Asia, Living Abroad, Languages and Interactions
A few weeks ago, I came across an article that claimed non-native speakers can’t get a job teaching English in Vietnam.
As a Polish national currently teaching in Vietnam for a global language school, I’m a living proof that it’s possible to find a job here as a non-native speaker.
In this blog post, I discuss how to find a job as a non-native speaker in Vietnam, when and where to look for the job, challenges you’ll face and what the requirements are for teaching in Vietnam.
Read on to learn more about teaching ESL as a non-native speaker in Vietnam.
How long it took me to find a job as a non-native speaker in Vietnam
Before coming to Vietnam, I did some research. The consensus online was that it’s better to look for a job once you’re already there.
However, I started looking for a job around a week before that. I joined a few Facebook groups for English teachers and googled “English teaching jobs in Vietnam”.
I also sent a few messages and I got a few replies. In the end, I managed to arrange one interview for the day after I arrived in Hanoi. It was only supposed to be a cover for two weeks, but it was a start.
We arrived in Hanoi and I kept sending my CV to different companies. I went for the interview I arranged before but after they offered me $15 per hour, I declined.
Especially since, a flood of responses had filled up my email inbox.
During the first 2 weeks I went for 7 interviews, turned down at least 5, got 5 job offers and accepted 2 of them.
Since then, I’ve left one of these jobs, after getting a better paid position.
Is it better to look for an ESL job before coming to Vietnam or after?
I do understand that looking for a job before moving to a place gives you a sense of security, especially if you’ve never lived in a foreign country before.
However, I personally believe it’s better to look for a job after coming to Vietnam. This is especially true for non-native speakers. It’s just easier to prove your language abilities to a potential employer when they can meet you in person.
You will hear a lot of things like “Oh, I thought your country didn’t speak English” or “We can’t hire you because of your voice” (they mean your accent).
The important thing is to keep pushing through. The better jobs will know that non-native speakers can make valuable teachers, and most of the time the ones that don’t really aren’t worth your time. Remember, for every company that won’t hire you in Vietnam because of your nationality, there a few that will.
Visa-wise, it’s best to come to Vietnam on a tourist visa. This is because most companies will make you leave the country and come back, so your visa will be sponsored by them.
It’s very easy to get a tourist visa for Vietnam. You just need to go to one of the webpages that provide a so-called “Visa on arrival”. I used Vietnam EVisa. I recommend getting a three-month visa to start with, just in case you won’t find a job straight away. The difference in price between a one-month and three-month visa is less than $20.
The good thing is that the company who employed you will cover the cost of the business visa. Some companies will also reimburse you for your visa run. The downside of this is that once you leave the job, they’ll cancel your visa. This is something you might want to bear in mind when looking at jobs for the long-term.
Where to look for a job
You can find a lot of jobs in Vietnam just using Google and Facebook.
The majority of my job interviews came from Facebook. You’ll find a lot of job posting on groups like Hanoi English Teaching Jobs, Hanoi Massive Jobs or English Teaching Jobs in Vietnam. Hanoi Cover Teachers is also a great resource for finding cover classes when you’re just starting out. Those groups are mostly from Hanoi, but there are also many for Ho Chi Minh.
I would advise against posting in any of the groups with messages like “Hi, my name is … I’m from … I’m looking for a job as an English teacher…”. Unfortunately, for want of a better word, ‘trolls’ hang around these groups. So, you might end up getting comments from people who want to undermine you.
If you make even a tiniest mistake, they’ll pick up on it. And if you don’t make any mistakes, you might see comments like “I’ve never met a person from (your country) who could pronounce (some sound)”.
Also, the better employers don’t have time to go through all these Facebook posts. So, you won’t get the best possible offers this way, and often what you do see won’t be relevant to what you want to do.
It’s better to proactively apply for the jobs you like the look of and wait for the answer. Of course, you need to apply for a lot of jobs, and you won’t hear back from all of them. But this is the case in any country.
I read that a lot of people look for jobs by going from school to school and leaving their CV, but I have never personally met anyone who got a job this way. And in all honesty, in these connected times, I don’t think there’s much point.
What you need to get a legal job
The legal requirements for non-native speakers changed in 2020. Now, non-native-speakers can only get Work Permit if they have a degree, teaching certificate and English certificate at C1 level or equivalent. You won’t need an English certificate if you have a degree in English language or teaching.
You can find a job with a major or first degree in any subject. However, it’s easier to find a job if you majored in English, Education or Linguistics. Also, your degree doesn’t have to be from an English-speaking country, although this will help.
However, Vietnam is a bit stricter than other countries when it comes to teaching certificates and they generally don’t accept TEFL certificates acquired through online courses. Because of this CELTA or CERTesol is a safer option.
You will also need a police check. This can always be done in Vietnam, but some centres might still want to see a police check from your country. If you use a police check from your country, this must also be certified at the your country’s embassy in Vietnam.
You’ll also need a medical check done in Vietnam. It is straightforward and your centre will usually organize it. They will also pay for this if they are employing you full-time. If you are working part-time, you usually have to pay for your medical. However, this isn’t too expensive (usually less than 1,000,000 dong/$45/£30).
Are non-native speakers in Vietnam paid less than native speakers?
Usually, yes, but in some centres whether you’re native or non-native doesn’t matter. You are instead paid depending on your qualifications and experience.
In other centres you might not know how much other teachers are paid as not disclosing this information will be one of the terms of your contract (although some might choose to ignore this clause).
However, you should know your worth and not sell yourself short. The first job that I was offered in Vietnam was $15 per hour. I refused straight away. I did enough research to know that this is too low, since I have several years of experience as an ESL teacher already. The lowest I would accept was $20 and I stuck to that and succeeded.
Do people work illegally in Vietnam
If you don’t have a degree or a teaching qualification, you can also find jobs where they employ you without a work permit. I wouldn’t personally recommend doing this, but I know people who work this way.
In fact, some prefer working illegally to working legally, because of visa issues. For example, once you leave the job your employer will most likely cancel your visa within two weeks. But if you don’t have a working visa, you don’t have this issue.
However, if you work illegally you not only risk deportation, but you also aren’t protected by Vietnamese law. This makes it more likely that your employer won’t pay you or just won’t fulfil other terms of your contract.
Will you face discrimination?
Some employers might simply stop being interested once they find out that you’re not a native speaker. They might try to offer you a lower pay because of that. Or they might also make you lie about your nationality to your students.
They also might not give you the best options. For example, one agency told me explicitly that, because of my nationality, they could only offer me a job at a school that was in the suburbs of Hanoi. Their recommended location was a good hour away from my place, even though other teachers were employed in a closer school.
But the most important thing is for you to remember your worth and that being a non-native speaker doesn’t make you a worse teacher. Just ignore them and keep going.
Also, a bit of advice:
Don’t automatically take the first job you are offered. Shop around a little bit. I first took a decent looking job and this meant I wasn’t able to take better jobs due to schedule restrictions. Most places won’t mind waiting a week or two, while you take a little time to consider your options.
Thank you for reading. Have you any experience teaching English as a non-native speaker in Vietnam or any other country? I’ll be happy to hear your stories.
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10 thoughts on “Teaching ESL as a Non-native Speaker in Vietnam”
Thank you for the tips. I am a home-based online English teacher but I am considering teaching English around the Asia and Vietnam is on my list of countries I’m considering.
thank you for your extensive explanation
Dear Ola, Thanks a lot for your very valuable info. I have a personal feeling that you are a great teacher and a very nice Lady. Thanks a lot again.
Hello! I wanted to ask if I have to get my documents certified in Poland or can I do it in Vietnam? I’ve been living here for six months (my fiancé’s been doing all the working so far:D) I thought non natives couldn’t get work permit, so reading your article made me happy. The only question is whether I have to send all my documents back to Poland?
Hello, I am from India. Can I give it a try?
So the Vietnamese government will not accept a TEFL certificate of a non native speaker that is obtained through online education?
My name is Cris and I’m from Romania. I used to live in US for six years and in Canada(where I was a PR). I have a TEFL. I live in Korea since 2010 and I have worked as an English teacher for about 7 years in Korea. I have a Bachelor Degree from Romania(with Apostille) and another College degree from Canada(with Apostille). Also my wife is Korean and I got the F-6(spouse Visa). Even my Visa entitled me to work any job, there’s a preference for the native speakers(from the 7 countries)> Also Korean law allows only the native speakers to be employed as an ESL Instructors. But as I have mentioned because of my Visa I am entitled to get any job, but even so the employers prefer native speakers. So I had to lie in many cases that I am a Canadian in order to be hired, even I speak with very little accent. I have accumulated tons of experience here in Korea, and I have to say that Koreans are not easy people to work with. Competition is very high in SK and Korean kids always compete with other kids> The pressure on them is very high, so living in this patriarchal society is tough. I am looking forward to work somewhere else, I was thinking of China? They accept non native teachers but the salary is 1/3 of a native!..so, I know how much I am worth!..nah…Now I am thinking of Vietnam. Do you think my working experience in Korea will help me to land a job there? what should I do? Best Regards!
Great blog, Got a lot of info, but 2021 Vietnam will most likely be different procedure on English Job hunting.
Great post. You didn’t say anything about people of color from Africa, for example, Ghana, who speak and write English with near flawlessness and with the fluency of a native-speaker
Oh wow, thank you for this insightful article. Being a non-native speaker was really a challenge since l started searching for these opportunities in 2020.l would get interviews whenever l avoid mentioning my nationality in the application documents and process, however, the truth would always come out at the end of the interview after l mention my nationality. Most would then chose not to cut me off then but would ask that l wait for final decision after they consult. All emails were ‘regrets.’ its 2022 and l am out here giving it a try and your article will really help me regarding the approach to take during the search. Much appreciated 🙏