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Teaching English in Vietnam is rapidly gaining popularity as a destination for those teaching English abroad due to a number of factors: the fascinating culture, colorful markets, tropical climate and friendly people are just part of the appeal. Stretching up the coast of the South China Sea and bordering three other countries, Vietnam serves as a hub for backpackers, travelers and English teachers. However, this country is badly in need of English speakers to tutor both adults and children, as a third of the population lives under the poverty line and English is a huge advantage in breaking free of poverty.
Vietnam's cities and towns are literally teeming with language schools. The ability to find work within large cities like Hanoi or HCMC, thanks to the sheer number, is remarkably easy. For the best (and highest paying) jobs you'll need a CELTA/TRINITY or higher, yet it's still easy to find gigs solely as a native speaker.
The main reasons teachers choose language schools are down to reliability, support and professional development. For the new teacher these schools usually offer lots of workshops, training and managerial meetings. Another great advantage is that they usually offer perks like contract completion allowances, relocation packages, overtime pay and cover the cost and arrangement of visas and work permits.
The downside of working in a language school means you'll usually have to sign a fixed contract that ties you in to working a set number of hours per month (normally works out to be a weekend and fixed week-day schedule), limiting your opportunity to travel. There's also the matter of image (or as it's called in Vietnam: "saving face"), which means schools will often pass students regardless of their level in order to maintain a better reputation. Can be frustrating!
Finding work in state schools, unless on a volunteering programme, is almost impossible for the average TEFL teacher. International schools, on the other hand, based in the big cities, offer by far the most lucrative TEFL gigs in the country and salaries that eclipse those of any public school.
Teaching to expat or wealthy Vietnamese children, a post in an international school often requires a few years' experience but offers on-going career development opportunities and huge perks like airfare reimbursement and housing allowance. You'll often be teaching in residential suburbs too, which (depending on the city) can be either positive or negative!
Do your research beforehand and get a list of schools from expat directories like the New Hanoian. Also be aware, that unlike the year-round hiring period of language schools, these posts come available during the summer months of June through to August.
Teaching privates in Vietnam, especially in the big cities, is pretty straightforward. The main advantage being that teachers remain a lot more flexible and make more money per hour than working in language schools.
Finding students is a matter of marketing yourself regularly in local papers like Vietnam News, Tuoi Tre or even expat targeted magazines like The Word or AsiaLife. Private teachers also get good results by posting notices in local hangouts and relying on word-of-mouth.
Private teaching can be a bit risky given that most tutors get hit particularly hard at Tet (Vietnamese new year) when work slows down and also have to worry about the hassles of arranging visas and work permits.
Saying that the flexibility of the lifestyle and the ability to travel to nearby countries like Laos, Thailand and Cambodia on a whim is a huge benefit!
Private lessons range from 250,000 to 300,000 Dong (US$10-16 an hour), depending on experience.
Due to a booming demand for teachers, a nearly all-year-round hiring schedule and the opportunity to save a healthy amount, it's no wonder that Vietnam is fast becoming a TEFL-teacher favorite.
From great food and fantastic beaches, to vibrant cities steeped in centuries-old history, the country is wide open no matter where you choose to hang your conical hat.
Interested in big city living? Head to the teeming southern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City or the northern capital of Hanoi and enjoy life in the fast lane. Want to kick back and laze your days near the beach? Try the surrounding paradise of places like Da Nang, Vung Tau or Nha Trang. The average teaching schedule of 20-25 hours a week makes relaxing, no matter where you are, all the more possible!
Thanks to the relatively cheap living costs and the efficient transport links that run all over the country it's a great idea to travel inside of Vietnam first and see what destinations best take your fancy.
For US$300 you can easily backpack from the north to south (or vice versa) over a two-week period and get a feel for the type of teaching lifestyle you think will suit you best.
Get in on a tourist visa first and then leave your school to deal with applying for a work permit later. A good tip is to get a certifiable police check from your home country first as this will speed things along.
Once you find a place you like the look off get on the back of a xe-om (motorbike taxi) and ask them to take you to all the major English schools in the area (they will know). There's no better way to apply than in person - just make sure you dress for the occasion. Teaching is a very formal occupation in Vietnam!
Will Peach is one of the site editors over at Gap Daemon, the gap year travel website for backpackers and gap year travelers.
Do you think there is something missing in our guide to teaching in Vietnam? Contact us and let us know! We want to make sure our information is relevant and up to date.