL teaching experience may be considered.
If you don’t have either, you may want to consider completing a TEFL certification course and/or upping your number of teaching hours before applying. Alternatively, there are other teaching programs in Japan that are less strict on these requirements and will hire candidates who don’t have teaching certificates or teaching experience.
Do you Need to Speak Japanese?
No. Japanese language experience isn’t required to teach with Westgate.
Salary and Benefits for Westgate Teachers
Similar to their requirements, the salary of Westgate teachers varies depending on where you teach.
If you teach at a university, your starting salary will depend on your experience. If you have less than 499 hours of classroom teaching experience and a teaching certificate or qualification, salaries start from 260,00 yen a month (approx $2,370 USD). If you have 500 or more hours of classroom teaching experience and a teaching certificate or qualification, expect a starting salary from 275,000 yen a month (approx $2,500 USD).
If you teach at a school, your salary is slightly higher, starting from 280,000 yen per month (approx $2,550 USD).
The Westgate salary is sufficient to cover your basic living expenses like rent and utility bills and lots of teachers report being able to save money and travel around Japan.
The accommodation options are the same regardless of whether you teach in a school or university. Teachers are provided with a studio apartment with basic furnishings and are responsible for the monthly rent of 81,000 yen (approx $740 USD) which is automatically deducted from their salary. This monthly rent includes utilities and housing maintenance fee.
Westgate offers up to $1,200 USD to help cover the cost of flights, either for a round-trip, or two separate one-way trips. The reimbursement is based on the actual cost of the flight.
Westgate asks that its teachers use public transportation to commute to work and all commuting expenses are fully paid for by the company. Expect long commutes – they can be between 30 and 90 minutes each way.
Westgate teachers typically get weekends and national holidays off, however their website doesn’t state anything about vacation days. Contracts are short-term, anywhere between 3 and 7 months, depending on where you teach. As the contracts are short, paid vacation days are usually limited or non-existent. However, you may get time off between terms and/or contracts.
Westgate teachers must enrol in a Japanese government-sponsored medical insurance program (National Health Insurance or Employee’s Health Insurance), which cover 70% of medical expenses. The monthly premium may be deducted from your salary.
If you’re employed for more than 30 days, you must also enrol in the Japanese Employment Insurance System. The Employment Insurance premiums will be taken from your monthly salary.
The final insurance is Westgate’s Worker’s Compensation Insurance Policy, which covers injuries that have resulted from an accident at work. The premiums for this are paid for by Westgate.
Application Process, Timeline & Location
If you’re interested in teaching with Westgate, you can apply online through their website. The online application procedure consists of three stages and only successful applicants are invited to advance to the next stage.
Keep in mind that Westgate is notoriously strict with their applications. Any incomplete applications, or those that contain spelling or grammatical errors, will be rejected. So make sure to thoroughly check your documents before sending!
Applicants will be asked for various pieces of information during this first stage, including general information, qualification check, education background (including degree, TEFL certificates and teaching credentials) and teaching experience. This must all be completed in one sitting, so make sure to have all the necessary information to hand.
The next step asks for more information regarding additional work experience, which Westgate program you’re interested in applying to (International Career English Program for universities, the Secondary School Academic English Program for junior high schools and high schools, or the Young Learners English Program for elementary schools), language and visa related information, and some pre-interview questions.
Next, applicants are required to re-confirm their first and second stage information, fill out specified sections, and send application materials. Three professional references are then required. These are not restricted to teaching jobs – references are accepted from employers, supervisors or teachers at previous workplaces and schools. Westgate does, however, ask for at least one reference from each applicant’s current or most recent EFL-related teaching job.
The following are usually the required application materials:
- Digital photo image at high resolution or six 3.5cm x 4.5cm actual photos
- Copy of resume
- Copy of university diploma
- Copy of transcript, academic record or diploma supplement for a university degree (let Westgate know if your university does not issue such documents)
- Copy of EFL/ESL certificate or any other teaching credentials or qualifications
- Copy of passport
If you’re successful in the above three stages, Westgate will contact you to organize an interview. These tend to be conducted over Skype or phone.
During the interview, expect to be asked about previous work experience as well as being tested on some grammar questions. Try to be prepared as much as possible! There are forum discussions that talk about the interview and could be worth a quick glance to find out about past experiences of other applicants.
When to Apply
The website doesn’t specify exactly when to apply and it appears that hiring goes all year. However, Westgate’s contracts usually start in the Spring term (March/April start) or Fall term (August/September start) so keep that in mind when planning your timeline..
Westgate recruits teachers for the Kanto region, including Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama. They also recruit for Aichi.
A list of all the available schools and universities can be found on the locations page. You’re able to request a preference for a location, but not for a specific school. Westgate will consider preferences, but requests aren’t guaranteed. Placements are chosen based on a teacher’s experience and background which are matched to the needs of a suitable university or school.
What’s it like teaching for Westgate?
Westgate contracts vary between 3 and 7 months in length and start in both the Spring and Fall terms. Contract periods depends on the position and renewals are offered to the top teachers each term.
A typical working week is Monday to Friday, with the occasional weekend day or national holiday. Starting and finishing hours vary, but expect to be on campus for around nine hours a day. Up to 5 of these hours will be actual teaching hours. The non-teaching hours are designated for other duties, such as lesson preparation, paperwork, meetings and conversing with students outside of class.
As a Westgate instructor, your role is to improve English fluency as well as broadening cross-cultural awareness. As mentioned before, Westgate offers three programs; the International Career English Program for universities, the Young Learners English Program for elementary schools and the Secondary School Academic English Program for junior high schools and high schools.
International Career English Program for Universities
The Westgate International Career English Program prepares Japanese university students for job success in a global society. The university program features two main types of courses: extracurricular and accredited.
Teachers have classes of up to 12 students, five days a week. This is in an intensive course, with a focus on improving oral communication skills. Teachers typically teach between 5 and 7 lessons a day, usually 40 minutes each in length.
These are credit-bearing classes, also with an emphasis on oral communication. Some courses may include reading and writing practice. Class size (anywhere between 10 and 40 students) and lesson length (40/45 minutes or 90 minutes) vary depending on the university.
Young Learners English Program for Elementary Schools
The Young Learners English Program uses a communicative approach, with students learning by using language in context. Lessons are 20 minutes or 45 minutes in length, with class sizes of roughly 15-20 students. Westgate teachers are the sole instructor in the classroom.
Secondary School English Program
The curriculum for this program is geared towards practical communication skills, and builds on foundations laid by the students’ Japanese English teachers.
When researching Westgate, just like all teaching programs in Japan, there were mixed reviews. Having shorter contracts than other programs seems to be a positive for some, as it’s less of a time commitment. For others, Westgate was a solid choice because it provides the opportunity to get a good foot in the door into the world of university teaching, something other teaching programs don’t offer.
Common downsides seem to be the expensive accommodation, the big commutes and long hours. Some former Westgate employees also found they were teaching the same lessons 6 or 7 times a day, which wasn’t ideal.
Gone Seoul Searching in Japan: Teaching for Westgate Corporation at the University Program
“The company is extremely organized...EVERYTHING IS VERY DETAILED!”
Gone Seoul Searching seems to have had, in their own words, an experience with Westgate ‘nothing short of amazing!’ They break down the parts of the teaching program they liked, including the pay, the hardworking students and the company’s organizational skills. They do also detail some aspects to be wary of, such as the commute, the long hours and the price of the accommodation. Although written in 2013, it can very much be applied to today. Well worth a read!
Westgate Corporation in Japan – How would you rate your experiences with them?
“I found that our salaries were plenty to live on, though I didn’t travel much and tried to live frugally so I could save up a few thousand.”
A forum on Reddit, which we linked to back in the ‘application process’ section, not only details about what sort of questions to expect during the interview, but it also highlights some past employees’ experiences working for Westgate, and how to use it as a gateway into university teaching. It’s a pretty long chat, but an in-depth and interesting read.