Teaching English in Vietnam: Country Guide
Vietnam is a long thin country in South East Asia that neighbours China to the north and Cambodia and Laos to the West.
Vietnam has made concentrated efforts at rebranding itself in the travellers mind as a country not a war. Its history is blemished with conflict, colonisation and rebellion. However with a rapidly growing economy the future looks good for Vietnam which may become a developed nation by 2020. Ever enduring is the beautiful landscape, tropical climate, friendly people and rich culture and religion.
TEFL Opportunities in Vietnam
The demand for TEFL teachers in Vietnam – as throughout all of South East Asia – is on the rise and there are employment opportunities year round.
In Vietnam, where one third of the population lives below the poverty line, English is a huge advantage in breaking free from poverty by opening up avenues to find work or enter into further education. TEFL teachers are needed to tutor both adults and children in Vietnam.
Vietnam is a treat box of delights for travellers. Vastly different landscapes are found from the north to the south; from never ending coastal beaches, inland mountains, complex river systems, bright green rice fields to colourful markets and charming and traditional culture. This serene picture is juxtaposed beside images of rapid industrial development and bustling cities.
Ho Chi Minh City
The largest city in Vietnam, which is home to 12 million residents, also hosts one of the fastest growing job markets for foreign English teachers in Asia. Boasting a dynamic economy and reputation as the cultural trendsetter, Ho Chi Minh City is a blend of traditional and globalized influences where towering skycrapers stand alongside traditional market life and fading colonial buildings. Life generally takes place on the streets in the jumble of market stalls and food vendors with the city coming alive after hours with the vibrant night life in western bars littered throughout the city centre.
Hanoi is notable for more than simply being the capital city. Despite rapid development, it still retains its charming characteristics that make it so popular. There are 3.5 million residents making it the second largest city in Vietnam. There is a large range of opportunities for teaching in Hanoi: from young learners preparing for exams, to adults entering to corporate world. There is also plenty to do in and around the city. Bustling traffic gives way to lakes, museums and historic relics. Many travel on to Cambodia or Laos and of course a day trip to Ha Long Bay is an absolute must.
Top things to see in Vietnam
Ha Long Bay
Located in Northern Vietnam, this is one of the worlds (never mind Vietnams’!) greatest natural wonders. 1,600 jutting limestone islands sprawl out over an area of over 1500sqkm rich turquoise water – likened to a submerged dragon. This surrealistic landscape has grabbed the imagination of travellers and filmmakers alike. It is surely a destination not to be missed when teaching English in Vietnam.
Teaching English in Vietnam
The ECL Vietnam TEFL internship is perfect for TEFL teachers eager to explore the country and gain experience teaching English abroad. By taking this route you will benefit from loads of support and advice from the in-country team. With the organisation taken care of by the experienced program coordinator, you can embark on your exciting your adventure with confidence.
Why do an internship rather than a normal TEFL job?
The short answer is, support. There is a lot you will gain from an internship that you would not get from a normal job. Teaching English abroad by yourself can be lonely at times. Culture shock and bureaucracy, not to mention the language barrier, can all stand in the way of a successful trip. The ECL internship is there to smooth out inevitable bumps you will encounter along the way. The support of the ELC team and other interns on this program, which is designed especially for teachers new to TEFL, will be invaluable. It also stands out from normal TEFL jobs by offering shorter contracts, tailored orientation for new teachers and additional support during your placement and prearranged accommodation.
On the other hand, some people prefer to find work on a more ad hoc basis and there is also a plethora of TEFL jobs for enthusiastic teachers to find in country.
Applying for jobs
Applying to a TEFL teaching job is similar to that of any other industry. Firstly you will be required to submit a CV and accompanying reference (which we can supply to you) along with a copy of your TEFL certificate. If in your initial application is successful you will likely conduct one or two telephone or skype interviews, if you are already in the country you will obviously meet in person.
You can apply for TEFL jobs through our TEFL jobs centre or by simply turning up in person to schools and handing out CVs. No matter which route you decide to take to find your TEFL job, your TEFL certificate is the most important tool at your disposal.
Recommended TEFL Course
For all TEFL jobs abroad, we recommend a 120-hour TEFL course as this is the minimum requirement for majority of TEFL employers and will stand you the best chance of finding work. The 120-hour course can either be completed online or in a combined option with a 20-hour weekend classroom course (100 hours of online learning). To strengthen your qualification and help you stand out to potential employers amongst the high number of applicants, it is worth considering an advanced TEFL course. Due to the high number of TEFL jobs in Vietnam that focus around early learners in kindergarten or preschool, our advanced TEFL course Teaching Young learners will be particularly valuable.
Finding a TEFL job in Vietnam
There is no shortage of positions for TEFL teachers in Vietnam however there are some requirements that will increase your chances of finding work quickly, in addition to your TEFL certificate.
Most, but certainly not all positons, will require a degree (some education specific).
Unfortunately there is an age bias for younger teachers in Vietnam, but again this is not strictly always the case and older teachers can still find work.
Native English speaker
An obvious requirement in order to ensure the best level of tuition. However teachers with English as a second language to a high enough or near native langue will also be welcomed.
Bear in mind that although TEFL is a fantastic opportunity to explore an unknown country, you are primarily there to teach and this should not be placed behind sightseeing. Your students deserve a teacher that is committed, enthusiastic and has gained the relevant skills through TEFL training. Teaching requires a lot of preparation and hours that are unpaid. If you work hard your spare time will be all the more well-earned and you will be able to enjoy are the wonders of working and living abroad.
What you don’t need
Previous teaching experience or knowledge of Vietnamese language is not a requirement. Of course both will help (the latter for buying some food!) but they are not imperative; you will learn all you need to know about teaching through the TEFL course and on the job. In the classroom you will teach through immersion; this means not speaking the student’s local tongue; even if you know how!
There are opportunities to teach in private and government schools. Age also ranges depending on whether you are teaching in kindergarten, primary schools, university or tutoring adults.
Be prepared for large classes when teaching English in Vietnam, with numbers reaching as high as 60 in some classes. In light of this, taking our Teaching Large Classes Course will be highly advantageous: this 10-hour advanced course will set you up with the necessary skills and techniques to teach classes up 30+.
The quality and amount of resources available to you will vary depending which school you are in, so it is best to be prepared and take some with you. Flashcards and lesson plans will be incredibly useful tools.
On average you will teach face-to-face for 20 hours during the week, although you will usually be required to be at the school between 7.30 – 4.30 Monday to Friday.
The Final Touches
You will need a visa to enter Vietnam and it is important to make sure you get the correct visa for the purpose and destination of your trip. For the purpose of the ECL internship you will enter Vietnam on a 3 month business visa and extend it after 3 months.
If you secure a job before you leave your employer may help you with the visa application. Generally the safest option is to get one from the Vietnamese embassy in London before you go. If you plan to leave Vietnam and re-enter from another country make sure you get a multiple visit visa.
Be aware of bogus companies offering visa services, if you are concerned always go to your nearest Vietnamese embassy. Overstaying your visa is a serious matter and may involve paying a hefty fine before you can leave. Make sure you check your visa details carefully to avoid this.
Entry into Vietnam may be refused if your passport has less than 1 month validity from the date your Vietnamese visa expires.
Travel insurance is imperative. Take care to ensure that you arrange the right cover before arriving in Vietnam. Good medical cover is always advisable including repatriation to your home country.
Some TEFL jobs will pay for flights (great!), however for the majority of TEFL jobs including the ECL internship, flights are not included and you will need to sort this out yourself. Flights to Vietnam cost around £400, however this naturally varies so check on sites like skyscanner and STA travel for the best deals.
The local currency is Vietnam Dong (VND), but US dollars are also accepted. Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted, but outside main centres you may find cash the only acceptable currency. ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas. You can have funds transferred to Vietnam via international money transfer companies like Western Union or Moneygram.
Living in Vietnam
Wages in Vietnam are lower than other Asian powerhouses such as China or Japan, but most TEFL teachers come to Vietnam for the experience rather than the financial rewards. Vietnam is cheap by most standards and you will be able to live quite comfortably on a teacher’s salary.
With the ECL internship you will either be staying in a Vietnamese-style studio apartment close to the school with a private bathroom by yourself, or you will have a private room in an apartment with other interns.
Lodging is generally not an issue in Vietnam, for around £6 you can find a room in a hostel that is clean and comfortable and considered better than that of its neighbours in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
Food sits at the heart of Vietnamese culture, playing a central role in all significant holidays and social interactions in Vietnam. There are definite unique regional styles and the most authentic Vietnamese food is found in street side restaurants (most walk in restaurants are mainly for tourists).
Widely celebrated and revered is Vietnam’s national dish, ‘Pho’ (noodle soup) which costs around £2. ‘Bia hoi’ (locally brewed beer) will also only set you back around 50p. Western food is also available for slightly more. Local markets are full of fresh fruit and vegetables. Be aware that as a foreigner you are exposed to overcharging – always be prepared to haggle down to half of the price quoted. Tipping is not generally expected