How long have you been teaching English in Vietnam?
I have been teaching English in Vietnam for a year and a half.
Please tell us about your job?
Teaching jobs in Vietnam are all extremely different. Every person that moves here to teach will probably have a far different teaching experience than others who are teaching here. I work at an international school, so I work regular hours, 8-4 Monday through Friday. However, a large majority of ESL teachers in Vietnam will work at language centers that run after normal school hours. Language centers are open on nights and weekends.
How many hours someone wants to teach is also up to them. I work a standard 40 hour work week, but all of my friends who work at language centers work 15-30 hours a week. It’s all up to you! I have been offered positions at language centers, so I could work all day at my school and then go to a language center at night and work even more. Or, if I worked at a language center I could tell them how many hours and classes I wanted a week and turn away classes if I only wanted to work a few hours a week. Teaching here really is up to the person!
For the most part the students in Ho Chi Minh City are great to teach. They have a decent level of English and are reasonably behaved considering they are kids and it is school! The students here are FAR MORE BETTER to teach than Korean students. Korean students are terrible!
Again, I teach at an international school so I have a regular school schedule. I get 3 weeks off for Christmas, a week off for fall break, 2 weeks off for Tet Holiday, and a few odd Vietnamese public holidays. Summer is up to the teacher, they can go home for a month (unpaid) or can work summer school.
Teachers at language centers do not get any paid holidays, but they can take off whenever they want. Most of my friends will work for 6-9 months, save, and then go on a backpacking trip for 1-2 months and come back to work at the same center. Work. Travel. Repeat.
How did you find your job?
Again, Vietnam is far different from most countries you may teach in! My boyfriend and I showed up with a stack of resumes and that was it! We went online and found a list of 25 schools, hired a motorbike taxi for the day, and went from school to school handing out our resumes. We also emailed our resume to 15 schools and hoped for the best. Within a week we had interviews and mock lessons scheduled at numerous schools and it was up to us to choose which school we liked the best.
Teachers are constantly coming and going here, there is a very high turnover rate so schools want to see you here in the flesh to offer you a job.
Some people have gotten jobs before coming here online, but you don’t have to and it’s not the typical way people are employed here.
Does your school provide accommodations or pay for your travel expenses?
Most schools will not pay for accommodation or for your travel expenses. If you are a credentialed teacher at home, than chances are that you can get a great job at an international school that pays big bucks and will also pay for your housing and flights home. I am not a credentialed teacher, so for me that was never an option. If you are a qualified teacher, than you will do very well here and rake in the money!
Is it necessary to have teaching certificates or training to find employment?
I do not have teaching certificates, but I did have a year of teaching experience before I moved here. It’s not necessary to have, but obviously if you have both experience and certificates you will have more options as to where you can teach.
Degrees are definitely required at most schools, but they may or may not actually ask to see your degree.
How did you get your work visa?
Again, Vietnam is a rather different case than most countries where foreigners are employed. Many people do not have work visas and work on tourist visas for their entire time here. I’ve never had a work visa and every 3 months drop my passport off at a travel agent for another 3 month tourist visa extension.
However, some schools do want you to have a work visa. It isn’t common though. In that case the school will help you out with the process. It is quite expensive, because you’ll need to have documents from your home country Fed-Exed back and forth. You will need a background check apostilled, bachelor’s degree apostilled, and a TEFL (online or in class) apostilled.
Is it possible to arrive without a work visa and find work?
YES! That’s what 99.9% of people do!
What is Vietnam like?
Vietnam provides a GREAT life style for expats. There are TONS of restaurants (EVERY cuisine imaginable), clubs, bars, and foreigners to mingle with! There are lots of sport teams to join, clubs, and gyms.
What is your cost of living?
Life is SO CHEAP here. My boyfriend and I pay $400 for rent, for a one bedroom loft in a really nice area. A 2 bedroom apartment is around $450-500. Bills are really cheap, water is roughly $3/month, electric is about $30-50/month, and internet is $15/month.
Beer is $0.50 and food at a really fancy western restaurant will be about $10, while food at a great local Vietnamese place will be $1-2.
Is it possible to save much money teaching English in Vietnam?
YES! On average a teacher will make around $2000/month, but your expenses here are close to nothing and you can save most of your wage. It’s all up to the teacher is you want to make more money than pick up more hours at language centers. I have friends earning $4000/month at international schools and friend working 15 hours a week making $1800/month. It’s all up to you and your work ethic!
Hourly wages at language centers are about $18-20 an hour. International schools will pay $2200-$4000 a month.
Are there opportunities to earn income on the side?
There are lots of people looking for private teachers. Most people I know here (myself included) have had private students. The pay is about $20/hour, and you can post ads on websites like expat-blog.com where people seeking private tutors can find you and get in contact with you.
Do you recommend Vietnam for other English teachers?
I highly recommend life here for people looking to teach abroad. We are going to save roughly the same amount of money as we saved in South Korea, and the life here is great! Students are wonderful, and I am so happy here. Saigon is very chaotic and CRAZY at times, but it grows on you and adds to the charm of this fast-paced South East Asian city.
What advice would you offer for others thinking of teaching English in Vietnam?
The best advice I can give is just go with the flow! You can’t over plan like so many people prefer to do when moving abroad. It will also fall into place once you are here. We moved here and within 3 weeks had an apartment, multiple jobs, and our own motorbikes. You can’t stress about it, and it will all happen. The Vietnamese are terrible at planning ahead, and it’s not exactly a part of their culture, so don’t expect to have everything set up at home before coming here. It’s all a part of the adventure of teaching abroad!
You also taught English in Korea, if you had to choose one country to teach for the rest of your life, which would it be?
It’s is nearly impossible to say if life in Korea or life in Vietnam is better. Both experiences have been so different, and both have been so rewarding. It all depends on what the person wants as to what country is a better option for them. Korea is very cushioned, and very easy. Everything was ready for us when we arrived and our hands were held throughout the year. Vietnam falls on the shoulders of the person to make the most of their time here and to choose the job that is best for them.
I wrote a post (Teaching in Korea) all about this question because we have been asked it quite a few times. It goes into more details about both countries to help people choose which one is a better option for them.