How to get started as a TEFL teacher in Vietnam without a degree?

I've spent the last few weeks looking up information on Vietnam and expats regarding specific information like visas. work permits, how to get work, etc. However, most of the information i've acquired seems to be vastly outdated and the only things i've learned so far are that the laws have changed, I need to network quite a bit to get a teaching job. Problem is, I don't know where I should be networking as i've only left the U.S. to go to Canada, or when I was attached to the military. I also have no idea how much teaching experience is needed for me to qualify for a work permit without a degree, or if that's even still a by-law to acquire one as an expat. I've taught English as a private tutor for 3 and a half years. and some posts and sites say you need 3 years experience, others say 5 or 7.

What advice would you give for a (stereo-typically looking white American) first timer with a TEFL, teaching experience and no BA looking to teach English in Vietnam once he reaches the country?

Even without reading ( + between-the-lines) most of
the previous posts you should be able to see all you
(really) need is to turn up, demonstrate your capability
and the rest will follow.   Research as much as you like
but nothing replaces the reality: just do it.    :blink:

There is plenty of work.   At all levels.

* Every cat is a Tiger in its own path.     *Hindi proverb

I appreciate the reply, but that doesn't really answer my questions beyond what I already know. My main concern is the work permit and whether or not I qualify for receiving one.

From my understanding most English academies will help you get your work permit.  You go there on a 3-month tourist visa and the academies will help you get your work permit once you are hired.

Have you contacted any schools in Vietnam?  They will probably be able to help out as well.  I'm using the TEFL provider I will use to get my certification; they are helping me with all these questions.

I have not. I did however, contact a few recruiters via Chinese board postings, though the replies were sketchy at best, although i'm unfamiliar with the culture there and not sure if contacting a recruiter via Skype only is normal, or if i'm being overly paranoid.

That being said, I decided to reroute my search to Vietnam.

I'll try and contact a few English academies per your advice, that definitely helps out a lot.

Bazza139 :

Even without reading ( + between-the-lines) most of
the previous posts you should be able to see all you
(really) need is to turn up, demonstrate your capability
and the rest will follow.   Research as much as you like
but nothing replaces the reality: just do it.    :blink:

There is plenty of work.   At all levels.

* Every cat is a Tiger in its own path.     *Hindi proverb

This is pretty much how things work here, you will get a job at a language centre and they generally don't hire unless you are sitting in front of them. Applying online won't get you anywhere most of the time.

The short answer to your question about getting a work permit is no.

The long answer:

You need a university degree and a teaching certification to get a work permit to teach English in Vietnam.

Schools will ask for (or make) photocopies of your degree and certification to keep along with your CV when you apply for a job.

Both of these items must be certified true by your government if you wish to get a work permit. They don't need to be certified to apply for the job. Although I have seen a couple job ads asking for that.

About 6 years ago I got a job at a well known language centre without a certification. Three years later they sent out an e-mail citing changing government regulations and requiring all their teachers to submit a teaching cert. by the end of the school year. I didn't and lost my job with a month to go in the school year. That summer I got a TEFL cert. and since then every job I've applied for asks for it. That's my experience.

People need to understand that there is a difference between doing something that you can get away with, and doing  something correctly.  I do know one person who was a fine classroom teacher without a Bachelor's degree.  He had to spend about $5000 US to get his work permit.  He had some experience, perhaps even 3 years as I knew him two years prior, but certainly not 5 years.  I expect that most of the fee was split between the lawyer he hired and various officials in the Dept of Labor.  He already had a bit of emotional investment in Vietnam by the time the issue came up, but I know he wouldn't have done it going in, knowing the fee for "legality" would be that high.

Bazza is correct.  You will probably be able to find work Vietnam.  However, you will be locked out of the higher paying jobs, never able to get a residency card which will save you border runs and visa fees every 90 days or so, and most importantly, you will never be legal.  Working on a tourist visa, in effect makes you what many in the US call an "illegal alien" or more politely an "undocumented worker."  The job may have more dignity and maybe (??) pays better than being a foreign border crosser picking vegetables in central California but it really is the same thing in reverse.

Damn you Thig!'ve blown my cover!!!

"what many in the US call an "illegal alien"  "

..although that probably explains the strange lights and
why I've never been abducted to the mother ship... have I really missed the boat too..?     :blink:

Technically, you need a degree, plus TEFL. Then you can get business visa and work permit.  In reality, being a white native speaker and the fact that you have experience will get you through the door prettily easily.  Work is easy to get, you may get paid a bit less w/o degree. But there are lots if schools looking for teachers who will overlook it.

Whilst I had BS and CELTA. I had no experience and got a well paid job within 48 hours of starting my job search.

Of course, that is just my experience, but talking to others there are people in vietnam with no degree, no TEFL snd no experience working as teachers just cos they are native speakers

Redseptember :


Just curious, but which is the preferred certification - CELTA or TEFL ?

Or are they equally useful or useless (other than for visa formalities for teachers) ?

Government regulations require that all foreign employees have the proper visa and work documents, (this means a 4 year degree for teaching). This is for three reasons:

1) So immigrants from poorer countries (Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar) are not "taking" jobs from Vietnamese citizens. Same as in your country.

2) So unqualified individuals are not in a position to do societal damage. Could you imagine if Gary Glitter was teaching English to children, or the unibomber working for a de-mining operation?  Again, it's the same in your country.

3) Taxes. You (or your employer) are supposed to pay income tax on your earnings. Obviously, the government wants that money. Yet again, the same as in your country.

That being said, you probably won't find a problem finding a job in major population centers where demand is high. However, you need to be aware of a major risk: being scammed.

The reputable schools won't hire you without the proper documentation as schools face severe fines for illegal laborers. This means you could end up working for an untrustworthy school. These establishments take many forms. Sometimes they're only open for a few weeks to scam as much money as possible. Sometimes they're desperate and failing businesses.

Your pay could be drastically less, chronically late, or both. Also they may make unexpected deductions from your paycheck for "documents". There are many stories on this forum about teachers not getting their due.

Consequently, as an illegal laborer you can expect no legal recourse and the employer knows this.

Redseptember :

Technically, you need a degree, plus TEFL. Then you can get business visa and work permit. ... Whilst I had BS and CELTA.

What is the difference between a TEFL and CELTA?  Should we get our certification here (USA) or wait until we get to Vietnam?

Thank you :)

The biggest real advantage of a CELTA is that it provides a substantial chunk of actual classroom time that most TEFL programs do not.  The other advantage of a CELTA is that a fair portion of those who are doing the hiring in Vietnam feel it is superior.  If you are an experienced classroom teacher, the CELTA should not be necessary but It still won't hurt on the hiring side.  Also if you find that you like ESL and want to make it a career, the Cambridge DELTA program is a next step up. 

I would say there are two reasons that it would be better to take the CELTA in Vietnam.  First you will save about $1000 compared to the cost in the US and secondly your practice teaching will be with Vietnamese learners.   You will also get some time on the ground to familiarize yourself with HCMC or Hanoi while hanging out with peers.  My guess is that most CELTA students in US classes just go home after class and weekends.

CELTA and Trinity are seen as the gold standard.   And charge accordingly.   The teaching is good, but imho unecessarily pressured.  others may disagree.   If you are going to do a TEFL course, my advice would be ensure that it has classroom practice, esp if you do not have experience of classroom in a teaching capacity.

The rest is process. until you are sufficiently confident/experienced to be able to step outside, engage, react, adapt etc


Thanks everyone for the explanation and advice!  We are very excited and this forum is really helping us plan our move very well.


Great posts. Hope someone can help with my question.:)  I have TESOl and teaching qualifications but haven't done much TESOL classroom work. I want to semi-retire in Vietnam. I am nearly 64, a fit and healthy female. Am I too old to get some work teaching English?

I came out here last year when a sprightly 62.  Had no problem finding work.  Maybe cos they respect older people here?


Oh ... thank-you David. That gives me even more motivation to start organising things .... can I ask which part of Vietnam you live and do you teach English?

Hi Paulette

I live in Hanoi and i teach English at two private language centres.  I work around 15-16 hours a week, which gives me more than enough to live on plus enough to fly home twice a year.

Happy to answer questions/chat..


^the problem then is that u r working illegally for the other company and face a 20 million fine, arrest, potentially, deportation.

Hi David

Thanks again. I will take you up on your offer to answer some questions. I'll get some together and  yes, maybe we can chat by skype some day?


Hi All

Thank you for all the great advice!

David (Redseptember), I am interested in working at language centres. Do you perhaps know of a way of finding a list of a few here in Hanoi. I have used google but they list a lot of government schools too.

Any advice on this?


Hi Paulette

That would be fine.  My Skype handle is David.xxxx



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Try this   Th best way to get a job is be here.   If you do get an offer, check the school out, there are some cowboy schools around.


I opened your link and there were no schools listed. This is odd since I have the same link bookmarked and when I select my bookmark I get a list of some schools in Vietnam.

I did find however that if you select schools from the top menu bar you will get a list of countries. Choosing Vietnam will bring up the list. Some of the links to school's websites are dead.

Here's another link to a list of schools:
TNH Directory

I should also point out that most, probably all the schools on these lists do in fact require a degree and a TEFL cert. of some sort. Some require much higher qualifications as in a CELTA or Trinity TESOL or even a teaching degree (B.Ed., PGCE) and/or current teaching licence plus teaching experience in your home country. You can check their websites to find out. In particular for those schools that list their foreign staff you can see their credentials.  Again some of the links are dead but you can google for current links to their web sites.

If you apply for a 6 month business visa online pre arrival in the country the visa will give you the same results. but in saying that I also don't have any university education only a Diploma but still was offered jobs left right and centre. but since then the law has change somewhat.

Basically make friends with local Vietnamese people live with them and don't take all the advice from expats.

Hi everyone,

Please note that some posts have been removed from this thread.

Thank you,

Priscilla team

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