Vietnam is fast gaining the reputation as the country to go to in Southeast Asia; with its breathtaking landscape, a fast and easy immigration process and friendly locals who do their best to make you feel at home, it’s not hard to see why. Less commercial than Thailand and Indonesia but more Western friendly than Burma and Cambodia, Vietnam manages to balance the qualities that most people look for when they go abroad through preserving an amazing cultural heritage without alienating foreigners in the process. And with such low living costs, Vietnam is attracting an increasing number of expats who choose to make it their home, many of whom are teachers.
With the Vietnamese government recently putting together a Foreign Languages Project that emphasises the importance of teaching English in schools, there’s a seamlessly endless supply of teaching jobs available. One thing you shouldn’t have to worry about, therefore, is finding work; as long as you obtain a work permit visa that requires the following:
- A health check from a pre-approved Vietnamese hospital
- Your academic transcript
- A police clearance check
- Most schools and language centres ask for an internationally recognized TEFL certificate
- A university degree is also incredibly desirable
Although most places will ask for academic qualifications, if you are a native English speaker it can be possible to get by without them, especially if you are mostly doing private tutor work. To get around the work permit visa it is possible to get a 3-6 month business visa that will allow you to stay for an extended period of time and find unofficial work. This will cost around $90-$130.
Where to teach
Most teaching positions are available in either Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, but there are also opportunities in some of the up-and-coming coastal towns such as Haiphong and there are always teaching positions available in the more rural areas if you fancy fully immersing yourself in Vietnamese culture. The major cities are usually the most popular destinations for expats, as they are full to the brim with language schools and opportunities for private tutoring.
Language schools are usually the first employment choice for TEFL teachers as they provide a great amount of support to their employees, offering benefits such as relocation packages, overtime pay and sometimes help you to arrange your visa or work permit. They can also offer some teacher training and workshops to help you on your way if you’re inexperienced.
The reason why some people stray away from language centres is that they usually require you to sign a fixed contract so you’ll be more tied down than in other positions, and will probably be required to work more hours.
If you choose to work in a public school you may find that the hours are more flexible, and sporadic, and you will probably get more time off than if you work in a language center. The downside is that the class sizes are probably bigger, by about ten to twenty students, and the rooms are often cramped and lack sufficient resources and air conditioning.
It’s also important to be aware that you will come across many cultural differences in Vietnamese schools to what you might be used to, so don’t become disheartened if you struggle at first. You will be required to speak only in English, but this can challenging when you have a class full of fifty energetic six year-olds who barely know a few words, and schools will also often require you to pass struggling students in order to maintain a good reputation.
If you would like more flexibility and autonomy with your teaching, then it may be worth pursuing work as a private tutor. Sometimes you don’t even need any qualifications for this work; often just being a native speaker will fulfill the requirements. While it can be difficult to find sufficient work at first, once you have established yourself with a couple of jobs you will most likely start becoming inundated with offers, as the best way to find these kind of tutoring jobs is by word of mouth.
A teacher in Vietnam can usually live comfortably off their wage and still have plenty of savings left over, as the salary is quite high compared to living costs. An average salary is roughly $800 USD a month, based on a 20 hour week. Rent for your accommodation will come in around $200-$400 USD per month and food is extremely cheap, averaging at around $2 a meal. This means you should be able to save around 30% of your yearly salary, leaving you plenty leftover to spend how you please, be it on a trip home or doing some more travelling during your holidays.