Teaching English in Vietnam - The Definitive Guide

Teaching English to adults in Vietnam

Vietnam has taken the crown as the single best place for English Teachers.

Why?

Teaching English in Vietnam has plenty of generous perks which are difficult to ignore:

In addition to outstanding pay, flexible working hours – highly-motivated students are likely to fill your days with a joy like no other.

My days as a teacher are rarely complete without sincere thanks from my students.

There’s also a work culture in Vietnam that places value on foreign workers. It’s easy to find a connection to those around you.

How do I know this?

My planned 3-month stay here is fast approaching its third year!

There simply isn’t a better place for teaching English in South East Asia.

As enjoyable as these last few years have been, there have been a plethora of questions that needed answering. Unfortunately, while there were plenty of resources about teaching English available, very few of them take into account Vietnam’s unique work culture and teaching environments. 

This guide is the end result of my own personal experience, and serves as a resource for those wanting to take their first steps as an English teacher in Vietnam.

What do I need to get started?

The main attraction of teaching English in Vietnam remains its ease of access. English centres are always welcoming, and provide their teachers with a lot of assistance in getting setup.

Despite this, there are a few difficulties that you may encounter. Working in Vietnam long term involves preparing some paperwork beforehand – this depends on your country.

  • Apostilled Teaching Certificate (optional)
  • Apostilled University Degree
  • Criminal record check
  • Business Visa

In addition, you’ll need to receive the following documents while in the country:

  • Health check
  • Temporary Residence Card
  • Proof of address

Generally, teachers are required to have their teaching and university certificates apostilled before coming to Vietnam. This is usually done by visiting your country’s Vietnamese embassy with the necessary documents.

Teaching English in Vietnam – Salary

One of the biggest benefits of teaching in Vietnam is its competitive salary.

How much can you earn?

It’s easy for beginner English teachers to find a job ranging between 1200 – 2000 USD. While that may sound quite ordinary, the cost of living in a country like Vietnam allows your earnings to go much further.

Pay depends on the type of role that you take on. For example, teaching business English or in a kindergarten typically leads to the highest rate of pay. Beginner kindergarten teachers can expect to be paid between 30- 45 million VND (1400usd – 2000usd) a month.

These positions have their own set of challenges however, and usually require teachers to play games and sing songs with their students.

If that sounds like your idea of a fun day, reach out to them. These places are probably looking forward to hear from you!

Salary in English Centres

Teaching kids in an English Centre
My first year and a half in Vietnam was spent teaching young learners in an English centre

You’ll typically be paid at an hourly rate of 18 – 20 USD per hour when teaching English in an English Centre. Most contracts are for a minimum of 60 hours a month, which works out as 1200USD a month after tax. This is a minimum though. Pushing yourself to 100 hours a month would net you a grand total of between 1800- 2000 USD. There are opportunities for getting a pay rise after your first year. Additionally, most centres provide an end of year bonus too.

Salary in Public Schools

Public schools can be more financially rewarding, though these tend to be the most challenging work environments. Classrooms often consist of 40+ students, so students can be difficult to manage. However, your financial compensation will likely make up for this. Most receive pay at 500k-700k VND (23-30 USD) per hour. This can be tempting, even if you might need to risk working in an unairconditioned room with energetic kids running around!

Salary in a University

Teaching at a University can often yield 20-25 USD per hour of teaching. These jobs can be enjoyable since the students are usually determined on reaching a specific goal. Be prepared to do a lot of lesson preparation.

Salary in International Schools

International schools here are among the highest paying. These consist of small classroom sizes and better facilities. Pay is often above 2000USD a month, which makes these jobs the most sought after of the bunch.

For a more indepth look at the salary of an English teacher, take a look at the video below:

Which English Centres are popular for Teaching English in Vietnam?

Vietnam’s push to become an increasingly interconnected nation has led to many English centres opening in the last few years.

While there are some smaller centres available, you might prefer the improved technology and infrastructure of an English Centre with a strong reputation.

Not only that:

These centres are also going to be more reliable in guaranteeing a work visa.

Not sure of where to look?

Take a look at the list below of the most established English centres.

English Centres for Young Learners

Teaching young kids can feel closer to being a game show host than an actual teacher. An emphasis on games and creative activities ensures that teaching young learners is varied and entertaining.

There are also academic lessons too, but students tend to be highly motivated to learn with you.

VUS

With over 28 English centers across Vietnam, VUS is the most successful English center available. Teachers teach classes either 2 or 3 hours in length. This can be demanding for beginner teachers, but there are tonnes of resources available here to make your lesson prep easier.

ILA

This is one of the largest English centres in Vietnam. With centres all across the city, there are plenty of locations to choose from. It’s not as high paying as some of the other English centres on this list, but training workshops are available to take part in across the year, and the end of year bonus is among the best.

English Centres for Adults

Wall Street English

An English Centre which focuses on teaching adult learners communicative English. This means you’ll spend less time teaching grammar and the more technical skills of the English language (that will be done mostly by the Vietnamese teachers). It’s got a strong reputation

SAS

Saigon American school is popular for adult learners. It’s among one of the higher paying English centres, with a reported starting rate of 25USD an hour.

Teachers are given free rein of the classroom material. This has its benefits as well as shortcomings. Expect to spend half your time preparing a curriculum that suits your students.

IVY prep

Promoted as a boutique English centre, Ivy Prep promises to prep students for life in one of America’s Ivy League universities. Despite its lofty promises, it’s an English centre at the end of the day. Some teachers may also teach additional subjects like Science or Geography.

Certificates and Qualifications for Teaching English in Vietnam

Potential teachers have a number of ways of becoming certified. Thankfully, there’s a range of options which don’t necessarily need to break the bank. Some will be less demanding, while others will require your constant attention. This guide will take a look at the TEFL, CELTA and TESOL, and what the advantages and disadvantages are of each one.

TEFL course online

TEFL (Teaching English as a foreign language) certificates are the most popular for those who want to teach English on a budget. Not only is this the cheapest option of being qualified, it’s also the most convenient – with a range of websites offering online-only courses. In Vietnam, this is all you’ll need for the vast majority of positions.

How are courses conducted?

Courses are usually conducted using an online portal which usually consists of reading about the concepts of teaching and then answering questions related to the topic afterward. These questions might be multiple choice or written. Some TEFL courses require written lesson plans which a teacher marks and provides advice on necessary improvements. However, these are usually only featured on more expensive courses.

How much does it cost?

The cost of a TEFL online can range from as little as 30 usd and as much as 500 usd. More affordable courses are usually provided by smaller companies with an unproven track record, or with significantly less content than a more costly option. For example, courses for 30 USD could provide as little as 50 hours of content, while more expensive courses might cover 120 hours.  

Time needed

All it takes is a quiet week or two to receive a TEFL qualification. Those who are doing it part-time, and spending a couple of hours on it should be able to finish within a month. This depends on the length of your course.

Most TEFLs require completion within a 3-month period of signing up. You’ll most likely not have to worry about that deadline, and optional extensions guarantee this as a non-issue.

Are there any downsides?

Surprisingly, very few considering the relatively low cost. The most significant will be that the quality of courses vary between different providers. Do your research before picking the one for you. Although English centres will not check the provider of your TEFL, you still want to commit to a system that works for you.

Most organisations will recognise the TEFL, but some English centres will have higher standards and will require a more highly regarded qualification. The most notable of these centres is the British Council which requires a CELTA. Also, teaching English in international schools also tends to be more difficult with a TEFL.

Additionally, there is the lack of practical training. Answering multiple choice questions and writing up lesson plans can only aid you in the theory of English teaching. Being in a classroom is an entirely different endeavour, and one that the TEFL cannot adequately prepare you for – no matter how many video observations are thrown at you.

Should I be worried if I teach with only an online TEFL?

Vietnam’s forgiving teaching culture does a lot to mitigate these downsides. Mistakes will be made, and in Vietnam they’re expected for new teachers. A strong demand for new teachers, especially after many teachers left the country due to the coronavirus, has broadened opportunities even further.

Starting in a classroom for the first time can be a daunting experience. Taking a look at some teaching resources, like the ones shared below, will help prepare yourself.

Finding an Online TEFL

Searching for a TEFL online is made easy using tools such as Go Overseas. A helpful search engine allows you to find a TEFL course which fits your needs.

The TEFL course that Vietnam Ready recommends is Ninja Teacher. They have a 120-hour TEFL for online learners which is conducted with educational professionals with educational backgrounds from top Universities like Harvard. Take a look at their online platform here.

One of the reasons why Ninja Teacher is a fantastic option is that singing up provides lifetime access to all the course’s videos and content – perfect for referring back to anything you may have missed.

TEFL course

In addition to the online component, there are many TEFL courses which consist of practical experience. These usually consist of weekend events that involve conducting games and activities, as well as experiencing what it’s like being a student in an English classroom. Students who study the TEFL will have some experience in the classroom, though these sessions are often not assessed.

Best TEFLs

TEFLs range broadly in their cost and quality, so picking the right one for you is important. For more comprehensive courses, you could do a 120-hour course from TEFL.org. This consists of 20 hours in a classroom, and 100 hours of online content (the online section is often much smaller than this).

Premium options – Maximo Nivel guarantees some live teaching observations and Skype/zoom support throughout your course with qualified teachers. It’s still 100% online, though the experience can be tailored more to your experience and needs. At $495, it’s not the most affordable option, but it’s one of the better options out there.

Tefl.org is a more affordable option for teachers. I did my 120-hour TEFL course here. It involved 100 hours of online teaching practice, as well as 20 hours over a weekend. The tutors were professional, and I received a lot of assistance during my time here. Their in-person training is only available in select areas, so check their website if you wish to book this particular kind of course.

Teaching English in Vietnam – CELTA

The CELTA is an English teaching qualification offered by Cambridge University in England. It originally stood for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, though now stands for the more inclusive Certificate for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

As one of the most comprehensive teaching courses, it offers many advantages over other qualifications. Most importantly, it involves practical teaching in a real classroom.

As a result, it demands far more from learners than other courses. CELTA tutors are more rigorously tested, and courses are regularly checked to match up with Cambridge standards.

You’ll need to set aside a month to complete the course. During this time, 60+ hour weeks are quite typical. Keeping up with assignments and lesson prep will require your full attention.

How much does the CELTA cost?

The CELTA costs 37.5 million VND (approximately 1600 USD). An upfront deposit of 6 million VND is required to reserve a place. 

Why do the CELTA?

Unlike the TEFL, the CELTA is conducted in person. This means that assignments and lesson practice test your theory as you learn. Real students attend the course to learn from trainee teachers, which provides enough teaching experience to allow new teachers to feel relatively comfortable in a classroom.

Newly certified CELTA teachers can expect a higher-rate of pay then the average teacher, as well as employment opportunities at some international schools. The CELTA also opens the door to teaching at the British Council, which doesn’t recognise the TEFL as a valid qualification.

Additionally, the CELTA is internationally recognised as one of the most informative English Teaching courses available. It’s expensive, but it’ll pay for itself by netting you the best jobs in the market. Even if you apply for a job that doesn’t require a CELTA, you’ll be able to differentiate yourself from other teachers.

What do I need for the course?

Unlike the TEFL course, you’ll have to show that you’re serious about the course. Firstly, you’ll be required to fill out an application form and a worksheet to show your current knowledge of the English language. Teaching English in Vietnam requires a basic understanding of the language before getting started, so have a quick refresh of word types and sentence construction before starting.

Next, you’ll have an online interview involving questions about your desires to teach English, your plans for the future. Then a short essay on the subject of teaching is required straight afterward. If all is well, you’ll be accepted onto the course.

Another requirement is to give the course your time and attention. Clear your schedule. As mentioned earlier, the course is intensive and will demand the majority of your waking hours (and perhaps some of your sleeping ones too). You’ll need access to a computer as well to type up assignments and do your lesson preparation.

Where can I do the CELTA in Vietnam?

Previously there were a few CELTA providers in Vietnam: Apollo, Language Link and ILA. Since last year, Apollo has been the only CELTA course available in Vietnam. Having done the course here myself, I can definitely recommend it to anyone wanting a more thorough understanding conducting a successful English lesson. For more information regarding the course, you can take a look at their website.

Addresses:

Ho Chi Minh:

282 LE QUANG DINH, WARD 11, BINH THANH DISTRICT

T: (84.28) 7305 5567

Hanoi

181-183-185 PHO HUE ST., HAI BA TRUNG DISTRICT 

T: (84.4)7308 8666 

Ninja Teacher

Considered to be THE place to do a TEFL / TESOL in Vietnam, Ninja teacher has a strong reputation. It’s a 150-hour course that takes place over a 4-week period. During this time, you’ll be taught the theory of teaching English in an actual classroom. Next, you’ll teach actual students for a total of 6 hours throughout the course.

Why choose Ninja teacher?

Similar to the CELTA, Ninja teacher offers teachers practical experience in Vietnam. The course instructors even introduce you to Vietnam via a tour and assist you with job placements.

Requirements for the Course

Applicants for the course are required to have the following:

  • A Bachelor’s degree
  • Clean Criminal Record

How much does Ninja Teacher cost?

The course costs $1450 which makes it one of the more expensive options. $500 is required upfront in order to reserve your spot, and the rest before the start date.    

Course Outline

Ninja Teacher’s TEFL program lasts for 4 weeks in total. The first 3 weeks will involve intensive studying that consists of coursework, training and practical teaching.

The final week will be focused on job placements and finishing off remaining coursework. Even though your time on the course will come to an end, the support provided by the trainers will continue. This means access to online resources, as well as events.

Benefits of the Course

Taking the Ninja Teacher course has a number of benefits:

  • 100% Job Placement after the course thanks to terrific after-course support
  • Pre-arrival support
  • Exclusive community events and opportunities
  • Trainers with Educational Qualifications from top Universities like Harvard

You can take a look at their courses by clicking here.

The Job Interview Process

Once you’ve got your teaching certificate and you’ve decided where you want to work, the next step is for you to attend some job interviews.

It’s always best to come prepared, so prepare to answer the most challenging ESL job interviews with the guide below:

Books for Teaching English in Vietnam

Teach EFL – David Riddell

David Riddell provides the essentials of teaching in this complete guide for English teachers. Everything from classroom management, lesson planning and adapting textbooks for effective lessons. It’s a dense guide, but provides a lot of useful information which makes it an essential resource for any teacher.

How to teach English – Jeremy Harmer

As the title suggests, this book covers the fundamentals of teaching English, and even introduces advanced concepts. If you’re interested in knowing the specifics of how to conduct a speaking lesson and how to check the pronunciation of your students then this book will have you covered. Even the basics, like knowing how to introduce students to one another, and simplifying language and body language are here.

AZ of English Grammar and Usage – Geoffrey Leech

Teaching grammar can be difficult for native teachers who have picked up on the rules of language implicitly. This book alphabetizes all the grammar rules you’ll ever need to cover in a lesson. Each rule provides examples of use and activities that you could employ.

Websites for Teaching English in Vietnam

Who wants to prepare lesson material while there’s a wealth of pre-made lesson material online?

My personal favourites are Allthingsgrammar.com and Twinkl.com. For of my grammar lessons don’t use material from these two sites.

All things grammar provides worksheets about particular grammar rules. The website is laid out simply which make lesson prep easy. For example, if I want to teach about the present simple, there’s a wide-selection of worksheets that involve sentence construction or even conversation questions about the past. In addition, there are many games which can inject your lessons with a fun reward towards the end.

Twinkl

This site’s selection of worksheets and activities make it a perfect tool in any teacher’s resources. For a small fee, you’ll be able to use a wealth of teaching resources with professional worksheets.

Games for Teaching in Vietnam

Kahoot is an online website that turns your lesson into a quiz show. Students go to a website, or download an app, then connect to the quiz you’ve prepared. They’ll see a question and up to 4 possible answers on their phone to tap. Students who provide their answers faster than others will be rewarded with more points.

It’s a fun website that can be a great option for reviewing classroom material with students.

You can either create your own quizzes from scratch, or choose from the wealth of options already available.

Quizlet - Teaching English in Vietnam

Quizlet is another web-based revision tool. There a bunch of vocabulary focused flashcards on the website to access for free, though you can easily create your on card sets as well. You can print these flashcards and cut them out with their useful formatting system, and provide a link to your cards for future revision sessions.

Quizlet Live is the site’s game mode. It allows students to work together in teams to match words with their definitions. This

Teaching English in Vietnam – Challenges for Vietnamese learners of English

Vietnamese English learners are usually enthusiastic and determined in the classroom. Motivating them is usually not a challenge, though they do encounter difficulties when learning English.

This is mostly due to the characteristics of the Vietnamese language. For instance, in Vietnamese the final consonant sounds are usually only partially pronounced. A word which ends with a /t/ in Vietnamese can therefore be difficult to hear for those not familiar with the language.

Final consonant sounds

Consonant blends are also problematic. These are when consonants appear together in a word, and produce a ‘blended’ sound. Take the word ‘travels’ as an example. The initial consonant blend of /t/ and /r/ are sometimes difficult for some learners in Vietnam. However, the final consonant blend would prove to be more challenging. This leads to many Vietnamese learners to omit the final /z/ sound.

Another challenge for Vietnamese learners is that their native language does not consist of any long vowel sounds. This can be problematic when students say words such as ‘ski’ and ‘European’. Each consists of long E sounds – /I:/. These can be difficult for Vietnamese speakers to produce, as well as recognise in a word.  

Final words

Teaching English in Vietnam provides a rewarding experience. It isn’t without some challenges, but these are heavily outweighed by the benefits. The learners are among the friendliest, and they’re highly motivated to learn more about your culture.

In addition, the barriers to entry are quite small. Vietnam’s English teaching sector is booming and not something to miss for those interested in living in another country.

Then there’s the benefits of living in a country as beautiful as Vietnam. Sightseeing can be a pleasure, especially when there are so many things to see in Saigon, as well as foods to try.

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About The Author

Nathan Piccio

As a happy resident of Vietnam for the last 3 years, Nathan recognizes the benefits and the challenges of living in another country. This background has inspired him to provide knowledge about his experiences.

He feels passionate about sharing the culture, food, and traditions of the country, which he has expressed with the several websites he has worked with.

Originally from the London in the UK, he has the experience of travelling to over 30 countries, and especially loves Asian culture.

Nathan Piccio

As a happy resident of Vietnam for the last 3 years, Nathan recognizes the benefits and the challenges of living in another country. This background has inspired him to provide knowledge about his experiences.

He feels passionate about sharing the culture, food, and traditions of the country, which he has expressed with the several websites he has worked with.

Originally from the London in the UK, he has the experience of travelling to over 30 countries, and especially loves Asian culture.