How to Teach English Abroad in Vietnam

By Editorial Staff •  Updated: 06/09/23 •  Teach Abroad

Vietnam is two countries in one. The north and south are vastly different from one another – not only in terms of climate but also attitude and lifestyle. Hanoi is a beautiful, slower-paced capital city that is relatively small and charming, with French-style buildings, cafes, and narrow walking streets.

Ho Chi Minh City (referred to as Saigon by anyone who lives there) to the south is the economic capital. Bigger buildings, more robust shopping, and nightlife options. More foreigners and work options. The people are also friendlier too and more akin to Thai people.

Vietnam is filled with gorgeous landscapes, great food, and a low cost of living. Mix all this with a deep culture, a history of invasion, and fascinating landmarks. Vietnam is a profitable, fun, and fascinating ESL destination.

Why Teach English in Vietnam?

Vietnam is an underrated, often overlooked destination for teaching English. With its good pay and low living costs, Vietnam has much to offer prospective teachers. The beautiful country, excellent food, good coffee, and friendly locals provide a fantastic teaching experience.

​The ESL job market is relatively strong here too. With teaching jobs readily available both in the northern capital of Hanoi and in the south in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll have no problem being placed in a good location of your choice.

There’s also an ever-increasing demand for teachers in smaller cities and towns. Perfect for those looking for a lifestyle outside of the city where you can take advantage of the low cost of living.

Where will You work as a new English teacher in Vietnam?

Most jobs in Vietnam are at private language centers for new teachers. Still, there are opportunities to work at any of the various international schools nationwide. Also, while being placed in a public school in Vietnam is possible, it’s different from the norm, like in most other ESL countries.

Instead, Vietnam follows a model similar to a Korean Hagwon in that you’ll primarily work at private language centers where students attend after school. So expect to be working nights and weekends at these private language centers.

What most teachers end up doing is getting their work permit and temporary residence card through a language school where they work 8-12 hours and then work at other language centers. This is technically illegal as your work permit is only for one school or language center.

But because most centers won’t give you 18-22 hours a week, you must work at a few different places.

Get your visa For Vietnam

Vietnam currently only offers a 30-day e-visa for tourism purposes, which can not be extended. This is your only option if you want to visit as a tourist and explore some options in the country. When your e-visa runs out, you need to leave the country. You can re-enter on a new 30-day e-visa, however.

In general, it is best to have an offer from a school lined up beforehand to get a 90-day business visa which can then be converted into a temporary residence card good for one year.

To get your e-visa, please use the official site found here.

Legal and Educational Requirements to Work as a Teacher in Vietnam:

Here are the legal requirements to live and work in Vietnam. They have changed and have gotten more strict with the newest requirement that all foreign nationals have a degree related to their field of work (not just from English teachers, but anyone working in Vietnam).

These are the documents you need to obtain a work permit which you can then turn into a temporary residence card (TRC). Once you have a TRC, it replaces your business visa. Currently, most enter on a 30-day tourist visa; they get the required documents in Vietnam to get a business visa. You then visit a neighboring country and apply for a business visa to re-enter Vietnam.

So in Vietnam, you first get a business visa, which is required to look for work or investment opportunities (but you need to be legally allowed to work on a business visa). Once you find an employer, you get a work permit, enabling you to get a TRC.

Temporary residence card in Vietnam?

A TRC, as it’s known, is used in place of your visa. A TRC provides you with all the freedoms and flexibility you’re a temporary resident. No visa runs; you can fly or check into hotels without your passport, etc. You are required to pay taxes however to the Vietnamese government, however.

Notarized 4 Year degree in education

Yes, Vietnam now requires any foreign worker to have a degree in the field in which they are designated an “expert.” That means if you want to be a teacher, you need to have a degree in education now. This is a legal requirement to obtain a work permit. In addition, your degree must be notarized.

This can be done at your embassy in Vietnam, but it’s best to take care of this before you come to Vietnam, as it can be a bit time-consuming to do in the country.

Three years of teaching experience notarized if outside of Vietnam

A massive, recent change is that Vietnam now requires expats to have years of experience teaching before being able to work in the country.

If you have experience teaching outside of Vietnam (like Thailand or Korea), you must get that experience notarized. If you’ve taught in Vietnam previously or currently, then you’re not affected by this new requirement.

This requirement is the legal standard to obtain a work permit

Have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent (or higher) and a certificate of at least three years of experience working in a related field to the job position. If outside of Vietnam, it must be notarized.

Alternatively, you can have a certificate of at least five years of experience working in the trained field relevant to the job position the foreign worker is expected to work for in Vietnam.

Health Check

You must pass a health check to obtain a work permit. The health check is done at a local hospital and consists of a physical. The health check must be done six months before applying for a work permit.

Police Check

You will need a police check from your state or province. This is best done in your home country as this takes a few weeks to get sorted. You do not need a national police check as you do for South Korea (which involves contacting the FBI and takes months to complete).

If you have lived in Vietnam for over six months, you’ll also need a Vietnamese police check.

Resume/CV

You will need a completed resume or CV to submit as part of your application for a work permit. Part of the regulations dictates that you prove work experience. This is done via a resume.

Valid Passport

Like immigration in most countries, you’ll need a passport with at least six months of validity and numerous passport photos.

Optional Requirements

Native English Speaker

Being a native English speaker is preferable but not a legal requirement like in South Korea. Vietnam, like Thailand, is a country that is open to non-native teachers. As long as you meet all the other legal requirements, you can obtain a work permit and a position as an English teacher.

Is finding a job hard as a non-native English speaker?

No, the issue as a non-native will be the pay. Since you’re not a native speaker, your going rate will be considerably less than a native English speaker.

TEFL/TESOL

A TEFL or TESOL  helps you negotiate a higher hourly rate and secure a position in a public school. Still, as far as being a legal requirement, it is not. It’s a good idea to obtain a certificate because it helps you be a better teacher in the classroom and sets you apart from less qualified candidates.

How much are teachers paid in Vietnam?

Working as an English teacher in Vietnam is different from other countries in that you’re paid per hour instead of a salary. No exceptions.

The hourly rate varies depending on how qualified an English teacher you are. The pay rate ranges anywhere from $15 to $25 an hour. The upper range is for native English speakers with teaching experience, a bachelor’s degree, and a TEFL certificate who can also pass a background check. You should not accept anything less than $20 an hour if that is you.

Most teachers can easily find work at one of the country’s numerous language centers. The language centers operate after school and on weekends. These centers will want you to sign a contract and give you a set minimum amount of teaching hours per week and a set schedule. The hours can be anywhere from 10 to 25 hours a week, depending on whether you’re full-time or part-time.

You’ll want about 20 hours a week to earn a livable salary. The cost of living in Vietnam is around $800-$1000 USD.

Lastly, everything is up for negotiation, and don’t be afraid to walk away from an offer you don’t like. We had worked with an American teacher who had a great schedule of two days at a language center in the evening and two days at a high school during the day for 20 hours a week, three days off, and a monthly income of roughly $2000 USD. He was paid $22 an hour.

When I sought employment, I was initially offered a position at a high school, only to have a bait-and-switch pulled on me. She was changing the job to a language center in the evenings five days a week with Tuesday and Thursday off and the bulk of the hours on the weekend. I said no.

What does the average English Teacher make?

The average teacher in Vietnam makes about $1,600 USD per month equivalent. You will be paid in Vietnamese Dong and have to set up a foreign bank account in Vietnam, so your school or language center can direct deposit your payment.

The amount you make depends entirely on your hourly rate and the number of teaching hours you can secure.  Your hourly rate will be anywhere from $15-25 USD, and your working hours will be 15-25. It depends.

The more qualified you are, the better hourly rate you will be paid, though schools will try to pay you as little as they can. If you’re an experienced teacher, try to secure a position at an international school.

Where do teachers work in Vietnam?

There are three places you will work in Vietnam:

In Vietnam, you must decide whether to work at a language center, public school, or “international” school. You can also work full-time or part-time. Again, Vietnam is not like other countries.

International is in quotes because most private schools call themselves international. In other countries, international schools mean a high quality, competitive, good place to work – In Vietnam, you should think of kindergarten or preschool when you hear “international” school.

It’s also impossible to work directly with a public school. You’ll always have to go through an agency (that sometimes also operates a language center) to be placed in such a position.

Language Centers: $15-25 USD per Hour

Language centers are the most common place to work in Vietnam. Popular centers are Language LinkApollo, and ILA. You can expect a language center to pay for your work permit and give you paid holidays. Some centers will even provide you a bonus upon contract completion or will pay for a flight.

Please consider joining Facebook groups and asking questions about any job offer you get. Some terrible employers (all language centers) in Vietnam don’t pay on time or don’t pay teachers altogether.

Working Hours

It depends on your contract. Most centers will give you between 20-25 hours per week. The bulk of your hours will be on the weekend. Expect to teach 6-7 hours of class on Saturday and Sunday and 3-4 hours in the evening during the work week. On the weekend, centers open at 7 am and stay open until about 8 pm, so you can be expected to work as early as 7 to as late as 8.

You will NOT be given consecutive days off. Expect an odd schedule, like Monday and Thursday off. The benefits of language centers are that they are developed, professional, well funded, and take care of all the legal aspects of working in Vietnam. They also provide small classes of 15 or so students with a teaching assistant. The disadvantages are the long weekend hours and the need for consecutive days off.

Public Schools: $15-25 USD per hour

For public schools, you have the option to work either full-time or part-time. To work at a public school, you must go through an agency. The agency will place you in different schools during the week, so don’t expect to attend the same school daily. You are also only paid by the hour, and class time is for a full hour.

Full-Time Public School Teacher

If you choose to be full-time, expect to teach 25 hours per week, paid holidays, and some short vacation time. If you teach over 25 hours, you will be paid overtime. Twenty-five hours is a lot of in-class teaching time, and most teachers get burned out at this amount of work as it equates to giving a 5-hour high-energy speech five days a week.

The overall advantage of a public school is regular working hours and guaranteed payment. So if your contract is for 80 hours per month (20 hours a week), you’ll be paid for that 80 hours even if you don’t teach 80 hours.

Part-Time Public School Teacher

As a part-time teacher, you’ll be paid a flat rate depending on your experience and negotiating ability. With this route, you will be required to get and pay for your work permit and all the costs that come with it. The part-time way gives a lot of flexibility for teachers and is an ideal option for those who teach online and are looking to pick up 10-15 hours during the week. Online teachers work evenings, so having a gig during the morning is ideal and can be done by working as a part-time teacher.

International schools: Western Salary at a legitimate school

International schools in Vietnam come in two forms. Legitimate international schools like the British International School and the Australian International School, or schools that simply throw in the word “international” to their name to seem more professional.

Proper international schools pay well (a Western salary of $2,900-4,000 a month is reasonable), have regular working hours, give paid vacation and holidays, and take care of the work permit. To land a job here, you’ll need teacher certification and experience.

Set Your Own Schedule: $2,000-3,000 USD

In Vietnam, setting your schedule by working as a part-time teacher at a few different places or combining a part-time position at a public school with online teaching is possible.

Vietnam is a refreshing choice because you’re much more responsible for your income, time, and work week. But this option is for those already established in the country. Just know that it’s possible and a common setup is to work 10-12 hours a week at a public school during the day and then teach online for 16-20 hours.

English Teacher Benefits

Housing Allowance

Only proper international schools provide some housing allowance. For all other positions, you’ll be required to find your apartment or rent a room in a house with other teachers. In Hanoi, prices are affordable, so that you can get your place. Ho Chi Minh City apartments are more expensive. It’s a good idea to find a roommate.

Paid Vacation

Paid vacation and paid holidays are standard practice if you’re a full-time teacher at a language center or public school in Vietnam.

Bonus / Return Ticket

Some language centers give you a bonus after a 1-year contract, or they will help pay for a flight to return to your country. This is case by case and not standard practice as it is in South Korea.

Cost of Living in Vietnam

Vietnam is very cheap, cheaper than Thailand in all aspects except for rent and a gym membership. You can live a comfortable life as a debt-free, single person on $1200 a month. This amount is all you will need to pay for your living costs.

If you want to travel and explore Vietnam, you’ll get your income up to around $1,700 USD. With an average salary of $2,000 USD, if you’re working 22-25 hours per week, you can save $1,000 USD per month.

The Vietnam Business Visa For English Teachers

To legally work in Vietnam, you must obtain a business visa and a work permit. You obtain the work permit FIRST and then convert your tourist visa into a business visa. You’ll need a work permit to legally work at a school or language center in Vietnam.

To work without a work permit means you’re working illegally and are putting yourself at risk of fines and deportation, so don’t work without a work permit. If you’re working less than 3 months in Vietnam, you do not need a work permit. This rule is in place to allow foreign nationals time to get situated first.

Step 1: Get The Work Permit

The work permit costs a few hundred dollars, so please plan accordingly. It’s valid for three years. You will need the following to get a work permit in Vietnam:

A 4-year degree

You must be able to demonstrate you have some professional skills. This is accomplished by having a 4-year degree. You have two options. You can either bring a notarized copy of your degree that your Secretary of State has also apostilled, or you can get your original document to Vietnam and have it certified by your embassy in Vietnam. I suggest the latter as it’s faster, easier and less costly. Check, however, with your school as rules change.

Health Check

You’ll have to undergo a physical at an official hospital in Vietnam. This document can take up to six months to apply for a work permit. Otherwise, you’ll have to undergo another physical. The physical involves standard work like blood work, blood pressure, and a consultation with a physician.

Recent Police Check

You will need a police check from your home country for 180 days. This police check can be from your state or province. It does not need to be a national police check. If you have lived in Vietnam for more than six months, you’ll also need a Vietnamese police check. It’s best to obtain this document before arriving in Vietnam.

Passport Photos and Passport

Nothing surprising here. You’ll need numerous passport-sized photos of yourself and a passport with six months or more validity still on it. You will need copies of your passport too.

Resume/CV

Yes, you will need to submit your resume. They want to confirm your work experience from former employers to help show you have professional skills.

Committee approval document + Business certification

You will obtain these documents from your language school or agency (if you’re working at a public school).

Step 2: Get The Business Visa

You have a work permit; you can now legally work in Vietnam. The next step is to get a business visa so you can live in Vietnam for the next year without having to do visa runs. To get a business visa, you simply need:

The critical item here is the letter of entry clearance. You’ll get this from whatever business (Language centers and agencies are private businesses) you work with in Vietnam. You’ll need to provide them with your visa and any other details they ask for.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I teach part-time without a  work permit?

If you teach online, for example, and wish to obtain a part-time position, you still need to get a work permit to work legally. While it is common for teachers to work part-time at numerous places, it’s technically illegal as your work permit is tied to one employer. Expect to bear the costs for a work permit if you go the part-time route.

Can I change my employer easily in Vietnam?

Yes, you can; your work permit is valid for three years and is linked to an employer. It’s a simple process of changing the employer on your work permit. All you do is get a few documents signed by your current employer and a few from your new employer.

Teach English in Vietnam – Conclusion

Vietnam is a rapidly growing and changing country. It’s underrated as a place to teach English, but that’s a good thing. You can find a good-paying position and live in a significant city cheaply. If you’ve been looking for a place with a good work-life balance, a place where you can explore a new culture and be surrounded by interesting expats. Check out Vietnam for teaching English abroad.

Editorial Staff

I'm David Unwin and I head the editorial staff here at Teach and GO. I've taught as an ESL teacher in Thailand for 5+ years at all levels of education, from elementary to University. I was also one of the first 1000 VIPKID teachers. I and my team now share my extensive experience as a teacher here at Teach and GO. Learn more.

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