My boss described Vietnam perfectly on my first day of work; “it’s organized chaos, it looks like we’re doing whatever we want but there are unwritten rules”. This stuck with me throughout my first few weeks of living here as I tried my best to learn the ropes. I just about managed to dodge the roads of suicide jockeys, make out money full of endless zeros and survive the dangerously strong coffee. I could hardly believe that such a crazy place could follow any structure at all.
However, as time went on, I began to realize that these unwritten rules exist everywhere, even ones to teach English in Vietnam. At this moment in my life, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to live in Vietnam and teach as a way to support myself. It has been a great experience and I would like to share some things that I’ve learned so far. If you are looking to teach English in Vietnam, here are a few tips to follow.
What qualifications do I need to teach English in Vietnam?
The most essential qualification for teaching in Vietnam is a degree. It doesn’t matter what subject it’s in, it could be in Witchcraft and Wizardry for all your employers care, as long as you’ve got it. The second most important factor, which unfortunately is not a qualification at all, is being a native English speaker. This is not to say that if you are a non-native English speaker with perfect English you can’t find teaching work, but unfortunately you will find it harder than others. In terms of specific teaching qualifications, like TEFL, TESOL or CELTA, they are not required for the vast majority of teaching jobs. There are a couple of reputable companies that request these qualifications, such as ILA Vietnam and British Council, but there’s much more competition to secure these jobs.
How do I find a job to teach English in Vietnam?
Teaching jobs are frequently advertised on Facebook groups such as Hanoi Massive and Expats in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). If you introduce yourself as an available teacher on one of these groups then you’re likely to get at least three responses from schools by the end of the day. There are also a few websites devoted to job hunting including The New Hanoian and Vietnam Works. Although teachers are in high demand and finding work is easy, finding reliable employers is not quite as simple. Most people I know have had fantastic experiences teaching Vietnam, but there is also a healthy supply of stories from nightmare jobs. I recommend researching companies online, speaking to other teachers who work there and taking your time to test-drive jobs before signing a contract.
What is teaching like in Vietnam?
Teaching hours vary vastly, depending on what kind of job you take. Full-time work at a language centre is usually 10-15 hours a week on evenings and weekends. Whereas, full-time work at a school is generally 20-25 hours a week during the day, Monday to Friday. Though, it’s worth remembering that you will often spend a considerable amount of time planning your lessons outside of classroom hours. There is a broad range of ages available to teach but adult classes are a little harder to come by. Class sizes can be anywhere between 5 and 40 students and classrooms usually have plenty of facilities, such as, touch-screen boards, games and books. You will also have a Vietnamese teaching assistant to help you in almost all your lessons.
I have found the students here are extremely energetic, loving and competitive. They have a great sense of humour but take a little prompting to think creatively. There will be days when they simply can’t keep focus, but this is usually because the students are worked very hard here, with hours of homework and extra classes after school. The main down-side of teaching in Vietnam is that communication and organization is not great. In fact, it’s pretty horrendous. You will often be sent lesson plans the night before, or not at all, and your schedule can change without any notice.
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How much will I be paid to teach English in Vietnam?
Rates vary depending on where you work and what you teach. The average wage for teachers in large cities like Hanoi or HCMC is $20 per hour, though payment can be less in smaller cities. If you work at a private school, you can earn $22 per hour, and if you teach a specialized subject, like Math or Science (English), then you can earn up to $25. Wages are even higher for university teachers but you will be expected to have more qualifications and experience. Some schools will offer a monthly wage, rather than a rate per hour. Whether this is worth your while is purely down to the school and how much they choose to use you.
In general, most teachers earn $1000 – $2000 per month which lends to an extremely comfortable lifestyle in Vietnam. It is possible to eat out regularly, take weekends away and save a significant amount of money on this salary.
How do I get a visa to teach English in Vietnam?
The working visa in Vietnam is as rare and illusive as the Abominable Snowman, everyone’s heard of it but no one has a clue how to get one. Generally, though, it boils down to what your employer is willing to do for you. Most language centres will not provide a working visa for you which means you must do a visa run every three months. Depending on how frugal you are, the whole process can cost about $250 with flights to Bangkok, overnight accommodation and the actual visa itself. If you work at a school or university, they may offer to provide a work permit for you. This means you will have 1-3 years residency in the country with no need for visa runs. However, work permits and the documents needed to acquire one can cost hundreds of dollars, so it’s essential to hash out with your company, who is paying for what.
How do I find accommodation?
It’s relatively easy to find accommodation in Vietnam. Once again, FaceBook groups are the best place to find apartments. A room will usually cost £200-£350 per month, depending on whether you rent an apartment, house or a room in shared accommodation. Bills are generally not included in the price but will usually be between $50-$100 per month, depending on usage. Estate agents will almost always show you things out of your price range, but it is not unusual to haggle for a lower price. You will often be required to pay one month rent as a deposit and, if you are renting short term, you may be asked to pay three months rent up-front.
At the beginning of this article, I said there are a lot of unwritten rules in Vietnam, as well as within the teaching world itself. This article should have informed you about a few of the basics, though, as with any foreign country, the learning curve is never ending here.
Vietnam is relatively new in the world of TEFL and therefore constantly changing and adapting. There isn’t a general rule of thumb for lessons or expected working conditions, you have to take things as they come here and use your judgment carefully. Overall, I’d say Vietnam is not the easiest country to teach in but it’s one of the most rewarding, fun and surprising options out there. If you are an open-minded, flexible and positive person, Vietnam is a fantastic place to teach.