Cambodia has a tragic past, but is these days considered to be a stable country and welcoming to foreign workers. For several years now, the TEFL market in Cambodia has been one of the fastest growing in Asia and as the country’s economy continues to improve so do the opportunities for EFL teachers. In years gone by, native English speaking ‘backpacker teachers’ could turn up with no other qualification and find work in a large number of Asian countries, but this is rarely the case now. Cambodia, however, is one location where you can still find teaching work without the necessary qualifications that other countries demand – you don’t need a degree to qualify for a visa, and while we always recommend having at least a 120-hour TEFL certificate (and many jobs in Cambodia do require this), it can still possible to find work without a TEFL qualification. You will, however, need a work visa if you’re planning on working – the Cambodian government is very strict on this and you could find yourself being fined, deported, or jailed if you’re caught working illegally.
With plenty of teaching work, a low cost of living, wonderfully friendly people and delicious food, it’s no wonder that TEFL teachers are drawn to this incredible country. Pay isn’t great in Cambodia but with such a low cost of living, it’s easy to get by. You’ll have no shortage of things to do and places to visit on your time off, and Cambodia is a place where you can really have a proper adventure while teaching English abroad.
- Popular locations for TEFL jobs: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap
- Average salary for EFL teachers: The basic monthly salary for full-time positions is likely to be in the region of $900 – $1,300 (£680 – £1,000) per month. Top salaried positions pay around $2,000 (£1,500) per month. Many positions pay by the hour, at a rate of around $10 – $15 (£7 – £11) per hour.
- TEFL qualification requirements: A 120-hour TEFL qualification is required for some positions
- Prerequisite university degree: No degree required for a visa, but can be specified by employers
- Term times: May to October and November to March
- Currency: Cambodian Riel (KHR) and US dollars
- Language: Khmer
- Teaching programmes: Private Language Schools, International Schools, Business English, Bilingual Kindergartens, Volunteering
- Age restrictions: None
- Previous teaching experience: Beneficial but not necessary
The experience of teaching English in Cambodia varies greatly depending on the school you work at and what sort of role it is. There are many voluntary positions in Cambodia, some where you pay for the experience and get accommodation and food for free, and others that are free to participate in but you pay for your own costs of living. Paying jobs might be salaried or paid by the hour, even if they’re full-time, and again you might find a higher paying job with no perks or one with a lower salary but you get free accommodation.
Professional, academic work can be hard to come by in Cambodia, and even international schools don’t always conduct the majority of their lessons in English. Private schools will have varying reputations and it’s important to look around and do your homework before signing a contract – it’s not hard to find work, so don’t just jump at the first job you’re offered. Working environments depend largely on the professionalism of the school. Some will provide you with decent teaching materials, whereas others will require you to prepare things for yourself or adapt their materials if you find them to be unsuitable. Large classes of Cambodian children can be hard work even though they’re well-behaved, but they’re fun, kind, and a joy to teach.
Requirements for teaching English in Cambodia
|Country||Avg. monthly salary||Degree required||Start of term||Teaching experience||Housing & flights included||Suitable for non-native English speakers||Age restrictions|
|Cambodia||£650 - £950
($800 - $1,200)
|China||£1,200 - £1,600
($1,500 - $2,000)
|Yes||September||No||Yes||Yes, if degree obtained from an English-speaking country||Under 55|
|Hong Kong||£1,600 - £2,800
($2,000 - $3,500)
|Yes||August||No||Not usually||Yes||Under 60|
|Indonesia||£700 - £1,100
($850 - $1,350)
|Yes||July||No||Not usually||No||Under 60|
|Japan||£1,600 - £2,200
($2,000 - $2,700)
|Malaysia||£900 - £1,850
($1,100 - $2,300)
|Myanmar||£1,000 - £1,800
($1,250 - $2,200)
|South Korea||£1,300 - £2,000
($1,600 - $2,500)
|Thailand||£800 - £1,050
($1,000 - $1,300)
|Vietnam||£950 - £1,300
($1,200 - $1,500)
In Cambodia, despite having their own currency they operate on a dollar economy. Only items that cost less than one dollar are usually priced in riels, so don’t be surprised to see a combination of price tags. ATMs dispense both. English teachers in Cambodia earn a decent wage in relation to the low cost of living in the country, and you can get a meal at a market for as little as $1, while a sit-down meal in a restaurant is still very cheap. Prices are rising, but it’s still a very cheap place to get by. As is the case anywhere, living and eating like a local is significantly cheaper than eating Western food, frequenting tourist bars, and indulging in home comforts, but the options are there in the capital and Siem Reap if you’d like a more cosmopolitan lifestyle.
Most teachers are on an hourly rate rather than a salary, so benefits such as paid holidays, accommodation, and health insurance are not typically included with the job. Also, with many voluntary teaching positions in Cambodia, a lot of expats are on a tight budget and you won’t find it hard to connect with other TEFL teachers who are in the same position as you. With a rich culture and many wonderful places to visit, such as Angkor Wat (the largest religious monument in the world), Battambang bat caves, the genocide museum, Koh Rong island, and Ta Prohm temple. Many expats in Cambodia cite the friendliness, humbleness, and openness of the locals to be one of the most endearing and charming aspects of the culture. Along with glorious weather and amazing food (with top dishes including fish amok curry, green mango salad, beef loc lac, crab and pepper, and pumpkin custard) it’s no wonder that many TEFL teachers are drawn to the adventurous lifestyle you can have in Cambodia.
- Accommodation: £388 – £811 / $507 – $1,059
- Utilities: £71 / $93
- Health insurance: Cost of typical visit to a GP: £25 / $33
- Monthly transport pass: £17 / $22
- Basic dinner out for two: £7 / $9
- Cappuccino in expat area: £1.73 / $2.26
- A beer in a pub: £1.33 / $1.73
- 1 litre of milk: £1.88 / $2.46
- 2 litres of Coca-Cola: £1.29 / $1.69
(living costs sourced from Expatistan)
“Getting through your first few weeks of teaching can be tough. And that’s not normally because of the material you’re teaching. It’s because everything you know has been flipped on it’s head, turned upside down, shaken a few times, dunked under water and then pulled back up again. It’s wildly different to how you could ever imagine it. And if you can’t imagine it, it becomes seemingly impossible to prepare for.
It’s all fine and well for me to sit here and tell you to ‘Make sure you bring stickers!’, ‘Oh don’t forget to play bingo at the end of the lesson, they love that!’ And ‘No matter how many whiteboard pens you bring they will run out!’. But what I can’t prepare you for is the changes that you will go through as a person, and the things that you will learn and grow from, which are so much more than what you just experience when teaching.”
Kat, TEFL Org graduate teaching in Cambodia
Discover more student stories from TEFL Org graduates.