Before you can start teaching English in Vietnam, you need to get yourself an ESL teaching certificate. This lil’ piece of paper only takes about a month to earn, but all the different acronyms out there (CELTA? TESOL? TEFL? WTF?) can seem really confusing at first. Relax, it’s simpler than it seems. In Vietnam, the requirement for native speakers to land a job is not very high. In terms of getting hired, it doesn’t really matter what kind of certificate you have. Schools will hire you anyway. So why write this blog post?
If you want some decent training or plan to teach in other countries later on, you should think a little more carefully about what kind of course you want to take. I’ve broken it all down for you below to help you wade through the murky waters of teaching certifications and make the right choice.
CELTA: The CELTA is often referred to as the gold standard of teaching courses. Technically it’s not its own qualification – it’s a brand of TESOL. Think of it like Coca-Cola vs Pepsi (or that cheap supermarket stuff you used to pre-drink with at uni). It’s a similar product with a different label. CELTA courses are more expensive than TEFL or TESOL ones and they’re very time-consuming. You learn how to teach adults rather than young learners and you’ve got to fill in some seriously detailed lesson plans (we’re talking minute-by-minute). It’s a good option to do a CELTA – or CELTA equivalent – if you see yourself ESL teaching in places other than Vietnam. When applying for ESL summer camp jobs in the UK, I was frequently told that my qualification had to be a CELTA or CELTA equivalent. Luckily, it just so happened that my TESOL course was CELTA equivalent, so I was able to have a working holiday back home and earn a pretty decent wage whilst doing it. To be CELTA equivalent, a course has to be
- Accredited by a government body
- Have over 120 hours in-class (being taught in a physical classroom)
- Have over six hours of supervised teaching practice to real ESL students
Even though my teaching course was a CELTA equivalent, there was nowhere near as much work involved as the actual CELTA, so I feel like this was a pretty sweet deal. If you just see yourself teaching in Vietnam for a year or so, you don’t really need to worry about any of this. But if you’re thinking about other destinations after ‘Nam, it’s worth doing a CELTA (or at least an equivalent.) If you’d like to do your CELTA in Vietnam, here are some places to look into:
The above companies are language centres that offer CELTA courses and often hire straight from the course afterwards.
TEFL and TESOL
TEFL and TESOL: There’s not a huge amount of difference between a TEFL and TESOL if truth be told, and schools in Vietnam don’t care which one you have. Like, at all. More respected courses tend to have more in-class hours and supervised teaching practices. A ‘good’ course should have 100-150 hours of in-class time (on my course, a lot of this was just planning lessons whilst sat in a classroom) and at least six hours of observed teaching in a real-life classroom. I did find the teaching practices to be very helpful in preparing for actual teaching. That said, I learned way more about being a teacher after I landed my first job. I’d say the practices are a good idea but not strictly necessary – and everyone’s different!
- AVSE/Ninja Teacher offer a CELTA-equivalent TESOL course in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Phnom Penh. This is the course I took – read my full review here!
Online Teaching Courses
Completing your TEFL or TESOL online is a pretty good way to save some pennies (or a few hundred dollars, in many cases). Not all online courses were created equal and you tend to get what you pay for. Courses with fewer hours are cheaper, but they’re also not as highly regarded. Also, the majority of online courses don’t have any in-class practice. Many – or even most – language schools in Vietnam don’t care about your certificate as long as you have one, so this is a really good option if you just see yourself teaching here for a bit. It’s probably what I’d have done had I known then what I know now. If you have long-term teach-abroad goals though, it’s better to take an in-class CELTA or CELTA-equivalent. (See above!)
- Bridge Tefl offer a range of online courses, starting at $140. The price is based on the amount of hours, modules, feedback and resources involved.
Some courses in Vietnam will offer you a ‘job guarantee.’ I wouldn’t worry too much about this. You’re guaranteed a job here anyway if you speak English. Plus, that ‘guarantee’ might push the price of your course right up and they’ll be looking to tick you off of a list rather than find you a good gig.
Anything Else I Need to Know?
If you don’t obtain your teaching certificate in Vietnam, you’ll need to get it authenticated and legalised before you come here. This is usually a three-step process whereby you get it notarised by a solicitor, authenticated by your government and then approved for use in Vietnam by the Vietnamese embassy in your country, but it varies from nation to nation. I go into more detail about this here.
So there ya have it. As I said before, schools don’t really care what kind of certificate you have, so long as you’ve got one. Think about what’s important for you and go from there. Good luck!