Before I left the UK to travel India and Southeast Asia this year, getting an English teaching job in Vietnam was already on the agenda. I don’t mean I had a job lined up, I was going with the intention of rocking up and finding one. Obviously earning some more cash to prolong the travels was a big motivator and I was looking for something productive to do.
Gaining some experience in a job that can be done most places in the world also sold it for me, like it does for many. With a degree in English Language but totally unrelated job history I decided this would be a great way to finally put it to good use. That’s definitely not to say you need an English degree, or a degree at all in some cases, which I’ll come to later in this post!
So many people come to Vietnam to teach English either on a long-term basis or for just a few months. In a addition to the above reasons, here’s why:
- Due to the number of teachers coming and going, there’s an abundance of teaching jobs available and native English speakers are in high demand. Getting a job can be as easy as turning up for a quick interview or demo lesson and being given it on the spot.
- A lot of people have been recommended it by friends who’ve done it, or they might have been inspired by teachers they met on the road, who happen to be taking a holiday elsewhere in Asia (I’ve definitely met a few of these!).
- The pay is good and the cost of living is low. You can live very comfortably without breaking the bank and if you work enough hours, have enough to save too.
Adam and I earned on average $23 per hour and our rent for a large bedroom in a shared house in central Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) was $320 combined including cleaner, water and internet. Even cheaper options can be found in neighbouring districts with perks like swimming pool and gym. (These were usually long term and we couldn’t commit to a contract, or the hassle of finding people to take it over).
Eating out is so cheap that we didn’t cook once, whilst the cost to fill up Adam’s motorbike was $3.
~ Our house in district 1 (central Ho Chi Minh City) shared with 5 other foreigners, 3 being English teachers!
What you do and don’t necessarily need
As I mentioned, I was living and working in Ho Chi Minh City but a lot of these points can be applied universally around the country.
- It’s no secret they’re always on the look out for native speakers here; it’s on the majority of job ads. So if you’re one of those, you stand a pretty good chance of getting a teaching job in Vietnam. That being said one of my old housemates is Czech and she got a job working for a big English centre in Ho Chi Minh City. She has a degree so that worked in her favour.
- It doesn’t hurt to get a TEFL certificate, especially when courses are often on offer. This will provide you with more options however it’s not always required with language centres. You will need one with bigger more reputable schools and I know some such as ILA, will want you CELTA qualified. I took the 120 hour online and classroom TEFL course with TEFL.org before I left the UK, knowing that I wanted to teach but Adam didn’t get either and had no problem finding teaching work with a fairly big language centre and travel company.
- As well as teaching certificates, the bigger, well known schools also want you to have a degree. Language centres on the most part prefer you to have one, especially if you don’t have a TEFL but I know a few cases where it wasn’t necessary and just being a native speaker was sufficient enough.
- There’s no need to arrange a working visa before arriving in Vietnam as it’s really dependant on the school whether you need one. Lots of people turn up on a tourist visa and find they don’t need a working one their whole time teaching here. Schools that require you to have one usually help you out with the process, which I hear is quite a long, complicated and expensive one.
~ purely for posing-in-the-rain-on-the-bike purposes – Adam drives!
How to find an English teaching job
- Get researching and put together a list of schools and language centres to hand your CVs out to. Adam had bought his bike within days of us arriving so we printed ours out and went to go around on his bike. You can also hire a Xe Om (motorbike taxi) for a few hours to take you around the city.
- Check for vacancies and apply online. We joined the site expat-blog where you can advertise your teaching services and let people know you’re looking for a job. There’s usually job ads listed there too and this is where we found a couple of private students each. Craigslist is another one to check for jobs and joining some of the teaching in Vietnam facebook groups can be a good place to start.
- Advertise yourself as a private tutor. Sometimes it’s who you know and getting your name out there is a great way to pick up more work. I scored my first job at a language centre thanks to one of my private students who put in a good word for me after one lesson with her! Unfortunately it didn’t end up working out, which brings me to the next point.
- Don’t settle for anything you’re uncomfortable with and be careful not to get taken advantage of. The above mentioned language centre was so ridiculously disorganised that it just left me feeling burnt out. It wasn’t run well for both students and teachers so when they ‘accidentally’ short changed my pay I called it a day and found something else much better.
- I couldn’t commit to any lengthy contracts, but an obvious one would be check them over carefully and thoroughly.
Did I enjoy living and teaching in Vietnam?
I would definitely recommend the teaching lifestyle in Vietnam for all the reasons mentioned at the start of this post. As for living in Ho Chi Minh City, it can be a bit crazy at times. There’s lots you have to be prepared for and sometimes we went through stages where it felt like everything was going wrong, then it would pick up and I could maybe see myself there longer.
Even though the majority of work can be found in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, I did see some opportunities around Da Nang, where I’d go back and try if I got the chance. But it’s all personal preference and I just don’t think I’m meant to live in a massive city long term 🙂
As for the teaching, I can say once I got into the swing of things I enjoyed it and the kids were lovely. The first language centre didn’t set me off to the best start but a different job and some great private students turned that around.
I hope that’s answered a few questions! If there’s anything else you’d like to know or if you’ve got any experiences to share, let me know in the comments below!