“Ho Chi Minh City”, “HCMC”, “Saigon”, whatever you want to call it, one thing is certain, teaching English in Ho Chi Minh is great! While Hanoi is technically Vietnam’s capital city, many ESL/EFL teachers prefer to find teaching jobs in HCM. If you think you might be one of those people, then read on.
There are many reasons that travellers prefer Saigon. It has a warmer climate, more metropolitan feel, and considerably more amenities available to travellers who might be craving Western comforts. In many ways, this is analogous to the teaching jobs in HCM; which themselves make for another great lure for traveling teachers.
You are a lot more likely to find modern teaching equipment in Saigon than you are anywhere else in the country. While this does not mean that you can expect to find cutting-edge smartboards and internet-ready projectors in every classroom. You’re one heck of a lot more likely to find them in Saigon than you are in Sapa!
You only need to take one look at Saigon and Hanoi to realise that Saigon is where all the money is. The city centre is littered with huge, modern buildings that would dwarf Hanoi. You might expect the average teaching job to be higher paying to reflect this, yet most of the time this is not the case. [N.B. We say “most of the time” because teaching rates fluctuate between the two cities, at times wages have been higher in Saigon.] To truly understand the difference between Hanoi and Saigon, one should remember Hanoi’s communist roots and Saigon’s capitalist influences.
Interestingly, while HCMC generally offers lower salaries, it also facilitates more opportunity to earn very high wages. This is because of the booming industries in the city. Saigon is truly the head of Vietnam’s “Sleeping Dragon” economy. International entrepreneurs are flocking to Saigon, and wanting their children taught in private classes or high-end international schools. Business and trade is booming, and as the international language of business, that means for the right teacher, business is booming too. Teachers who specialise in BE (Business English) may want to teach in HCMC for this exact reason. That also applies to teachers with backgrounds in ESP (English for Specific Purposes). We’ve met teachers who have worked in all kinds of unlikely disciplines, from “English for dentistry” to “English for freight shipping”. If you’ve never taught ESP before, we suspect you might have after a couple of years in Vietnam.
That does not mean you can stroll into these hyper high paying roles. Most teachers moving to Ho Chi Minh City follow one of the following options. They either a) find a full-time job in a public school or b) build up a schedule of part-time jobs. The benefits of a) are reliability, a consistent role, and more professional development. The benefits of b) include more flexibility, a range of different roles, and the autonomy to define your own schedule. If you’re considering teaching English in HCMC, we suggest you decide which one of these would suit you more.
The bright lights and allure of HCMC attract a lot of teachers. If you go there expecting to be the only foreigner in town, you have another thing coming. This also means that there tends to be higher competition for jobs, compared to Hanoi. It can be quite difficult for teachers to find work without the right contacts. We recommend looking via reliable Facebook groups, job posting boards, and by networking like crazy. Some of the best jobs come from word of mouth after you have established yourself. Getting your foot through the door in the first place, in teaching as in many other jobs, can be the trickiest part.
The extra competition means that teachers are expected to have more experience and qualifications if they are going to find work. We certainly do not recommend trying to find teaching jobs in Ho Chi Minh City if you are not a qualified teacher. Ideally, you should have a CELTA (or equivalent) teaching qualification, as well as at least a year’s experience. Fear not, if you do not have both of these things, with a bit of luck and the right contacts you will be able to find work anyway. If you have both experience and qualifications you should be looking at a minimum of $20 per hour for teaching in HCM. However, if you play your cards right, this can raise dramatically over time.
If you would like assistance finding English teaching jobs in Ho Chi Minh City, or if you have any more questions about the experience, do not hesitate to get in touch with us at Teacher’s Friend – Vietnam.
Written by Alex Sinclair Lack for Teacher’s Friend – Vietnam