I am Sam, 25 years old and from the UK. I quit my job back at home and I have had the time of my life travelling South East Asia for the past 7 months. I recently came to Vietnam with the expectation of teaching and I write this after finding a job that fit nicely in between Teaching and Office work. I chose Vietnam to work because of the opportunities available to me and specifically HCMC as I had already travelled Hanoi, in the north. The culture and scenery earned Vietnam one of my favourite countries I have visited.
Part of my role is to fill in the unknown and inform potential teachers of the information they need. This blog will provide some advice and tips on getting the most suited job for you in Vietnam; whether you are completely new to teaching or looking for a change of scene working here.
- Preparation is key
When I first arrived in HCMC, I rested on my laurels, perhaps too much. I had a job interview lined up but I had no other leads for finding a job. As a newcomer to the south of Vietnam, I had no idea what the best way to look for a job teaching would be; back home, I would rely on well-known recruitment websites, LinkedIn and word of mouth to search for something suitable. This guide will hopefully inform you what to expect and how to avoid the mistakes I made.
Make sure your CV/resume is fully updated and reflects you in the best light. Include a photo of yourself and any relevant experience with teaching or working with children will make for a more appealing profile. You may be asked to teach a demo class as a method of deciding if you are the right fit for the role. Employers are most interested in your experience and certifications regarding teaching, so make sure these stand out! As part of my role is reading handfuls of CV’s a day, make yours tailored to the job description.
Top tip: If you have been selected for interview, make sure you give yourself enough time to find your bearings. As the rainy season has arrived in HCMC, transport apps such as ‘grab’will become a lot more difficult to book, so leave adequate time on the day.
- Scout out the area
For example there are 28 districts in total in HCMC, some will appeal more than others, so take the time to find the ideal commutable distance from your residence, especially when the districts are not numerically ordered! Modes of transport would need to be considered, whether via motorbike or for those not overly confident driving in the busier areas in Vietnam, Grab (Bike) is a good alternative. From what I have experienced, expat groups tend to be in districts 1,2,3 and surrounding area – specifically district 1 for those who have just arrived into HCMC due to it being a tourist hotspot.
- Most contracts have a minimum length
Many schools are reluctant to hire anyone staying for less time than stated. It benefits the students tend to learn more consistently with longer term teachers, so decide on a minimum stay before applying. 6 months generally tends to be the minimum with the exception of cover work or the few short term 3 month contracts that are available. With this being said, some accommodation lettings may have a minimum
- The market is getting more competitive
Speaking from experience, there is becoming more applicants for the attractive jobs. Having a degree is advantageous (especially English or teaching specific), but not essential. Completing a TEFL/TESOLCELTA course will strengthen any application and increase the chances of teaching. It is essential however to have a positive attitude and be passionate about the job role. If you are currently looking to gain a relevant certification and do not know which one to go for, see below for the main differences – most employers will not favour either certification, but the choice is down to the suitability for the candidate. TEFL tends to be the most popular; there are many training locations and can be studied online. For more information, the guide below explains in an overview the differences.
- Visas and working permits
Understanding the process of how to apply/extend for a visa or working permits is crucial. Companies can offer to reimburse employees needing to extend their visa, but this is not a requirement. A top tip for newcomers is to explore the options they have to extend. As a British citizen, it was extremely costly to extend my Visa after arrival. After reading up on this, obtaining a ‘Letter of Invitation’ and travelling to a border country and back was the cheapest method. For more information, please see our ‘Document Process’ page on this website.
- Be part of the expat community
Using social media groups to get advice and recommendations can be invaluable. People can make friends and it is used as a platform to socialise, find housing and much more. I am part of a variety of expat groups in HCMC alone and people are more than willing to help on any issues you may have. The groups below are a few of which that I am part of:
Top tip: Additionally, one of the users has made an ultimate FAQ guide that provides a comprehensive list of recommendations for services/advice in HCMC.
- Fill your time
Some of the positions available may be cover work or part-time hours on a weekly basis. Make your diary as free as possible. Classes can run in the evenings and weekends, so be sure to utilise your time. If not with work, with pleasure! Just by speaking to local students in the park, I was invited to play in a 5-a-side football tournament a couple of days ago and had a lot of fun. The locals were so welcoming and I even had a kit made for me as part of our first match. By putting yourself out there and building connections, it introduces new opportunities which is how I filled my Monday and Tuesday evenings with teaching.
Creating an account on our website will make yourself known to potential employers. Our service is about making sure that teacher and employer are happy from start to finish on your teaching role. Email alerts can be created for suitable jobs or check the website often for new listings.
- Understand the teaching culture
As a non-native teacher it is very important to respect the teaching culture and try to embrace it. Public schools tend to have more students (15-30 students) with private/international schools catering for less students. Activities and games are a far more effective approach to engaging and teaching younger children; usually one or two teaching assistants will be at hand to help. In classes with older students and adults, encouraging debate is an interactive teaching style that students can build up their confidence and fluency with.
Private schools tend to pay more, but increases the likelihood or working in the evening and weekends. Also where they mostly require degrees. The majority of listings on the VTJ website will include course material – we realise that teachers have their own styles so tailor it to your liking!
- Do it for the right reasons
It is no lie that English speaking teachers are attracted to Vietnam for the attractive salary, which is of course a motivator. Schools want teachers who will encourage the class to speak in English with confidence. Patience and passion are two of the most important attributes for a non-native teacher in Vietnam who strive to make a difference. This is an experience of a lifetime which some people have turned into a career in Vietnam, so enjoy it!