Teaching English in Vietnam

By | January 7, 2017

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

Language Schools

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.

Public Schools

Saigon Centre Picture courtesy of WikiMedia..

Saigon Centre
Picture courtesy of WikiMedia.

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.

Kindergartens

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.

Business English

Nha Trang Beach Picture courtesy of WikiMedia.

Nha Trang Beach
Picture courtesy of WikiMedia.

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

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.

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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

Visa Requirements

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.

Disclaimer

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.

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8 thoughts on “Teaching English in Vietnam

  1. Jenny

    Hi William,
    I am an Irish fully qualified teacher. I have been teaching for five years now and I’m lucky enough to have a permanent job. I am very interested in taking a career break for a year or two to teach abroad. I have traveled around Vietnam before so I am familiar to the country. Needless to say I fell in love with it and I’m eager to get back! I have been researching jobs online and many include desired nationalities and Irish is not one of them! Is this an oversight or am I at a disadvantage? As I said, I have been teaching for five years and I have taught in Nepal too as an ESL teacher but I do not have tefl? My current job is in a very diverse and multicultural setting so teaching English as a second language is a given and I have a good bit of experience in this but do you think tefl is a must?

    I appreciate any help/advice you can give!

    yours sincerely,
    Jenny McGee

    1. William Lake Post author

      Hi Jenny,

      As long as you are a native English speaker, it doesn’t matter too much. A TEFL isn’t necessary, but usually preference is given to applicants that do have a TEFL, so you might want to consider getting one. You can do internationally recognised CELTAs in Vietnam though.

      Good luck!

  2. Vicki

    Hi Jenny

    Our situations are almost identical! Im a teacher here in uk of 5 years, taught EFL in India and Uganda but not with a cert. Looking at heading out to Vietnam (or Thailand – although Vietnam is better pay can I forego the beaches lol) in Aug 2014! Have purchased an online TEFL course with Love Tefl to sproose up on TEFL techniques before I go. The CELTA sounds intense and almost impossible if we are teachers now and having to see out the school year! Iv done soooo much research! I have a friend doing TEFL in Hong Kong who says an accent isnt really a problem as long as not too strong. I actually teach now with a girl from Cork and her accent is very stong to point some of us brits cant understand her – bless her lol

    Check out the TEFLworld.com forum on TEFL in Hanoi, Vietnam – really helpful. Check out Hanoi Massive FB group. Really good. Also travelfish.com.

    Be good to stay in touch!? Are you on FB?
    Vicki

  3. Matthew

    Hi guys, if you are seriously considering coming here for more than a couple of months, I would strongly suggest getting the CELTA. With a CELTA you will get a well paid and well organised job. You will be treated well and be in a good environment. If you come with an online TEFL course you will have to work for a cowboy school, be worried about be paid every month and be shipped out around the city.

    Do the CELTA.

    Then apply for ILA Vietnam.

  4. Edmund

    Hi William,

    I’m planning to stay in Hanoi for a awhile at the end of this year and, at the same time, teach english as a means of supporting myself. Since I do not have any prior experience whatsoever, I’m looking to take up a 1-month TEFL course in Ho Chi Minh city before I go up to Hanoi and settle down.

    Since I’m a Singaporean, is it going to be a lot more difficult for us non-native speakers to find a job in Vietnam? I do have a bachelor’s degree though. And with the TEFL cert. that I’m planning to get, I hope it can boost my chances of securing a job.

    Also, do you recommend taking the online TEFL course as opposed to the in-class one? The price difference is really drastic but I’ve read somewhere that the online course is pretty much useless because the main thing about this course is the hands-on approach that students will undergo, something that can only be learned in person.

    I appreciate any advice you can give!

    Edmund

    1. William Lake Post author

      The in-class courses are much better and more widely recognised. Online courses can be good to give you an introduction into what to expect as a TEFL teacher, but in-class courses would be much better. Just make sure that the course you choose is widely recognised, because some are not. I would recommend doing a CELTA, it’s recognised all over the world.

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