If you’ve done a quick Google search, you’d know that Cambodia is one of the easier countries to teach English in. Whether you’re a new teacher looking to get your foot in the door, or an experienced teacher looking for a new experience, you should really consider teaching English in Cambodia.
We are ESL teachers living and working in Cambodia and we hear the same question over and over again, “how do you do it?”. Your answer is here – we’ve created our “how-to” guide on moving to Cambodia and teaching English.
1. Get your TEFL (no, you do not need a degree)
Many countries require a 4-year bachelor degree to work as a teacher, but Cambodia is not one of them. That’s right – you don’t need a BA to teach English in Cambodia. Although a degree would be helpful (and probably get you a higher paying job), it is not necessary to possess one to legally work in Cambodia.
We do, however, suggest that you take a TEFL course before arriving. Now – before anyone jumps down our throats, we figured we should mention you do not need to have a TEFL certificate either. We do understand many teachers have been successful in finding a job without one. That said, we still recommend you get one and here’s why:
- Many schools will ask you if you have one and some may even ask for you to bring it to your interview
- If you have no former teaching experience nor a teaching degree, we believe that is only fair to the students that you are knowledgeable, prepared and have even the slightest idea what you’re doing
Note: You do not need to take the best, most expensive course – however, if you have the option to take an in-person course rather than an online one, then choose that. We did ours with Oxford Seminars in Vancouver, Canada for under $800.00.
2. Decide where you want to go
(*hint* – the money is in Phnom Penh)
You may have your eye set on a certain city but let’s talk about your options realistically here. Where is the best place to teach English in Cambodia?
If you’re expecting to make a living and even save some money, Phnom Penh is the best place to go. As the capital city, foreign English teachers are in high demand and it is easier to get a full-time position.
Here’s what you can expect in terms of salary for a full-time job in PP:
- Teachers should not take anything less than $1,000.00/month.
- Most new teachers start at 1,200.00/month.
- The average teacher with some experience makes $1,400.00/month.
- Very experienced teachers can make anywhere between $1,500.00-$2,500.00 per month, although these jobs are harder to find.
It should be very easy to find a job that pays $1,200.00-$1,400.00 USD per month.
Find our article here about saving money in Phnom Penh – including our salaries and our full monthly cost breakdown.
Of course, we know, everybody wants to move to Siem Reap. However, we don’t suggest it if you’re coming to save money. There is a much lower demand for teachers in SR and many teachers find themselves working part-time hours in the interim. Because Siem Reap is the home of the incredible Angkor Wat, prices are inflated in the city and you’re least likely to find that cheap street food you can get everywhere in Phnom Penh. If you’re retired, have a lot of money saved, or you’re just looking for part-time work, SR is perfect for you.
Sihanoukville / Kampot / or anywhere else, really:
If you’re hoping to live anywhere except for Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, then you’re looking at a very different experience than what we’re talking about here. Many of the beachy or rural schools will only offer volunteer positions, work-for-accomodation situations, or very low pay.
If you’re looking to move to Cambodia for this type of living situation, then you can explore schools in the following areas: Sihanoukville, Koh Rong, Koh Kong, Kampot, Kep, or any other rural provinces that you may come across. Many of them will be glad to have your help.
3. Save up some cash
We recommend saving up $3,000.00 USD before your arrival in Cambodia.
- This will be a great safety net if you have difficulty finding a job.
- This will also ensure that you’ll have more than enough to pay for hotels and put a deposit down on an apartment.
- Most transactions in Cambodia are done in cash, so this will also ensure that you will have more than enough to cover any emergencies in cash, should they come up.
4. Be prepared to stay for at least one year
Yes, most contracts are 12 months long. So make sure your rent, mortgage payments, pets, and everything back at home are sorted for one year.
5. Book your flight
(and book an ongoing one too)
We never thought we’d be the people to just show up in a country with no jobs or apartments. However, if you’re serious moving abroad to teach English in Cambodia, chances are you’re going to have to be that type of person.
This was the hardest part about planning this trip, but the truth is that you’ll have to be on the ground to attend interviews, do demos and in some cases, even apply at the schools in the first place.
So – just book your flight.
Note: If you are booking a one-way flight, it is wise to also book ongoing travel as some airlines will not let you on the flight without it. Check with your airline to find this answer. If you cannot find a concrete answer, just book a cheap flight or bus to Thailand or Vietnam for 3 weeks after your arrival. You will only spend $20-$50 dollars, and hey – if you don’t end up liking Cambodia, you’ll have a backup plan booked.
We never book a flight without travel insurance. Get your quote with World Nomads here.
6. Book a hostel, hotel, or AirBnb
We booked a cheap hostel ($3/night) for one week so we had time to find jobs and look for a place. Pick somewhere central. If you’re going to PP, see our article Where To Stay in Phnom Penh if you don’t know which area to stay in.
7. Compile a list of schools you will apply to
Google the international schools and make a list. This is a great database. Make sure you do your research on the schools you will be applying to.
8. Send your CV/cover letter into schools before you arrive
This is important. Almost every resource will tell you that you can’t get a job teaching in Cambodia unless you are in the country, and while this is partially true, it doesn’t mean you can’t set up an interview before you arrive. We set up our interviews for the day that we arrived, and within 24 hours we had a job secured in Phnom Penh.
Go through your list and find an e-mail address on the ‘contact’ page of each international school. From there, you can send an e-mail with your CV and a brief cover letter, explaining that you’ll be in the country soon and you’re looking for a position. You’d be surprised by the response you may get!
9. Be prepared to apply in person
Should e-mailing the schools prove itself unsuccessful for you, make sure you have a great professional outfit and some hard copies of your CV to hand out in person.
Remember that contact page we visited before? There, you’ll be able to find the addresses of the international schools. Try to pop in on a weekday some time in the morning so you can hand in an application in person.
10. Prepare a lesson plan
(you may have to do a demo)
If you aren’t an experienced teacher, this is why we recommend you take a TEFL course. Many schools will require you to do a teaching demo, which could be anywhere from 15 – 60 minutes. Come prepared with both a shorter and a longer lesson plan – they may even get you to do it on the spot.
11. Join Facebook groups
If you have Facebook, you don’t want to miss out on this step. Facebook groups were extremely helpful during our stay in Cambodia. Search up some expat groups to join. Use keywords such as “expats in Cambodia” “teachers in Cambodia” “foreign English teachers Cambodia” and “teach English in Cambodia”. You can also search these groups by the city you’ll be staying in. Join as many as possible – they can be very helpful.
12. Take the chance
Like we said, we never thought we’d be the type of people to just get up and move to a country we knew little about – but the truth is that once you get there, you’ll see how easy it is.
Cambodian people have a very relaxed way of life, and if you’re planning on fitting in there, you’ll have to have one too. We are so fortunate to be able to move there with ease, so don’t pass up the opportunity. Take the chance and trust the process. You won’t regret it.
See our video below about “all things teaching English” in Cambodia: