Everything you need to know about teaching English in Vietnam

 

Vietnam is the new financial tiger powerhouse of Southeast Asia and has seen a huge increase in demand for English teachers over the last few years. When comparing to other Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam offers the best bang for your buck in terms of how much you can earn and how much your daily costs will be. This article looks at what it’s like to teach English in five of the most popular expat destinations in Vietnam, and what to expect when choosing Vietnam as your next teaching English destination.

Flag of Vietnam

Where is Vietnam?

Located in Southeast Asia, Vietnam shares a border with Cambodia, China and Laos. It also shares maritime borders with Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. New teachers arriving to Vietnam can expect to be earning up to US$1,700 per month and this means that you can realistically expect to be saving around US$500 per month, so it’s no wonder why this country with a huge coastline is fast becoming the number one choice for teachers wanting to experience ‘old school’ Asia with ‘new school’ Asian salaries.

The legal requirements for teaching English in Vietnam are often ambiguous, but the official word is that all teachers wanting to apply for the work permit must provide a criminal background check, be a native English speaker, hold a college degree (in any subject) and have an international TEFL certificate from a reputable school. 

The work permit must be applied for whilst inside the country. We recommend entering Vietnam on a 3-month tourist visa and then starting your teaching job while the work permit is being processed. Once you receive your work permit, you can then apply for a business visa, which will mean that you can then stay indefinitely within the country for as long as your work permit and business visa are valid – your work visa is valid for as long as your business visa is valid and you can extend your business visa on an annual basis. 

Because of this work visa system, schools rarely recruit from abroad and apply a 3-month probationary period on all new teachers, to cover their backs in case the work permit application is unsuccessful. However, if you have all your paperwork ducks lined up in a row then you won’t experience any issues in receiving the work permit and then being able to apply for the business visa. 

It is also worth noting here that not all schools will encourage you to apply for the work permit, and will instead recommend that you leave the country every three months to then return on a fresh 3-month tourist visa. While we never recommend teaching illegally, it is however common practice in Vietnam and this can be clearly seen by the many expats teaching in Vietnam who don’t possess a college degree and who might not necessarily be a native English speaker. 

Please remember that at tefl online pro we assist our graduates with ongoing job support, help and advice, so if you are wanting Vietnam teaching English advice then feel free to reach out and contact us

Teaching in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City (also referred to as ‘Saigon’ or simply ‘HCMC’) is the business and financial center of Vietnam and gives Bangkok a good run for its money in terms of being a city with high-octane levels of energy and a seemingly disregard for sleep. It’s in HCMC where you will find the greatest concentration of jobs and some of the highest paid salaries in the country. Plus, the good news is that a furnished apartment typically runs at just US$500 per month – making for a generous, expendable income to travel/discover. 

Ho Chi Minh street scene.

Teaching in Vietnam can mean either teaching children or adults, and teaching for private language schools, international schools, state schools or universities. After a while of course, once you have built up a solid contacts base, you can begin offering private lessons too. 

It is important to note here that Vietnam can generally be divided into two sections: the north, where it can get chilly in the cold months, and the south, where you will find yourself seeking out AC whenever you can. Also, teachers do often remark on the peculiarity that students in the south of the country come over as being warmer than their northern counterparts, but when we visited the country a few years ago we weren’t aware of any of these stereotypes. But what was apparent were the differences in temperatures, so if choosing to teach in HCMC for example, bring clothes which will make you feel more comfortable in the balmy temperatures. And if choosing to teach in the north, a winter jacket is a necessity. 

As is generally true throughout the Asian continent, you will be expected to look the part when teaching and many schools in Vietnam do have a dress code. If your school has a dress code, then for women: knee-length black shirt, white blouse with long sleeves and black shoes. The same applies for men – but shirt, not blouse obviously – and you might also be required to wear a tie. We do also recommend reading our Cambodia, China and Thailand country specifics articles, as these also cover appropriate classroom attire for the region.

Woman sitting on park bench in Hanoi.

Teaching in Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital and second largest city, is probably known for its somewhat chaotic Old Quarter and for its French-inspired architecture. It was here during the Vietnam War that POWs could find themselves locked up in the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ – such as the recently-deceased John McCain was – but today, Hanoi remains a charming, yet frenetic city with the feel of a city much smaller than it really is. There is a thriving teaching English industry here, which blends well with its coffee culture scene. 

We have covered the process of acquiring a work permit in order to teach English legally in Vietnam, and we also want to speak a little bit more now about looking for work. 

We definitely recommend researching schools before traveling to Vietnam and arranging interviews in advance, so that you utilize your time as much as possible. In many cases, you will find yourself working for a recruiter, which performs the same function as working for a language school: they will provide you with work and take a percentage of the fees paid by the client. 

Because the demand for teachers of English is so high, teaching English jobs are available at any time of the year – unless you are wanting to teach at a state/international school or university, as these have strict semester dates. And because there is such huge demand and because so many teachers are choosing Vietnam as their next destination, you won’t find it difficult at all to find teaching work. However, it is always good to have that extra element of advantage, so we recommend standing out from the crowd with a CV/Resume which will place your application at the top of the pile. 

Please remember that at tefl online pro we assist our graduates with ongoing job support, help and advice, so if you are wanting Vietnam teaching English advice – or CV/Resume tips – feel free to reach out and contact us

Teaching in Hue

Hue is located almost bang smack in the center of Vietnam and was the national capital from 1802 to 1945. Some people would actually prefer if it were re-established as the capital today, as in their opinion it would strike a comfortable counterbalance between north and south. While Hue doesn’t have as many teaching English opportunities as say Hanoi or HCMC, there are still plenty of jobs to go around and the wages reflect what you can realistically expect to earn in other cities as a new teacher: US$15-US$25 per hour.

Temple at Hue, Vietnam.

We would like to point out at this stage that although Vietnam is a safe country to live and travel in, there does exist the daily annoyance of being charged more for things than what a local would be charged. 

This definitely isn’t exclusive to Vietnam, neither to the region in general, but it is worth noting that the longer you stay in Vietnam, the more you get to know the local shop sellers and the more they begin to recognize you, the less likely it will be that you’ll be getting charged at a higher rate than if you just stepped off the plane. 

Try never to ask, “how much?”. Instead, observe a local buying something that you want to purchase and make a mental note of how much they paid, and then order yourself and hand over the same exact amount. The reasoning behind overcharging is often that locals think that anyone traveling from a Western country is loaded and so why not charge them a bit more? After all, they can afford it! This is the logic and we can see why people overcharge, but we of course disagree with the whole practice. On the reverse side, we have witnessed backpackers being so meagre by spending a lot of unnecessary time haggling over a few bucks for a service provided by a local who is obviously far from wealthy. If you see something for a couple of USD and can see it’s worth the price, why haggle the price down further? 

Bird's eye view of Da Nang, Vietnam.

Teaching in Da Nang

Da Nang is a beautiful coastal city, located in central Vietnam, and is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Da Nang is a wonderful city to teach English in as, among other attributes, it boasts clean air and sandy beaches. The city is also the perfect location for visiting the inland Bà Nà hills, located west of the city. However, because of its attractive location, and despite having a large number of language schools, competition is fierce among teachers as this is a city that many teachers desire to teach in.

No article on Vietnam would be complete without a shout out to its food and coffee! 🙂 Vietnamese cuisine is among the world’s best, and the good news is that you don’t need to take out a second mortgage to be able to enjoy its delights on a daily basis. Phở of course is the one dish which springs to most people’s minds but others worth a mention are Bánh bột chiên, Bánh mì, Bánh xèo, Bún chả, Cha ca, Gỏi cuốn, and the list could go on and on… . Each Vietnamese dish has its own distinctive flavor, and we feel that while some Vietnamese and Thai dishes are similar, Vietnamese cuisine places less emphasis on heat so that you are able to differentiate between flavors easier. Oh, and the Vietnamese coffee? So strong and flavorful, and there are literally a zillion ways with which the Vietnamese like to serve it up. 

Teaching in Hai Phong

A major port city in northeastern Vietnam, Hai Phong lavishly reclines across from Cat Ba Island, caressed by its French colonial–era landmarks and leafy boulevards. It’s the third most populous city in the country, but has delightfully managed to retain its colonial image and has grown a name for itself for the many festivals which occur in the city, including one which involves buffalo flighting. Because of its size, teaching English work is plentiful here and it also makes for an excellent base for trips out to Halong Bay.

Hai Phong city center square.

Read more Teaching English Abroad Country Specifics articles on the tefl online pro Blog

Where will you teach English?