HELL YEAH (or no)!


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You’ll find plenty of information on the internet about this topic, but a sizable portion of what you discover will be outdated or written by people who have got their facts wrong.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.


Vexing question

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.


Can I teach in Vietnam without a degree? AVSE-TESOL


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.


Can I teach in Vietnam without a degree? AVSE-TESOL


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