Vietnam has become a melting pot for foreigners to want to start a new life in this region. From attracting millions of tourists every year, Vietnam attracted many expats to consider it an excellent place for new opportunities.
With such a flexible visa, easy to get a work permit, affordable cost of living, massive expat community, and delicious dishes, it’s not hard to get convinced why moving to Vietnam is a good idea.
This article will enlighten you with what’s working in Vietnam like, how to find jobs, which jobs are suitable for foreigners, salaries, how to get a work permit, what to expect in a working environment here, and more. You’ll also want to take a look at the list of items needed for entering Vietnam these days.
This article will walk you through jobs for foreigners in Vietnam, how to find a job in Vietnam, what salary to expect and perks included, and of course the legal and not-so-legal side of it.
What Working in Vietnam is Like
Working in Vietnam is very different if you come from Europe and North America. The process, the workspace, work ethic, salary, perks, and so much more. Some are different in a bad way, most are different in a good way.
For example, if you are an English teacher, you can easily switch up jobs if you are not happy with your current one especially if you live in big cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang where the demand for teachers is much higher.
The cost of living in Vietnam is very low versus how much an English teacher makes, hence, being between jobs can afford you to sit out until you find the job you want without panicking about your living expenses.
The legality of working in Vietnam as a foreigner is an entire complicated topic to unravel; therefore, we will discuss it later (look for the topics about Work Permit and Temporary Residence Permit and Risk of Working Illegally below).
Dress Code for Workers in Vietnam
For business people working in Vietnam, the dress code is pretty much what you would expect for an Asian country or internationally. For men, suits are the norm, and for women, a shirt or trousers and a blouse, or a women’s suit.
If you’re teaching English in Vietnam, the dress code is going to be a step down from formal business attire, but a step up from casual street wear. The shoulders and knees should be covered, and open toe sandals are not OK. Whether or not shorts are allowed is going to depend on the school.
We cover this topic more deeply in our guides covering how to dress while working or teaching in Vietnam and what to pack in your luggage when you move to Vietnam!
Jobs for Foreigners in Vietnam
Jobs for foreigners do exist in Vietnam, rare, but there’s a demand. However, the option is not very wide, and often, you will have to compromise on the salary range, benefits, and other things if you are eyeing a specific job or want to stay on your career part.
In this section, we will talk about jobs that are in demand, non-teaching jobs, and other work you can consider if you are planning to move to Vietnam. Don’t worry, we will discuss non-teaching jobs in Vietnam too.
Teaching Jobs in Vietnam
Teaching is the most famous work you can do in Vietnam. The demand is very high, the salary is competitive, and there is a big community of expats in this field, information and advice are easy to find. Now, let’s talk about the jobs you can look out for if you want to teach here.
The most popular job for foreigners in Vietnam is English teaching. Teachers in Vietnam make an extremely competitive wage relative to cost of living, often making more than enough to send a chunk of money home every few months.
Over 10 years ago, the Vietnamese government went on a goal to have their citizens be able to speak English fluently both to boost the different sectors of the economy especially tourism and investments but also to open up more jobs for the Vietnamese at home and abroad.
The demand for this job to be filled is very high, resulting in the set of qualifications is lower than what you’d expect. As long as you have a Bachelor’s degree, an English teaching certificate, even without prior experience in teaching English, you can land a job.
Only a few schools and English centres will require you to have experience in this field and a degree in teaching, these schools pay very well but with high standards, hence, can be a challenge to get hired.
One thing that you need to know is that some school centres would prefer to pay more to hire caucasian and native English speakers regardless of the applicant’s qualification which is very sad and honestly a daily debate amongst expats living in Vietnam.
Read our guide to teaching English in Vietnam for more details about qualifications, salary, perks, etc.
Teaching another school subjects
My friend who moved to Ho Chi Minh City in 2017 was thinking to teach English, then, after reaching out to high-level international schools and universities, he found out that he could also teach Mathematics, Biology, and Physics since he is qualified to teach on these subjects.
The demand for this job is relatively good while the competition is quite low. In this way, you can quickly negotiate for a good salary and incredible perks.
Teaching another language
Teaching another language is also a great field for job opportunities for foreigners. I know a few people who do this as a side job. A friend of mine taught French, she gathered 10 students and would teach them once or twice a week. By doing it this way, you can offer your own rate without compromising your skills. She charged 700.000 VND per class, the 10 students would divide this between them.
The demand and competition in this field are lower, so, make sure to not charge too much. To give you an idea, English teachers charge $15-$25 per hour to teach between 15-50 students.
If you have the qualified education and certificates to teach a specific language, try reaching out to international schools or universities to bargain a better salary and maximise the benefits you can get out of your contract.
Tourism and Service Industry
There is also a significant number of expats who are working in Vietnam in the tourism industry. Most of them are in the tour agencies, tour guides, hotels and restaurants, and restaurants in tourists destinations. If you speak multiple languages like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, French, and Arabic – your resume will be very competitive.
Getting a work permit from these jobs can be a challenge since the Vietnamese government don’t hand out work permits to positions that can be filled by Vietnamese instead. If your employer has been on this business, they will be able to work this out for you.
One more thing to remember is the salary can be a tough deal to swallow. Since many young Vietnamese can speak very good English, the employer would instead hire them for a cheaper wage compared to paying a foreigner. Hence, speaking another language or having a particular skill will make your application impressive and perhaps can lead you to better compensation.
Hotel jobs in Vietnam for foreigners is hard to come by, but if you work in an international hotel chain from your home country or current location, you may want to see if your company can hook you up for a similar job in Vietnam.
Non-Teaching Jobs in Vietnam
If you work online or manage your business remotely, Vietnam is a great home base for you. Apart from the cost of living being relatively low, the internet speed all over the country is one of the bests in Southeast Asia for a very cheap price. Very often, apartment rents already include this cost on the rent fee.
While mobile data is also not a problem, for as cheap as $5, you can get up to 5GB mobile data with up to 45MBps speed even in smaller towns.
If you are good with networking and have a talent for online marketing or web designing, you can also reach out to different businesses and see if you can turn them into a client.
As I mentioned before, the tourism industry is a massive sector that keeps the economy booming in Vietnam. There are millions of tourists from all over the world coming to Vietnam annually resulting in the demand for translators or foreigners who speak multiple languages to spike.
One of the easiest jobs you can look out for is as a tour guide for a specific tourist who doesn’t speak English. The best way to find these jobs is to reach out to tour agencies and companies.
If you don’t feel like mingling with dozens of people every day, but can speak other languages, you can do something different. Try reaching out to restaurants, hotels, and other businesses in the tourism industry and see if you can get their menus, signs, and documents translated.
When I travel, I feel like many profitable businesses are missing a significant number of possible customers because their menu or signs are only written in the local language and English. You can also use these Facebook groups for marketing your services.
IT (Information Technology)
This job is not easy to find in Vietnam; however, there is a small demand, but the salary is not very attractive since this job can be done by the Vietnamese. However, I know some ex-pats who decided to teach coding or programming to locals or even other foreigners.
How to Find Job in Vietnam
Finding work in Vietnam can be a challenge that depends on which field you are looking at. Getting a job in Vietnam is combined with your excellent networking skills, marketing yourself, and patience.
To not be able to speak Vietnamese, the ways to find a job in Vietnam can be a challenge. You already miss the chance to network with non-English speaking Vietnamese, not be able to understand the job posting section on newspapers or magazines, or job market websites that cannot be translated into English.
But don’t worry, there’s always another way, why do you think Vietnam has become a melting pot for foreigners to start a new chapter of their life here?
For English teachers and freelancers in different fields, social media is a great source of jobs for you. Just remember that social media forums are filled with many trolls and straight-up rude people.
Often, they ridicule English teachers and backpackers, so if you are going to put yourself out there, put on a brave self and be ready to ignore or confront (up to you) the trolls of social media.
Some websites serve as job markets in Vietnam where you can filter out categories of job types, location, perks, etc. However, not all of them are easily translated into English, if you will go on browse these sites, use a device that has an instant translator tool.
Through a friend
Old school but effective, if you know someone here in Vietnam, put out some feelers and let them know you’re on the hunt for a job. However, if you don’t know anyone here, one of the best ways to build your network is to join expat and locals meetups or language exchange social groups or yoga groups. Any social gathering that will let you socialise and meet people who live and work in Vietnam.
Don’t worry, there are hundreds if not thousands of aspiring expats arrive in Vietnam every month, you will always find someone in the same situation as you.
Now, Vietnam has been known as a haven place if you want to start a new life. The need for English teachers here is crazy high resulting in hundreds of unqualified foreigners flooding in hoping to find a job.
Now, if you want to be able to get a decent job, a competitive salary, great perks, an employer who won’t screw you up because you don’t understand the law or the contract you just signed – you have to ask yourself, “am I qualified for this job?”.
To be an English teacher, translator, IT person, manager, is not just about being able to speak English, know how to speak another language, can fix a computer, have a diploma doesn’t qualify you to do these jobs.
Do you have the right educational background (Bachelor’s degree because you need that to qualify for a work permit), the appropriate certificates, the discipline and professionalism, and most importantly, the experience?
Vietnamese make as little as $200 a month for a 40-hour workweek. If you don’t have any exceptional skills, education, experience, why would a company hire you instead?
Salary and Perks
Now, the most essential and exciting part – salary and perks! When you know that you deserve to be paid higher, know your value – don’t sell yourself short.
Working in Vietnam is attractive for a reason. For English teachers, you can get paid from $12-$25 per hour depending on your qualifications and experiences. You can charge whatever you want if you hold private classes or 1-on-1 tutoring.
Apart from salary, make sure there are other perks like health insurance, housing, or transportation budget. Are there paid holidays, how much is overtime fees, does the health insurance cover your dependents too?
Work Permit and Temporary Residence Card
The process of getting a work permit in Vietnam and eventually a temporary residence card is a little bit different, however, not impossible. Usually, your employer should process this on your behalf as long as you provide the right papers.
Here is the process:
- You must possess a business visa that is provided or sponsored by your employer
- Submit all the translated and notarised documents to your employer
- Once you receive your work permit, you can apply for a temporary residence permit
- Here is a more detailed guide on a work permit and temporary residence card
REMEMBER: You don’t need to get a temporary residence card if you don’t want to, but the downside is, if you leave your employer who processed and hosted your work permit, you will have to leave the country and enter with a new visa. Work permits are tied to one employer only, quitting your job, meaning the work permit will be cancelled. Unlike with a temporary residence card, even if your work permit is revoked because you left your job, you can stay in Vietnam and actively find and start a new job.
Risks of Working Illegally
You will be surprised at how many expats living and working in Vietnam illegally. Working on a tourist visa and even on a business visa without the work permit specifically for the job you’re doing is illegal. English teachers, freelancers, digital nomads, and many others are working here without the right documents.
Vietnam has started cracking these expats down, if you get caught, you are risking getting deported and banned from the country.
Another thing, foreigners who work online for non-Vietnamese companies don’t have any visa or work permit option available for them. Hence, many of them resort to tourist visas, business visas, or obtain a work permit or residence card under the table for a higher cost. Perhaps., the pandemic 2020 will change this situation.
Thanks for reading our guide to working in Vietnam. We hope it has helped answer your questions about what it’s like to work in Vietnam, jobs available, and the process for getting hired. Good luck with your job-hunting!