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So, you want to teach English in Vietnam…

By Peter Goudge
Some practical advice on how to get started teaching English in Vietnam

The Vietnamese government is focused on improving the quality of English language teaching across the country. Unlike a number of countries in South-East Asia – Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia for example – the days of the backpacker foreign English teacher have largely finished in Vietnam with more hoops to jump through to be eligible to work.  Over the past year or so, there’s been a noticeable exodus of backpacker teachers.

With backpacker teachers leaving in droves, there is huge demand for foreign English language teachers in Vietnam who meet the requirements to be eligible to work as laid-down by the government. Specifically, if you wish to work legally as an English language teacher in Vietnam for a period exceeding three months, you need to produce the following:

  • an internationally recognised TESOL/TEFL certificate (or equivalent)
  • a health check (original document – not more than three months old)
  • a university degree in any discipline (original document)
  • an academic transcript related to your university degree (original document)
  • a police clearance from your home country (original document – not more than six months old)

Obtaining TESOL certification (or equivalent) on arrival in Vietnam is a realistic option. It will almost certainly be cheaper than going down this path in Australia, the United States, Canada and so forth. There are some great, internationally recognised TESOL courses available in Vietnam, but like anything that costs money, you’d be wise to do some due diligence. Go and visit the TESOL providers personally. Don’t rely on forum posts by anonymous people who mostly have an axe to grind.

There are public hospitals in each major city in Vietnam that are authorised by the government to conduct work-permit related health checks for foreigners. Again, I’d encourage teachers to consider meeting this requirement when they arrive in Vietnam. Having a health check in Vietnam will cost a fraction of what you’d pay in your home country, unless you have some kind of private health insurance.

It would be a smart move in my view to have an “apostille” placed on official documents you bring with you to Vietnam – university degree, criminal record check and alike. While “notarised only” documents will satisfy some officials in Vietnam, there are others who may well question the legitimacy of your paperwork. If you go down the apostille path in your home country, you’ve covered all bases.

I’ve been living and working as an English language teacher in Vietnam for rapidly approaching seven years. It’s the people that make Vietnam such a super place to live and work and I’m very grateful for the opportunities that have been extended to me in this truly wonderful country. I’m sure you’ll have a similar view after you’ve been here for a period of time.

Written by Peter Goudge for Tefl.NET March 2013
Peter Goudge is the Managing Director of the Australia-Vietnam School of English (AVSE) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
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