By Kit Davidson.
As Da Nang is one of the fastest growing cities in Vietnam, there is a strong desire amongst the locals to learn English, as it is a language that is spoken around the world, especially in the field of business and economics. Because of this strong desire, there are many English schools and learning centers both large and small around the city, and most of them are eager to hire native English speakers to teach their students. While finding a job isn’t quite as easy to do as it was several years ago, it still is quite straightforward, provided you follow the right steps. This will try to lay out what steps to follow in order to find employment at one of these schools or centers for new residents.
First, understand the level of teaching jobs and centers available in the city. Every level has different requirements for new hires, and they can be broken into four groups:
A) Private Tutoring– Just as it sounds. Many families prefer to have a more personal level of instruction for their child or children, and will hire a tutor for lessons from once to several times a week. These lessons are almost always without a contract and are somewhat limited in their scope and salary.
B) English Learning Centers– Most English centers are quite small, typically found in a standard Vietnamese row house, consisting of a handful of classrooms and often having around 100 students. These schools may not offer the highest salaries as others but are often more flexible with hours, curriculum, and contracts. There are too many of these to name, and can be found in all parts of the city. Most English centers prefer you to have at least a Bachelor’s degree, and while it isn’t mandatory, having an English Certification is helpful.
C) English Language Academies– These are the large institutions, based in much larger buildings, that offer consistent classes to students of all ages. Schools such as ELI (English Language Institute), ILA (International Language Academy) and AMA (American Academy) offer a more consistent schedule and contract, as well as higher salaries, but adherence to that contract is emphasized more at these centers. Almost all of these will require a Bachelor’s and an English certification, although the latter isn’t completely mandatory.
D) International Schools & Universities– The most prestigious and top tier of teaching positions in the city. There are only a handful of these, and positions tend to stay filled, so the jobs are more difficult to get, but can offer the highest salaries and best contracts for those who are able to get a job at one of these. Examples of these are the University of Da Nang and Singapore International School. To get a job at these places, not only will you need a Bachelor’s and a certification, but you will also need to have a Teaching License obtained through an post-graduate Teaching program.
Each one offers advantages and disadvantages, as well as different prerequisites for employment, so let’s look at what you will need to be hired at them.
The most basic thing that every prospective teacher should have is a Bachelor’s degree, or equivalent level degree from a four year institution. This is necessary to sign a contract at any school to meet the rules laid out by the Vietnamese government. It is possible to find work without a degree, but be aware that the salary will be “under the table” and technically illegal as far as the government is concerned. Not having a contract will limit your potential salary and makes you vulnerable to prosecution for failing to have an approved contract, although it does happen in many smaller schools.
Many schools are willing to hire native speakers who simply have a Bachelor’s degree in just about any field, as your skills and abilities to speak English as your native language are what they are after most. However, most schools would prefer you to have some kind of English training, and this can include a number of certifications such as a TOEFL, TESOL, CELTA/DELTA, or IELTS. If you don’t have one of these, they can be acquired by going through an intensive course that will award you one upon completion. Almost all certification programs are offered in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City, although at this time the only one offered in Da Nang is the TESOL program. Typically these programs are intensive, between 180 and 200 hours of study, usually around 8 to 9 hours every day and lasting around a month. These courses usually cost between $1,600 and $2,000 USD. Again, it is possible to find a job without one of these certificates, but having one will make finding a job much easier.
To reach into the highest level of schools, a Teaching License is mandatory. These are generally obtained through universities, and at the moment are unavailable in Vietnam. However, universities in Bangkok, Singapore, and other large cities in the region do offer these programs, which typically take up to a year to complete and are somewhat costly, usually several thousand US dollars. However, the License is one of the top levels of certifications possible and will almost guarantee you a better salary and flexible contract.
Once you have a certification, the next step is to market yourself to schools. Finding schools can be done through several ways. Many schools post in various groups on Facebook. Others advertise at places such as restaurants and bars frequented by expats. Word of mouth is also a good avenue; make friends with teachers at different schools and let them tell you when the jobs are available. Also, this can be done by sending or taking your CV, or professional resume, to the schools of your choice. A CV should be catchy and informative, but not overwhelming, as well as looking professional. Having lots of colors and flashy graphics may look creative, but it may not be what employers are looking for. A good CV should be informative, professional, and streamlined. Include your name, contact information, your educational history and qualifications, as well as a list of your professional history, both in Vietnam (if any) and your previous employment in other countries. You should also include your skills and strengths that will show prospective employers why you will be a positive asset to their team.
Although it is possible to find a job on the spot at your first interview, with the sheer number of applicants schools see on a daily basis it is fairly uncommon. Don’t be discouraged. Keep in contact with the school(s), and keep checking back with them every week. Don’t overwhelm them and call every hour of every day, but if you politely stay in contact and show them you are professional in following-up, it will help greatly. Due to the dynamic nature of expats and a high turnover rate, with most schools it is simply a matter of time until you are granted at least a demo class. Almost all schools start their prospective students with one of these, where someone from the school will watch you teach and see if you are a good fit for them and their program. Although these can seem daunting, the key with these is to be calm, friendly, and helpful. Don’t worry about changing the world and seeing huge progress on the first day. Connect with the students, make them feel comfortable with you, and show your monitor that you can succeed and thrive in their school. If the students like you and are comfortable with you it will go a long way.
Once you have been granted a job with a school, the next step is to sign a contract. This usually requires you to sign the document and get it notarized at a government agency, which the school should point you to and let you know how to get it taken care of. Once you have a contract, it is possible to apply for a work permit, and ultimately a residency card. To get one of these you will need to apply for one, which your school should help you to do, and then provide a police background check. These can be done through the local police office and while costing money, is usually more of a formality. Having a “questionable” background may prevent you from getting a job, but typically if you have been allowed to leave your home country than you obviously haven’t done anything serious enough to stop you from working. This, of course, is all up to the decisions of each school.
Beyond that, there isn’t much else to say. Following the process I’ve just described should work for finding a job at 99% of places in the city. In order to decide what job would be best for you, it would be best to make a list of what you want from a job before beginning your search. Are you interested in the highest salary? A flexible contract that allows for traveling? Work that you will find challenging, or simply something to do to enjoy your time here in Da Nang? Deciding what you are looking for will help you narrow your searching down. And, if you cannot find exactly what you are looking for at first, be patient. Simply finding any work for a short period of time can often be a good bridge to wait until the job you are very interested in comes up. Like I said before, jobs in the city can have high turnover rates, and with many schools and centers it is simply a matter of time and being patient until the position you are looking for opens up. The number one ally for finding a good, long term job that you will enjoy in Da Nang is being patient. A great thing usually doesn’t happen overnight, but many a teacher has found their ideal spot and position here by being patient and playing their cards right. With the right amount of work, time, and background, you too can find what you are looking for!