The Finances of Teaching in Vietnam

 

Teaching in Vietnam is an incredible experience. To live in one of the world’s most dynamic countries, in a wonderful mix of eastern tradition & economic growth provides an exciting lifestyle. But the magic doesn’t stop there!! There is also plenty of money to be made in teaching, regardless of your qualifications! This is the money side of teaching in Vietnam.

 

THE EARNINGS

 

Wages per month are obviously quite spread, but whether you’re in an international school or a small language center, you CAN live well & save.

Language Centers: This is where the vast majority of ESL teachers will work. Wages can range from $15-25 per hour, but you should expect $18-20 p/h in most language schools. Simple maths will then tell you that working as little as 25 hours per week will bring in $2,000 per month, & if you want to put in the hours & work 40 hours… which is a pretty standard work-week for most people, you’ll be taking home $3,200 per month… which is a reasonable wage anywhere in the world, particularly so in cheap & cheery ‘Nam!!

Getting the hours you want is not likely to happen immediately though. Expect to start in most language schools working maybe as little as 12 hours per week, & slowly work your way in to more & more regular classes. After a few weeks though, most teachers we knew were turning down hours. Also, be prepared to work on the weekend as almost every language school is going to have most of their classes on Saturday & Sunday. You can get around working the weekend if that’s important to you, as it was for us, but it isn’t common.

International Schools: For almost all international school positions you’re going to need a teaching qualification from a higher education institution. These schools will pay a salary, between $2,000 – $5,000 per month for the normal business hours + school events. The HUGE disparity in pay is concurrent to the size & finances of the different schools, but teachers with a few years of experience should be looking at the more internationally established institutions, with pay + benefits of around $4,000 p/m.

Vietnam is a land of opportunity, & as it grows faster than it can attract a skilled workforce there is always a chance you can sneak your way in to a position you’re not necessarily qualified for! There are university classes, private sessions, ‘Business English’ & ‘Legal English’ classes, sports coaching positions, & many more exciting opportunities knocking about!! So keep your ears to the ground & just go for any job you feel you could do, whether you have the qualification or not.

 

Nicky Teaching Abroad

Nicky spreading her considerable knowledge in the classroom!

 

THE SPENDINGS

 

Obviously this is completely subjective to the individual!!… All I can tell you is the general costs of ourselves & our friends living in Ho Chi Minh City. We lived a VERY comfortable life, eating out for most meals, with regular drinking sessions, & weekend trips once or twice a month.

Rent: We spent $200 each p/m on rent. We had friends who paid as much as $2,000 p/m for luxurious penthouse apartments in D1, & as little as $120 for a room in a shared house in D3. $200-300 p/m is pretty typical for most teachers if you’re looking for comfort without extravagance in D1, D3, D5 or D7 of Ho Chi Minh City.

Food & Drink: Well this is even MORE subjective, but even if we ate out for lunch & dinner we spent around $15 each per day on food. Add in a drinking session or 2 per week for $20-50, & a trip once or twice a month, & we were averaging around $800 per month on food & drink.

If you’re eating in international hotels & 5-star restaurants you’ll be spending about $30 a meal. Run-of-the-mill international food will be more like $5-10 a meal, & Vietnamese restaurants will typically be cheaper than $5 a dish, & as little as $1!!

We actually found that cooking western dinners at home was often as costly as eating out! The overheads for businesses in Vietnam are pretty minimal & so restaurant prices were actually quite competitive with supermarkets! Perfect for lazy folk like us who only like cooking a few times a week!!

Transport: Most expats in Vietnam drive motorbikes, or mopeds. You can rent bikes from Bui Vien for around $50 a month. ‘Chi’s’ is particularly well recommended. We decided to buy motorbikes which, I think, is a smarter move financially. You can pick up an old second-hand bike for around $250, or a nice model for around $500. Newer bikes 1-3 years old run into the $1000s. The benefit of buying your bike is you can sell it when you leave for only a small loss. We sold ours for a $150 loss each after 16 months of ownership… that would have cost $800 if we rented!

Gas costs next to nothing. I don’t think I ever spent more than $20 in a month on gas!!

If motorbikes scare the pants off you… which is a reasonable feeling in Vietnam!… taxis are very cheap. Fares start at 50 cents & rarely run over $10 going anywhere in the city. For a 15 minute drive, you’ll typically pay about $3.

 

Teaching in Vietnam - The Commute

The Commute to Class in Vietnam may be a little different for you!

 

THE SAVINGS

 

So, with our TOTAL SPENDING up around $1000 per month, we were able to save $1000-1500 per month each. With a trip home at Tet or Christmas, a holiday in another South East Asian country for a week or two, it is completely plausible to save $15,000 in a year. Many teachers in big international schools, or ESL teachers putting in plenty of hours, will be able to afford a very nice lifestyle & still comfortably save $20-25k a year!

I will say that as Vietnam becomes more & more popular with expats, and more & more big businesses set up there, the opportunities will become more corporate, & less friendly to the free ‘n’ easy traveller type.

 

So what are you waiting for!!! Take that leap of faith & get yourself a good gig as a teacher in Vietnam!!

 

 

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