Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia with a long coastline along the South China Sea. It shares borders with China in the north, Laos in the west, and Cambodia in the southwest. It also shares maritime borders with Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia in the south. The demand for ESL teachers is high as the government attempts to increase education levels across the country.
Overview of Vietnam
|Vietnam Quick Facts|
Major Cities: Ho Chi Minh City (Formerly Saigon), Hanoi, Da Nang
Capital City: Hanoi
Primary Language(s): Vietnamese
Official Currency: Dong (VND)
Primary Religion: Vietnamese Folk Religion(s)
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Working in Vietnam
International schools in Vietnam are usually the preferred choice due to their higher salaries in comparison to the public school system, which can also be more difficult to get hired into beyond a voluntary basis. International schools are typically in the larger cities of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi but can be found in other cities throughout Vietnam as well. Students are usually expats as well as the children of upper and middle-class Vietnamese families. International schools, aside from just having the best pay in Vietnam, also tend to have the best benefits depending on the school you are hired to. Interested teachers should be aware that these schools only hire once a year during the summer months as opposed to language schools which will hire year round. Applications are usually accepted during the summer with interviews and final hiring taking place between June and August to prepare teachers for a start date in September.
- International schools in Vietnam are going to have the most rigorous requirements for teachers in order to appeal to parents. Schools will only accept individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher and will require a 12-hour TEFL certificate. Most schools will usually only hire candidates with a minimum number of years of teaching experience which will differ from school to school. Also, some schools may require teachers to have a teaching certificate but this will typically be at the more elite schools.
- Teachers at international schools can expect to work around 20-hours per week in the classroom and an extra 20-hours per week in the office. Teachers will be required to come up with their own lesson plans and must also attend staff meetings, meet with parents, and perform any other administrative work during their extra 20-hours per week.
- Salaries at international schools are going to be the highest with the typical range starting at $1,200 and going to $2,000 plus for higher end schools and more experienced teachers. As mentioned above these schools typically have the best benefits which will generally include a housing allowance, free lunches provided on the campus, insurance, and flight reimbursement. Benefits will depend on the school and as with any other job teachers promised benefits before hiring should ensure that these are listed in the contract prior to signing.
The majority of English teachers in Vietnam are employed at private language schools. These schools operate in much the same way as their counterparts in other countries throughout Asia and throughout the rest of the world. The primary purpose of these schools is to provide extra instruction to students outside of their regular schooling. There are a vast number of language schools spread throughout Vietnam and highly concentrated in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi making these some of the easier jobs to get in the country. Students will usually range from younger student to high school level with some private language schools focusing on adults or business English. Teachers will usually find themselves working on the weekends and in the evenings after students finish school and adults finish work. Most schools will off further training which can be an added bonus for first-time teachers. Potential teachers should read up about any school which they apply for to ensure it has a good reputation among students and other teachers alike. Less reputable schools have been known to ask teachers to work illegally, withheld pay, and refused benefits which had been promised.
- Class sizes at language schools in Vietnam are considerably smaller than their public school counterparts, which are infamous for extremely large class sizes. The average language school class can be between 15 and 25 students with some classes being private 1 to 1 and 1 to 3 classes.
- Most language schools will require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree at a minimum. There are still some schools that will hire native English speakers without a degree, however, teachers should be aware these are more prone to being less than reputable and teachers may have issues securing work permits with these schools and may have other issues such as failure to receive pay (for which you will have no recourse working illegally). Aside from a bachelor’s degree, higher-end private language schools will require a tutor to have either a CELTA or 120-hour TEFL (blended learning or onsite) as well as prior experience.
- Teachers at private language schools will typically work 18 to 20-hours per week and will usually be required to work in the evenings on weekdays and all day during the weekends. Most teachers will be on a fixed schedule set forth in their contract which will allow them one or two days off during the week.
- Teachers at these schools can expect to make around $800 to $1,000 as first-time teachers and at lower end language schools and, in some cases, can make around $2,000 or more at the highest level of language schools and with the right experience and certifications. Other benefits which may be included can be housing reimbursement, end of contract bonuses, paid workshops and training, and insurance. Not all schools will offer benefits so you should check with the school before being hired and ensure that everything promised before hiring is written in the contract.
Increasing Your Chances of Securing a Job
More prestigious schools in Vietnam are going to be looking for teachers that have experience at the level they are applying to teach. While this isn’t true in many schools, especially when it comes to private language schools, it is going to hold true for jobs that are higher paying as they will have higher standards. One of the best things you can do to ensure you have an edge over the competition is to become TEFL certified. But, you will need to make sure you get the right certification. For most jobs in Vietnam, an online TEFL certification isn’t going to cut it. Most schools, and especially the higher paying schools, will be looking for you to have at the very least a 120-hour blended learning TEFL certification from a reputable institution. Some schools will require a certification but the ones that don’t will certainly look more favorably on you if you do have one. Lastly, you want to make sure that you have everything in order in terms of reference letters, crafting a solid resume, and proper presentation. Remember that appearance is extremely important in Vietnam so appearing at your interview wearing a t-shirt and jeans, whether it is in person or through video conference, will almost certainly guarantee you will not have a successful outcome. If you make sure all of these things are in order then you will most certainly have a leg up over the competition assuming they have not made the same preparations.
In order to obtain a proper visa and work permit to teach in Vietnam, applicants meet the following requirements:
- Be a citizen of USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa
- Hold a bachelor degree or higher
- Hold a TEFL Certification
- Clean criminal record check from your country of citizenship
In order to teach English in Vietnam, you will first need to obtain a business visa to enter the country. After signing an employment contract, your employer will arrange a work permit for you. Some employers will cover the cost of your work permit while others will expect you to cover the cost of the work permit yourself. It is advisable to clarify and negotiate with your employer who will pay the cost of the work permit before signing a contract.
Many people who come to Vietnam to teach English prefer to enter the country as a tourist and secure a job before applying for the business visa. If considering this option, then after obtaining the business visa in-country, you will need to exit and re-enter Vietnam using the business visa.
Standard of Living
Vietnam has become a popular destination for many people who want to teach English abroad due to its tropical to temperate climate, breathtaking coastline and beaches, exotic culture, and low cost of living. Many ESL teachers can save as much as $600 per month of their salaries while enjoying a comfortable lifestyle and standard of living.
Typical ESL Teacher Salaries vs Cost of Living
|Area||Monthly Salary (USD)||Typical Cost of Living (USD)|
Ho Chi Minh City
$1,000 - $2,000+
$700 - $1,200+
$800 - $1,500
$400 - $600
Living in Vietnam
Things to Do
Vietnam is not only a top destination for English teachers in Southeast Asia but with travelers from all around the world of all types. This is because of the rich culture and abundance of destinations and experiences that can be had. For this reason, expat English teachers will rarely find themselves lacking in things to do or places to visit and things to see.
Ha Long Bay
If you are an expat teacher in Vietnam who enjoys outdoor activities then Ha Long Bay is going to be one of the primary destinations for you. Ha Long Bay is an area in Northeast Vietnam which consists of thousands of limestone islands dotting emerald colored waters and mostly covered in rainforest. There are numerous caves to explore, a large number of prime spots for scuba diving and snorkeling, rock climbing, and more. The area is a hotspot for tourists to Vietnam so it can be crowded sometimes, however, as it covers over 599 square miles there is an abundance of places to visit that will not be crowded.
Sand Dunes of Mui Ne
Another place for lovers of the outdoors. The sand dunes at Mui Ne are a large area of red hue sand dunes which can be visited year around. Tourists can partake in a number of activities such as sand boarding, dune buggy riding, ATV rentals, and more. You should be forewarned that, like many places in Southeast Asia, the Sand Dunes of Mui Ne are ripe with scammers so be wary of any rentals that you make and make sure the price is agreed upon beforehand. The sand dunes are located in the Southeast of Vietnam and are close to other destinations such as the Red Dune Canyons which are popular for hiking and camping as well as a number of beaches popular for surfing and kite surfing.
Quang Binh Provence
Quang Binh is a province in the narrow middle part of Vietnam near the border with Lao. The area is renowned for its extremely dense jungle, numerous caves, and other natural wonders. Especially popular is the Hang Son Doong cave located towards the middle of the Quang Binh Provence. The cave is known for being the worlds largest cave and has only been open to tourists since 2013 after a one-year expedition by the British Cave Research Association. A fun fact about the cave is that more people have summited Mount Everest than visited the Hang San Doong cave. Because of the dense jungle habitations, Quang Binh is still one of the relatively uncharted areas of the world.
Sa Pa Rice Terraces
Rice terraces are a common feature throughout Southeast Asia, however, one of the more well-known areas to see these man-made features is in Sa Pa, Vietnam. The area is known for steep mountains and rich jungle terrain. The Sa Pa Rice Terraces are farmed by various hill tribes including the Dao, Hmong, and Tay and are a great place to see these different cultures within Southeast Asia. Expat English teachers can visit the area on one of their days off and hike the rice terraces in one of the many multi-day tours which are available. The best time to visit is from March to the end of April and from August to the end of September.
Bitexco Financial Tower
For expat teachers who enjoy a good city view and an even better photo opportunity, the Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City is one of the best places in the city to get unprecedented views of the sprawling urban landscape. The Bitexco tower consists of 68 floors shaped as a lotus petal, which is the national flower of Vietnam. Until 2011 the Bitexco Financial Tower was the tallest building in Vietnam, but, was surpassed by the Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower and more recently the Landmark 81 tower in Ho Chi Minh City. Bitexco Tower is mixed use with restaurants, lounges, a cinema, and an observation deck on the 49th floor.