The Comprehensive Guide to Teaching English in Vietnam

teach english in vietnam

If you are fortunate enough to have the chance to teach abroad, you probably already realize that there are plenty of options to choose from. Whether it is in Latin America or Asia, there remains a huge demand to not only learn English, but acquire it directly from a native speaker. However, of all the places that one could teach, there is no doubt that Vietnam is one of, if not the best place to teach abroad. A decent salary in comparison to the cost of living, lively culture and an adventurous atmosphere all point to Vietnam as a good place to be. Of course, living in Vietnam or anywhere abroad is not for everyone. It can be an exhilarating experience, but sacrifices will be required. The easier you can adopt to another culture, be flexible in the kinds of food you eat and understand that the PC culture that currently engulfs the West is not really recognized or understood in the East, the better off you will be

If you do decide to teach in Vietnam, you don’t want to be the whiny Westerner claiming to be progressive when in fact you are appalled by all things foreign and spend most of your time lecturing rather than understanding. Instead, you want to embrace life, accept what is different, learn to love the unknown, have fun with your coworkers and students and take each day as a challenge. As I’ve said many times, this isn’t some sort of marketing blog and I am not going to sell you on the idea of teaching in Vietnam or anywhere abroad. With this mind, I am sure you have numerous questions on teaching there. Below is what you will need to know for teaching English in Vietnam in 2017.

What are the requirements to teach English in Vietnam?

Like most places in Asia, teaching English in Vietnam requires a four-year degree from an accredited university and a passport from an English-speaking country. However, it does seem that there are some teaching jobs available for those that do not have a four-year degree. In that case, you will definitely need a 120-hour TEFL certificate. Unfortunately, there are still schools here and there that discriminate and prefer to hire only white teachers as is the case in many parts of Asia. However, that has been and continues to change quickly, so don’t let that discourage you from teaching in Vietnam. Whether you are White, Black, Brown or Asian-American, what is most important when living anywhere in Asia in your character. If you are smart, cool and full of life, you will do well in Vietnam or anywhere else abroad. I can say from experience that schools in Vietnam and throughout Asia do prefer to hire native English-speaking female teachers, but most of that is because more men on average apply to teach English abroad.

The consensus these days seems to be that you need at least a 120-hour TEFL certificate to teach in Vietnam. This is not coming from the schools so much, but immigration for the most part is requiring teachers to show proof of a 120-hour TEFL course along with a copy of your degree and passport from an English-speaking country before they will process your visa. Like most places abroad, this probably wasn’t the case 5 or 10 years ago, but this is actually the case in most of Asia and even more so in China where it often required to have one in order to receive a work visa (Z visa). Even where it is not enforced, there are a growing number of institutes around the world that prefer a teacher to have one and it will give you a leg up on the competition. Although it’s the most developed country in Asia, many jobs in Japan surprisingly still do not require a TEFL Certificate.

Can I teach in Vietnam without a four-year degree?

Yes, you can teach there without a degree, but you will  have a harder time finding work and you will be locked out of many of the higher paying jobs. It will also be immensely harder to get a proper work visa without a degree. In fact, you may not be able to get a proper working visa, but there are always exceptions. I’ve come across reports of Westerners hiring lawyers to get a work visa, but that is likely case by case and not the norm. Also keep in mind that if you are teaching without a work visa, you will have to make visa run every three months. In other words, you will need to leave the country and return on a new tourist visa. On the bright side, its a good excuse to travel. I would also strongly advise getting a 120-hour TEFL certificate. With that being said, if you really want to teach in Vietnam or find a means to support yourself to live there, then I would go for it.

Can I apply and get hired to Teach English in Vietnam before entering the country?

While there are certain programs that process the visa from your home country, the majority of English teachers in Vietnam first enter the country on a 90-day tourist visa and then get converted over to a work visa once they find a job. What I would do is apply for jobs from your home country and have some interviews lined up for the first couple of weeks that you arrive in the country. Unless it seems like a really good gig, you might not want to take the first job thrown your way. Keep in mind that you will have to make a visa run for that as well. This process is common in a lot of countries, not only in Asia, but throughout Latin America and Europe as well.

If you are a typical millennial and used to everything being planned out and organized, you may not like this approach, but that is part of the adventure of teaching English abroad. It is still a relatively lightly regulated industry and predicated on market forces. Personally, I hope it stays this way because it is part of the attraction. Like I point out throughout this blog, teaching English abroad is not for everyone. With that being said, you will need some start-up money to teach in Vietnam. I would advise having at least $3,000 to $5,000 to cover your plane ticket and living expenses for the first couple of months. Unless you are a true miser or don’t enjoy much social interaction, you are likely going to be spending money going out on the town when you first arrive in Vietnam.

What are realistic salary expectations for teaching English in Vietnam?

If you are just starting off and teaching at a typical language school, you can probably expect to earn a salary of $1000 per month. However, there are jobs that pay in the $1,200 to $1800 per month range. It might just take a little more networking and experience to get those positions. As mentioned before, you will have a better chance of landing a higher paying gig if you have a recognized 120-hour TEFL certificate. That is not just me trying to earn a commission through affiliate marketing, but an objective fact and only legitimate TEFL companies with a fair reputation are promoted on this blog. Also keep in mind that there are plenty of private teaching gigs available on the side that pay anywhere from $10 to $20 per hour. You could also teach English online a few extra hours per week to subsidize your income or just do other non-teaching online work. If I were still teaching English abroad, I would look for the latter route. Content writing and blogging are two ways to make extra money to supplement your income. Another option is trading stocks and bitcoins.

What is the cost of living in Vietnam?

Compared to back home, the cost of living is significantly lower. Even though you won’t be earning a huge salary, many teachers are able to live comfortably and save anywhere from $500 to $1200 per month. It really just depends on your lifestyle, eating and drinking habits and being able to work a side gig into your schedule. Best of all, you have the chance to do all that while having the experience of living in Vietnam, which is a really cool thing in itself. We all know that money is important and you want to have savings to be able to visit home and travel every so often, but also don’t let that get in the way of experiencing the country and traveling to different places throughout Vietnam and Southeast Asia while you are there.

Below are some samples to give you a better idea of the cost of living in Vietnam.

  • One-bedroom apartment: $250 to $400 per month
  • Fitness club: $25 per month
  • Domestic beer at a bar: $1.50
  • Internet service: $12 per month
  • Inexpensive meal: $1.50 to $2.00
  • One-way local bus: 35 cents

As you can see it is fairly inexpensive to live in Vietnam. Also keep in mind that if you are making $1500 a month, then you are doing a lot better most of the Vietnamese. I would advise having at least a couple of thousand in savings when you first start teaching just for some walking around money and in case of an emergency.

About JT 63 Articles
JT taught English for four years in Japan. He also has extensive experience teaching ESL in the United States. JT has also traveled throughout Asia and South America. He began JimmyESL in 2014 as a way to provide honest information for those interested in teaching English abroad. These days, he spends most of his time building Wordpress sites, blogging and teaching others the nuances of digital marketing.