Teaching English in Cambodia: Pros and Cons

Andrew Lynch

The pros and cons of teaching English in Cambodia should be considered before you accept a role. With a population of 16 million and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Cambodia has a lot to offer TEFL teachers, and there are always a wide range of opportunities available in the local job market.  

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The pros of teaching English in Cambodia

1. Easier to find a job

Having a degree is not an explicit requirement to TEFL in Cambodia. At minimum you will need to be a native English speaker, but generally speaking, qualification requirements are not too complicated, especially at high school level. Working for a university will likely require you to have a bachelor’s degree, but to TEFL you won’t necessarily need to be TEFL or CELTA-qualified.  

While employers would prefer you have a degree it is far from essential, although having one of those certifications can help secure a better salary. This means teaching English in Cambodia without a degree is certainly achievable. It will also be required that you are a UK citizen when applying for jobs.  

2. Plenty of job roles  

The types of jobs available in Cambodia are usually for teaching children or adults in privately-run language schools, private tutoring, teaching English online or teaching business English to adults. Typically, there are plenty of job opportunities available, so as long as you can meet the basic criteria above, you stand a good chance of securing a job.  

Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, is the best place to search for a job as other regions of the country take breaks during the winter periods, from December to February, and during the spring in May. Work opportunities in the capital are always available, so will likely prove the best option in the long-term. 

Visas required will be a Type E, which can be arranged before you arrive or at the airport upon arrival. The visa can be extended for a further 6 or 12 months, with costs ranging anywhere between $100-$300. 

3. Enjoy a good lifestyle 

Teaching English in Cambodia offers a salary of $10-$14/hour as an entry rate when working in the capital of Phnom Penh. Working in more rural areas of the country will likely mean the hourly rate will be lower than this. Extending this into monthly salaries this will be in the region of $1,000 to $1,200 USD, based on working a 25-30 week. 

While the salary may seem low, an important point to remember is that the cost of living is also very low in Cambodia. You can rent a nice apartment for around $150 upwards, with utility bills costing around $50 and the average meal costing $2-4 USD.  

4. Great travel options

On a decent salary you can generally live quite well in Cambodia and well within your basic salary. There are also bus routes that can take you into neighbouring territories like Vietnam and Thailand, making it easy to travel in your spare time and explore the possibilities of securing work there too. Both Vietnam and Thailand have a lot of educational institutions and schools constantly on the lookout for TEFL teachers, so this is a good option to have available.  

5. Great place to start 

With qualification requirements a little lower than some other countries, teaching English in Cambodia offers a great opportunity to start your career. This is especially true if you are finding it difficult to secure your first job, with some schools in other countries setting the bar quite high. On top of that, it allows you to enjoy new cultural experiences and live a good lifestyle as you boost your CV for new opportunities further down the line.  

The cons of teaching English in Cambodia 

1. Look for city-based work

If you accept a job role in a location like Sihanoukville, for example, you may find yourself a little isolated away from main cities and cultural hubs. While the seaside town has its own benefits like island hopping, when you move to a new country to work it’s important to embed yourself into the culture to acclimatise. Sihanoukville is also a city of constant regeneration meaning theres construction everywhere and wealth is often centred around the many casinos there. The cities of Siem Reap or Phnomh Penh are the best choices for living and working, and will likely also offer better salary options. Siem Reap has the added benefits of being the gateway to Angkor Wat and the many other famous temples in the historic park. 

2. Different teaching culture

Just like any new country you teach in, it takes some time to get used to the culture of the country and the cultural differences inside the classroom. Children in Cambodia can be a little more boisterous compared to kids in the UK, and may prove more challenging to teach in some schools. However, this doesn’t apply as a rule to all children in every school, as many students are also just as eager to learn and do well in class.  

3. Watch out for scams

There have been reports of a growing number of scams enticing people to volunteer in Cambodian orphanages on a short term basis. Another trick is to ask people to pay a fee for the work they will provide. To avoid this always do your research and if they do not ask about your experience or qualifications then it is a sign they are likely not a genuine organisation to work for.