Published 7th September 2021

Cambodia is a mysterious country for many people. While you are probably very familiar with its neighbours Thailand and Vietnam, you may not have heard much about Cambodia except for its turbulent history. But Cambodia is so much more than its past, which you will come to understand if you decide to come here to teach English as a Foreign Language.

Read more: What is Cambodia Known For?

Finding a TEFL job in Cambodia

In Cambodia, you may be tempted to try to find a TEFL job in one of the beach towns, like Sihanoukville and Kep, or one of the smaller villages like Kratie, but your chances of finding a job in such places are slim. You may be able to find a volunteer position but don’t count on finding a paid position. 

Please bear in mind, though, that while volunteering is a noble pursuit, in order to make a substantial impact on a volunteer it is necessary to volunteer for an extended amount of time. Especially if you are in a teaching situation, it can be detrimental to your students (Young Learners, in particular) if they forge a relationship with you and you disappear after two weeks. Volunteering is a substantial commitment. 

Having said that, finding a job in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap is not hard as a result of the growing number of language schools. The populations are bigger in these cities so there is more of a demand for English instruction, as well as the fact that there is more money in the cities so people are more likely to be able to afford English lessons than their counterparts in more rural parts of the country.

Very few positions are advertised online so it’s best to arrive in Cambodia and visit schools in person – though, of course, there is no harm in checking out job sites like tefl.com. You can enter the country on a tourist visa (which you can get on arrival) and this can easily be converted to a business visa when you find a job. This means that you’ll need to bring some capital with you to live off until you find a job but if you come into Cambodia with foreign currency, you’ll find the cost of living very low, so this is not hard to do.

The initial costs you’ll need to consider are your flight and visa costs, as well as insurance. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll need accommodation, transport, food and entertainment for the first month until your first pay cheque arrives. Bear in mind you might not find a job immediately so while it will be a month of work before you are paid it might be a few weeks until you start work, so budget for six to eight weeks to be on the safe side. 

Read more: Your Budget for Going Abroad: A Short Guide about Money

Girl learning on laptop

Teaching English in Cambodia

Teaching English in Cambodia usually involves teaching at a private language school. This could mean teaching childrenteens or adults. You will teach a variety of classes, such as General English or Business English, and you will probably end up teaching exam preparation classes at some point. Teaching adults usually takes place in the evenings (after work), while lessons for younger students take place during the morning or afternoon. You will probably be paid by the hour, at a rate of $10 to $15 an hour.

It is also possible to find a job in a primary school, but these are less common. If you do manage to teach at a school you will teach Young Learners and teens General English. For these jobs, you are usually required to have a Bachelor’s degree, as well as a TEFL certificate.

Regardless of where you work, you will generally teach between 20 and 25 hours a week. You can expect to earn between $1 000 and $1 600 a month. Of course, the higher your qualifications, the higher you can expect your salary. Native speakers are preferred for all jobs and citizens of South Africa, the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland are particularly appreciated.

The students in Cambodia are very hardworking and motivated, though you may find you have problems with discipline simply because your class sizes might be quite big and your students are energetic. They understand the need for English and they pay a lot of money for English lessons so they take their English lessons seriously. This is why even if you find a job with no requirements for the job, it’s still a good idea to at least have a TEFL certificate from a reputable and accredited course provider. A good TEFL course will prepare you for the classroom, both so that you feel comfortable taking the lead in the classroom and so that you can be the best teacher for your students. 

Read more: What Will I Learn on a TEFL Course?

Living in Cambodia

You can’t live in Cambodia without facing the effects of its history every day. Cambodia has suffered war and conflict at the hands of many countries and even from its own people, and the consequences of the unimaginable suffering the people of Cambodia have endured is still visible today. However, since the early 1990s, Cambodia has begun to grow in strength and stability. Tourism has given this country a new lease of life and living here gives you the opportunity to witness the redevelopment of a country and enjoy it while it’s still relatively undiscovered.

While a TEFL salary in Cambodia might not seem like much in comparison to those of neighbouring countries, the cost of living is so low that your monthly paycheque will go far. It is common for teachers to share accommodation with colleagues or other ex-pats, so that is already a huge saving. Rent will set you back between $150 and $500 a month, depending on how lavishly you want to live – and if you are happy to share or not. Meals cost between $2 and $4, so you can see there is a lot of opportunity for living simply and saving. Generally speaking, you can get by quite easily on around $500 a month.

And how can we forget the attractions that have put Cambodia on the map? Imagine living twenty minutes from the mind-blowing temple complex of Angkor Wat, or taking a weekend trip to see the Irrawaddy dolphins, or spending a holiday on the glorious beaches of Sihanoukville? Well, this is what you can look forward to if you decide to teach English as a foreign language in Cambodia.