Land Your Dream Job at an International School in Saigon
For foreign teachers committed to advancing their careers, working in top-notch facilities, and enjoying some of the best benefits of any professional field in Vietnam, working at international schools in Saigon is the number one choice. These highly-coveted jobs can be notoriously difficult to pin down, as international schools tend to have some of the most rigorous hiring standards of any educational institutions in Vietnam.
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International schools typically have a much more demanding schedule than teaching positions at public schools and language centers. You can expect to work from 7 am to 5 pm every weekday, in addition to occasional weekend obligations like school ceremonies and parent-teacher meetings. Though you do have paid holidays, they tend to be fixed within the academic schedule, and most international schools are not flexible with unpaid time off. International schools are for teachers who are committed for the long haul, and who are able to not only engage their students with excellent learner-centered teaching, but act as a liaison between the school and the parents as well.
So what specific qualities do international schools look for in prospective hires? There are three key areas that International Schools focus on—and they are the criteria you should meet if you want to dramatically improve your chances of getting hired. Candidates must have solid credentials, a solid teaching experience background, and a culturally-sensitive air of professionalism and commitment.
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If you’re keen on teaching at an international school but don’t feel confident you’ll meet their rigorous standards, don’t worry! This article will tell you not only everything international schools look for in a candidate—but how to get the necessary experience and qualifications you need now, in order to get that dream job further down the line.
At a bare minimum, teachers interested in working at international schools should have a bachelor’s degree and an EFL teaching certificate like a TEFL or, better yet, a CELTA or DELTA. Increasingly, however, as more and more college graduates easily obtain EFL teaching certificates for the purpose of teaching and travelling, international schools prefer candidates who are fully certified to teach in their home countries.
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The certification process, depending on your home country, can take anywhere from 6 months to a year, and usually requires a significant financial investment. However, certified teachers in Vietnam typically earn around VND 120 to 240 million more annually than their non-certified counterparts. If teaching is your long-term career, this is an investment that will, eventually, pay off. The certification process typically requires completion of courses and examinations in subjects ranging from literature to maths, and a set number of assessed and/or recorded teaching hours. There are numerous online institutions that allow you to complete your teaching certification abroad—but they still require on-site assessed teaching. International schools typically offer support for teachers in the process of acquiring their certification, so in most cases it’s possible to work and complete a teaching certification simultaneously.
Most international schools in Saigon require at least 3 years of prior teaching experience. However, candidates with teaching experience in their home countries are strongly preferred, and even required at some international schools in Vietnam. If you haven’t left your home country yet, this is an important factor to consider before making the big move. Your application will be strengthened by any teaching experience you have in your home country as well as abroad—and regardless of either, getting certified will put you ahead of most other candidates for consideration.
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Of course, good teaching references are important. Highlight any and all prior teaching experience, as well as specific coursework at your university that may be applicable to your teaching ability. Any teaching certificates and qualifications should be included. Be sure to describe your teaching methods and approach in your CV (i.e. for EFL teachers, most schools prefer a communicative, student-centered approach).
International schools look to invest in their students and staff in the long-term. For that reason, many international schools require a 2-year full time contract from the start. This is a big commitment to make, and intentionally so—international schools aren’t interested in hiring backpackers that just want to make enough money to continue their travels. If your goal is to stay in Ho Chi Minh City for a short time as part of a broader travelling experience throughout Asia, you might be better off teaching at a language center or public schools.
Working at an international school requires a Monday-Friday and occasional weekend commitment for the entire school year. The intensity of the workload and the immersive academic environment means you won’t likely be able to go out or stay up late on weeknights. Though most of your work should be done during weekdays at school, exams and homework for your students may push your workload to after hours in order to meet deadlines.
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On the bright side, Vietnam’s academic year spans from August through May and sometimes up to early June. With a high salary and low cost of living, as well as contract completion bonuses and paid holidays, you should have plenty of time and money left over for travelling and vacation during the summer months. Some teachers opt to teach summer school during this time, which gives teachers the opportunity to make and save even more money during this time of year.
Before you consider a position at an international school, make sure you’re prepared for the kind of rigour and commitment that will be required of you on a daily basis. If you are passionate about teaching, committed to the long-term growth and well-being of your students, and want a position that will allow you to advance your career and become financially independent, a teaching job at an international school in Ho Chi Minh City could be the perfect fit for you.
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