Teach English in Vietnam

teach english in vietnam

Teach English in Vietnam – the following answers are from English teachers who have taught, or currently teach English in Vietnam.

Do I need a degree to teach English in Vietnam?

“To obtain a work permit in Vietnam you need either a university degree or documented proof of 5 years professional experience.”

“To get a work permit, you do. However, some people work ‘under the table’ without one, especially in the smaller cities.”

“You need a degree to teach English at most international schools and primary and secondary schools but there are some small independent tutoring centers and kindergartens will hire based on experience and not qualifications.”

“The issue is not so much one of having the degree to get the job but rather having the degree to get the work permit. It is a government requirement in order to obtain the work permit (along with police check, TEFL/TESOL/CELTA, and clear bill of health). However, there is a loophole. A letter stating that you have 7 years of teaching/training experience is a legally acceptable alternative to a degree when applying for the work permit . The letter can be from one or several previous employers adding up to a total of 7 years. I suggest one letter only would be best though. With the letter you will be fully eligible to obtain a work permit. Once you have the work permit (valid for 3 years) you can obtain one year visa without any problem. The process involves taking the letter to the Australian Embassy and having them make a copy and verifying that the copy is a true copy of the original letter. Note, the embassy is not authenticating the letter but rather they are authenticating the copy. With authenticated copy in hand the work permit process can begin. The thing is, if you read between the lines of the authentication process of the copy of letter – the authenticity of the letter itself is not an issue. I know a number of people that this process has worked for.”

“When teaching English in schools and via some agencies a degree is needed; however there is also a lot of private teaching available where qualifications are rarely asked for.”

Do I need a TEFL qualification and/or experience?

Most private language schools require a TEFL qualification. Some schools will recruit if you have one or more year’s experience but no qualification, but the pay will generally be lower.

What are the visa requirements?

“You can enter the country on a tourist visa (1 month). Schools should get you a business visa when you start working with them. There are no nationality or age restrictions.”

“Teachers typically enter on a tourist visa, and get a business visa though either an agent or with the help of a school. If you get a contract, it is possible to get a work permit and then a temporary resident permit – good schools will help you get this paperwork done, but be prepared to have originals of your degrees, and also to get a police check done in your home country.”

“Many teachers work on a business visa, which while technically not legal is certainly possible and 99% of schools will employ teachers on business visas. The visa renewal process is becoming much stricter than it was and the 3 month visas are only being renewed for one month at the moment (as of February 2012). It is possible to obtain 6 and in some cases 12 month business visas from the Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia. However, they have monthly quotas so it is best to apply at the start of the month. The other option is to do a visa run to Cambodia, Laos or Thailand every 3 months but this can be expensive and time consuming. The larger, more well established schools will help with obtaining visas for their current teachers. Keep in mind the work permit process can be long and involved and definitely requires assistance from an employer.”

Where are the jobs and what’s the best way to find work?

“Most of the schools and therefore most of the work is in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, with a few schools in other, smaller cities. The larger schools may advertise jobs on the internet, but visiting schools with your CV is the best way for smaller schools.”

“I only know of two schools out of the dozens in Hanoi that employ teachers prior to their arrival in Vietnam.”

When is the best time of year to look for work?

“Work is available year round, although around the Tet holiday it is a lot slower.”

“The job market is slow from about November to about March (around the Vietnamese New Year), but apart from that, work is available most of the time.”

“Any time of year in Hanoi. Extra good times are end of May beginning of June in time for the summer programs. At the end of summer when many teachers are leaving. In December when many teachers are leaving. Probably the worst time is in the lead up to the Tet holiday (January).”

“If you have a TEFL and a degree you will be working within weeks if not days. As long as you do not arrive about 2 weeks before and during Chinese New Year when the whole country goes on holiday.”

What kind of salary and working conditions can I expect?

“Around 15-25 USD an hour, or a monthly salary of around 1000 USD, depending on qualifications and experience.”

“20-30 hours a week in private language schools is common, with some split shift work and classes usually in the afternoon or evening. Weekend work is very common, particulary for teaching children. Teaching childrena nd teenagers usually makes up a high percentage of the work. IELTS classes are also popular.”

Are there opportunities for private teaching?

“Yes, there is a lot of private teaching work available. the best ways to find it are through word of mouth, networking, and through websites such as The New Hanoian.”

What about the cost of living?

a cup of coffee 0.50 – 1.50 USD
a beer 1 USD
a cinema ticket 3-6 USD
a meal in an average restaurant 5-10 USD
a month’s rent 300-600 USD for a one-bedroom apartment
a motorcycle taxi 1 USD
cost of living for a month possibly as little as 500 USD
a new moped 750 USD
a Coke 0.25 USD
a train ticket from Saigon to Nha Trang 25 USD

78% of respondents in our survey thought that the cost of living in Vietnam is low or quite low compared to salary.

What’s the best way to get around?

Taxis and motorbike taxis are plentiful and cheap. Buying or renting your own motorbike is even cheaper, and is the main way to get around.

What about internet access?

Internet is easy and cheap to install at home (about 10 USD a month) but free wifi is very easy to find in cafes and other places, as are internet cafes.

What’s the best way to find somewhere to live?

The New Hanoian advertises accommodation. language schools often help. Word of mouth and asking around is another popular way.

The following are more general comments from English teachers who have taught, or currently teach English in Vietnam.

Hanoi – I know there are some travellers who would like to come and work in Hanoi but don’t know where to start. For those who are interested in teaching English, there are schools and there are schools! In other words some do not even require experience – as long as you are a native speaker, then you qualify. But for the more officially recognized schools the minimum qualification is either a couple of years teaching experience and/or TESL / TEFL / CELTA / DELTA teaching certificates. And then there are locals who seek tutors. One of the best ways to find these opportunities is to look at some of the more popular expat hangouts around the city particularly in the old quarters. Some cafes like Moca cafe near the cathedral, post announcements on bulletin boards by their front door. Check out the Lonely Planet for places to stay or eat at the old quarters: Hang Bac, Hang Be, and around that area because they might provide you with leads. For the more experienced, there’s Apollo Education in Le Van Huu st., for a start, and Language Link in Cat Linh st., Austil, ACET / IDP… and once you’re in the loop, the search becomes easier. For Ho Chi Minh City, you’d need to check out their listings — there are more opportunities there I reckon.

Chito, 18 Apr 2006


Hanoi – cool. Good advice from Chito. Saigon is a different kettle of wombats: If you like to spend most of your time with other westerners, drinking beer and talking about (rather than with) Vietnamese, this is the place for you. I have a love-hate with Saigon – I especially found a lot of the Euro-Americans there quite depressing but it is sometimes nice to get by with English and have a choice of bars and cuisine. However, I would visit Saigon again (hope to do so – a few good friends there and Saigon life) but would prefer to work in almost any other part of the country. Of course, that requires more patience and effort, probably less money and determination with the difficult language. Depends how long you are staying and what your values are.

Siddharta, 16 Jun 2006


There’s a website that posts part time and full time jobs for Hanoi. It’s locally managed from what I gather, because the part time job posts are very frequently updated and show individual classes available at individual schools. These listing show the days, times, class type, and pay. Also lots of info on Hanoi in general. A must use for Hanoi ESLers.

Chuck, 27 Sep 2006


I’ve been teaching English at a couple of schools in Ho Chi Minh City for the past eight months. I found living and working in Vietnam was easy because I could speak the language. I think that being able to speak the language is a great advantage. Once your students know that you can speak Vietnamese they seem to be more open and willing to learn. There are many great things to experience in Vietnam but unfortunately please be warned… trust only yourself. Always follow your gut feeling. The law in Vietnam is lucid. It’s dog eat dog. Sorry to be so negative among all the beauty that Vietnam has to offer but it’s a fact. Vietnam is a very dysfunctional society and everyone only looks out for number one. To all of you who are offended by my comments I apologize. And to all you available foreign men who are considered to be a great catch… be cautious because you may only be a ticket out of Vietnam to those cash adoring beauties. Be wise and throw simple thinking and innocence out the door only while you’re there.

Maree, 11 Mar 2007


I went to Hanoi, Vietnam with the intention of just visiting but ended up with a teaching job in under 2 weeks. Vietnamese children are wonderful to work with and Hanoi is a very beautiful and (when you know the right places) very social place!

Edwin, 30 Jun 2008


To those put off by Maree’s comment, just trust her. I recently spent 2 months in Vietnam with my Vietnamese-American Fiance, and what Maree says is the truth. You really have to look out for yourself. Though most anything you will encounter will be petty crime, if you go in thinking you are in paradise and nothing can go wrong, things can add. As long as you are aware of that though, everything is fine. I can’t wait to go back to Vietnam and hope to live there within 5 years. Hopefully teaching English or working in an American company. It is a beautiful and exciting place, so long as one is not jaded by all the new experiences.

Greg, 23 Mar 2010


I’ve lived and worked in Hanoi for over three years, most of it as an English teacher. I’ve taught at maybe 6 or 7 language centres. I would have to say that for the most part I was treated fairly by all of them. Always paid on time and always the rate agreed to. For me, teaching isn’t a means to travel, see the world and make money at the same time. I enjoy it very much.

Like schools everywhere, there are good and so-so students. Most of the students that go to the language centres are either there because they really want to be (the good students) or there because their parents want them to learn English so they can get a good job and earn lots of money (the so-so students). The good students don’t just rely on the language centres to help them with their English language skills: they watch English TV, listen to English music and in general, expose themselves to English as much as they can. They love to find a foreigner that will talk to them so they can practice their speaking skills.

The biggest problem I found was getting them to not speak Vietnamese to each other in class. In lower level classes of course it’s the only way they can communicate with each other. However in higher level classes, they’re still reluctant to use English only. I thought about employing the use of an electric prod, but I don’t think the school, or authorities, would go along with that idea.

As far as living in Hanoi; it’s a wonderful city. I’ve said it before; “if Hanoi was a European city, it would be one of the most beautiful cities in the world”. Of course Vietnamese, like everyone else in business, are out to make a big buck, and the faster the better. As a foreigner we pretty well pay more for everything especially accommodation. Your $500 a month apartment would probably cost a Vietnamese $250, or less. Get used to paying more and especially if you shop at the markets. If you like to barter for things, you’ll love it. The people are friendly, especially if you get outside the touristy areas like the Old Quarter.

If you can use a few Vietnamese words (or at least attempt to) you’ll get a smile (or laugh) and your efforts will be appreciated. Learning the numbers/money is probably the first and most important thing because you’ll be shopping often. Once you get onto the numbers, it’s quite easy.

Service in most places is terrible. Get used to it. The best service you get will probably be at a street food vendor. Most restaurants are an exercise in patience. Ordering, waiting, paying, it all takes time. It’s not uncommon to go into a shop and see the staff with their heads lying on the counter and giving you a rather vacant look when they do come to. It’s the culture!

If you get up enough nerve to drive a motorbike, don’t be afraid. Vietnamese don’t like pain. They’ll threaten and scare you, but that’s all it is, a threat. Look straight ahead and keep your peripheral vision keen because they appear out of no where and have never heard of stopping or looking both ways before they cross or enter, the street.

Now if I all of a sudden seem to have become negative; not so. It’s a wonderful country with wonderful people, but don’t expect it to be like “home”.

One last thing: for jobs, or if you need to buy things for your Hanoi home, or just want to ask a question, go to www.thenewhanoian.com – it’s a great website to find out just about anything you want to know about Hanoi and connect with other foreigners, like us.

Now I live in Saigon. I haven’t been here long enough to give any solid information at this point.

Thay, T 30 Apr 2010


I’ve been teaching in Hanoi for a year now, there are many more jobs than teachers and so you can be picky on the schools/jobs you work. You don’t need a degree, certificate or experience (though it is preferred), just being able to speak English is enough. Check out newhanoian.com for jobs, housing and expat chat, is the only website you’ll need and the only website schools advertise on. Once you’ve been there for a while and got some contacts you can start tutoring, and earning upwards of $25 per hour. Don’t be put off by some of the comments above, VNese are ‘gruff’ but very sweet and friendly, when you get to know them. Living here is easy, food and housing is cheap and easy to find, laws on working are very lax/very strict but not enforced, and there is a nice expat crowd out here. The only downside is visas, which the government are making harder to get. Whereas you could get a year long tourist visa you now need to get a three month tourist visa and get it renewed for another three months, then leave the country for the weekend to get another new three month visa. It may be worth working for a licensed school like Language Link as they can get you a work permit (very few schools are licensed to teach/employ foreigners and so can’t help). Can’t really recommend coming out here enough- well paid, plentiful work, easy living and a high standard of living!!

Tim, 22 Jun 2010


Vietnam is a beautiful country with some of the nicest people I have ever met. I stayed in Da Nang city, yet traveled to all the major hot spots, including, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Ha Long Bay, Vinh City, Da Lat, My Son, to name a few. There is a very big difference between the North and the South, yet in regards to personality between my Vietnamese encounters, they were all friendly and positive.

As for Maree’s comments, in regards to having to ‘look out for yourself’, I would say that is the case in any country you go to, as they are going to know you are a foreigner. However, the laws are in place, petty crime does exist, but violent crime is pretty rare if not completely unheard of towards foreigners. Tourism is a huge money maker for Vietnam, and in every city you will notice a huge service based economic sector. That being said, the laws are almost in place where violence towards foreigners seems untouchable, as they do not want to make their country appear unsafe, and spoil this sector. Don’t walk around with the attitude that your untouchable, but realize that laws are in place to protect you from violent crime, and if it does occur report it to the Embassy.

I am an American, and I am not being bias I have seen many obnoxious European tourists, that in a way are kicking dirt on Vietnamese culture, and in a way are asking for trouble to be brought upon themselves. If you’re going to Vietnam for cheap beer and hookers, then yeah you should be looking over your shoulder, as your mixing in with the wrong crowds, crowds which are ‘dog eat dog’. Remember that you are in a foreign country, and for many Vietnamese, you may be the first European they come into contact with, and your behavior will leave an impression and stereotype towards your country. So if your going to Vietnam to be sleazy it is possible that you left an impression for future tourists from your country to be regarded in the same manner, Don’t ruin it for your own countrymen. It can be said from my personal experiences, when they heard I was American their eyes lit up, and they got excited, not because they saw me in terms of $$, but I think because for them it was a fresh breath of air from a lot of the disrespectful Europeans they come into contact with.

If you are unwilling to embrace the culture, putting down the Vietnamese way of life then not unlike any other country, your presence, and negative attitudes will not be welcome. I can’t count the number of expats that I see that are so xenophobic and unwilling to adapt to a different culture, something that annoyed me while I was there. I intentionally avoided these spots, and found myself welcomed with open arms, free meals and drinks, down beaten roads where I was the only white person the Vietnamese had ever seen. The hospitality is unheard of in Vietnam, if you are invited to someones table, they will pay for your food, and your drinks, and it took some time to get used to. I cannot count the free meals I received, but more importantly the laughs and friends I had made among strangers who I didn’t completely understand due to our language barrier and vice versa. Countless meals were eaten for free with the owners of establishments who saw that I was a different and open foreigner. These are people whom have nothing in terms of money compared to me, I make more in a day than some of them make in a month, yet they refused my money, and one of my Vietnamese friends pointed out I was being rude for even offering it. Some of the Vietnamese that I made friends with went as far as welcoming me into their homes for meals, as they wanted me to meet their mamas!

In my personal experiences I have never once felt unsafe, although some situations get sketchy. If someone comes up to you on a motorbike and asks to give you a ride, say no, or ignore their presence altogether. If some stranger in America, or Europe came up to you on a motorcycle and asked to give you a ride would you say yes? Use common sense. As for my experience, I found myself lost in every city I mentioned, in particular desperately lost in Hanoi. I was lost for 2.5 hours trying to find my hotel, by myself, and late at night. I never once felt unsafe, and was never sketchily approached. HAHA remember the name of your hotel(s), take a map with you, and don’t get on peoples bikes.

As for my personal advice, learn some of the language, it will be very helpful, and people will be shocked and very happy to see you using it regularly. I would bargain in Vietnamese, and found myself getting some serious deals, ones that my Vietnamese friends would comment about, stating they were better prices than they would get. Don’t bargain in the bakeries haha, they don’t like it, and their prices are listed and very very reasonable. MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE VIETNAMESE, embrace their culture, and you will want to return as I plan to do. Not bragging, but they loved me over there, I was respectful, and open minded, and if you want to experience a good time thats what you have to do to. You’ll be shocked by their hospitality, and the beauty of this country, as well as the delicious food, Bun Thit Nuong, and Nem LuI to name a few. Yeah, I ate a lot of street food, my stomach was able to handle it, but If your going to be there for a prolonged period, wait about 10 days before you start munching on this stuff on the regular, give your time to adjust to this. Oh yeah, try the snake or bee wine, its a culture thing, and its not that bad. IF your brave enough, try the duck eggs, seek them out new comers if your looking for ‘shock culture’.

Last note of advice, during the dry season, in a way there is a siesta in a sense due to the heat. If you don’t need to, don’t bother going out between 11am and 2pm, as it is very, very, hot. I guess to finish things off I can drop a quick lesson.

Mot -1, Hai-2, Ba -3, Zo = 123 cheers.

123, 8 Jan 2011


I’m not quite sure why anyone would want to come all the way to Vietnam to hang out with expats and drink beer!! Give me a break!! Vietnam is fascinating and more colorful than any western nation bar none!!! There are plenty of teaching opportunities for those of you who are actually qualified and thank goodness the government is making that a priority so that the place does not turn into another disaster area like Thailand!! For those of you who want to turn this place into another party destination like Bali or Mexico, do us all a favor and stay home!! And for those of you who feel superior to the Vietnamese, go back to your problem!! Jeff (A decent American).

Jeffrey, 23 Apr 2011


Jeff’s advice is absolutely correct. I studied abroad in Vietnam last year and will be going back to teach English this summer. Philistine Western hedonists STAY OUT of beautiful Vietnam. I will be sick to my stomach if Vietnam becomes another assimilationist cesspit like southern Korea.

Andrew, 29 Apr 2011


The best expat community site I have ever come across. They have jobs, housing, people’s questions cover almost everything one could need… www.newhanoian.com

Anonymous, 13 Feb 2012


I’m looking to apply for jobs in Vietnam, and have just started researching the cities. I have been advised to go to HCMC but am worried that it may be too big. I would ideally like to be by the coast but I don’t want to be too rural as I’ve been warned that there will be little support. I speak no Vietnamese (yet). Can anyone give me some advice on what the cities in Vietnam are like to work in? The contracts I’m looking at are for a year so it’s really important that I get this decision right! Possible options so far are Vung Tau, Dan Nang and HCMC. Any further suggestions are invaluable.

Geri, 21 Aug 2012


Taxis in Ho Chi Minh City are your best friend or your worst nightmare…

Every person who has travelled a bit has a taxi story to share. Over the past 30 years or so that I’ve been teaching and travelling, I can safely say that I’ve heard a taxi story from every continent. I’ve heard some shockers in Vietnam where I live and work nowadays, but equally, I’ve had my own less than desirable experiences in more developed parts of the world including Australia where I come from – and North America.

Some taxi-tales are a good news story – the birth of a baby in the back seat and alike – but most are about the kind of situations that travellers dread. We’ve all heard stories (or experienced them first-hand) about getting ripped off, taken to the wrong location, ‘lead foot’ taxi drivers, arguments about tips, traffic accidents and much, much worse.

Here in Ho Chi Minh City, I choose to use Vinasun Taxis – or I walk. I should point out that I don’t have shares in Vinasun or an axe to grind with other taxi companies in Ho Chi Minh City, although like everyone, I’ve heard about some horrible taxi journeys.

From my personal experience, Vinasun cabs in Ho Chi Minh City are clean, reliable, 100% metered (an expression I heard from another teacher) – and you’ll see them everywhere. The drivers mostly know their way around, they’re trained to load and unload baggage and check if anything has been left in the cab before the passenger disappears into the Ho Chi Minh City throng.

Put simply, what I want from a taxi service is to take me from point A to point B for a reasonable price, without any surprises. I think most people want the same.

So, if you’re new to a city, how do you know which taxi company to trust with your personal property, sanity and dare I say it, well-being?

Catching a cab when you’re new in town is like so many other travel experiences in my view – go with your ‘gut feel’. If it doesn’t feel right, there’s a good chance that it’s not right – so let it go.

In addition, speak with other teachers and local people for their take on which cab service to use and the pitfalls. It’s also worth checking out what information is available on blogs and travel websites before you arrive in a new destination, although personally, I’m only interested in internet comments that have a name attributed to them.

When it’s all said and done, all of us are only one dodgy taxi ride away from having a horror taxi-tale of our own. Be smart and there’s a high chance you’ll be the listener rather than the story-teller.

About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director of the Australia-Vietnam School of English (AVSE) located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: www.avse.edu.vn

Peter Goudge, 23 Jan 2014


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2 comments and teachers' experiences of Vietnam

  1. bismark lamptey

    i am a university graduate with 7 years experience in Ghana Education Service,can some help me get job in vietnam.

  2. chris

    A lot of things have changed since this was written, it’s long passed time this blog was updated, some of this info could get people in serious trouble now!

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