Teaching English in Vietnam – the Ultimate Guide
Teaching English in Vietnam is a booming industry nowadays. It’s becoming a really popular destination for TEFL teachers and many people are choosing to teach English in Hanoi, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City…but still called Saigon by those who live there), or one of the smaller cities.
We were English teachers in Vietnam for nearly five years, from 2008 to 2013. We taught English in Haiphong, in the north, for a year, and then worked as English teachers in Saigon, in the South, for another 3 1/2 years. From our experience of Vietnam teaching jobs, and from the experiences of others we know who are still teaching there, we’ve put together an extensive guide.
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Types of teaching jobs in Vietnam
Teaching English in Language Schools in Vietnam
Most jobs teaching English in Vietnam are in language schools. There’s a great demand for learning English and parents send their children to language schools at the weekends, while adults often come to learn English after work. Language schools in Vietnam offer a wide range of classes, including business English and exam preparation.
Language schools in Vietnam are open seven days a week. Teachers generally work at least one weekend day, if not two, with days off during the week. Some schools offer two consecutive days, while others give separate days off during the week. Some only give you one single day off. It’s important to check if you accept a full time job at a language school when your days off will be.
Some language schools specialise in something specific, for example, academic English or IELTS preparation. Many Vietnamese students either study abroad or in an international university in Vietnam so they need to achieve a specific level in IELTS before they do.
Teaching English in Government Schools
Like Thailand, English teachers in Vietnam are also used in government and private schools to teach the children English during their school English lessons. Unlike Thailand, teachers don’t work directly for the government school. Instead, language schools in Vietnam employ teachers and send them to various schools to teach lessons. The advantages of this are that the language schools provide the syllabus and teaching materials and provide professional development. In Thailand, these aspects can be missing! However, the disadvantages are that you will be
Teaching English in Universities
Vietnam has both government and private universities. Some of them employ English teachers, as well as teachers for business and other subject classes. These jobs tend to be found from inside the country through contacts.
International Universities employ either academic English instructors to teach on their academic preparation programs, or to teach general English in their attached language schools. Again, they also employ subject teachers if you have a Masters’ or higher in one of these subjects.
Where to teach English in Vietnam
Teaching English in Hanoi vs. Ho Chi Minh City
The big debate among English teachers in Vietnam is which is better to live in: Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. It’s like those debates in the UK: Newcastle or Sunderland? Manchester or Liverpool?…..As my students would say in their essays, there are advantages and disadvantages of both.
Hanoi is an older city – over 1000 years old – and has more historic buildings. The old town around Hoan Kiem lake is a maze of narrow streets, each
On the downside for us is the weather. Hanoi has a more temperate climate and the winter gets cold. December to February are 10-20 degrees and the buildings are not heated, with life still outside, so it can be a bit uncomfortable. The winters are still as humid as the summers, and we found when we lived in the north that mould was a problem. Even our furniture went mouldy!
Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is also known, has a tropical climate and it’s hot and humid all year round. It’s generally between 30 and 40 degrees, with a dry season and wet season. During the wet season it doesn’t rain all day like you might imagine, but there are short, heavy rainstorms. Some areas of the city have flooding problems. We lived in Binh Thanh for a couple of years and our street used to flood a lot. Outside our apartment building would become a lake and it was difficult to get taxis to work.
Ho Chi Minh City is a more modern city than Hanoi and it’s also bigger. It feels a lot more like a smaller version of Bangkok, with neon signs and international brands everywhere. It’s a 24-hour city and quite the party town. However, it doesn’t have the culture that Hanoi does, which some people prefer. I guess a lot of this stems from the French influence. A lot of the Saigon streets were developed by the French giving you nice boulevards, while Hanoi is much more typically Vietnamese. On another note, the jobs teaching English in Saigon also tend to pay slightly less.
If you fancy Thailand, check out our post on how to find a job teaching English in Bangkok.
Some people argue that people are friendlier to strangers in Saigon than Hanoi and visa
Teaching English in smaller Vietnamese cities
Our first teaching job in Vietnam was in Haiphong, in the north of Vietnam. Although it is the third biggest city, constantly competing with Danang for that title, it is much less international than either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. It’s changed a lot since we were there in 2008 (obviously, it was over 10 years ago!). It was an interesting introduction to life in
One time, one of the young guys who worked at a
These are the advantages of teaching in the smaller Vietnamese cities. You get more of a local Vietnamese life and experience more of the culture. You can see how people really live. People in smaller cities are more curious about foreigners and so more interested in getting to know you. In Haiphong back in 2009, Kris was occasionally followed on morning runs by people on motorbikes shouting “Hello!”….On the other hand, there are fewer foreigners and western style amenities. Most foreigners you get to know are other English teachers at your school. If you want air-conditioned bars and ice cold pints of beer (rather than a warm bottle and bucket of ice..) or Argentinian wine with a range of other expats, you should probably try a bigger city.
There are a lot of language schools in Haiphong now, and in Danang in the centre of the country. Danang is nice because it’s by the sea, and also next to the cool town of Hoi An. Vung Tau, on the south coast, also has a beach, as do some of the smaller cities along the coast.
Even smaller cities include places like Thanh Hoa, Thai Binh and Vinh Phuoc. These places will let you see a different area of the country, perhaps an area that fewer tourists visit. A thing to consider if you decide to go very small is healthcare. The international hospitals (see below) are in the big cities, and local hospitals are not going to be to the standard that you are used to. If you are someone who is going to need healthcare regularly, a smaller city might not be for you.
Read more advice on getting into English teaching, including other country guides, in our other posts on teaching English.
Salaries for teaching jobs in Vietnam
Vietnam pays quite good salaries to English teachers for South East Asia, compared to its
Some schools don’t provide full-time contracts, but pay teachers an hourly salary.
The good thing about full-time contracts is that they are generally quite stable and usually include things like holiday pay, sick pay, they pay for your visa and work permit and sometimes include health insurance. On the other hand, sometimes you can earn more working for different schools and can have more flexibility in when and where you work. Personally, we always prefer a full-time contract wherever we work.
Requirements for teaching English in Vietnam
It is compulsory to have a Bachelor’s degree to get a work permit for Vietnam, unless you can provide documentary evidence of five years’ experience in the field. We don’t know any English teachers who’ve managed to do this, but let us know if you have.
This degree doesn’t have to be in English or anything teaching related. Any degree will do. Your degree needs to be notorised as well. This means it is stamped by a solicitor to say it’s a real degree, then sent for authentication at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in your home country, and then either in the Vietnamese Embassy in your home country or your own Embassy in Vietnam.
TEFL certification in Vietnam
There isn’t actually a requirement from the government to have had any training in teaching English to get a work permit for Vietnam. However, schools that will process your work permit for you do require one. These schools will ask for a TEFL course that includes 120 hours of taught course with teaching practice with real students.
You can read more about the different kinds of courses in our post: What qualifications are required to teach English abroad.
This is not to say that you won’t get a teaching job in Vietnam with an online TEFL certificate. However, they may be less willing to pay for and arrange your legalisation. This may mean you work on a tourist visa. People do this, of course. It is, of course, illegal.
If you are reading this guide because you want advice from people who have been there, then this is ours: take a full course, either in Vietnam or before you go. The two most widely recognised TEFL certificates worldwide are CELTA and Trinity certTESOL. You can take CELTA in Vietnam, but not Trinity certTESOL. If you are going to take CELTA in Vietnam, we’d recommend the CELTA at Apollo, especially if you are planning to teach English long term.
Can I teach English in Vietnam as a non-native speaker?
Yes. Vietnam issues work permits to English teachers of all nationalities. While there is some native-speaker preference, many
To get a job as a non-native speaker in Vietnam, make sure you have the highest English level possible. If you have a native-level of English, you will have more luck. Many people contact us about teaching English abroad, but only have Upper Intermediate levels of English themselves. This means that many of the Vietnamese English teachers have a higher English level. You can imagine that this won’t make you the most employable.
We’d recommend that you get some kind of certification of your English level to apply for jobs. When schools receive applications from non-native speakers, they want to know what English level they have. If you can show that you have C1+ English (IELTS 7.5 or Cambridge CAE), you’ll get more responses. If you can show a C2 level of English, it’ll be much easier.
Work visas and permits for teaching English in Vietnam
It is illegal to work on a tourist visa in Vietnam. You need to have a business visa and work permit. There are two ways to do this. You can apply for a business visa, and then your school will apply for a work permit for you. Alternatively, you can enter Vietnam on a visa on arrival, then your school will apply for the work permit and then get the business visa.
Citizens of some countries, including the UK, Germany and France can visit Vietnam on a 15-day visa exemption. This is a possibility if you want to visit Vietnam to look for work from a neighbouring country, as you will still need to arrange a visa.
An advantage of Vietnam over other countries in the region, like Thailand, is that you can arrange the business visa from within the country and also get a travel agent to extend your tourist visa for you. In Thailand, you need to go to an Embassy in another country to get the work visa, and extending a tourist visa involves going to an office outside of the city and waiting in long queues.
For the work permit, you need to prepare the documents mentioned above: your Bachelor’s degree certificate, TEFL certificate and a police check. You can arrange a police check from home before you leave: for Brits, you can get one for £45 from ACRO.
You will also need to have a health check in a Vietnamese clinic, which your school will usually arrange for you.
For UK teachers, here’s quite a comprehensive guide to getting a work permit in Vietnam. She also goes through the costs, although we’d recommend finding a position that will pay for your work permit.
Recommended schools for teaching jobs in Vietnam
As a new English teacher to Vietnam, we’d recommend work with one of the big international language schools. They are used to new expat teachers and are familiar with how to process work permits,
We worked for Apollo when we first moved to Vietnam, and we’d recommend them. They have several schools in Hanoi and Saigon, as well as schools in Haiphong and Danang.
A lot of our friends worked for ILA who are also good. They also have several teaching
If you have a CELTA or Trinity certTESOL and at least two years’ experience, including lots with young learners, then the British Council has good terms and conditions.
With academic English and/or IELTS preparation experience, you can try ACET. ACET is in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. We both worked for them for several years, and Kate was on the management team there. They have both academic English lessons for young adults, and a teenage program. Most positions there are hourly paid, although they often advertise for full-time management positions too.
Kris worked for RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology), an Australian International University that’s also in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. They used to have lots of full-time jobs, but now it’s generally hourly paid. You’ll need experience, ideally of academic English, to get a job with them and having a Masters’ degree in TESOL or Linguistics will also help a lot.
How to get a job teaching English in Vietnam
Getting a teaching job in Vietnam from abroad
Some schools recruit teachers for Vietnam directly from abroad. These generally want teachers with teaching qualifications such as the CELTA or Trinity certTESOL (read more about different teaching certificates).
As we said, when we first moved to Vietnam, we were recruited from the UK by Apollo, which is an affiliate of International House. Many of our friends had worked for ILA, who also recruit from abroad, as do Language Link. I’ve spoken to teachers who were recruited by Apax and who are happy too. Wall Street is a school where the students study online, but teachers provide more of a consultancy service on their problems. They also recruit from abroad. You can also try the big Vietnamese owned chains like VATC and VUS.
Finding a job teaching English in Vietnam when you are there
Other companies prefer teachers to already be in Vietnam. It’s quite easy to fly to Saigon or Hanoi and look for work. This is what we did in Saigon. Unlike South Korea and China, the work visa for Vietnam can be arranged when you are already in the country, and unlike Thailand, you don’t even have to leave the country to sort it out. There are English language schools everywhere and you can simply use a motorbike taxi to drive you around to drop off c.vs
Using a recruiter to find you a job as an English teacher in Vietnam
While there are also recruiters who find teachers for schools in Vietnam, we wouldn’t recommend you use one. They just aren’t necessary. You can find a job yourself. Some recruiters are good, and place teachers where they will be happy. However, there are a lot of dodgy recruiters out there. Recruiters get paid a fee to find a teacher for a school. Some will go to any lengths to get that fee. Many won’t actually tell you which school they are going to place you in, or even sometimes what city! Some will tell you the salary and conditions, but that won’t be what you will get.
Facebook Groups for teaching jobs in Vietnam
There are many groups on Facebook where schools and recruiters advertise vacancies and teacher promote themselves. A couple to start you off are English Teaching Jobs in Vietnam and Vietnam English Teaching Jobs. If you find a job in a Facebook group, be careful to thoroughly investigate if it is legitimate, as anyone can pretend to be anyone on social media.
When to look for a TEFL job in Vietnam
Schools in Vietnam usually work most of the year. Their big holiday is over Lunar New Year, known as Tet. This takes place in January/February each year. As the name suggests, it changes with the moon. Schools slow down in about December each year, and completely close for 1-4 weeks over the Tet holiday. This means that it’s a bad time to look for work. Otherwise, you can find an English teaching job in Vietnam all year.
Getting help finding a teaching job in Vietnam
If all of this is a bit overwhelming to you then there are services that can help. These are run by teachers, for teachers. Rather than just acting as agents, these
Georgie from Teacher’s Friend is an English teacher in Vietnam and runs a service to help newbies set themselves up. She will send out your c.v. to schools she knows, arrange for a real estate agent to show you apartments, help you find and rent a motorbike,
Saigon Workers’ Resort
A friend of Kate’s brother moved to Saigon and contacted Saigon Workers Resort. They have a big house in Go Vap District, where teachers can rent a room. They will help you to rent a motorbike and teach you to drive it, and they have contacts with various schools in the area where you can work.
Getting around as an English teacher in Vietnam
A lot of teachers do what most Vietnamese people do, and drive around on a moped. These are easy to rent from the tourist areas and relatively inexpensive. Something to be aware of if you decide to do that, is that you legally need a motorbike license to ride one. This means you may get pulled over by the police and have to pay a fine/bribe. Another thing to consider is insurance. If you haven’t got a license, you may not be insured. If you have any accident and you’ve been drinking, you are also not likely to be insured.
We didn’t ever ride a moped in Vietnam. We got around the city one of two ways:
Taxis are quite cheap, modern and have air conditioning. The two most reliable companies are Vinasun and MaiLinh. There may be other reliable companies. Check with your fellow teachers. Be careful about other companies. There are a lot of rigged meters, and taxi drivers looking to rip off unsuspecting foreigners. We got a taxi with a rigged meter once in Hanoi and it cost about 10 times what it should have. However, after that, we never had a problem
Now there are also taxi apps you can use. so download Uber and Grab online your phone before you leave.
An alternative to the car taxi is the motorbike taxi, or Xe Om. You pay a driver to take you on the back of his motorbike. Xe Om actually means ‘motorbike hug’ because of the way you hold onto the driver (though you don’t have to…. ). These are obviously cheaper than a taxi, but warmer too. We used this form of transport a lot to get to work, and had drivers that we used a lot. Some will give you their phone number so you can call and get them to pick you up.
Make sure that they give you a helmet to wear. If you choose to take this form of transport a lot, it makes sense to buy your own helmet. That way you can check it is actually going to protect your head, should you fall off. I had a full head helmet in Saigon, because that will also protect your face.
What to do in your free time
Cinemas in English
All cities and even small towns have at least one shopping centre with a multiscreen cinema inside. In Vietnam, most English language films are shown with the original soundtrack and subtitles. Exceptions to this are kids films which have both dubbed and English language versions. Visiting the cinema in Vietnam is much cheaper than it is in countries like the UK.
The shopping centres also have modern bowling alleys where you can challenge your students or friends to some cheap games of bowling.
Social Groups in Vietnam
Expat life is friendly and you should meet lots of fellow teachers wherever you work. There are also lots of international groups organising all kinds of events from sports games to cooking classes. For ideas of how to meet people, try our post on Making Friends as an Expat.
Eating in Vietnam
Many people enthuse about the food in Vietnam. While Thai is still our favourite, there are some delicious noodle and rice dishes, spring rolls and banh mi sandwiches. We wrote a post on all the things we enjoyed eating in Vietnam.
Scams in Vietnam
As with many countries, Vietnam as its fair share of scams. Travellers on forums will say that they didn’t like Vietnam because of this, but you just need to be careful in certain areas and not too trusting at first.
A common scam is to give the taxi driver or the airport bus driver the name of your hotel, only for them to say that it has closed down, but they can take you to another one. In a similar scam, they take you to ‘your’ hotel, where someone comes out and tells you that although you have a booking, that they are full. They then put you in a different hotel. This might be valid overbooking, but not always. Sometimes you will find that your real hotel was waiting for you all along.
To avoid this, use an airport pick up service arranged by your hotel. One of the staff will pick you up with a card from the hotel with your name on. That way, you can reply on going to the right hotel.
Another transport problem is connected to the rickshaws that you’ll see in tourist areas. You agree a price to take you to a specific sight, or to go sightseeing, only to find that the final price is far higher than you actually agreed.
In Hanoi particularly, be careful of the hawkers who sell fruit like pineapples and coconuts balanced on their shoulders. It makes a good photo op, and they will balance their basket on your shoulders and their conical hat on their head for a good photo – quite quickly and without your agreement. However, after you finish, they will charge you an extortionate amount for the fruit they are selling. Avoid this by hold up a hand and literally blocking them….unless you want the pic, obviously!
A less common, but a serious scam for solo travellers is that you are approached at a tourist site by a friendly local. They engage you in conversation to get to know you better and practice their English. They ask where you are from, and it turns out their ‘cousin/sister/member of their family’ is going there to university soon. They ask if you would come to their house and meet the family member to tell them more about your life there. Of course, you agree because it seems friendly. When you get there, a card game is started. You start winning and are encouraged to play for money. At some point, you start losing bit, the money adds up and you owe them a lot. that’s when it gets less friendly. We met a couple of people who had been scammed this way.
Insurance for English teachers in Vietnam
Something not to take lightly if you are moving to another country to work is your health. While day to day healthcare may not be expensive in a country like Vietnam, imagine if you have a motorbike accident and break your leg, have a heart attack or a head injury to requires a health evacuation back home. The costs can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. Who’s going to pay for that?
We’ve written more about the issues of insurance for expats and English teachers, but we strongly advise you to sort it out. Some companies will pay for international health insurance for their teachers. If your school doesn’t, or in the meantime, we’d suggest getting insurance with World Nomads. They will insure you for more than a year, and you can extend your policy while you are abroad, which is useful if you are not sure how long to take the policy out for.
Healthcare for English teachers in Vietnam
The major cities in Vietnam have international hospitals and clinics with English speaking doctors. We personally used FV Clinic a lot, as well as Victoria healthcare, and had checkups done in Colombia. The website Move To Vietnam has a pretty good list of medical clinics and international hospitals in Vietnam.
Unlike back home, you can often just walk into the clinics and ask for an appointment, even for specialist appointments.
If you are taking regular medication, you can buy a lot of prescription drugs over the counter in pharmacies. Anti-histamines, anti-biotics and various creams can be found everywhere. It’s a good idea to bring a supply with you, but then find out if you can just buy it.
Some pharmacies don’t keep their medicines in temperature controlled environments and this means that drugs can go off. Find stores with air conditioning to avoid this.
Vaccines to have before you go
We’re not going to get into some argument about whether you should have vaccinations before you move to Vietnam to teach. We always do and we recommend that people do too. Diseases like typhoid and hepatitis are no small problem and it’s not that difficult to protect yourself. The main vaccinations recommended for South East Asia are Hepatitis A, typhoid, polio and tetanus. Some recommend Hepatitis B as well, and we’ve had that. You’ve most probably had these vaccinations as a child, but boosters are recommended. Your local doctor or travel health clinic will be able to advise you properly.
Hopefully, this has answered all of your questions about teaching English in Vietnam. If you would like to know more about
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