How to become an English Teacher in Ho Chi Minh City

… and live the good life.

I am standing here, telling you that YOU, yes you, nobody else but you, can be an English teacher in Saigon, or, politically correct speaking: Ho Chi Minh City in the beautiful country called Vietnam. I am sitting actually, doesn’t matter I guess.

You are up for a change? You want to stop working 30-40 hours a week for a while? You want to experience living in a different environment?

I would call this a rather detailed article that turned out a little longer than I expected, but if you’re really interested  you can practically pack your bag and take off in 2 weeks by the time you’re done reading. 

You are reading this, so I assume you are able to comprehend the English language and chances are high you are also able to express yourself using it. That is practically all you need. You do not need to be an English native speaker. It is definitely a bonus and some schools will require it, most won’t. A lot of them will say so online, in fact, they don’t really mind. Also, don’t be shy if you’re not. Be honest with yourself, know what ages you feel confident teaching depending on your level of English. And you will do wonderful. And remember, if English is your second language you have one big plus compared to those English natives: You know how to learn a language, you know the steps & techniques. 

I can’t believe I haven’t thought of putting this into an article earlier. Many people ask about it and are interested, friends, strangers, and I contact them and offer them my help, send facebook messages, and try to do my best not to forget about important things. Obviously many people are interested in this kinda thing right now. And this of course is not specific to a city like Ho Chi Minh, English teachers are needed all around Asia. I have the experience, knowledge and contacts specific to Saigon, so that is what I am going to stick with here.

Let’s start out with reasons why. Why do so many people want to teach/live in Asia? 

  • You can make good money. Plenty to live like a king. To look at the numbers. As an English teacher in Saigon, you are most likely going to make 15-20$ an hour (opportunities for higher salaries are there), while you will be fine spending 5$ on awesome food, and around 15$ on drinks & partying all night. All that of course varies. A plus on the food side is for sure adapting to the culture. If you do that fully and embrace the street food, you will be spending no money on it at all. If you’re a girl, you don’t have to pay cover for clubs, another bonus.
  • You won’t spend too much money. See above. You can easily get by with 200-300$ in rent per month. Maybe even less if you’re lucky. Beer is a dollar, food is a dollar, find a motorbike to drive around, fill it up for 2 bucks a tank.
  • You can party every night. 
  • You won’t get fired because of it. 
  • You can do an awesome job, or you can do a bad job. It depends on how decent a human being you are planning to be whilst there.
  • You don’t need to work your ass off because what you make in an hour you could have a hard time spending in a day.
  • = tons of time for yourself. Personal projects you never got to? This might be a chance.
  • If you are a certified teacher from your homeland, this will be an outstanding experience for you. Seeing how a different culture works, how the kids learn, being able to practice with less pressure. Why less pressure? Well, because. You will see.
  • Also, if you are a certified teacher, you have the chance to make enough money to actually save while living it up in an awesome place.
  • You will get the chance to work with all ages. In Vietnam they started teaching in kindergarten already, which is a ton of fun. So you might get send out to teach and play with the cutest 3-6 year-olds, while another day you will be standing in front of thirty 16 year-olds. It is very interesting and every day is different.

Those are a couple of reasons that I came across with so far. Following I also want to give you the heads up on some stuff and finishing up I will list some contacts for you.

What should you be aware of? What could possibly shock you? Can you morally and ethically support those things: 

  • Know that they hire you for one reason: Your look. Yes. If you’re skin color is white, they will admire you for that. Kindergarten kids will pee their pants out of shock when they see you the first time and might want to touch your skin. 16 year-olds will scream and jump for you as if you’re a rockstar. Maybe you think you will love it, but I just want to tell you that it’s odd and you won’t really get used to it. 
  • Know that kindergarten is brutal and kids get spanked and yelled at from the staff. Little boy in one of my classes got spanked really hard for puking in the class room. That happened shortly before I left. 
  • Know that the system is crazy. Kids spend all day at school, 6 days a week. They get put together in classes from stupid – smart. Meaning, all the weaker kids will be in one class and all the kids with better grades in another. There will be lists hanging on the walls of high schools showing the best and the worst student of the year. 
  • Know that the system is still crazy. Know that the Vietnamese colleague standing next to you, speaking great English and having a proper education in teaching will probably make up to 7 times less than you. 
  • Again, you are paid for your skin. 

Those were just a couple of reasons why I didn’t feel like staying and teaching, after 10 months of doing so. You also have to see that you CAN make a difference, if you do it with passion. You don’t have to be the hungover teacher who is not caring. You can make a difference to them. They are a country that needs change, that is still poor and full of cruelty and sadness. They want to make a change, part of that is an English speaking nation.

Important thing to mention: What is a TA? You will most of the time have a Vietnamese ‘Teacher’s Assistant’ in class with you. I highly recommend demanding this. The Vietnamese person by your side can help students understand when they are totally lost, and most importantly, will help you keeping them focused, under control and the classroom organized. They might also be on their phones or braid little girls’ hair, but most of the time I found them irreplaceable.

2013-06-02 11.02.57 2013-07-06 10.43.15

In a nutshell, what do I need if I want to go and start my new life next month: 

  • Apply for your Visa right here: http://www.myvietnamvisa.com/
  • Read about it. Read through this website! Contact people. Contact me! Ask questions.
  • Buy your flight and have a 1000$. That will be enough to get you through the first month if you don’t want to start working right away.
  • Contact the following websites for places to rent and schools.

 

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Schools & Agencies looking for Foreigners to teach English: 

AMA – American Academy of Vietnam

AMA is one of the bigger schools with a couple of locations throughout the city. I think they are a great place to start out, as you can choose a location close to you and you will have the chance to teach private lessons within the building and also be send out to public schools & kindergarten, whatever you prefer. TA’s provided.

http://www.ama.edu.vn/en/

VUS

VUS is becoming one of the most popular schools in Vietnam and they seem to have high standards. I personally didn’t work for them and didn’t know anyone who did, but I would recommend them to you. TA’s provided.

http://www.vus.edu.vn/vi/job-at-vus/staff-positions/detailstaff/6

ASTON 

Aston is a group similar to AMA. They operate as a school giving private lessons and also as an agency, sending you out to public schools around the city. TA’s provided.

http://www.aston.edu.vn/

Green Space Language Center 

Green Space is based in the District Go Vap, which is a bit out of the city (30 min drive in daytime traffic). I lived there for most of my time in Saigon and enjoyed it a lot. They are an agency only, so they will send you out to schools of their choice. They watch you and are very concerned about quality, which is nice. Most schools they provide are equipped with TV’s and nice material for the kids. Lessons are well organised and they try to provide a TA for every lesson.

http://greenspace.edu.vn    // https://www.facebook.com/pages/Green-Space-Language-School/134879973256921


If you’re a professional teacher in any other subject and a native English speakers, International schools may be the way for you to go and to meet your higher expectations: 

http://www.aisvietnam.com/ Australian International School
http://www.renaissance.edu.vn/ British System
http://www.ssischool.org/ American Curriculum

There you go guys! Good Luck with that! Please please please feel free to comment on that post and ask me whatever you want. Also, if you’re reading this and you know something I don’t, or I’ve missed something, comment!

 

Renting in Saigon:

Try Craigslist if you want to share an apartment with other foreigners / expats living in Saigon. This might be the easiest option for you. If you’re more adventurous, try those sites, but it might be difficult to find someone to talk English to and they will try to make you pay more. So you might just wait until you have a Vietnamese friend who can contact people for you and negotiate rents with you!

http://vietnam.craigslist.org/apa/ (be careful looking for the right city)
https://www.airbnb.ca/s/Ho-Chi-Minh-City–Vietnam?locale=en (awesome, didn’t know there was an airbnb for Saigon)
http://easysaigon.com/en/house/search/prices/300-500 (price range 300-500)
http://www.vnrenting.com/hochiminh/eng/vietnam/property/Apartment-for-rent-in-District-1/

There are a couple of VNESE websites too which I used but can’t seem to find right now, you can use them with google chrome translating. Maybe I will get one of my friends to put them in the comments :)

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “How to become an English Teacher in Ho Chi Minh City

  1. Kiat says:

    Hey there!

    Thanks for your post, i found it really informative. i’m currently considering teaching in Vietnam. Would it be possible to contact you in anyway? I would like to ask you more with regards to getting a teaching gig in Ho Chi Minh.

    You can contact me at uhoobus@yahoo.com!

    Regards
    Kiat

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Hi, recently I travelled to Thailand, and I have met n heard about ppl teaching in ho chi Minh. I am curious and possibly interested in teaching English there. I am a female aged 26 with experience mainly as a dental assistant (I’ve also done an advanced diploma of hospitality management and a certificate 3 dental assisting) I have no degree and wondered if this a negative in getting work. I am also a vegan n would prefer to live with others if I did share accom. Or live in a vegan friendly area. How is the liFestyle there¿ will us white ppl (I am Australian) make friends easily¿ that is something that would be important to me having friends. What’s the best form of transport. I could bring my road bicycle from home to get around. So once you finish a course do they find work for you? If so is it quick? Is ho chi Minh fairly safe. And at night?

    1. zupadream says:

      hi elizabeth! you do not need experience in order to get started. the teaching material is provided and guidelines are given, the agencies that hire you will have you give 1-3 test teaching sessions and schedule you accordingly anywhere between kindergarden and highschool. kinderharden is so much fun :) . awesome that you are vegan too. i wan’t when i was there, and i can imagine it being a bit of a challenge. but definitely doable. if you are serious about going over, i will help you with tips and tricks on finding vegan food. just feel free to email me and as well the schools listed above with your questions! if they don\t get back to you, I will try to get in touch with them and put in a good word for you after we write a few emails. the best form of transport is definitely by motorbike, once you learn it, it is the greatest fun. dangerous, of course, but if you keep your eyes open you will be fine. i knew a few expats that were driving by bicycle. i found ho chi minh city safe, other people of course will tell you differently. as in any big city, awful things happen from time to time. I had a few bad experiences, but millions of wonderful and i am hoping to be back for a while soonish. would not exchange the experience of living in vietnam with anything! you can read a lot about different stories of vietnam on here, just check the travel bag. and if you have any further questions, feel free to email me at kristinzimmer89@gmail.com

  3. Jennifer says:

    Hello! I am seriously thinking about teaching English in Saigon. However, as a Chinese American, I reckon it won’t be so easy. What do you think? I have a Biochemistry degree from UCLA and about 1-2 years of private tutoring experiences on top of my professional experiences in biotech, sales and marketing.
    Thanks a million!
    Jenn

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