Vietnam is located in Southeast Asia and it borders with China in the north, with Laos and Cambodia to the west. Vietnam is a popular destination for tourists, travellers and teachers because of the culture, beautiful beaches and many cultural heritage sites. War has left a long lasting legacy on the country and all over Vietnam there are constant reminders of the country’s difficult past.
Vietnam is a tall and thin country and the climate changes considerably from the hot tropical sun in the south to the much cooler climate in the north. In the south of the country, Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) is a popular city for English teachers and Hanoi (the nation’s capital) is the most popular city in the north for those looking to work as an English teacher in Vietnam.
One of the reasons for this popularity is that the number of teaching opportunities is far higher in these two cities and therefore most teachers find themselves living and working in either Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi.
Why Teach English in Vietnam
Vietnam isn’t one of the most thought of destinations for people looking to find TEFL jobs, but due to the high number of opportunities, relatively high salaries (when compared to neighbouring countries), and cheap lifestyle, it’s fast becoming a more popular destination for English teachers.
With a very long history, old traditions, long beautiful beaches, stunning mountains, huge rivers, thick rainforest and larger than life cities, there sure is something for everyone in Vietnam. The country keeps its traditions alive and has managed to keep western consumerism to a minimum. The Vietnamese are proud of their culture and there are old monuments, buildings and relics dotted all over the country.
There is also a big demand for native English speaking TEFL teachers. The government sees English as an important skill and as a result they have placed a big emphasis on improving the quality of teaching right across the country. Due to this, Vietnam has become more vigilant on the types of people that can get jobs in Vietnam.
For this reason, most of the unqualified and inexperienced ‘backpacker’ teachers have left the country and there is a real need for qualified and experienced teachers.
Where to Teach English in Vietnam
Like in most countries, most of the opportunities for finding TEFL jobs in Vietnam will be in the big cities. Both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh will have the most teaching jobs available, but there will also be some opportunities in the other cities and towns all over the country.
Types of Teaching Jobs in Vietnam
By far one of the biggest employers of TEFL teachers are language schools because there are so many of them. Here students attend classes outside of their regular school or job. Usually the class sizes are relatively small and most schools will try to put students with similar ability in the same class.
In these schools, you can be more creative with your teaching as there isn’t usually set curriculum to be followed like in public schools.
Moreover, teaching hours can be at any time of the day, but most classes happen in the evenings and at weekends when most of the students are not attending their regular school. This means that you have a lot of the day time free, but you will be busier in the evenings and at weekends.
In public schools foreign teachers are required to develop the speaking, listening and pronunciation skills of their students. You can use a range of activities and games to keep the students busy but there is a strict curriculum that must be followed.
Teachers in public schools will often be required to work during the daytime from 9am to 4pm and there are no classes at the weekend. Classes are usually around an hour long and the class sizes will usually be fairly large with anywhere from 30 to 50 students in one class. Unlike language schools, you’ll find that all the students have varying levels of ability.
Here you’ll be teaching much younger students from the ages of 2 to 6. In most cases a woman is preferred for these jobs, but due to the lack of women English teachers, men will find opportunities working in Kindergartens too.
The style of teaching is much more different for young students and you’ll need to have lots of short and active activities to keep the children entertained and interested in your class. Usually, the classes run in the mornings and you’ll have a Vietnamese teaching assistant to help you.
Most ESL teachers probably won’t find themselves working in a business teaching employees English, but there are some opportunities available. Some will use teachers from an agency and some bigger companies might even employ their own in-house English teacher.
Often older teachers are preferred for this kind of job and a teacher will need to be proficient in teaching business English. Class sizes and classrooms can vary depending on the business and you’ll usually have all the resources you need at your disposal.
As the students are older, you’ll find that they are a lot more motivated to learn because they will understand the need for them to speak English and when you teach in a business your student’s jobs might depend on attending your classes!
Universities are also a big employer of ESL teachers in Vietnam and just like public schools; you’ll be required to improve the speaking, listening and pronunciation skills of your students. Most of your students will be between 18-21 years old, but some will be older than this.
There is a lot of prestige that comes from working in a university in Vietnam and you’ll often be looked up to by many of the local people. Moreover, securing a job in a university will also look good on your CV.
Private Tuition & One to One Classes
You can also make some extra cash by doing freelance private tuition or one to one classes. Unless you have lots of student’s waiting for you to teach them, you shouldn’t consider this as your main source of income. Usually ESL teachers that do this kind of teaching will do so to supplement their income from other jobs.
Teaching Requirements and Qualifications
You must also have an internationally recognised teaching certificate. This includes a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certificate. These can be done anywhere in the world, including Vietnam. If you are planning on working in the country for more than 3 months, you’ll need this for your work permit.
Most schools will require that you have a bachelor’s degree. Again, you’ll need this if you’re planning on working in Vietnam for longer than 3 months. It might be possible to find a job with no certificate, but it won’t be possible to for a visa if it is your first time applying.
Experience isn’t necessarily required, but if you want to increase your chances of finding a higher paying job, experience is always helpful.
Read more about getting a CELTA certificate from Language Link in Hanoi.
Expected Salary and Living Costs
Your expected salary can vary quite considerably for a number of reasons. Location can be a big factor in how much you earn as a teacher in Vietnam and usually the bigger cities will come with the bigger salaries. Secondly, the type of the school you’re working at will influence how much you’ll get paid too. Usually international schools and universities will be the highest paying jobs. Additionally, your employer will impact you level of pay. As teachers are generally in demand then it would pay to wait until you receive a few offers to see which ones pay more.
Finally, your qualifications and experience will be a big influencing factor in determining your rate of pay. Working as an English teacher in Vietnam, you can expect to get paid anywhere between $1000 to $3000 each month.
Cost of Living
The cost of living is cheap in Vietnam when compared to developed countries and it’s also pretty cheap when compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. The cost of food and drink is pretty cheap and a meal in a local restaurant can be as low as a few dollars per person.
Transportation can be very cheap. Motorcycles will be the cheapest option to get around the cities, but taxis will be safer in the evenings. There are buses and trains to take you across the country and the prices of getting around are very cheap. For your normal motorcycle taxi, you can pay as little as 50 cents for a journey.
Accommodation can vary considerably from city to city. But a good one bedroom apartment in a city should cost you around $400-$500. You can get cheaper apartments, but the quality will get worse the less you pay. Expect to pay more living in the city centre than outside of the city.
For more information about the cost of living in Vietnam, take a look at this website.
You can earn enough money to support a relatively good lifestyle and save money at the same time.[/sociallocker]
To work in Vietnam for more than 3 months, you’ll need a work permit. This permit will be issued to you by the Ministry of Labour – Invalids and Social Affairs and will usually last for 3 years.
To get a work permit, you need to be at least 18 years old and have good health (you will be required to do a health check). You’ll need a degree and a transcript from your degree; both of these documents need to be original. You’ll also need an internationally recognised teaching certificate like a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA and a police clearance from your home country.
In some cases your employer will be able to help you through the process of getting a work permit.
For more information, take a look at the official Ministry of Labour – Invalids and Social Affairs website.
How to Find a Job Teaching in Vietnam
There are many ways to find jobs teaching in Vietnam. You’ll find that some schools advertise for vacant position online, but they will nearly always require an interview in person before offering you a job. Also, schools advertise in local newspapers, so you can check them too.
A tried and tested method of finding a job teaching English in Vietnam is to get a list of schools from the internet or a telephone directory and go and visit them all with your CV. If possible try to speak to somebody who is responsible for hiring teachers rather than leaving your CV with a receptionist.
Teaching English in Vietnam
The Vietnamese government is putting a big emphasis on teaching English. They have recently made it more difficult for ‘backpacker teachers’ to stay in the country and are generally trying to raise the standards throughout the country. As a result, qualified and experienced teachers will find work and can earn enough money to live a good life and save some each month too.
Although I have never worked in this country, every effort has been made to ensure that this information is correct. This blog post has been written after extensive research online, interviews with teachers who have worked or are working in the country, and local schools have been contacted. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. If you have worked or are working in Vietnam, we would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and share your experiences with us.