The Basics of Teaching English in Vietnam
Teaching English abroad is well known as an excellent way to fund travel or simply live outside of your home country. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is that the pay is usually quite good, if not great, and the hours are generally very flexible. This is possible because demand for the English language is very high and only seems to be going up.
But of all the places that you can go to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL), Asia has by far the highest pay. However, the cost of living varies significantly between Asian countries. Because of this, you will find that the highest rate of pay for EFL teachers, due to the low cost of living, is in Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam.
Standard English Language Centers pay from $15 to $25 per hour with a typical work load of about 20 hours per week of classes. Many teachers choose to work at multiple schools so as to maximize their income, while others opt to work as little as 10 hours per week in order to enjoy more free time and travel around the country, which is possible due to the very low cost of living.
In order to be qualified for these EFL jobs, schools usually advertise that you need to have either an EFL certificate, a bachelor’s degree in any subject, or both. However, the reality is that there are so many of these schools and they are in such a constant need for native English speaking teachers, that they will often hire you without either of the above credentials. However, in this case it usually means that you will be paid on the lower end of the spectrum and perhaps work at a lower tier school.
But in many cases, you can literally walk into an English Language Center in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) or Hanoi and be hired on the spot. This is exactly how I got my first English teaching gig in Saigon back in 2007. I literally walked into the school, asked if they were hiring, and started teaching that very evening!
One of the main characteristics of the TEFL life is the flexible schedule. One of the great things about it is that you can take time off pretty much whenever you want as long as you have another teacher to cover your classes and you give adequate notification to the school.
This time off is usually unpaid so you’ll need to make sure you save money, but one of the great things about working as an English teacher in Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian countries, is that it is so easy to save money.
Usually, you will work mostly at night and on the weekends, which depending on your preferences can either be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage. For some expats, they love this kind of schedule as it allows them to enjoy the night-life and sleep late into the day.
For others that are used to a more traditional schedule, this is someone of a drawback to the job. However, you can find jobs that have a lot of adult learners studying in the morning and afternoons during the week as well.
Depending on the school you work for, classes range from being one hour long up to two hours, with many lasting 1.5 hours. It really depends on the school as well as the age group in question.
So you may work a three or four-hour shift in the evenings and then 2 to 6 hours on Saturday or Sunday. But again, the hours are very flexible and are really up to you. The school will give you whatever classes are available but you can choose not to accept them.
Attaining EFL Qualifications
The easiest way to get an EFL certificate is to do it online as there are now many places that offer these certificates. However, the cost and time it takes to complete them vary from a couple hundred bucks up to more than $2,000 for some of the more intensive programs.
Certain schools will pay you more if you have a CELTA or TOEFL certificate in addition to, or instead of, a standard EFL one. So with an additional investment of a few hundred dollars and an extra two or three weeks of coursework, you can make $25 an hour or more (some schools actually pay $30/hr +), which is a very high wage in Vietnam.
Here are some places to start:
English Schools in Vietnam
There are now hundreds of English Language Centers throughout Vietnam, with most of the jobs centered in the major metropolitan areas of Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) and Hanoi (capitol of Vietnam).
Some of the most well-known and reputable schools that are always hiring are the following:
- rmit.edu.vn (University)
The largest companies are ILA, VUS, Cleverlearn, and Apollo. They have multiple centers in all of the major cities (Saigon, Hanoi, Danang), good pay, work permit assistance, and are generally well-run companies.
Once you work for one of these centers it is easy to transfer to another location, get a pay raise after teaching for a year or more, and even go into administration with the company. Some EFL teachers choose to turn this into a full blown career, which can include benefits such as health insurance, paid leave, plane tickets etc.
Go ahead and explore the above websites and if you still have questions please leave a comment so others can benefit from the answers and comment as well. Teaching English abroad can be an amazing experience that allows you to travel, learn about other cultures, meet other like-minded individuals and even save up a lot of money.
Vietnam is one of the best places to teach EFL as the country is obsessed with learning English and willing to pay a lot of money in order to learn from native speakers.
For them, being fluent in English can be even more valuable than having a University degree as they can get jobs working for foreign companies and generally benefit from being able to communicate with foreigners. It is also a sign of status and education to be able to speak English well.
If you’re thinking about taking the plunge and going abroad to teach English, I can only say that it was the best decision I ever made and if I hadn’t taken the risk back in 2007 to leave the U.S. for the uncertain future of living in Vietnam, I would not be who I am today.
After ten years of living in Vietnam, being married to a local, and speaking the language fluently, I say to anyone who isn’t sure about whether or not to come over here and try teaching English to GO FOR IT!
You can always go home if it isn’t what you expected. But in my experience, almost NO ONE regrets the decision to move to Vietnam.
Stay tuned for the next article on teaching at International Schools in Vietnam.