Recently I’ve been getting quite a lot of messages on Instagram asking me questions about teaching in Vietnam. Whilst I’m more than happy to answer, I thought it would be useful and perhaps more efficient to make a post compiling all of the questions I’m getting asked on a regular basis.
How do you find teaching English in Vietnam?
It’s great, the best thing I’ve ever done! The lifestyle of an English teacher in Vietnam is great: you can live well, party, travel and enjoy lots of leisure time whilst immersing yourself in a new culture.
How did you get started?
I came to Vietnam to gain my teaching qualification at a TESOL school in Ho Chi Minh City. Once that was completed, I began to look for a job and found a place to live. You could also complete your teaching certificate at home or in another country if you prefer. It’s not necessary to line up a job before you come here as there is plenty of work and schools are always hiring.
Do you need a degree?
Having a degree here is preferred but not necessary. Many people teach without one. You may get paid a little less, but you would still be making enough to live well on. No degree does mean that most of the bigger language centres, such as ILA and VUS, won’t hire you because they organise your work permit for you and this is not possible without a degree. (Don’t worry, tons of people teach illegally.)
Do you need a teaching certificate?
The majority of employers require you to have a teaching certificate, be it a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA. Not all teaching certificates were created equal: teaching certificates with more in-class hours (i.e. being taught face-to-face) are often preferred over 30-hour online ones, so if you haven’t already got one I would recommend doing the former. However, for plenty of schools an online certificate will suffice.
Which teaching course did you do?
I completed an 150-hour in-class TESOL at AVSE in Ho Chi Minh City (I believe they’ve since opened branches in Hanoi and Phnom Penh, Cambodia). It’s the same course that Ninja Teacher put you through. It’s quite expensive but the price does include four weeks’ worth of accommodation and they help you get set up and settle in here. It’s also a great way to meet people here- my best friends here are the people I met on the course.
What visa do I need?
You can come to Vietnam on a three-month tourist visa. You will have to do at least one visa run to renew your visa, and then depending on the job you find your school may organise you a work permit, or you will have to continue renewing your tourist visa every three months. It’s easy enough though, so don’t worry about that.
Will I find a job?
Native teachers are in high demand in Vietnam and there are more jobs than teachers, so finding a job is pretty much guaranteed if you’re a native with a teaching certificate.
How can I find a job?
If you’ve got a degree, I would recommend applying to all of the big language centres as you’re quite likely to get an offer from at least one. It’s also very easy to find work through Facebook groups, such as “Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) ESL Teaching Jobs.”
Who should I work for?
The bigger language centres, such as VUS, ILA, Apollo, Apax, I Can Read and AMA, are good choices, especially for new teachers. They don’t require previous experience, offer plenty of training and will often help you get your work permit, which makes things like sending money home and getting a driving licence easier, as well as saving you the hassle of the tedious visa run. If you want to work in public schools and have a more normal schedule, GELA and ICLC are reputable public school agencies to go through. Other than that, there are plenty of smaller, independent schools advertising on Facebook and vietnamteachingjobs.com (good to know about, although I would say Facebook is more useful). The main thing is to research your school and find out as much as possible about them before you accept a job.
How much do you get paid?
I work for VUS, who pay 430,000 dong ($19) per hour in the first year. If you have a degree, pay usually varies between $18-20/hour at first. ILA pays a little less, but they pay for your work permit. If you haven’t got a degree, you can probably expect between $16-18/hour. Depending on your salary and the hours you work, you can probably expect to earn somewhere between $1200-$2200 per month (if you school isn’t giving you enough hours, it’s very easy to pick up extras elsewhere, so don’t worry). In Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi where the average wage is roughly $250-350 per month, this makes you a very high earner.
What hours do you work?
Average working hours vary from 18-30 in-class hours per week. Lessons are usually two hours long, sometimes three for teens or adult classes. This doesn’t include planning time, but that will vary from school to school (it takes me between 5-20 minutes depending on the class). At a private language centre, you work a few hours on weekday evenings and then do the bulk of your hours at the weekend. Although it’s a bit of an odd schedule, the low working hours mean that you have a lot of free time during the week.
What is the cost of living?
The cost of living here is low compared to a teacher’s salary. You can rent a decent room from around $250/month, a studio for $300-400 or a nice one bed apartment for $450-500. Having a roommate obviously makes things cheaper, as I share a two bed, two bath luxury apartment with a pool and a gym for $350. I definitely couldn’t afford to live like this at home! Lots of places will have a cleaning service included, or you can hire one for very little; we have a maid come once a week for around $7.
Going out also won’t dent your wallet; local street food is incredibly cheap and you can find beer for around 60 cents. If you want to go to a nicer Vietnamese restaurant, you’ll still only pay a few dollars for a meal and some drinks. Going western is expensive in comparison, but still very affordable- a good western meal might set you back around $10 or so. I lived off of western takeaways for almost the whole month of October and still managed to save money.
Transport is also very cheap; an uber ride will cost you a few dollars, or you can hire your own motorbike for $50-70/month, depending on your preferences. The cost of petrol is also incredibly low, around $3 per tank.
Where should I live?
Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are the two most popular options as they are brimming with job opportunities, have plenty of western amenities (without making you feel like you’re in a hotter version of home), great accommodation options and strong expat communities. However, where you live is up to you really, and you might find you want to immerse yourself in provincial life, or try a smaller city like Da Nang. Just make sure you do your research and choose what is right for you; it’s different for everyone.
What have you struggled with?
Loneliness and anxiety are all part and parcel of moving to a new country, but overcoming those things makes you stronger and more self-aware. Sometimes, I almost felt pressured to constantly be having an amazing time and had to remind myself that this is my life now, and not every single day of your life can be incredible. Whoever you are and wherever you live, you will have down days and struggles. Just remember that it’s totally okay to have wobbles and just try to take things day by day. The best piece of advice I think I’ve received out here was “don’t get ahead of yourself, just put one foot in front of the other.”