Things to Know About Teaching English in Vietnam
As Vietnam opened their borders to international investments, more job opportunities are looking for local employees. Many people from rural places move to cities in order to live a better life and support their families in the countryside. The most crucial thing for locals to get a good-paying job is the knowledge of English since many companies are international.
That fact alone opens a huge market for English teaching in Vietnam!
When we said huge, we actually meant an enormous market. In the major cities, you will notice new English centers popping up like mushrooms and it’s not strange to see a few centers in one street, even next to each other.
Vietnam became a very attractive destination for foreign English teachers who’d like to live and experience Vietnam. Also, teaching salaries are very attractive since you’ll get paid close to a western salary in the country where the costs of living can’t be compared to western countries.
If that sounds interesting to you and you are thinking of becoming a teacher in Vietnam, then you’re in the right place.
We’re going to provide you with all the information that can help you in moving to Vietnam and getting a job as an English teacher.
Why to Teach English in Vietnam?
Are you a wanderlust who’s dreaming to travel full-time? Well, to be able to do it you need the way to support yourself. If you’re not born under the lucky star and won the lottery or you’re parents are supporting you, then you will need to find your own way to support your adventures.
After few years of crazy adventures and traveling around the world, we came to Vietnam to travel, but after a while, our savings were burnt out, so we needed to figure out how to earn money, save more and continue to travel.
Teaching is not for you? Check out freelance copywriting jobs that enable you to travel and work from anywhere!
Teaching opportunities in Vietnam are everywhere and with the right qualifications, you can easily make Vietnam your temporary home base while getting teaching experience and earning an attractive salary.
Teaching English in Vietnam gives you many opportunities including learning about the culture and yourself, traveling around the beautiful country, getting new skills and insights that will make your CV much more attractive to potential employers.
Getting the qualifications and experience needed for an English teacher isn’t that hard, so you can be ready and set for a new career in a few months!
How Does It Look Like to Teach English in Vietnam?
Note: Antonio is writing this part since he is already teaching in Vietnam for almost a year.
Before coming to Vietnam, I’ve never had any experience working with kids except playing some games with my cousins. That’s all!
After some research, I just decided to fly to Vietnam and start volunteering as an English teacher in the countryside to get teaching experience. I didn’t have any idea what to expect and I was totally opened and ready for anything. I knew I could handle anything!
My first impression of teaching was me coming to a small classroom with 20 or more kids inside. The teacher told me to play games with the kids and I didn’t have any idea what to do. I figured it out and spot and started to play ‘Simon says’. Kids enjoyed and the rest is history.
I was concerned about how everything will look like since I didn’t feel comfortable with kids at the beginning, but after a few days of teaching, I started to love the project and the kids.
You’ll have to deal with many things as a teacher in Vietnam:
The language barrier is real and you will notice it from the first moment of arriving. Even the teachers can’t talk English fluently and wait for it – these teachers usually teach in primary and high schools!
You will definitely have a lot of struggle communicating with teacher and kids, but after a while, you will get used to each other and start to understand each other even if there is a barrier in the language.
Just be patient and try your best to explain everything in the simplest way possible!
Disorganization in the Schools
If you’re used that all stuff should be organized, please don’t expect that in Vietnam. Really, the business in the school is one of the most disorganized things I’ve ever experienced in my life.
It seems like almost no one knows their job and roles and everything is figured out on the spot. I mean, I like how people are flexible and how they can figure out things on the spot, but when you’re teaching, you want everything planned since it doesn’t only affect you, but also the students you’re teaching.
I experienced people calling me on my off day, a few minutes before class to come to the school to teach. I didn’t have any prior preparation and I just woke up. It’s going to happen often if you let the management do that.
Simply say no and explain to them the reasons.
Also, many times there is no organized teaching or lesson plan, so sometimes you’re going to figure out everything on the spot which isn’t the most effective way. Many schools won’t have proper materials which means you need to figure out the materials and ways to deliver the lesson to the students by yourself.
If you can’t live with disorganization, then you will definitely have a lot of struggle adapting to Vietnamese way of doing the business.
And yeah… If the people in Vietnam tell you the starting time of the class or event, be ready to wait at least 10 minutes since they are very bad at timing and almost always late!
It hugely depends on the type of school you’re teaching in. For instance, I was teaching in private centers where the number of students doesn’t exceed 15 students. I was also teaching in public schools a few times where the classes have more than 40 students.
The technique and approach to teaching really depend on the classroom size and it’s very important to know the number of students in the class before preparing for the lesson.
Your voice will have many struggles, even with small classes since Vietnamese students can be very active and noisy from time to time. I don’t need to tell you anything if you’re going to work with the kids – prepare yourself physically and mentally.
You might have a question of controlling such huge classes with a big language barrier. Well, don’t worry, many times you will have a struggle with that, but the good thing is that you will most likely have a teacher assistant who is Vietnamese and can help you in controlling kids.
TA’s are of huge help! I had a few classes with 3 years old kids without an assistant and it was impossible to do anything except dancing, singing and making a mess in the classroom.
Depending on the place you’re coming from, the cultural differences in Vietnam will probably be noticeable, especially in the way the educational system is working.
For instance, Vietnamese schooling system is based on an outdated teaching method called memorization. Basically, from the first moment you arrive at school, you will see how the try kids to memorize the words. They will successfully do that and after the class, they will be able to pass the test.
But…What happens a few days after the class? You guess it. The kids don’t have any idea what you were teaching them!
Memorization really doesn’t work long-term and I had so much struggle with it since I always try to be very creative while teaching. Many Vietnamese teachers and parents didn’t like it, so they ‘forced’ their old school teaching model.
Also, hitting kids is allowed in Vietnam. I was very shocked when the old teacher hit the kids’ head with a wooden stick. It was pretty hard and loud hit and I was literally shocked. Many foreign teachers shared similar experiences and it’s accepted in Vietnam.
Many Vietnamese teachers started to talk about it and it seems like there is a shift so these topics became sensitive around.
Further read: Learn more about school violence in Vietnam!
When we’re talking about the kids with special needs, they are seen as equal to the other kids, so you will have these kids in the same class with other kids. It’s very pointless since the kids with special needs are being taught at the same pace as other kids and you can notice they don’t get much from the lesson. There should be a specially tailored program for these kids that will enable them to learn by their own pace.
Anyway, teaching in Vietnam is an amazing experience that teaches you so many things, especially how to be patient. There were a lot of downs and negative experiences, but positives outweigh negatives hard time.
Requirements to Become an English Teacher in Vietnam
Before starting with your new career, there are some requirements to become an English teacher:
- Bachelor’s degree: It doesn’t matter the field of your degree. It’s a huge plus if you have a degree in the education field, but not a requirement. Be sure to have a bachelors of any field since getting a work permit requires a degree. It is a great way to filter only the highly educated people from the rest.
- Clean criminal record: Before applying for a work permit or any job in Vietnam, you’re required to provide with a clean criminal record from your home country. While it is possible to land a job with a criminal record, it definitely limits your options.
- Teaching certificate (TEFL/TESOL/CELTA): It’s not a requirement, but it gives you so many options. Getting one will teach you how to deal with students and how to successfully deliver the lesson. There are many online courses you can take, but be sure that the course you’re taking is worldwide recognized. Antonio took one from International Open Academy for $20 on a discount. It’s not recognized worldwide, but he didn’t have any problems finding a job with that certificate.
- Teaching experience: The prior experience will definitely help since many schools require the demo lesson before the interview to see your teaching skills. That’s the point where your previous experience can help! Don’t worry if you don’t have any prior experience since many schools don’t care that much. Also, you can start with a volunteering project first to gather some experience and then you can move to the paid project.
How Hard is to Find a Teaching Job?
I’m sad to say that Vietnam is a very racist country when it comes to teaching. If you’re a young white person from a native country without any experience and knowledge about what you’re doing, you’re the perfect candidate.
I met a guy who has a Ph.D., over 5 years of experience in teaching, but he is from India. He couldn’t land a job and barely got a volunteering gig in Vietnam. So many people talk about this issue, so for many, Vietnam is not so attractive because of it.
When I first came to Vietnam, I started to volunteer and I’ve got some experience while teaching kids. Then I started to travel around Vietnam without having a teaching career in the mind. When I was done with the trip I needed to figure out how to get the money that will enable me to stay here for a long time and make some savings on the way.
Traveling Vietnam: Check out the budget breakdown for a motorbike trip in Vietnam!
Teaching market is huge and demand is still bigger than the supply which means getting the job as a non-native speaker is very possible.
I started to apply to many job opportunities around the Facebook groups and got many offers, but didn’t accept any since the majority of the jobs is in Hanoi or Saigon. I wanted to work in Da Nang, but there weren’t many jobs available.
When I’ve come to Da Nang I simply started to drive around with my CV and going to different schools talking with the management. It landed me a few interviews and some teaching hours.
Right now, I’m working for a small center that I found on the Facebook group. There are many job opportunities in Da Nang, but the competition is huge since many centers are strictly looking for native speakers with qualifications and experience.
I’m lucky since I have experience and qualification and my English is very fluent. Also, there is one thing that will separate you from other candidates – being passionate to teach!
If you’re looking for jobs in Hanoi or Saigon, then you shouldn’t experience any problems! Simply check out these Facebook groups and connect with the schools that are looking for teachers.
Note: It’s normal to be asked for a free demo lesson and interview afterward.
How Much Money Does an English Teacher Make in Vietnam?
It really depends on your qualifications, experience, type of the school and the location.
From my experience, the usual hourly rate starts at $15 and can even go up to $30. We’re talking about the rate after tax!
Usually, you’ll get the probation period for the first month and the salary will be a bit lower, but once you get the contract, you can expect a higher salary.
More information: How to become a certified English teacher in Vietnam!
The most usual way how schools pay the teachers are by the bank accounts. Once you get a work permit, you’re able to open a Vietnamese bank account where the schools deposit your salary.
Many job opportunities offer 80 – 100 teaching hours per month and free accommodation. You do the math how much money you can earn and save per month.
Types of English Schools in Vietnam
Every school type will provide you with the different overall experience. English teachers usually teach at:
- Language centers: In the last few years, English centers started to pop up like mushrooms after the rain. In the big cities, it’s not unusual to see a few centers in the same street, even next to each other. Many of these centers are filled with kids from primary and secondary school. I’m teaching at private English centers and usually, you’ll get 20 hours per week in the afternoon hours; when kids finish with their classes at school. I prefer language centers since the classes are smaller, you have a teacher assistant and there is some existent organization. Not to forget, the length of the classes is usually 1.5 hours.
- Public schools: I was teaching a few times in public schools since the kids from the center are mainly from public schools and centers have cooperation with these schools. The classroom is bigger and you’ll usually need to handle about 30 students. The pay is better and the classes are up to 30 minutes.
- International schools: If you’re a very qualified teacher, then this type of schools is the way to go! These are schools that follow a specially created curriculum. For instance, some schools follow the same curriculum as in England, so these are providing more benefits for the people enrolling to the classes. The payment is very attractive, but it requires a lot of experience in planning and delivering the lessons. Also, you have to be a native English speaker to land a job in these.
What About Visa and Work Permit for Teaching Legally?
Unfortunately, you’ll need to do a quite lot of documentation in order to become a legal English teacher in Vietnam. There are many cases where teachers are working on tourist or business visas, but please note it’s illegal and you can get deported from the country if you get caught.
The immigration officers sometimes pop up at centers or schools to check out the situation and there are many stories of teachers who got deported because working on a wrong visa or without proper documents.
Many schools will tell you it’s fine to teach without the contract or on a tourist visa, but don’t believe that! If you don’t have a contract and work permit with a school, then you’re technically an illegal teacher who is risking a deport stamp in your passport.
Be smart and find a school that will support you in the process of obtaining a work permit.
Getting a work permit can be a costly and long process, but it’s necessary if you want to stay for a long time in Vietnam. The schools will usually give you a probation month or two while helping you with getting a work permit, so you can earn money and work while waiting for the permit to be processed.
There are many documents you need to obtain in order to get a work permit:
- Working contract from your school
- A legalized copy of your degree
- A legalized copy of your teaching certificate
- A criminal background check from your home country
- A health check is done in a Vietnamese hospital
- A scan of your passport and valid visa
- 4 passport sized photos
- Business visa sponsored by your school
Once you have all the documents in your pocket, you’re ready for the process of getting a work permit.
Legalities: Getting a work permit in Vietnam!
Congratulations! After getting your work permit, you officially became an English teacher in Vietnam!
Frequently Asked Questions
We did research on the topic and come up with the answers to the most common questions people ask when thinking about coming to Vietnam to teach English. We already answered many questions through the article, but this is a huge step for many people, so it’s never enough information.
How much teachers can make in Vietnam?
The usual hourly rates start at $15 and can reach up to $30. It hugely depends on the type of the school and the location. For instance, I am currently living and teaching in Da Nang where the costs are bit lower and the competition is huge, so the average hourly rate is around $18. Expect to work around 80 hours for a full-time position and 50 for half-time.
Many schools will provide their teachers with free accommodation, which means you’ll save much money for your future travels.
Do you need a degree to teach in Vietnam?
Shortly, yes! You need at least a bachelor’s degree to legally teach in Vietnam. Many people don’t have any degree and they teach, but most likely on the wrong visa which makes them vulnerable from immigration. In order to get a work permit in Vietnam, you must have at least a bachelor’s diploma.
Can you teach without a teaching certificate?
Yes, but it limits your opportunities. Many schools will require you to get a teaching certificate before starting, but also, they will accept candidates without one. Every school will require you to take a course once you start working with them if you already don’t have one.
There are many places where you can obtain a teaching certificate. Sometimes it’s very confusing, so we advise you to always get an internationally recognized certificate.
What are the best cities to work in Vietnam?
Definitely major cities in Vietnam – Saigon, Da Nang, Hanoi. There are many job opportunities and different school types. For experienced and qualified teachers there are many amazing positions in the huge cities. Also, the quality of life is not comparable to smaller cities. The salaries are more attractive, but also the cost of living is higher, so it’s up to you to make the decision.
For non-natives, it’s easier to get a job in smaller cities or countryside since the competition is very weak or even non-existent. The biggest downside of smaller cities is not enough things to do. I was living in the countryside and teaching for 4 months and after a few months the project became very boring and everything seemed like a routine, so I needed to move on.
Where to find job opportunities?
The best and easiest way to find your next teaching project is by checking the major Facebook groups.
Here are some groups:
Simply put a few pictures of yourself teaching, write a bit about yourself and post it to the groups. Soon, you will get many requests and contacts from school owners or recruiters.
Have prepared CV, passport scan and teaching certificate (optional).
How to get teaching experience before applying for a teaching position?
The best advice I can give you when it comes to getting experience as an English teacher is by volunteering first. I started to volunteer as a teacher in the countryside to get the feeling of teaching. I didn’t have any idea how it will look like, but I was very curious about it and also it was a huge challenge to me. I gave it a try!
After a while, I started to really enjoy teaching kids and I decided I can take a job and teach for a while in Vietnam.
How hard is for a non-native speaker to get a teaching job?
It really depends on many factors. As we already mentioned, Vietnam is a bit racists country, but when it comes to teaching then you will really experience racism.
I met many non-natives with an almost native level of teaching getting struggle with finding their job as they were from Asia, specifically from the Philippines or Singapore. After observing and talking with many teachers, I would say that if you’re a good-looking white person with a fluent level of English, you can score a job in Vietnam. It will be a bit tougher in major cities since the competition is huge and there are many native speakers, but you can give it a try! In smaller cities or countryside you can definitely score a good job!
Teaching English in Vietnam is an amazing way to get exposed to totally new experiences and learn many things about yourself and culture. Also, the money is very good when you take in the account that you’re living in Vietnam.
There are not many requirements to score your new English teaching job, but there are definitely many tricky situations and scams on the market. Always be careful when thinking about getting the new teaching job and don’t agree on working without a work permit as a teacher!
You’ll most likely have an experience of your life while helping people to improve their life circumstances!