Pretty much daily at AVSE-TESOL, we’ll receive a phone call or an email from a well-meaning person asking if they can ‘teach in Vietnam without a degree’ or a variation of the same question. You’ll find plenty of information on the internet about this topic, but a sizable portion of what you discover will be outdated or written by people who have got their facts wrong. This short article aims to provide up-to-date information for folks keen to teach in Vietnam, but who don’t have a degree.
Can I teach in Vietnam without a degree? It’s a vexing question. The short answer is ‘yes’, in the sense that ‘exception to the rule’ and varying interpretations of the rule in a developing country like Vietnam are more prevalent than literal compliance. Anecdotally, 50%+ of ESL teachers in Vietnam don’t have a degree. Many schools, mostly ‘mum and dad’ type operations, are delighted to have a foreign ‘teacher’ as a staff member, degree, or no degree.
If you adopt a literal interpretation of the current rules, without a bachelor’s degree or higher, you’d be relying on someone prepared to risk jail time by pulling a few strings to help you get a teaching job. Before Covid this was commonplace. In this ‘post-Covid’ era, the Work Permit landscape in Vietnam is very different. The word ‘strict’ comes to mind. Most ‘string pullers’ have taken their skill set elsewhere.
Eligibility for a Work Permit
It seems that any discussion on the question ‘can I teach in Vietnam without a degree’ warrants consideration of who’s eligible for a Work Permit. Remember, an application for a Work Permit must be sponsored by an employer, or in our line of work, a school. It’s also important to remember that a Work Permit and a visa are not the same in Vietnam; they are separate documents, each with a different purpose. But that’s a discussion for another day.
The minimum requirement for a foreigner to be granted a Work Permit in Vietnam to teach English is:
a notarised and legalised copy of a legitimate University Degree – any discipline, from a Bachelor’s Degree through to a PhD
a notarised and legalised copy of a legitimate teaching certificate – government-regulated TESOL, TEFL or CELTA certification
a notarised and legalised copy of a national background (police) check from the applicant’s home country that’s not more than six months old – in certain instances, a (local) background check carried out by Vietnamese authorities will be sufficient
a formal health check in Vietnam – typically arranged by the prospective employer
non-native English speakers (only) must also produce a notarised and legalised copy of official test results that show their proficiency in English is at C1 level (or higher) under the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR).
Here are the key takeaways from the minimum requirements for a foreigner to be granted a Work Permit in Vietnam: an Associate Degree isn’t enough, a bachelor’s degree or higher – alone – isn’t enough, the TESOL, TEFL or CELTA certificate must be a product of nationally recognised training (government-regulated) in the country of origin, the background check has a limited lifespan, the health check must take place in Vietnam, and non-native English speakers must produce proof of their proficiency in English at C1 level or higher.
Gosh, that’s a lot of information to grasp, further complicated by nothing in Vietnam being ‘black and white’. Certainly, it’s best to check with qualified experts if you need a definitive answer on where your circumstances fit in a future Work Permit application in Vietnam. If things don’t work out for you in Vietnam because you don’t have a degree – all is not lost! How about Cambodia? Holding a degree is not a core requirement for a Work Permit and related visa in Cambodia – it’s a realistic alternative.
‘Can I teach in Vietnam without a degree?’ is a common question prospective TESOL students ask AVSE-TESOL staff. It’s a tricky question to answer. Why? People do teach in Vietnam without a degree in sizable numbers, so it’s incorrect to say that it’s not possible. People shouldn’t teach in Vietnam without a degree because the law is pretty straightforward. The cornerstone of this discussion is eligibility (or otherwise) for a Work Permit. If you hold a Bachelor’s degree (or higher), quality teaching certification, a clear background check, CI (or higher) certification if you’re a non-native English speaker and you’re healthy, you’ve got every reason to think the Work Permit process in Vietnam will be ‘plain-sailing’. If, you’re unable to tick all the boxes for some reason, you’ll be relying on a ‘helping hand’ from one of those ‘string-pullers’ that I mentioned earlier.
About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and owner) of Australian Vocational Skills and Education (AVSE-TESOL) in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Phnom Penh and Online. TESOL certification (Australian Government accredited) through AVSE-TESOL provides aspiring ESL teachers with the skills, knowledge and certification they need for jobs teaching English in Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere in the world. Here is a link to the AVSE website: www.avse.edu.vn
It has probably taken months of painstaking research on your part, but I’m genuinely delighted that Ho Chi Minh City, one of my personal top-three teaching destinations in Southeast Asia, has made your list of ‘worth considering’. Teaching English abroad is a privilege, regardless of the location, but teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City affords a personal and professional experience like none other. I love the place – and the people. In this blog post, I will touch on employment options and related conditions and where teaching jobs are advertised.
Teaching opportunities in Ho Chi Minh City largely come in six forms (in order of job volume):
English Language Centres (privately owned)
Tertiary institutions, and
Anecdotally, around 90% of people who are new to teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City find their first job at a privately-owned English Language Centre or a government school. Language Centres account for around 60% (of the 90%) of total placements. You will find Language Centres the length and breadth of the country. Teaching jobs in government schools are mostly filled by Language Centres that are contracted to recruit qualified people. Independent recruiters also work in this space, but from first-hand experience, they tend to be quite mercenary. While the net income and the number of hours on offer in Language Centres and government schools are similar (around US $1,700.00 +/- a month x 100 hours +/-), the work conditions can differ markedly.
Here’s some feedback from AVSE-TESOL alumni on Language Centres and government schools:
Teaching hours in a Language Centre are primarily in the evening and over the weekend, whereas hours in a government school are exclusively during the day, Monday to Friday.
Class sizes tend to be substantially smaller at a Language Centre (15 +/-) than a government school, with 40+ students being commonplace.
Language Centres offer a team environment (in most cases) where people take a genuine interest in how each other is doing. In contrast, teaching in a government school typically involves doing your hours and going home with minimal interaction with other foreign teachers and local staff.
While problematic student behaviour rears its head on occasions in both Language Centres and government schools, it seems less prevalent in Language Centres.
Employment conditions in a Language Centre seem to be less stringent than in a government school. There is a ‘flipside’. Language Centres are notorious for expecting foreign teachers to do unpaid, extracurricular work of one type or another.
Support services and teaching resources are more readily available in a Language Centre than in a government school.
English teaching jobs at international schools, companies and tertiary institutions (universities and colleges) in Ho Chi Minh City tend to be the domain of folks who are skilled at networking and have been ‘in the loop’ for an extended period. Having said this, there’s no harm in putting yourself out there. You might be lucky! If you do secure a teaching job at an international school, a company, or a tertiary institution in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll be in the ‘premier league’. You can expect a higher hourly rate and, in most cases, substantially better work conditions. Typically, international schools and tertiary institutions pay a monthly salary of well over US $2,000.00 for ‘office-type’ hours. Company classes pay around US $60.00 for a 1.5-hour class. You’d need to get a few companies on board to make a living from company classes only. It’s possible, but a daily commute from Class A to B to C to get the hours you need will require unwavering determination given the oppressive year-round heat, the daily monsoonal downpour during the wet season – and 24/7 traffic congestion.
Private tutoring opportunities in Ho Chi Minh City are readily available, but almost certainly, you’ll need to see two, three or more students at the same time to make it worth your while. Personally, I’ve never gravitated towards private tutoring. Why? Finding private students can be hard work; cancellations at the last minute (without payment) are not uncommon, and the buzz for me just isn’t the same. You may have a different view of the world. It’s certainly worth trying your hand.
Where are teaching jobs advertised?
Teaching jobs in Ho Chi Minh City are advertised in many places, but ‘Facebook Groups’ are clearly the most popular. Simply go to the Facebook search option, type in ‘Teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City’, click on the ‘Groups’ option, and 50+ relevant Facebook Groups will show up on your screen. Join the groups that appeal to you and sit back and watch the job vacancies roll in. Here’s a selection of my favourite Facebook Groups for teaching opportunities.
Employers in Ho Chi Minh City, Language Centres and the like, have a preference for engaging teachers who are ‘on the ground’. While there’s no harm in reaching out to employers before you arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, don’t be disheartened if a response (or an interview) is not forthcoming. Assuming your credentials stack up, including quality TESOL / TEFL certification, employment applications you submit after you arrive in town will result in more job offers for teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City than you could have imagined.
In this blog post, I’ve touched on issues related to teaching English at Language Centres and government schools in Ho Chi Minh City. I’ve also noted that there are teaching jobs available in Ho Chi Minh City at international schools, companies and tertiary institutions, but you’ll need a bit of luck on your side. As a new person to teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City, joining relevant Facebook Groups, and closely monitoring what’s posted is arguably the best way to find that all-important first teaching job. Certainly, that’s the message that I hear from newbies to the teaching profession. Importantly, don’t be disheartened if job applications you submit from abroad don’t even result in a ‘common courtesy’ response. The number of positive responses you’ll receive once you’re physically on the ground in Ho Chi Minh City will more than adequately make up for earlier disappointment.
About the writer:Peter Goudge is the Managing Director and owner of AVSE-TESOL in Vietnam and Cambodia. AVSE-TESOL delivers an Australian Government accredited TESOL training programme in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Phnom Penh and Online for prospective English language teachers. Check out the AVSE website: www.avse.edu.vn Feel free to contact Peter directly with questions about teaching English in Southeast Asia; he’d be pleased to help. Here is Peter’s email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
6Brilliant Schools for Teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City
Securing a well-paid job teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is a realistic goal for native English speakers or near native English speakers who are over 21 and under 65 years of age. You’ll need advanced English language skills, a university degree in any discipline, a clear background (criminal record) check, a spirit of adventure and government-regulated TEFL Certification. If you’re a non-native English speaker who aspires to teach English in Ho Chi Minh City or elsewhere in Vietnam, you’ll also need to produce an IELTS score of 6.5 (or above) or an English Proficiency Test result of C1 level or higher.
Let’s assume you can meet all the prerequisites for teaching in Vietnam. What comes next? Schools in Ho Chi Minh City and elsewhere in Vietnam prefer employing teachers already on the ground. If you’re not in Ho Chi Minh City, getting there will be your next move, closely followed by finding somewhere to stay, even if it’s only temporary – and then, it’s all about searching for a teaching job.
With English Language Schools seemingly on every street corner in Ho Chi Minh City, you could give yourself a serious ulcer trying to figure out the decent schools and those that should be avoided. I don’t want you to suffer from a nasty ulcer shortly after you arrive in Ho Chi Minh City. Consequently, you’ll see below that I’ve compiled a list of six brilliant schools in Ho Chi Minh City that pay at least market rates, provide a safe and secure environment for teaching and learning and won’t expect you to work unrealistic hours. If you’re lucky enough to secure a teaching job at any of the institutions on my list, you’ll be in the ‘Premier League’ of ESL schools in Ho Chi Minh City.
ILA is huge in Vietnam. They have English Language Schools from one end of Vietnam to the other. Teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City or elsewhere in Vietnam at ILA comes with an attractive base salary, Work Permit and Visa support, paid holidays and a range of perks including, Health Insurance, inhouse training, annual company trips to holiday destinations in Vietnam and a lot more. So, if you’re offered a job at ILA, grab it. Without question, ILA is one of the top three schools in Vietnam, and they go about their business in a highly professional manner.
Wall Street English
While ILA is huge in Vietnam, Wall Street English is huge internationally, with 420 English Languages Schools in 29 countries. Wall Street has six English Language Schools in Ho Chi Minh City and one in Binh Duong Province, which abuts Ho Chi Minh City. When you enter a Wall Street school in Ho Chi Minh City for the first time, you could be excused for thinking you’re in a flash hotel. They’re pretty ‘glitzy’. Small class sizes, defined career pathways, an outstanding teaching and learning environment and much more, make Wall Street an excellent choice for teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City.
Cleverlearn has ten campuses in Vietnam that are evenly split between the north and the south of the country. The first Cleverlearn school in Vietnam opened in 2003, and the company has enjoyed a favourable reputation ever since. While the hourly rate that Cleverlearn pays foreign ESL teachers tends to be less than other top-tier schools in Vietnam, it’s competitive, nonetheless. In addition to ESL classes for young learners and teens, Cleverlearn dabbles in areas like preparation for international exams, study abroad programmes and corporate English classes.
Apollo is the oldest, 100% foreign-owned English Language School in Vietnam. They’ve been around since 1995. At the last count, Apollo had 61 schools in cities and towns all over Vietnam, employing more than 1,000 foreign ESL teachers. Unlike most large English language schools in Vietnam, Apollo only employs foreign teachers. Local staff occupy administrative-type positions. Workplace diversity, flexible work schedules and modern facilities are a random selection of reasons foreign ESL Teachers love working at Apollo.
With five branches in Ho Chi Minh City and one in Hanoi, Yola is ‘itty-bitty’ compared to the likes of ILA, Wall Street and the like, but they’ve made an artform of ‘punching above their weight’ in a highly competitive market. Yola is known for investing heavily in their staff – in-house training, career pathways, flexible schedules, Work Permit and Visa support – and more. Delivering comprehensive English language programmes is the mainstay of Yola’s work, but I have noticed they’re ‘making a play’ in the lucrative exam preparation market – IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC and SAT. So, if teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City is on your radar, you’d be well-advised to check out what Yola offers.
Language Link is another 100% foreign-owned Education and Training business with a decent size footprint in the ESL market in Vietnam. Interestingly, Language Link only has one branch in Ho Chi Minh City and three in Hanoi, but employs 300+ foreign ESL teachers. How? Much of the teaching work takes place offsite at government schools, non-government agencies, private companies and anywhere else there’s a need for people to build their English language skills. The diversity of the teaching work on offer and an attractive hourly rate are key reasons why Language Link is rated highly by foreign ESL teachers.
In this article, I’ve named six brilliant schools for teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City. It seems to me the common denominator with the six schools that made it to my list is how they look after their foreign ESL teachers. It’s not about mollycoddling. It’s about recognising that optimum teaching and learning outcomes will be achieved when teachers feel valued. From my observations, teachers feel valued in each of the six schools.
ILA, Wall Street, Cleverlearn, Apollo, Yola and Language Link have designated staff to ensure that Work Permit and Visa applications are finalised expeditiously. In addition, all six schools are attuned to the importance of in-house training, career development, fair pay, flexible scheduling, realistic work hours, inclusivity – and meaningful, two-way feedback.
If any of the schools on this list put an employment contract in front of you, maintain your composure, sign the contract, walk out of the building, be careful crossing the road, find the nearest pub – and then celebrate!!! You’re in the ‘Premier League’, and you deserve it.
About the author: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and founder) of AVSE-TESOL in Vietnam and Cambodia. Originally from Australia, Ho Chi Minh City has been Peter’s home base for 16+ years. If you have any questions about teaching English in Vietnam or Cambodia, feel free to contact Peter directly. He’d be pleased to help. Here is Peter’s direct email address: email@example.com
Ho Chi Minh City – local people & opportunities…
Let’s wind back the clock to June 2006. We’re seated in a quaint coffee shop. It’s located in a cobblestone laneway off Flinders Street in Melbourne. We’re enjoying a lovely brew on a cold afternoon in the middle of winter. Small talk (and Australian Rules Football) is our thing. For some reason, you ask me: “where will you be in 2021?” I can assure you that the words “teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City” would not have passed my lips.
In a few months from now, I will have clocked up 15 years living and working in Southeast Asia, with Ho Chi Minh Citymas my base. Gosh, where has the time gone? How many other foreigners have I seen come and go? Many, but I’m still here for some reason. Digger from Port Macquarie in New South Wales was a terrific mate for the first 10 years, and then he called it quits. I had many laughs – and far too much amber nectar – with Chalky over four or five years in Ho Chi Minh City, then Hanoi, and the grand ‘finale’ in Phnom Penh in November 2019. Old Johnno has been holed up in Phnom Penh for 15 months due to the border restrictions.
There were seven Ho Chi Minh City ‘long haulers’ in my immediate circle of mates in January 2020. They’ve all gone, but that’s okay. I see Ho Chi Minh City as my home. I see the school community as ‘extended family’.
So, what’s my fascination with teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City? Am I just an odd bloke who likes things that others detest? I’m referring to lesson plans; the occasional naughty student; working five evenings a week and most weekends; a harsh climate; poor infrastructure; high-density housing; rivers that you can smell a kilometre away; peculiar food items – although, ‘curried goat brain’ comes highly recommended – and infestations of rats, cockroaches and geckos like you won’t see anywhere else on planet earth. It’s not uncommon in Ho Chi Minh City to see a rat that’s the size of a monkey or a cockroach that would be more comfortable in a shoebox than a matchbox. I’m not a fan of rats and cockroaches, but to be completely honest, I could watch geckos strutting their stuff on the ceiling of my bedroom for hours. While I find geckos to be funny little fellows, allow me to share a personal gecko secret. I never wore underwear to bed until that balmy evening in Ho Chi Minh City 14 years ago when I first saw a gecko on my bedroom wall. Underwear at night has been compulsory attire ever since. I figure it’s best to be careful.
Over the past 3,000 years, there have been plenty of people like me who have ventured to Ho Chi Minh City from neighbouring and far-off lands. Whilst it’s comforting to know that I’m not ‘Robinson Crusoe’, I do make a point of occasionally reminding myself that I am a visitor here. It’s not my place to tell local people how to run their country or their life. History is full of stories about entire ‘armies’ that came to this part of the world with their superiority complexes, thought they owned the place and were eventually thrown out. While I love teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City and the ‘expat lifestyle’ that comes with my work, I won’t outstay my welcome.
When I first arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in September 2006, the local people and the opportunities captured my fascination and imagination. Why do I remain in Ho Chi Minh City after all these years when there is a comfortable life on offer in my native Australia? The answer is straightforward; I remain enthralled by the local people and the opportunities.
My personal experience with local people is that nowadays they’re genuinely happy with their ‘lot in life’ – despite the harsh climate, poor infrastructure, rats the size of monkeys and other things that most westerners would find intolerable. History tells us that it hasn’t always been like this. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese ‘boat people’ are testament that there was a period, not that long ago, when remaining in the country wasn’t an appealing option.
The cornerstone of Vietnamese society has not changed since the glorious, local hero, King Hung 1 was a lad. It was the family in King Hung’s day, and it’s the family now. In stark contrast, I’m a living example of how western culture has shifted ground to its detriment. If you get fed up with your family in Australia, the UK and elsewhere, no problem, just get a new one. In Melbourne, I always saw myself as a ‘lovely white-picket fence’ kind of chap with family and community as the foundation of a healthy society. I lost the argument in Australia, but time spent in Ho Chi Minh City has rekindled my faith.
Interestingly, the commitment that most local people have to their family, in part at least, fuels the demand for foreigners with the qualifications, skills and knowledge to teach English in Ho Chi Minh City and other cities and towns across the nation. How? Vietnamese parents want their kids to have more opportunities than they did, and English skills are pivotal to achieving this goal. There’s an insatiable demand for English language skills. This directly translates into teaching jobs in Ho Chi Minh City and elsewhere across the country, for people like me.
When I first arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, I was AUD $7,500 in debt and 44 years of age. The debt thing is a long story. It’s enough to say that the ‘lovely white picket fence’ was turned into kindling on more than one occasion. Despite previously holding relatively high, elected office and leading the lifestyle that comes with it, I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City with the ‘backside out of my pants’. In political life, there’s one ‘greasy pole’ with a hoard of smart, ambitious people clamouring to get to the top. Teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City was my saving grace.
There’s no doubt that time spent teaching in Ho Chi Minh City has been a terrific healer. I’ve been afforded opportunities that wouldn’t have been available in Australia. Ho Chi Minh City essentially gave me the chance to ‘reinvent myself’ for the better. People who know who I am and my background, have suggested that Ho Chi Minh City has allowed me to ‘find myself’. I’ve relished the opportunity to create things. Despite working at the epicentre of power in Australia for several years, I never had the opportunity or gumption to create anything. Creating new things makes the world a better place, and it does a lot for your self-esteem.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ‘dirty’ on Australia and I have long since forgiven myself (and others) for the difficulties that occurred before I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City. I love the company of fellow Aussies – Digger, Chalky and even old Johnno (on a good day) – and I pine for time with my elderly parents and family members in Australia. I miss live Aussie Rules Football, expressing opinions on political, and social issues and there’s not much that I wouldn’t do for a paper bag, full of Aussie ‘dim sims’, fried or steamed, I’m not fussy.
Yep, teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City has been good to me. I’m grateful.
About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and owner) of AVSE-TESOL in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and Online. AVSE-TESOL is the largest provider of TESOL training programmes (Australian Government accredited) for aspiring English language teachers in Southeast Asia. You can contact Peter directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ho Chi Minh City – brilliant place for a ‘Gap Year’…
Australian Vocational Skills and Education (AVSE-TESOL) is seeking adventurous folks, 21 years of age (plus), with no upper age limit, who are keen on pursuing a ‘Gap Year’ opportunity teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City.
What is a ‘gap year’?
In a traditional sense, a gap year is 12-months, before or after tertiary studies, where people do something different to what they’ve been doing – or plan to do in the future. While a gap year comes in all ‘shapes and sizes’, there is one common denominator – ‘me time’. Often referred to as a ‘sabbatical year’, a gap year is about experiencing something new at a particular stage in your life because it feels right. Perhaps you’ve just completed high school, but university isn’t on your agenda at the moment. You might be a corporate high-flyer, who’s keen on an extended break from the hustle and bustle. You might be a parent who wants to devote more time to your children when they need you most. You might be a retired person who wants to experience life outside your comfort zone. Anybody can take a gap year.
At AVSE-TESOL, we use the expression ‘gap year’ loosely. Your ‘gap year’ might be a ‘gap three months’, a ‘gap six months’ or perhaps even a ‘gap who knows how long’. The decision is yours to make. We’re sufficiently flexible to facilitate paid teaching work in Ho Chi Minh City for a period that meets your needs.
The first step with AVSE-TESOL’s ‘gap year’ initiative involves equipping yourself with the skills, knowledge and internationally recognised certification that’s needed for teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City. Conveniently, AVSE-TESOL offers an in-class, Australian Government accredited TESOL training programme over four weeks in Ho Chi Minh City. While TESOL training at AVSE-TESOL comes with a fee, you’ll be pleased to know that the cost for our ‘in-class’ course includes accommodation for the entirety of the four-week study programme. The price also covers a welcome dinner and drinks on day one, direct referral to a partner school when you’ve finished the course – and a lot more. If you’re unable to commit to a four-week, in-class TESOL course in Ho Chi Minh City, you have the option of completing exactly the same TESOL programme at AVSE-TESOL via online study – before you arrive in Vietnam.
The second step with AVSE-TESOL’s ‘gap year’ initiative involves transitioning from the TESOL programme, in-class or online, to an English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching job in Ho Chi Minh City. Post TESOL training, some folks are determined to start teaching immediately. Others choose to spend a week or longer taking in the best of what Ho Chi Minh City and elsewhere in this wonderful country has to offer before they start a paid teaching job. It’s personal choice; either is absolutely fine.
Teaching jobs in Ho Chi Minh City typically pay a salary of US $17.00 +/- (net) per hour. You can expect to teach 20 to 25 classroom hours a week. When you multiply the hourly rate by the number of hours worked, you will see that a monthly salary of US $1,400.00 +/- (net) is on offer. With the cost of living being much lower than in Australia, the US, Canada, the UK, South Africa and many other countries, you can realistically expect to save (after meeting all your living expenses) 40 to 50 percent of your salary without cutting corners. Frankly, I don’t know anybody in my native Australia who can save between US $500.00 to US $700.00 a month working full-time hours, let alone only working 20 to 25 hours a week.
If you’re looking for a ‘gap year’ experience, regardless of your age, background or the specific timeframe – three, six or twelve months, teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City is a great choice. AVSE-TESOL will be by your side every step of the way. True, the TESOL course at AVSE in Ho Chi Minh City involves some ‘heavy lifting’. You’d expect nothing less from a teacher training programme that’s accredited by the Australian Government. Once you’ve completed the TESOL course at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll be working as an English language teacher in no time. You’ll be saving money while living the ‘gap year’ dream. Do it!
About the writer:Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Peter Goudge now calls Ho Chi Minh City home. More than a decade ago, Peter Goudge set up a Language School in Ho Chi Minh City named AVSE. His business interests have grown to include Teacher Training Schools (AVSE-TESOL) in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. If you’d like more information about teaching English abroad, feel free to reach out to Peter directly via email: email@example.com
You’ve been planning this part of your life for years and the time has finally arrived. You’re heading off on an adventure, ‘uncharted waters’, teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam. Your first stop in Hanoi will be the Australian Government accredited TESOL course at AVSE-TESOL. You’ve read more than 200 online reviews about AVSE-TESOL, with the vast majority being top notch. Given your background, as solid as it is, bears no resemblance to teaching English in Hanoi, you figure that investing in quality vocational training – teacher training – is a wise move. I think you’re right. Not only will the TESOL training at AVSE-TESOL provide you with the knowledge, skills and quality certification you need to land that all-important first teaching job, it gives you four weeks to find your feet in a new country, surrounded by like-minded people who ooze ‘positive vibes’..
Here’s the last bit of perspective. This blog post is focused on what to do immediately after you’ve arrived in Hanoi, taken a taxi to your accommodation, had a shower and a snooze. The tips that are provided are equally relevant if you’ve chosen to do a TESOL course with a provider other than AVSE-TESOL, probably more so given AVSE’s supportive arrival process. Applying these tips should make your transition to a new lifestyle, initially as a TESOL student followed by teaching English in Hanoi, more straight-forward than it might otherwise be.
Tip 1: Fix your phone
Walking around outside without a cell-phone that’s immediately accessible and useable, for many people, is akin to being ‘butt naked’ in the street. Rightly or wrongly, these days, cell-phones are an integral part of everyday life, especially when you’re located in unfamiliar surroundings. Google maps (via your cell-phone), may well end up being your best friend, at least for a few days until you know the backstreets and alleys that characterise Hanoi. Moreover, once you’ve fixed your phone, you’ll be able to reach out to family, friends and your TESOL provider. They’ll all be eager to hear that you arrived safely. Here’s a word of warning, however, when you need to use your cell-phone in the street in Hanoi, it’s best to take some cover in a doorway or similar. Why? You’ll reduce the chance of being subjected to a ‘ride-by’ snatch – a crook on a motorbike.
Getting your phone up and running might be a simple case of inserting a new (local) SIM card. Conversely, it might be a nightmare. If you’re a cell-phone guru, you’ll be fine. If this doesn’t sound like you, visiting a cell-phone shop close to your accommodation should be a priority. The good news is, cell-phone shops in Hanoi are seemingly on every street corner. The receptionist in your hotel or guest house will surely point you in the right direction.
In the unlikely event that you’ve travelled abroad without a cell-phone, you will need to get one. Jobs offers for teaching English in Hanoi are typically made by phone. If the employer can’t reach you by cell-phone, he (or she) will simply move onto the next candidate.
Note, fixing your cell-phone at the airport – a common ‘rookie’ error – will cost you substantially more than visiting a ‘mum and dad’ phone shop downtown.
Tip 2: Know the local neighbourhood
Now that your cell-phone is in working condition and you can tap your best mate ‘Google Maps’ on the shoulder, there is less chance that you’ll get lost in Hanoi when you venture out. So, venture out. It’s time to get to know the neighbourhood where you’re staying, even if your current accommodation is only a short-term thing. Before venturing into the unknown, even though you have ‘Mr Google Maps’ in your pocket, take a business card from the place where you’re staying or write the address on a bit of paper and put it in your wallet as a back-up strategy to avoid getting lost. Worst case scenario, let’s assume you do get lost. For sure, you will find the way back to your accommodation sooner or later, if only because downtown Hanoi isn’t that big. Anyway, it could be argued that getting lost in Hanoi is all part of the adventure.
Where is the grocery store, the pharmacy, the bus station, a great coffee shop, an area for passive recreation and most importantly for visitors to Hanoi who have done their research, the local ‘Bia Hoi’? What’s a Bia Hoi? Do a quick Google search and then make a point of visiting one when you’re in Hanoi.
Familiarising yourself with the neighbourhood extends to working out how to get to the address where your TESOL course will take place. Again, Google Maps will come in handy, but something as simple as a ‘Mud Map’ with landmarks might be enough. Doing a ‘dry run’ from your accommodation to the training venue would be time well-spent.
Tip 3: Bond with those around you
Assuming your TESOL course in Hanoi comes with high quality accreditation, like the Australian Government accredited programme at AVSE-TESOL, you’ll be mixing with people – classmates, professional Vocational Trainers and TESOL support staff – who are on the very same journey as you, or are leading the way. You’ll be with like-minded souls. It’s within this kind of environment where life-long personal and professional relationships are formed.
When you’re in a foreign country, friends are more important than ever. Almost certainly you’ll need to reach out at some stage for guidance on visa matters, travelling around Vietnam, where to get a job teaching English in Hanoi, where not to work, employment or lease contracts and the list goes on. It makes sense to have a pool of decent people you can call on when they’re needed. Human nature dictates that people are usually happy to give a helping hand to someone they consider to be a friend. As always, people will be more likely to consider you as a friend, if you’re respectful and nice to them.
Tip 4: Take safety precautions
Statistics show that Hanoi is markedly safer than the capital cities of most developed countries, but crime, especially petty crime, does occur. Foreign ‘tourists’ are ‘standout’ targets when they ‘flash their cash’ or get around town with their valuables on display – cameras, jewelry and suchlike. You will see this kind of behaviour pretty much on a daily basis in main tourist areas in Hanoi. I suspect it has more to do with ignorance than anything else.
When a villain is apprehended by the police – or a member of the community – there are no ‘ifs and buts’. Justice Vietnamese-style is swift and often brutal. Vietnam is one of those countries in the world where it’s not a good idea to transgress the law, regardless of whether you’re a local person or a visitor.
While Hanoi (and elsewhere in Vietnam) has a well-deserved reputation for being safe, it’s always smart to take precautions including, but not limited to: store your money, passport and other valuables in a place that’s secure; know how to get into your accommodation after hours; be accompanied by friends when walking in the street at night; don’t use your cell-phone when standing or walking in the street; if you have to carry a bag in the street, make sure it has a long strap so you can place it across your body; if you hire or buy a bicycle (or motorbike) to get around Hanoi, make sure it’s locked when left unattended; and know who to call in case of an emergency. It’s common for folks who are teaching English in Hanoi to have evening classes that go to 8.30pm and even later. Travelling home (alone) after a late class requires extra vigilance. All of these precautions equally apply to any other city in the world.
Tip 5: Always remember that you’re a visitor
I have been living and working in Vietnam for more than 15 years. Back in 2007, my old dad visited me in Vietnam. During this trip, he mentioned in passing ‘always remember you’re a visitor’ – and to this day, I’d like to think that I’ve heeded his astute advice.
Vietnamese people have every reason to be peeved with foreigners. For 3,000+ years, foreigners have felt the need to turn up without an invitation and tell local people how to run their life. Despite what’s happened throughout history, almost certainly you will form a view that Hanoians and other Vietnamese folks are up with the loveliest the world has to offer. Those who felt the need to trespass have long since been forgiven. These days, foreigners who are teaching English in Hanoi, are revered. Personally, I’d like to keep it that way.
You and I – and hundreds of thousands like us – are now welcome in Vietnam, but as my old dad said ‘always remember you’re a visitor’. Be polite. Go about your work teaching English in Hanoi in a professional manner. Respect local customs and traditions. Don’t get involved in discussions about politics and religion. If there are language problems, be mindful that in Vietnam people speak Vietnamese and if you’re having issues with understanding something or getting your point across – they’re your issues. To drive home the importance of ‘always remembering you’re a visitor’, here’s a succinct analogy: when visiting a friend or neighbour’s house, would you take it upon yourself to rearrange their furniture? I don’t think so.
In summary, I’ve provided 5 tips that should make it easier for you to your new life as a TESOL student in the short-term and then teaching English in Hanoi. Fix your phone, know what’s available, make an effort to network, take sensible steps to enhance your safety and be respectful towards locals. You’ve been brave enough to embark on this ‘once in a lifetime’ adventure, so it makes sense to grab the opportunity with both hands.
About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and owner) of AVSE-TESOL in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City,Phnom Penh and Online. AVSE-TESOL has been training aspiring educators for jobs teaching English in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and other parts of Southeast Asia for more than a decade. Check out the AVSE website: www.avse.edu.vn
Teaching English in Hanoi versus teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City
I am often asked if teaching English in Hanoi is better than teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City or vice versa. How do you answer that kind of question with so many variables, including personal preference? Typically, I’ll offer comparisons between the two destinations and remind the person who asked the question that neither place has to be their forever teaching location. If you’ve had enough of a particular teaching destination, move to a new one. Teaching English in Vietnam and elsewhere abroad is one of only a few professions that allow moving from location A to B to C with minimal fuss. Why? There are many more ESL teaching jobs available in Vietnam than there are suitably qualified people to fill them. This is one time in your life when ‘market forces’ will well and truly work in your favour.
Immediately below, you’ll find five comparisons between teaching English in Hanoi and teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City. I trust you’ll find the comparisons helpful if you’re one of those people who’s not sure whether north (Hanoi) or south (Ho Chi Minh City) should be your teaching English abroad start point.
One – Pace of life:
Teaching English in Hanoi offers a much slower pace of life compared to teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City. With a bohemian feel, you’ll find an aspect of art, culture, or history in every street in Hanoi – in some streets, you’ll find all three. In contrast, Ho Chi Minh City is a modern metropolis and international hub. There are places in Ho Chi Minh City that provide an insight to the ‘old Vietnam’; Ben Thanh Market, and the Quan Am Pagoda are two examples, but increasingly the landscape is being consumed by high-rise apartments and offices.
Two – Weather:
Teaching English in Hanoi comes with the classic four seasons – with a Southeast Asian variation – hot and wet in the summer months and cold and dry in winter. Ho Chi Minh City has only two seasons, wet and dry. The wet season is characterised by high humidity and a daily downpour, the like of which most folks have never witnessed before travelling to Ho Chi Minh City. As the name suggests, there’s zero rain during the 6-month dry season. Regardless of the season, Ho Chi Minh City is oppressively hot 24/7.
Three – Teaching jobs:
The availability of English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching jobs is one area where Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are hard to separate. There is an abundance of ESL teaching jobs available in both locations. Moreover, the type of ESL teaching work on offer is similar. In both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, teaching jobs are available in privately owned English Language Centres, government schools and tertiary institutions. Private tutoring and onsite ESL classes for business people are also common in both cities.
Four – Cost of living:
There are some cost-of-living factors, accommodation, for example, that are seemingly more expensive in Hanoi compared to Ho Chi Minh City. Equally, there are other cost of living factors; food is one example that comes to mind, that are more expensive in Ho Chi Minh City compared to Hanoi. Overall, the cost-of-living difference between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is negligible, if it exists at all. By any measure, Vietnam is a cheap place to live. The wages and employment conditions afforded to foreigners who are teaching English in Hanoi – and Ho Chi Minh City provide for a savings capacity and lifestyle that most people can only dream about.
Five – Crime:
Personally, I have always felt safer in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and elsewhere in Vietnam than I did when I was living in Melbourne, Australia – my hometown. Of course, scams and petty crime are not uncommon in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but the prevalence is not a distinguishing factor between the two cities, in my opinion. Sure, there are places where it would be unwise to walk alone at night in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and you do need to avoid rookie errors like using your cell phone in the street and carrying your wallet in your back pocket, but the same applies to pretty much every city in the world.
In this blog post, I have touched on five factors that people commonly weigh up when deciding whether to start their teaching abroad journey in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. The pace of life and the weather are obvious differences between the two cities. However, if there is a difference between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with the availability of teaching jobs, the cost of living and crime, it wouldn’t be enough to say that one of the two locations is a better place to work as an ESL teacher over the other. Overall, that old expression, ‘same, same, but different’, certainly applies when drawing comparisons between teaching English in Hanoi and teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City.
About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director and owner of AVSE-TESOL in Australia, Vietnam and Cambodia. With TESOL training schools in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh, Peter has spent the past two decades working in the ESL sector in Southeast Asia. Check out the AVSE-TESOL website: www.avse.edu.vn
‘Me Time’ While Teaching English in Hanoi
I’ve got it pegged that you’re here because teaching English in Hanoi is on your radar. Of course, it might be a far-off ‘blimp’, a flashing red light with a deafening siren, or somewhere in between. Regardless, it’s terrific that Hanoi is on your mind. You’re in for a treat. It’s a fascinating city. I can’t think of anywhere else in the world where you’ll find so much history, art and culture in one place. Yes, it’s chaotic, densely populated, and the quirky weather – hot, humid, and wet for half of the year and dry and cool for the other half – takes time to get used to, but you’re in the market for change. Correct?
Teaching English in Hanoi comes with a range of benefits, including: a decent salary, the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of local people, a much lower cost of living compared to western countries, and the chance for plenty of ‘me time’. Personally, I’m a big fan of ‘me time’. It’s good for the heart and soul. My version of quality ‘me time’ involves being out and about rather than sitting in front of the ‘telly’. If your version of the best ‘me time’ is like mine, being out and about, here’s a list of five places in Hanoi you’ll absolutely love.
Train Street in Hanoi is a popular destination for local people and visitors because it’s so unusual, and there are always plenty of people ‘hanging out’. Most railway lines in developed countries come with an easement of ten to fifteen metres on both sides of the track to protect people and property. The easement in Train Street on the left and right-hand side of the track is twenty centimetres (+/-). There are rows of old houses on both sides of the track on Train Street. Many have been converted into restaurants, cafes and bars. Somehow, trains squeeze between the dwellings day in and day out with zero ‘wriggle room’. Pull up a chair, order a cold beer and wait for a train to go by. It’s a sight to behold.
Underground shopping mall
People go to shopping malls for all kinds of reasons – to buy things, see a movie, catch up with friends and the like. However, Hanoi is one of the few places where people visit a shopping mall to experience subterranean life. The Vincom Mega Mall in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan District is entirely underground. The outside roof of the mall is a park, similar to a park you find in any other major city. While the 800+ retail shops at Mega Mall are the key drawcard for most visitors, the quirky design of the building is enough reason to pop down there when you have a chance.
Hoan Kiem Lake
As much as you’ll love teaching English in Hanoi, finding the right balance between work and ‘me time’ is imperative. The Hoan Kiem Lake precinct in Hanoi is ‘me time’ central. There is always something happening at Hoan Kiem Lake and the surrounding area that will capture your interest. You’ll see people of all ages and backgrounds jogging, taking a stroll, walking their dog, ‘people watching’, playing board games and sharing quiet time with a friend. Informal, dance and exercise classes take place every evening at Hoan Kiem Lake. Step outside your comfort zone and join in. You won’t be imposing. You’ll be welcomed with open arms.
If the walls in ‘Cafe Dinh’ could talk, there’d be enough material for a bestseller. The coffee and ambience at this place are superb. It’s like being in a time warp. Located on the second floor of an old, decaying building overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake, it’s easy to miss Café Dinh. But once you find it, I’m confident it will make it to your list of ‘me time’ destinations while you’re teaching English in Hanoi. Interestingly, a family member of the current owners created the original ‘coffee with egg’ recipe in the 1940s, that’s a favourite of pretty much every Hanoian I’ve met. Unfortunately, the ‘coffee with egg’ concoction and my taste buds don’t get on very well, but you should try it at least once.
Bach Thao Park
London has Hyde Park, New York has Central Park, Melbourne has Treasury Gardens – and Hanoi has Bach Thao Park, also known as the Hanoi Botanical Gardens. With mature trees, lakes and open space – yes, there’s grass – Bach Thao Park is like an oasis in the middle of an urban jungle. The park is very popular with Hanoians and foreigners seeking to escape city life’s hustle and bustle. I read somewhere that Bach Thao Park is the ‘lung’ (singular) of Hanoi. While I think that’s an exaggeration, you’ll undoubtedly appreciate the greenery. Lay out a blanket under one of the beautiful, old trees at Bach Thao Park, open a book, and you’ve got half a day of ‘me time’ at zero cost.
In this short article, I have identified five places that are well worth considering when you’ve got time away from your job teaching English in Hanoi. Train Street and Mega Mall rated a mention because they’re so unusual. Next, Hoan Kiem Lake and Bach Thao Park are brilliant locations for ‘me time’, offering serenity that can be hard to find in a big city. Finally, the ambience and history of Cafe Dinh make this place my personal ‘me time’ favourite location. Visit Cafe Dinh once, and it will almost certainly be your ‘me time’ favourite.
Have you already visited one or more of the five locations on my ‘me time’ list? If so, share your opinion in the comments section below.
About the author: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and founder) of AVSE-TESOL in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. AVSE-TESOL delivers an Australian Government accredited TESOL programme in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. Check out the AVSE-TESOL website: www.avse.edu.vn
Don’t forget insurance
The key indicators – job advertisements, pay rates, ‘me time’, cost of living – suggest that Hanoi, Vietnam, is one of the hottest destinations worldwide for adventurous people who are keen on teaching English abroad. If you’re somebody who is thinking about teaching English in Hanoi, here’s some advice. Do it. Assuming your credentials are in order, you’ll find a job with relative ease, earn a decent wage and only work 100 hours (+/-) a month. When the low cost of living is added to the mix, there’s a quintessential expat lifestyle on offer.
While there is every reason to believe that your experience teaching English in Hanoi will be rosy like my own over the past 15 years, and tens of thousands of others over the past three decades, travelling anywhere abroad comes with risks. Heaven forbid you have a motorbike accident, pick up a horrible bug of some kind, be attacked by a rabid dog or meet some other misfortune. We might think that we’re indestructible, but the reality is, we’re not.
The consequences of meeting misfortune while abroad, as distinct from home turf, is where problems arise. Days, weeks or perhaps even months recuperating in a Vietnamese Public Hospital do not come cheap for foreigners. There are sad stories all over the internet of mums and dads in England, the US, Australia and elsewhere being lumbered with substantial medical bills because their son or daughter had an accident, got sick or suffered an injury while teaching English in Hanoi – and they didn’t have insurance. Travelling abroad without insurance is irresponsible! If you’re unable to meet the cost of basic insurance for the time you plan to spend in Vietnam, then it’s best to put your plans on hold. It’s that important.
Like you, I’m not happy about paying insurance premiums of any kind, but the idea that my old mum and dad (both in their 80s) would be forced to mortgage or sell their house to cover my medical bills or to ship my mortal remains back to Australia, fills me with horror. Without wishing to alarm you, I know six expats who have been shipped home in a box and two in a vase, during my time in Vietnam. In each case, the costs were passed onto the next of kin. You cannot assume that your job teaching English in Hanoi will come with insurance coverage. Some do, but 90%+ don’t.
Decent travel insurance with medical coverage is relatively easy to find with a simple Google search. ‘Compare, compare, compare’ is the key to getting a good deal. Once you think you’ve found a good deal, then it’s time to use your bargaining skills to get an even better deal. You may be surprised to learn that insurance costs are less than you expected and the inclusions are more than you expected. Personally, I’m covered by World Nomads, and I have been for all but one year of my teaching abroad journey. Here are some of the key items that a decent insurance policy will cover:
Medical: This is not an area where you can scrimp. Your insurance policy needs to cover all medical expenses – inpatient and outpatient – in the event of an accident, sickness or injury while you’re teaching English in Hanoi. The language typically used in a travel insurance policy is ‘Unlimited’, or words to that effect. You need ‘Unlimited’ medical coverage.
Baggage:It’s about the replacement cost of items that are lost, stolen or damaged while you’re abroad. Depending on the value of your possessions, this might be an area where you can reduce your insurance premium. If your possessions aren’t worth much, you should ask the insurance provider if you can obtain a cheaper fee by: 1. excluding ‘Baggage’ from the policy; or 2. only covering items that will be costly to replace.
Trip cancellation: If you need to cancel your travel plans for whatever reason, you’ll be able to claim non-refundable payments. For example, you may have paid US $800.00 for airfare from Rome to Hanoi. You need to cancel your ticket. The airline charges you a cancellation fee of US $250.00. It’s possible (depending on ‘Deductibles’) that your insurance will cover the US $250 fee. Trip cancellation is an area where you can be thrifty following a simple risk versus benefit analysis. It’s worth considering.
Death or disability: The cost of having mortal remains shipped from Vietnam to another country is astronomical, in the realm of someone having to mortgage their house. Without insurance, either a family member or friend will have to meet all expenses to get you home for burial. The alternatives are to be ‘shelved’ in a Vietnamese mortuary as an unclaimed body or to be ‘unceremoniously’ cremated and posted home. Both options are frightful. The consequences of suffering some kind of permanent disability while you’re in Vietnam are equally dire without insurance. Scrimping with death or disability cover is unwise.
Pretty much every travel insurance policy that I have seen references ‘Deductibles’ by way of a monetary sum. The term ‘Deductibles’ is insurance jargon for what you must contribute in the event of a claim before your insurance policy kicks in. For example, let’s say you’re out with your mates on a Friday night, you walk into a wall and break your nose. The total cost of getting your nose fixed in Hanoi is US $1,000.00. Your ‘Deductibles’ are US $650.00. At best, your insurance provider will reimburse you US $350.00 (US $1,000.00 – US $650.00 = US $350.00). Why have I raised ‘Deductibles’ in this post? Firstly, most people don’t know they exist until they make a claim – and receive a lower payment than they expected. Secondly, you might be able to use the ‘Deductibles’ number to achieve a lower premium for your insurance policy. The higher the ‘Deductibles’, the lower the premium. Suppose your goal is to be covered for high-cost, ‘worst-case scenario’ type situations during your time teaching English in Hanoi. In that case, you might choose to increase the ‘Deductibles’ to a sum that’s terrible to contemplate, but is manageable, in exchange for a cheaper insurance policy.
The message in this short article is straightforward. Teaching English in Hanoi is an ‘adventure of a lifetime’, but make sure you’re covered by medical, death and disability insurance (as a minimum). If you have an accident, get sick, suffer an injury or worse – and you’re not covered by insurance – your ‘adventure of a lifetime’ may well end up being a nightmare. If you’re unable to pay for insurance before departing from your home country, put your plans on hold until you can. Shop around until you find an affordable insurance policy, that comes with the coverage you need – and ‘Deductibles’ that are manageable.
Enjoy your time teaching English in Hanoi. Most importantly, stay safe.
About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and owner) of AVSE-TESOL in Vietnam and Cambodia. AVSE-TESOL offers an Australian Government accredited TESOL programme in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and online – a brilliant pathway for people looking to teach English in Southeast Asia and beyond. Visit the AVSE-TESOL website: www.avse.edu.vn
Teaching English in Hanoi to clear student debt
My name is Monica Willow. I’m from Denver, Colorado. AVSE-TESOL asked me to write a Guest Post for their Vietnam Blog, and I’m delighted to help out. I’ll take this opportunity to share my personal experience with teaching English in Hanoi as a way to clear student loan debt.
Attending university or college in the United States is expensive. Every year, students take out loans to further their education. I’m no different to millions of students in America and around the world doing the same thing. Accumulating student debt is the ‘norm’ for people who want a tertiary education. Literally, millions of Americans living in the world’s most prosperous country are left debt-ridden because they pursued a university or college degree. There are reported cases of people carrying student debt from their early twenties through to retirement age.
I completed a Social Work Degree at the University of Southern Mississippi in 2014. By the time I graduated, my student debt was just shy of US $50,000. You might be surprised to learn that the debt I had accumulated was only a fraction of what some university friends and acquaintances had amassed. Within a month of finishing my degree, I moved back to Denver to live with my mum and dad. My thinking at the time was that I’d be able to: 1. find a well-paid job in Denver because of my degree, and 2. chip away at my student debt because I’ll be living rent-free at my parent’s place.
Within a week of moving back to Denver, I found the job of my dreams. Good news! Well, not exactly. It took less than two months to realize that the ‘job of my dreams’ doesn’t pay enough to cover everyday expenses, let alone to reduce my student debt. I was working long hours as a professional Social Worker and getting nowhere fast. My social life was non-existent because I was ‘penny-pinching’ and if it weren’t for the free accommodation at my parent’s place, my student debt repayments wouldn’t have even covered the interest. Was I naive? I think so. My life at the time was soul-destroying. I needed a new approach that would allow me to meet my financial commitments while enjoying a ‘normal’ life – spending time with friends, going to movies, dancing, eating out, pursuing a hobby, and doing other things that I enjoy.
Vietnam, here I come
In April 2015, a friend of mine from university, Tory, sent me a Facebook message about her life teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam. Tory’s message piqued my interest. I’d especially noted that I could earn more working as an English language teacher in Hanoi than working as a Social Worker in Denver. Moreover, everyday expenses in Hanoi are markedly less than in Denver. Putting the financial aspect to one side, I’d always wanted to travel outside of the United States and experience other cultures. Tory had traveled to Hanoi within days of completing her degree. The ability to make a snap decision (and live with the consequences) is one of Tory’s many positive attributes. I tend to procrastinate, but not on this occasion. Fast forward six weeks, I arrived in Hanoi on 27 May 2015.
Ask me about Social Work (or movies), and I’ll ‘gasbag’ forever because it’s what I know. Teaching English abroad requires a new skill set, knowledge, and internationally recognized certification. It’s not enough to hold an American Passport or be a native English speaker to take on a job as a professional English teacher. With this in mind, I chose to follow in my friend’s footsteps and enroll in the Australian Government accredited TESOL program (teacher training) at AVSE-TESOL in Ba Dinh District in Hanoi. I loved the people at AVSE-TESOL. I also loved the intensive 4-week TESOL course. The certification that comes with the TESOL course at AVSE-TESOL is highly regarded by Vietnamese schools. With TESOL certification from AVSE, I started teaching English in Hanoi on 29 June 2015.
It’s now summer in 2019. I’m sitting in Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, writing this blog post while waiting for a flight back to the US. I’ve spent the past four years teaching English in Hanoi. Where has the time gone? It has been a privilege. How lucky was I to learn about this opportunity? Very lucky! On top of making many wonderful friends, Vietnamese, and other expats, I’ve seen tangible results flow from my teaching work. I’ve traveled extensively in Asia – and I’ve managed to clear US $45,000+ of student debt. Yes, I still have another US $5,000 to go, but it’s manageable. Vietnam has been good to me. I’m grateful.
Here’s a crude outline of my financial arrangements during the almost four years that I taught English in Hanoi.
Average month salary (Language Center + Online): US $2,300.00
Number of months worked (including paid leave, excluding vacations & unpaid training): 42
Average hours worked per month: 108
Average monthly rent + utilities: US $350.00 (predominately single room in a shared house)
Average monthly expenses (food, personal items, socializing, motorbike…): US $600.00
Calculation: US $2,300.00 x 42 = US $96,600.00 – US $39,900.00 (US $350.00 + US $600.00 x 42) = US $56,700.00 (in the black). Of the US $56,700.00 that I cleared (after all expenses) from teaching English in Hanoi, US $45,280.00 was used to reduce my student debt and the balance was spent on airfares, my TESOL training, traveling and other sizable, one-off expenses. I should reiterate, this is a crude estimate.
Being saddled with student debt is the reality for many Americans of my generation. People work long hours for an eternity and lead unfulfilling lives because it’s the only way they know to clear their debt. If you’re anything like I was, up to my eyeballs in student debt, consider teaching English in Hanoi or elsewhere in Asia to turn your life around. This simple debt-clearing strategy worked for me. There’s every reason to believe that it will also work for you.
About the writer:Monica Willow arrived in Vietnam in May 2015 with some firm goals in mind. Working as an English teacher in Hanoi to clear accumulated student debt was one of those goals. An Alumni of AVSE-TESOL in Hanoi, Monica’s ‘good news’ story can also be yours. Check out the AVSE website: https://avse.edu.vn/
Studying abroad is an exciting opportunity for students to immerse themselves in a new culture, gain new perspectives, and develop new skills. One of the most important considerations for students who want to study abroad is their proficiency in the English language, as most countries where English is not the native language still use it as the language of instruction.
The purpose of this blog is to provide an overview of the most common English proficiency exams that students might have to consider if they are planning to study abroad. The blog will also provide tips for choosing the right exam, preparing for the exam, taking the exam, and understanding the results. The goal is to help prospective study abroad students make informed decisions about their English proficiency testing, and to help them feel more confident and prepared as they embark on their study abroad journey.
Here’s one last bit of perspective. Taking exam preparation classes has been the focus of my teaching work in Vietnam since 2018. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support and encouragement from the good people at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City, where I originally did my TESOL training.
Common English Proficiency Tests
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): TOEFL is one of the most widely recognized English proficiency exams in the world. It is designed to assess the English language abilities of non-native speakers who are planning to study in English-speaking countries. TOEFL measures reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an internationally recognized language proficiency test for non-native English speakers. It measures the language abilities in four key areas: listening, reading, writing and speaking. The test is designed to assess the English language skills of people who need to study or work in English-speaking countries.
IELTS scores are used by a variety of organizations, including universities, immigration departments, and professional bodies, as a way of measuring English language proficiency. The test is available in two formats: the Academic module and the General Training module. The Academic module is intended for people who want to study at the university level, while the General Training module is designed for those who need English for work, migration, or training purposes.
IELTS results are based on a 9-band scale, with scores ranging from 0 to 9. The test is marked by trained and certified IELTS examiners and results are available online 13 days after the test date.
PTE (Pearson Test of English): PTE Exam is an English language proficiency test for non-native English speakers. It is designed to assess the English language skills of people who need to study or work in English-speaking countries. PTE measures English language abilities in four key areas: speaking and writing, listening, and reading.
PTE is a computer-based test and uses advanced technology to accurately measure language abilities. The test is designed to be completed in one sitting, usually lasting around 3 hours. The speaking and writing sections are conducted in real-time, allowing for a more natural and interactive testing experience.
CAE (Cambridge English: Advanced): CAE is a high-level English proficiency exam that is designed to assess the language abilities of non-native speakers who are planning to study or work in English-speaking countries. CAE measures reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.
CPE (Cambridge English: Proficiency): CPE is the highest-level English proficiency exam offered by Cambridge English. It is designed to assess the English language abilities of non-native speakers who are planning to study or work in English-speaking countries at an advanced level. CPE measures reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.
Choosing the Right Exam
When choosing an English proficiency exam, there are several factors to consider, such as the acceptance of the exam by the institution you are planning to attend, the cost of the exam, the test format, and the availability of test dates and locations. Additionally, it is essential to consider your personal needs and goals, such as your desired level of English proficiency and your future plans for studying or working in an English-speaking country.
The best exam for you will depend on your individual needs and goals. Suppose you are planning to study at a university or college in an English-speaking country. In that case, you may want to consider TOEFL or IELTS, as many institutions widely accept them. If you need to demonstrate a high level of English proficiency for professional purposes, you may want to consider CAE or CPE. If you are looking for a cost-effective and convenient option, you may want to consider PTE, which can be taken at a Pearson testing center near you. Ultimately, it is important to research each exam carefully and choose the one that best fits your needs and goals.
Preparing for the Exam
To prepare for your English proficiency exam, you should start by familiarizing yourself with the exam format, content, and structure. It is also important to practice your English skills regularly, focusing on the specific skills that will be tested on the exam. This may include speaking, writing, listening, and reading exercises, as well as vocabulary and grammar practice. Additionally, you may want to consider enrolling in an exam preparation course or working with a tutor to help you focus your studies and build your confidence.
There are many resources available to help you prepare for your English proficiency exam, including online courses, textbooks, practice tests, and study guides. Official exam preparation materials, such as TOEFL iBT Practice Tests, IELTS Official Practice Materials, and PTE Official Practice Tests, can be a great place to start. You can also find many other resources, such as exam preparation apps, videos, and blogs, online. It is important to use a variety of resources to help you prepare for your exam, as this will help you develop a well-rounded understanding of the exam format and content.
Taking the Exam
Taking an English proficiency exam typically involves registering for the exam, paying the exam fee, and choosing a test date and location. On the day of the exam, you will need to arrive at the testing center early, bring appropriate identification, and complete the exam in accordance with the instructions provided. After the exam, you will receive your scores, which will be used to assess your English proficiency for academic or professional purposes.
On exam day, you can expect to be tested on your English language skills, including speaking, writing, listening, and reading. You will typically be given a set amount of time to complete the exam, and you may be required to complete multiple-choice questions, writing tasks, speaking tasks, and listening tasks. It is important to be well-prepared for the exam, both in terms of your English skills and in terms of what you can expect on exam day. It is also important to remain calm and focused during the exam and to follow all instructions and guidelines provided by the examiners.
Scoring and Results
Each English proficiency exam has its own unique scoring system, which typically ranges from low to high scores. For example, TOEFL scores range from 0-120, IELTS scores range from 1-9, PTE scores range from 10-90, CAE scores range from A1-C1, and CPE scores range from C1-C2. It is important to understand the scoring system for your chosen exam, as well as the minimum score requirements for your desired academic or professional outcomes.
Your results from your English proficiency exam will be used to assess your level of English proficiency and determine your eligibility for academic or professional opportunities. It is important to interpret your results carefully, taking into account the scoring system, your personal goals, and the requirements of your desired academic or professional outcomes. If you do not meet the minimum score requirements, you may need to retake the exam or consider alternative opportunities for improving your English skills. Regardless of your results, it is important to use the experience of taking the exam as an opportunity to continue learning and growing as an English language learner.
The importance of English proficiency when studying abroad, the different English proficiency exams that are available, how to choose the right exam, tips for preparing for the exam, what to expect on exam day, and how to interpret the results.
For prospective study abroad students, the journey toward achieving English proficiency can be both challenging and rewarding. It is important to be well-informed about the different exams that are available and to choose the exam that is best suited to your personal needs and goals. With proper preparation and a strong focus on developing your English skills, you can increase your chances of success on the exam and achieve your desired academic or professional outcomes. Finally, it is important to remain motivated and focused and to use the experience of taking the exam as an opportunity to continue growing and developing as an English language learner.
About the writer: Billy Atherton completed the Australian Government accredited TESOL programme at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City. He has been teaching English in Vietnam since 2017. Preparing Vietnamese students for international examinations has been the main focus of Billy’s work over the past few few years.
Let’s deal with the ‘TEFL’ part first. TEFL is an acronym for ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language’. You may have heard about or know someone who is a TEFL Teacher. Teaching English as a Foreign Language is what TEFL Teachers do for a job. ‘Certification’ in the context of the term ‘TEFL Certification’ is essentially an ‘official’ document. When the acronym TEFL is coupled with the word certification, we’re referring to an official document that confirms a person has met the knowledge and skill requirements for employment as a TEFL Teacher. TEFL certification serves the same purpose as certification in every other profession. It’s about knowledge and skills being independently validated, upholding standards, and more.
Who should obtain TEFL Certification?
Anyone who aspires to work as a professional TEFL Teacher in their home country or abroad should obtain TEFL Certification. Obtaining the certification involves completing an in-class or online study programme that typically comes with a time commitment of no less than 120 hours over four weeks. There’s a lot of theory and skills-related work to get through in a short space of time. For example, how do people learn new things? You’ve almost certainly, never had a reason to reflect on this question. Fair enough, but if you plan to teach people new things, it makes sense to turn your mind to how people learn things.
Pathways for TEFL Certification
People new to ‘teaching English as a foreign language’ can be excused for thinking all TEFL programmes are the same. I often hear newcomers, like Barry from Toronto last week, say things like:
“120 hours with course provider ‘X’ (who charges a token sum) can’t be much different than 120 hours with course provider ‘Y’ (who charges a sum that’s consistent with what you’d expect to pay for vocational ‘qualification’) – I’ll get the same certification at the end of either programme”.
While Barry’s take on TEFL Certification programmes is understandable, it couldn’t be further from the truth. TEFL programmes worldwide fit into one of two categories; there’s no middle ground: 1. government-regulated and 2. non-government regulated. So, let’s examine these two categories.
Government-regulated TEFL programmes: TEFL Certification, that’s a product of nationally-recognised training (government-regulated) in the country of origin, is a legitimate vocational qualification under the relevant country’s ‘Qualifications Framework’. For instance, the AQF is the national qualifications framework in Australia. In South Africa, the SAQA is the national qualifications framework. If your TEFL certificate is a product of a government-regulated programme, not only is it recognised in the country of origin, but you have every reason to believe it will be recognised in other countries. Sure, you might have to navigate a bureaucratic process or two, but it’s manageable, and you’ll have legitimacy on your side. Qualified lawyers, doctors, architects, musicians, accountants, bankers, engineers who choose to work abroad have been navigating the qualifications-related bureaucratic processes for eternity. Those who hold legitimate government-regulated qualifications inevitably achieve their goals.
If you’re considering doing a quality TEFL programme in Vietnam, Cambodia or online that’s government-regulated, check out what AVSE-TESOL offers. They’re the Industry leaders in Southeast Asia. Here’s the AVSE-TESOL website address: www.avse.edu.vn
Non-government regulated TEFL programmes: Certification that’s not a product of nationally recognised training (government-regulated) in the country of origin, at best, carries personal development (PD) value. It follows that when a ‘qualification’ is not recognised in the country it comes from, it can’t (or shouldn’t) be recognised in other countries. TEFL Certification that originates from the United Kingdom (UK), for example, that isn’t a product of nationally recognised training in the UK, can’t somehow morph from being a PD certificate to a legitimate ESL teaching qualification enroute from London to Ho Chi Minh City. You might be surprised, perhaps even saddened, to learn that this ‘morphing thing’ happens daily. If I was a fee-paying student and became aware that my TEFL Teacher was unqualified to do the job, let’s just say that I’d be more than peeved – and if my old mum were around, she’d be insisting on washing my mouth out with soap! How the ‘morphing’ happens will be the subject of a future article.
Study modes for TEFL Certification
Like every other area of study, there are TEFL programmes available via in-class and online study modes. These days, employers (schools) aren’t particularly bothered if your TEFL Certification comes from an in-class or an online course. However, employers attuned to what is a legitimate TEFL Teaching qualification and what’s not, government-regulated versus non-government regulated, will be bothered if you present a dud certificate.
There are pros and cons to both the in-class and online study modes. In-class pros include – all over in a matter of weeks, often in an actual school environment and immediate access to trainer support. The cons include – higher costs, a set schedule, and being stuck in a classroom for hours on end. Online pros include – studying at a time that’s good for you, at a location of choice, and at a lower cost. Online cons include – isolation, taking much longer to complete and being less ‘hands-on’. Personal preference will dictate which study mode is best for you.
Career options with TEFL Certification
Career wise, where can a legitimate TEFL Certificate take you? As the age-old expression goes, ‘how long is a piece of string’. The career options available to people with government-regulated TEFL Certification are limited only by their imagination.
Throughout my journey in the TEFL Industry, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing TEFL-certified people who have: volunteered abroad as TEFL Teachers, worked as professional TEFL Teachers abroad in English Language Centres, Government Schools, Private Schools and universities, taught English online, used their knowledge and skills to create and sell ESL resources, opened their own English language school abroad, worked as an industry consultant, advised governments on ESL policy, made a decent living developing policies for the ESL industry, specialised in exam preparation classes – TOEIC, IELTS, TOEFL, found a niche teaching English to company employees, set themselves up as a recruiter – and a lot more. To draw on another age-old expression, with quality TEFL Certification, ‘the world is your oyster’.
I covered a lot of ground in this relatively short document. I defined the term ‘TEFL Certification’ and then discussed who should obtain this certification, pathways to certification, study modes and career options. Almost certainly, the existence of two pathways to TEFL Certification, ‘legit’ versus ‘non-legit’, will be news to many people.
This article was largely directed at piquing interest in a subject that barely rates a mention. It could be argued the inference in the heading that there is fuss is a misnomer because few people outside tight-knit TEFL circles have any interest in TEFL courses and related certificates. Fair enough. I believe that TEFL Certification warrants more debate – more attention. If this occurred, presumably, there would be fewer opportunities for bogus TEFL certificates to morph into legitimate ESL Teaching qualifications, somewhere between ‘developed country X’ and a developing country.
It’s abundantly clear to me that there’s a lot more to TEFL Certification than a four-letter acronym and a single sheet of coloured paper with a nice emboss and flags from the four corners of the world. Do you agree or disagree?
About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director and founder of AVSE-TESOL in Vietnam and Cambodia. AVSE-TESOL delivers an Australian Government regulated TEFL programme in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. Check out the AVSE-TESOL website: www.avse.edu.vn
5 Compelling Reasons to Complete a TEFL Certification Course Now
Over the past five years, there has been an explosion in the number of people who have signed up to complete a TEFL Certification course, in-class or online. Why? Someone ‘let the cat out of the bag’. It wasn’t me. I wanted to keep it all ‘hush hush’. TEFL Certification is the key to a quintessential teach and travel abroad lifestyle. Do you want to live in the Maldives for a few months? No problem. You can meet the costs of a Maldives adventure by teaching English in-class at a local school – or online. Have you always wanted to check out the Pyramids in Egypt? Do it! You can take on some teaching work in Egypt to fund the trip.
This isn’t fantasy, it’s a reality for many people. It was my lifestyle for a long time until family responsibilities – and age necessitated some fundamental changes. Assuming you’re still not convinced that TEFL Certification can deliver the kind of lifestyle that most people only ever dream about, here are five compelling reasons, in plain English, to complete a TEFL Certification course now.
Earn money while travelling abroad
For many people, young and more mature alike, this fact alone is enough to convince them that doing a TEFL course is a wise move. Rather than spend their savings while travelling abroad, folks who hold quality, government-regulated TEFL Certification can make money teaching English in-class and online from wherever they are in the world. This week it’s Venice. Next week it’s Munich. A month from now, it will be Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, my personal favourite TEFL destination of all time. Speak to the good people at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City, and they’ll get you sorted with government-regulated TEFL Certification and a terrific ESL teaching job in record time.
If you turn your mind to other vocational training programmes available in-class and online – barista, coding, business management and the like – nothing even comes close to the ease and convenience of teaching English abroad to fund your travels.
Pathway to other exciting opportunities
As long as you get your TEFL Certification from a government-regulated programme (such as AVSE-TESOL in Vietnam or Cambodia), you’ll emerge from your time teaching and travelling abroad with knowledge, skills, hands-on teaching experience and perhaps even credit towards further studies. You will have laid a solid foundation to take your teaching to a higher level. On returning to your home country after teaching and travelling abroad, you may decide to specialise in kindergarten teaching, primary teaching, secondary teaching or special education. You might choose to become a TEFL Trainer – teaching newcomers how to teach and travel abroad as you did. When you return home, you might stick with teaching English as a foreign language. After all, those online ESL jobs that funded your teach and travel abroad adventure because you hold quality TEFL Certification, will presumably still be available.
The reality is people who have successfully navigated a teach and travel abroad adventure have so many transferrable skills that they’re spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding ‘what’s next’.
Teachers in developed countries like my native Australia, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand often paint a gloomy picture of what happens in local schools. Abuse, unruly behaviour and violence are commonplace. The prevalence of gun violence in American schools is shocking and well-documented.
Here is some good news. With TEFL Certification, you can teach English as a foreign language in Vietnam, Cambodia and a raft of other countries where teachers, especially ESL teachers, are revered for their knowledge and highly respected in local communities. In the Mekong Delta in the south of Vietnam, for example, from my firsthand experience, foreign teachers are almost ‘god-like’ to the extent that it’s embarrassing to those who are ‘worshipped’. I was embarrassed! It’s the polar opposite of what many foreign teachers have endured in their home country. It’s the polar opposite to what I had witnessed in my native Australia.
If you bump into a foreign ESL teacher in a country like Vietnam who has been teaching locally for an extended period, you might be inclined to ask them why they have stuck at it. I’m ‘betting’ the ‘high respect’ thing is close to the top of the list.
Everyone loves a bit of freedom. However, if you’re leading a typical suburban lifestyle, including a ‘9 to 5’ job, there’s a good chance that your version of freedom comes around one or two days a week. Outside of your ‘freedom’ time, perhaps even during your ‘freedom’ time (lawns, washing the car and the like), life is pretty regimented – correct? For many folks, a regimented life meets their needs, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you find it unappealing, possibly even soul-destroying.
TEFL Certification allows you to teach English as a foreign language and earn a decent income when, where, and how you like – you’ll have ‘freedom’ 24/7, or at least you’ll be in control of when you don’t. If you want to lay in a hammock all day on Phu Quoc Island, off the southern coast of Vietnam, taking online ESL classes, then do it. How about a short-term contract with the Cambodian Government teaching English to Tour Guides at the world-famous Angkor Wat historical site in Siem Reap, Cambodia? I saw this job advertised when I was last in the neighbourhood. With TEFL Certification, ESL gigs like those that I mentioned on Phu Quoc Island and in Siem Reap, will be available for you.
Before completing a TEFL Certification programme and subsequently trying my hand at teaching English in Vietnam, I’d worked for years in highfalutin jobs in Australia at the Local, State and Federal Government levels. Despite the tailored, pin-striped suits, black shoes that were so clean you could see your face in them and holding positions of influence, I never had the opportunity to ‘create’ something. It was more about image and process. In stark contrast, if you take ESL teaching seriously, creating opportunities for people – including the chance for a better life in many instances – will be the mainstay of your work.
Other than medicine and logistics related to the supply of food and water, I can’t think of a line of work where tangible, positive results for effort in a short period of time come anywhere near what teaching English as a foreign language in a developing country can deliver. In addition to making a real difference in the lives of local people, the tangible difference that such rewarding work will make in your own life shouldn’t be underestimated. Quality TEFL Certification is the key.
I have identified five compelling reasons why you should complete a TEFL Certification course now. You can make money while travelling overseas. ‘Doors will open’. Respect and freedom will come your way. You’ll have the opportunity to make a tangible, positive difference in the lives of others – and your own life.
There are only five more words that remain to be written and here they are: what are you waiting for?
About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director and founder of AVSE-TESOL in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. He’s passionate about high-quality, government-regulated ESL teacher training. Peter has written extensively about his personal experience as an ESL teacher, a teacher trainer and a school owner in Southeast Asia.
Is it best to complete a TEFL Certification course in-class or online?
With TEFL Certification courses being offered in-class and online by vocational training providers worldwide, I’ve decided to look at the benefits and drawbacks of both options. This might help you to decide which option, in-class or online, is best for you – and address some of the misinformation that pops up, especially on social media.
What is TEFL Certification?
TEFL Certification is akin to a licence to teach English as a foreign language. Assuming your certification comes from a government-regulated TEFL training programme, you’ll be qualified to work as an English language teacher in your home country and abroad. If you plan to use your TEFL certification abroad, you’ll have to jump through a few hoops to meet Work Permit (or similar) requirements in the host country, but this is simply a matter of following in the footsteps of those who came before you. If you’re unsure where to locate the ‘footsteps’, you can find Work Permit and visa processes for every country worldwide with a basic Google search.
Do schools prefer in-class or online TEFL?
From my observations in Vietnam and Cambodia, especially in this ‘post-covid’ period, schools don’t care if the TEFL Certificate presented for a Work Permit (or similar) is a product of an in-class or an online TEFL programme. While it might have been frowned upon previously, completing a qualification online is commonplace and an accepted practice. I did notice two or three posts quite recently in ESL teaching-related Facebook Groups – the prime impetus for this article – that the bigger Language Centres in Vietnam, ILA, VUS, Apollo and the like, will only accept ‘in-class’ TEFL certification. I checked with the schools, and it’s untrue.
While schools aren’t concerned how you obtained TEFL Certification, in-class or online, they will closely examine whether the certificate is a product of a nationally recognised training (government-regulated) or a random personal development course. If it’s the latter, you shouldn’t be surprised if your applications for teaching jobs at reputable, well-known schools are continuously declined. Why? Your core ESL teaching ‘qualification’ doesn’t stack up. It’s not an ESL teaching qualification at all. The likelihood of being rejected for your dream ESL teaching job abroad can be substantially reduced by doing a government-regulated TEFL programme, in-class or online; it doesn’t matter. I advise doing the Australian Government-accredited TESOL/TEFL programme at AVSE-TESOL in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh or online. TESOL/TEFL Certification from AVSE-TESOL is government-regulated and the ‘Gold Standard’ in Southeast Asia. CELTA is also a decent option, but keep in mind that the ‘TA’ in the CELTA acronym stands for ‘Teaching Adults’, which might create issues given that 90%+ of the ESL teaching work in Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere involves young learners.
Pro one: Structured
Most in-class TEFL Certification courses run for 120+ hours over four weeks. They tend to be fast paced. This is ideal for quick learners who want to get the whole certification requirement over and done with at the earliest opportunity in a structured, immersion environment.
Pro two: People
In-class TEFL programmes typically involve a mix of people from around the world, classmates, your trainer, tutors, administrative folks and others. You’ll love the training environment if you’re a ‘people person’ by nature. Being surrounded by people with a common purpose allows for new friendships, real-time feedback and a helping hand when needed.
Pro three: Resources
‘In-class’ implies a designated, specialist learning environment where you’d expect to find all the resources an ESL teacher would use when taking ESL classes. Almost certainly, you’ll have immediate access to a whiteboard, overhead projector, a computer, textbooks, internet access, paper, markers and suchlike. As a result, you can focus on the training without worrying about distractions.
Government-regulated in-class TEFL programmes are not cheap. The high cost of in-class training is prohibitive for many aspiring ESL teachers. An intensive, four-week study programme isn’t an option for people with ongoing daytime (or evening) commitments, such as a regular 9 to 5 job or childcare responsibilities. In-class learning requires people to travel from their homes to where they will study. This is problematic for people who don’t own a car, don’t have ready access to public transport or have trouble getting around due to a disability.
Pro one: Freedom
Online learning programmes, TEFL Certification or otherwise, allow you to choose when, where and how you will study. There might be the occasional webinar or similar that you must attend at a specific time, but in the main, you’ll manage the ‘when, where and how’.
Pro two: Choice
Seemingly daily, new online TEFL Certification programmes pop up on the internet. Putting quality to one side, for every in-class, TEFL Certification programme that’s available, there are at least ten online programmes to choose from.
Pro three: Hone IT skills
These days, students expect that ESL teachers will incorporate Information Technology (IT) into the teaching and learning experience. By doing an online TEFL programme, aspiring ESL teachers can hone their IT skills, while building teaching knowledge and skills.
Doing an online study programme requires self-discipline. Some folks have oodles of self-discipline, while others, like me, have very little. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. Students who struggle with self-discipline will almost certainly struggle with an online course. By its very nature, teaching is a ‘people profession”. Inclusivity, and recognising individual differences, are pivotal. It could be argued that online learning is inconsistent with the ‘pillars’ of teaching. The number one drawback with online study programmes is susceptibility to disreputable practices. For example, can we be sure that Student A’s mum didn’t do the TEFL Certification course on his behalf? Moreover, why have we seen a proliferation of TEFL programmes that aren’t government-regulated? Answer – anyone with a keyboard and a monitor can upload an accredited course on the internet, mostly accredited by an entity they set up. Online learning still has a bit of the ‘wild west’ about it. It’s a haven for dodgy characters, and TEFL is not immune.
Should you complete a TEFL Certification programme in-class or online? Given that I largely control my schedule and have the flexibility that many others don’t, in-class would unquestionably be the best option for me. I’d go further and say that the in-class course at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City would be my choice because I know it’s government-regulated, and I know the trainer. What’s good for me, may not suit you or others. Personal circumstances will largely dictate which route you take.
Regardless of whether you choose in-class or online study to complete your TEFL Certification programme, most schools in Vietnam won’t discriminate. Government-regulated versus non-government-regulated is where there is no leeway. Do a government-regulated TEFL programme, and you’ll be fine.
About the author: Warren Duffield started working as an ESL teacher in Vietnam in 2016. CELTA-certified, Warren has completed teaching contracts in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho. While he’s currently taking a break from teaching to learn how to Scuba Drive, he plans to head back to the classroom in the second quarter of 2023.
Quit your shitty job & move to a tropical paradise in 41 days
After reading the title of this blog post, you can be excused for thinking, ‘that’s a long title’ or ‘the timeframe isn’t achievable. I’ll roll over on the long title, but I’m not budging on the timeframe. If you follow the roadmap, your crap job will be a thing of the past. You’ll be in that yet unmentioned tropical paradise, making a decent income that will allow you to save, most probably like never before. Whether you’re a Member of Parliament, a ‘Sparky’ or a Product Synergy Specialist (you work on the drive-through at Maccas), you can be there within six weeks. My ‘pinkies’ are crossed. Are yours?
Roadmap – Step one: ‘Quit your shitty job’
This will be the easiest or the most challenging phase in our three-step roadmap. It will be easy if you don’t like the people you work with. It will tough if the people around you are besties. Good mates are hard to find, and in your shitty job, you have endured the same horrible experience. If you’re in the ‘shitty job, but bestie’ camp, I expect that some serious bonding occurred in the face of adversity.
Let’s assume that you dislike the people at your workplace. How can you quit with minimal fuss? I’ve gone through this a few times in my working life, and the best approach is a simple letter typed on your desktop or laptop. It should be: 1. dated, 2. addressed to your employer, 3. include the words ‘I want to let you know that I will finish up at (name of company) on (day and date)’, and 4. signed by you. It’s that simple. You’re ‘outta’ there! Bye-bye.
If you like the people at your workplace, quitting is similar, but take steps to keep in touch with your work chums and organise a night out at a local pub to say goodbye. Many employers will cover the bar tab when friends and valued colleagues move on. So, there’s no need to get stressed about quitting. People do it all the time.
Let’s do a time check. Seven days’ notice is often ample when you’re quitting a job, regardless of whether the position is highfalutin or run-of-the-mill. This roadmap provides a total timeframe of ‘A to Z’ within six weeks. We are now at the end of week one.
Roadmap – Step two: ‘Move to a tropical paradise’
I know you’ve been waiting patiently for the name of the tropical paradise to be revealed! The time has come.
You’re heading to the promised land on day 8, 9 or 10 of our ‘roadmap’, depending on your commitments. My version of the ‘promised land’ isn’t Jerusalem, although it’s a lovely place to visit any time of the year. My promised land is Vietnam, specifically Ho Chi Minh City. While all roads may have led to Jerusalem in biblical times, in this post-Covid era, the hot tip from smart people who know about these things is, get to Ho Chi Minh City – and set yourself up as an English teacher. Why Ho Chi Minh City? Why set yourself up as an English teacher? I will answer your questions, but first, let me share a quick story.
In 1852, my great-great grandfather, Henry Goudge, threw caution to the wind (literally, he travelled by sailboat) and moved from St. Teath in Cornwall, England – with his first love – Ms Jane Spear, to Loddon in Victoria, Australia. Why? He was a skilled miner, there was a gold rush in Victoria at that time, and his prospects were bleak. In addition, Henry wanted a better life for himself and his missus. He went on to have 14 children (and two wives) and, by all accounts, lived a productive life.
Now, back to the two questions: 1 ‘why Ho Chi Minh City’? 2. why set yourself up as an English teacher? I will deal with the two questions simultaneously.
Henry was a skilled miner. He knew his skills were in demand in Loddon. You have ‘half-decent’ English language skills, reading, writing, listening, and speaking, either because you were born in a country where English is the main language or through nothing short of bloody hard work. Either way, your skills are in demand in Ho Chi Minh City. Henry wanted a better life for himself and those around him. Teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City will provide you with an expat lifestyle, a 20-to-25-hour work week and a savings capacity that’s not available in your home country. If there’s a Holy Grail for teaching English abroad, ‘Ho Chi Minh City’ will be prominently etched on it.
Step check and time check time! You’ve quit your horrible job. You’ve moved to a tropical country. Let’s say you’ve been in Ho Chi Minh City for three days. This means you’re now at day 14 (ish), including travel time. “Bring on the next Step”, I hear you say. Just like old Henry Goudge in 1852, you have the wind in your sails!
Roadmap – Step three: ‘Get paid to make the world a better place’
This is where the serious fun starts, and you reap the rewards of making a conscious decision to repurpose your skills.
Through good luck or serious work, you have the English skills needed to nail down a job as an English language teacher and contribute towards plugging a noticeable service gap. But there’s a problem. Is the problem insurmountable? Should this roadmap be repurposed into confetti? Here’s the problem. You have the English skills to teach the language, but you don’t have the teaching knowledge, skills and government-regulated certification that are central to carving out an expat lifestyle. The solution … Do the in-class, 27 days (+/-), Australian Government-accredited TESOL programme at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City.
AVSE-TESOL is a one-stop-shop for teaching knowledge, skills, top-shelf certification and, most importantly, as a newcomer to teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City – job placement at a quality school. Complete the Aussie Government-accredited TESOL programme at AVSE-TESOL, and they’ll have you in an ESL teaching job in Ho Chi Minh City within days of completing the course. You’ll be leading an expat lifestyle in a tropical paradise (as promised); you’ll have a 20-to-25-hour work week (as promised); you’ll be making the world a better place (as promised) by shaping the next generation – and you’ll be saving plenty of money.
Let’s do one last step check and time check. You quit your shitty job – seven to ten days. You moved to a tropical country (day 14ish). You acquired teaching knowledge, skills, and quality TESOL certification – and a paid teaching job with help from AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City – add 27 days. Here’s the math: 14 days + 27 days = 41 days = less than six weeks. You did it.
In 1852, Henry Goudge risked his life by travelling in an overcrowded boat to a place he’d never been before because he thought he could have a better life. Four generations later, there’s ample evidence that Henry contributed to making the world better. I see Ho Chi Minh City in this ‘post’ Covid period mirroring the goldfields that captured Henry’s attention 170 years ago. The only question that remains: What date will you arrive in Ho Chi Minh City?
About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and founder) of AVSE-TESOL in Cairns, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Phnom Penh. For more than 17 years, AVSE-TESOL has been creating pathways for people from around the world to teach English in Vietnam and Cambodia. Check out the AVSE-TESOL website: www.avse.edu.vn