What it’s Like to Teach English in Vietnam

It’s been one year since I moved to Vietnam to be an English teacher. Through the good and bad experiences, it’s been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding times of my life. I wouldn’t change it for anything. For those of you considering teaching English in Vietnam, or in Asia, DO IT. And take in some of my advice as you do to help ease the transition.

Before You Go

To be a teacher in Vietnam, you really need only a few things.

1. Be a Native English Speaker:
This means English is your mother tongue. Companies usually verify this by where your passport is from, so passports from and English speaking country are desired. This includes the United States, Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, and Scotland. There are more, but you get the point.
It’s definitely possible to come from a non-English speaking country. I’ve seen teachers from Holland, Mexico, the Philippines, Germany, and many other places, but a Native English speaker will have an easier time.

2. Have a Teaching English Certificate (TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, etc.):
Most teaching jobs require teachers to have a teaching certificate. Any of the above will work just the same, but a CELTA can help you earn more money sometimes. I got a TESOL, and had no issues. You can even get one online for way cheaper, but prepares you less as a teacher. So it’s up to you what you decide is best for your unique situation.

3. A Bachelor’s Degree:
While not 100% required to get a job (I have plenty of friends without a degree that work in Vietnam), it definitely makes life easier to find work. A lot of the school and learning centers require a four year degree in any subject. If you don’t have a degree, you’ll have to search for an under the table job that pays in cash, or pay a little bit extra for your work permit. The work permit in Vietnam requires that teachers have a degree, so it makes it difficult and costly to get one if you don’t. But again, it’s not impossible.

Types of Jobs You Can Find

There are four main types of jobs you can expect to find in Vietnam. And jobs are relatively easy to come by. Vietnam is growing in its need/want to learn English, so there are plenty of jobs for English teachers right now.

1. Learning Centers:
A job at a learning center is probably the most easiest job to find because there are so many English Centers in Vietnam. Some of the bigger ones in Ho Chi Minh City include VUS, ILA, Apollo, I Can Read, and Yola. Most teachers work evenings and weekends because this is a place students attend outside of their regular schooling hours. Pay is pretty decent also, especially if you’re just starting out. Centers are usually well equipped with supplies, air conditioning, smaller class sizes and teaching assistants.

2. Public Schools:
Public schools are classes that you teach at public schools. The conditions are a little more difficult, but you have a more typical 9am to 5pm schedule and no classes on weekends. But the class sizes are gigantic – sometimes 50 students in one class with one teaching assistant. And there’s no air conditioning making it for a sweaty day. The pay is also decent, and the schedule is nice.

3. Private Tutoring:
Private tutoring gigs are easy to find. Between friends, students from your jobs, and Facebook groups, you can definitely find private tutoring opportunities. With this, you’ll set your own hours, rate of pay, and lesson plans. This is a great idea for someone who doesn’t want to be locked into a schedule or company. You’ll definitely have to do more work to find clients, but it’s doable.

4. International Schools:
These jobs are the most sought out by teachers. International schools pay the big bucks, sometimes double what learning centers pay. You are more than well-equipped in your classroom and you’ll have a normal 9am to 5pm schedule with weekends off. International schools usually have teaching requirements, so these jobs are a lot harder to get. Most teachers work a year or two at a learning center before being able to move into an International school. This is for the career focused teacher willing to put the work in, not a typical backpacker.

Where You Can Teach

Teaching in Vietnam is all over the place. Like most job fields, there are more opportunities in the big cities – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. The beach towns are a lot harder to find work it, but can provide a better quality of life. My favorite beach towns are Hoi An and Da Nang.

There are also jobs in the countryside, which can be very rewarding. You’ll live in a more intimate setting, so you’ll get to know the people a lot better. They’ll treat you like a Queen because they’re so happy to have you. You can also get free housing, a free motorbike, and great pay. Countryside living is ideal for people who are okay being outside of the city and want to save money.

However, the downside of countryside living is that there will be less English speakers, so making friends or dating can be almost impossible. You can feel isolated at times being surrounded by people who don’t speak your language. As someone who lives in Ho Chi Minh City, escaping the city life seems like heaven. Do your research and decide what’s best for you.

Living Costs

Vietnam is an extremely cheap country to live in. You can easily save your money if you don’t get caught up in the expat life and drink a lot.
OR
You can easily live the life of luxury for a fraction of what it would cost you in your home country. The decision is up to you, and there’s no right or wrong way on how to spend your money. Here’s a breakdown of my costs of living in Ho Chi Minh City.

1. Accommodation:
Typical accommodation is an apartment or renting a room in a shared house. Both are great. I personally rent a bedroom in the Thu Duc District for pretty cheap, so I pay less than most people do at $150usd per month. Most apartments range from about that up to $600, depending on how nice you want to go.

2. Transportation:
The most common form of transportation in Vietnam is a motorbike. I rent mine for $55 a month, which is pretty standard. I have a Nouvo with 125cc. If you don’t want to drive your own bike, you can use Grab, a motorbike taxi company similar to Uber or Lyft in the US.

3. Food and Drinks:
Food and drinks are soooooo stinking cheap in Vietnam. You can easily spend less than $5usd a day on food. A cup of coffee is about $1, and most meals on the street are about $1 to $2. Cocktails can be about $5 a drink, so it’s also easy to spend money if you want. If you eat mostly Vietnamese food and drinks, you can save a ton of money. Western comfort foods are also easily accessible for those pancake or burrito cravings, but you will spend more.

Quality of Life in Vietnam

After a year in this country, I can say the quality of life as a teacher in Vietnam is pretty good. I’ve made some amazing friends, seen some pretty cool places, and eaten some delicious food since I’ve been here.

A Typical Day in Vietnam:
Wake up, cook breakfast, run errands/some activity like badminton, grab lunch, hang out at a coffee shop, plan my lessons for the evenings, go to class, and end the day with dinner or drinks with friends and coworkers.

The days are pretty stress free. I have plenty of time to relax, see friends, and try new things. With my classes being taught in the evening, I have most of the day to myself to do whatever I want. There’s a lot to do in the city, so you can go sight-seeing in District 1 or act like a local at a coffee shop on the river in Binh Thanh. Activities and hobbies are relatively cheaper then in Western countries, so Vietnam is a great place to try a new hobby. I have friends that do Martial Arts, rock climbing, ceramics, graphic design, video editing, or anything else you can think of.

Keeping Your Itch to Travel

Ho Chi Minh City is centrally located in Southeast Asia, and makes for a great home base to travel from. You have hundreds of cities at your finger tips, each with a unique and new experience. Here’s a snip of options from Skyscanner:

https://www.skyscanner.com.vn/transport/flights-from/sgn/?adultsv2=1&childrenv2=&cabinclass=economy&rtn=1&preferdirects=false&outboundaltsenabled=false&inboundaltsenabled=false

Want to go zip lining in Thailand? Do it. Want to see the Great Wall in China? Done. Loving hiking? Book a ticket to the caves in Malaysia. There’s so much to see here and experience, you’ll never be bored.

Teaching English in Vietnam is probably the biggest risk I’ve taken, and it’s definitely turned into the best time of my life. Feel free to contact us if you need any tips or have any questions about teaching in Vietnam!

Happy Travels!

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