Vietnam is one of several booming destinations for teaching English in Southeast Asia. In recent years the demand for teachers has grown enormously and the salaries on offer have also improved due to increased competition among schools looking to employ the best teachers. Teachers who have spent time in Vietnam overwhelming say it is a great place to live and work, so if you want to find out for yourself, how do you go about it?
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In order to get a work permit to teach English legally in Vietnam you will need to be a native English speaker with a bachelorâs degree. Many employers will also insist on a TEFL/TESOL certificate of at least 120-hours duration. Some jobs at the top end of the pay scale will also require some level of classroom experience, although these are relatively small in number. Even if a job is advertised as experience required, it is not always necessary if you are able to sell yourself well on your CV/resume and/or in an interview.
The majority of teachers in Vietnam are employed by private language schools. There are hundreds of these all over the country, with the largest number in the two biggest cities, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Some provide general English classes for adults or young learners, while some also offer English for Specific Purposes (ESP) courses, such as test preparation, Business English, and English for Tourism. There are a smaller number of jobs in English-medium universities and public schools, although previous experience is usually required for these positions. Private tutoring is also common. Some teachers are able to amass enough students to make it a full-time job, but in most cases teachers private tutor a small number of students to top up the salary earned from their main job.
Some schools in Vietnam will tell you that it is fine to work for them with only a tourist visa in your passport; however, this is completely illegal and should be avoided as you run the risk of a fine and deportation from the country. To work legally in any school you require a business visa and a work permit, both of which are normally arranged with the help of your employer. If you are able to arrange a job before leaving home, most of the paperwork can be sorted before you arrive. However, the majority of jobs in Vietnam are not advertised in advance so most teachers arrive on a tourist visa and then apply for the necessary visa and work permit once they have found a suitable job.
Heading to Vietnam on a tourist visa and then looking for work is generally the best approach as it allows you to get a feel for the country before committing to a job. It is advisable to travel around to find the city or town that suits you best and to meet potential employers before signing on the dotted line. Just remember, if you choose this approach it is vital that you bring all the necessary documents with you, such as your TEFL certificate, university diploma and criminal background check. It is also a good idea to check with an embassy or consulate before leaving home to make sure you have the most up to date information on visa requirements.
Private language schools have no fixed semesters as such so they tend to hire at any time of the year. You can do some research before you leave home and you might even be able to arrange a Skype interview, although most employers generally prefer a face-to-face interview. If you plan to work in a public school or university, the school year begins in August or September. For these positions you should start applying around three months before this, although vacant positions can come up at any time so it is always worth keeping an eye on job boards, forums, and individual university websites etc.