ESL in Vietnam: Finding a teaching job

My partner and I considered where we would like to teach English for a couple months before deciding on Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We’re here living in the city right now, working for a major English language school. I really enjoy my job, so everything worked out. But there are a few things that, looking back, I might have done differently.

Our school in the Tan Phu district of Ho Chi Minh City. The entire building is filled with English classes, seven day a week.

Travel to Vietnam first, then start your search

During our search, we thought we needed to secure a job before arriving in the city. We had never been to Vietnam before, or even Asia, but we decided based on internet research Ho Chi Minh City would be a great location for us.

Obviously, this is where we made our first and biggest mistake. You really should travel to a country before securing a job there.

Ho Chi Minh City is really awesome and I do like it. I just want to say that it’s not for everyone. Many teachers gravitate toward central or northern Vietnam where the climate is cooler and the cities are smaller and a lot less hectic. I wish my partner Ethan and I had taken time to explore the country, then picked the right city for us.

Take your time when making your decision. Location is so important when choosing an ESL teaching job.

Save up before arrival so you have time to make an informed decision

It’s hard to believe, but it’s totally okay to land in Vietnam without a job or even prospects in mind. You can work on all that once you arrive. If you have enough money, take a week or more to explore a city and be sure it’s the right place for you. If it’s not, having some savings will allow you to fly to another part of the country and check out life there.

Every time we talked to recruiters, they sounded surprised that we were not already living or at least traveling in Ho Chi Minh City. They would ask us to come in to their offices for interviews and we had to explain that we still lived in the United States.

Explore the area for at least a week before settling on a school.

Make sure you have these basic requirements. The rest is easy.

We had this misconception because we were used to a very difficult job market at home. We were so concerned that we would land in a country and be unable to find a job that we decided on a city and agreed to a job prematurely.

The truth is, if you are a native English speaker with a clean criminal history who can work with kids, you have a good chance of finding a job in Vietnam. If you already have your TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate, recruiters will literally beg you to work for them.

Earning your TEFL certification online

I got my TEFL certificate from Premier TEFL, based in Ireland. I did the basic 120-hour course and that was plenty for every place I applied.

I learned a lot from their course, but, as you will also hear from other sources, you would likely learn more from an in-person class. Still, those run about $1,000 USD or more whereas Premier TEFL gets you the same certificate for around $200. Enroll in their least expensive course here. And trust me, recruiters don’t really care where you earned your certificate.

I’m not an affiliate for Premier TEFL, but even if I were, this is just my honest opinion. Online is the way to go. You will learn most of what you need to learn through real experience.

On the page, it says it takes six months of studying to complete the certificate. I finished mine in about one and a half months. If you’re trying to get abroad even sooner, you could definitely cram this course into a week of hardcore studying.

Join ESL teacher recruiter Facebook groups

Finding English teaching jobs through Facebook is surprisingly common. Just join a group and post your details. Soon after you post, your inbox will absolutely blow up with recruiters sharing their teaching opportunities.

A swarm of parents picking up their kids after an evening class. Qualified English teachers are in very high demand, especially in Ho Chi Minh City.

Try joining one or more of the following:

In Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon):

Throughout Vietnam:

As you might expect, some schools aren’t super legit (we’ll talk about finding a legit school later in this post), so go with your gut. If they’re begging to hire you but don’t know anything about your skills and credentials, it isn’t a good sign.

Recruiters and racism

Unfortunately, many recruiters ask to see a picture of you. It probably isn’t always the case, but it could be a sign that their school is racist. They claim that parents prefer their children to be taught by white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed teachers. I saw at least one post that explicitly asked for a white teacher. It’s really horrible, but it’s important to me to tell the truth to those reading my blog. This is not just a problem among Vietnamese schools.

Not all schools are that way, though. My partner and I work at VUS, one of the biggest and most prestigious English schools in Vietnam. There are lots of non-white teachers at our school and even a few who do not come from English-speaking countries.

VUS’s hiring process is stricter (I would recommend getting your TEFL certificate before interviewing because they ask some really difficult, specific questions about classroom management and techniques!) But all of that is definitely for the best, for both teachers and students.

Things to look for in a school

Above all, it’s important to choose a school that will help you through the visa process. Moving abroad involves a lot of stress and you need a school that has experience helping teachers will all kinds of different situations.

Business visa sponsorship and assistance

Look for a school that will sponor your business visa. Though schools will let you start your employment with just a tourist visa, they should help you work toward getting your business visa or temporary residence card (TRC). It is technically illegal for a foreigner to work in Vietnam without a business visa or TRC, but many schools will try to get away without it to reduce costs.

Besides costing money, the business visa requires quite a lot of paperwork. Think multiple different sizes of passport photos, a background check, a physical, degree verification, TEFL certificate verification, paperwork from your landlord/local police, and more. It’s not as difficult as the paperwork you need to stay semi-permanently in a lot of countries, but it still takes effort, especially since much of the paperwork is in Vietnamese. Find a school that will support you through it.

Ethan’s students make shadow puppets in front of the projector during break.

ESL student ages

ESL teachers for young learners are very in-demand in Vietnam. It’s very easy to find a job working with kids of different ages.

Before actually teaching, I thought I would be interested in teaching teenagers but not small children. After teaching a few classes of four, five, and six-year-olds I learned this wasn’t the case.

Unfortunately, if you’re a first-time teacher, you probably won’t know what age group you’re most interested in working with until you actually try it. For that reason, make sure your school is flexible and will listen to your needs. Being stuck in the wrong class isn’t good for you or the students.

Classroom rules and rewards I set with my class on the first day. Certain age groups respond to these kinds of techniques much better than others.

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Find the right job and the right city for you. Learn from my mistakes. This step-by-step guide will tell you everything you need to easily land a teaching job in a Vietnamese city.
Find the right job and the right city for you. Learn from my mistakes. This step-by-step guide will tell you everything you need to easily land a teaching job in a Vietnamese city.
Find the right job and the right city for you. Learn from my mistakes. This step-by-step guide will tell you everything you need to easily land a teaching job in a Vietnamese city.
Find the right job and the right city for you. Learn from my mistakes. This step-by-step guide will tell you everything you need to easily land a teaching job in a Vietnamese city.

2 thoughts on “ESL in Vietnam: Finding a teaching job

  1. One, THANK YOU FOR PROVIDING RESOURCES!! So many posts mention that x, y, and z are necessary, but then they never link them or places to find them, smh. Also, your first point knocked it out of the park! VISIT FIRST. The most important lesson. So many people apply for jobs out of the country…and then end up hating it there. tsk.

  2. This is such a helpful article! And thanks for sharing all the resources. I think you’re so right – it’s important to visit first. You’ve given me a lot more confidence that you don’t have to rush to secure a job before you go so thank you!

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