While Thailand and Vietnam might be the more frequently traveled countries in Southeast Asia, Cambodia should be strongly considered as a TEFL destination. With its history of war and violence becoming an increasingly distant memory, Cambodia is quietly emerging as a relevant cultural and political centerpiece in Southeast Asia, and this often overlooked country is becoming a must-see destination on any world traveler’s wish list.
From the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat to the pristine beaches of Sihanoukville, and the booming capital city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia is truly a unique experience, and this fascinating locale has a great deal to offer prospective TEFL instructors.
For those interested in exploring Southeast Asia, but looking for alternatives to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City, Cambodia can be an excellent option. With an emerging economy and a quickly developing capital city (Phnom Penh), the job market for ESL teachers in Cambodia is consistently strong. And thanks to a very low cost of living, this burgeoning region can be a surprisingly lucrative home base for TEFL instructors. Since Cambodia is still very much a developing nation, options for TEFL certification in country are a bit more limited than some locations. However, the barriers to entry into the TEFL market are correspondingly relaxed, so Cambodia can be an excellent place to start for teachers without a college degree or significant teaching experience.
TEFL + Teach Programs:
The main options for TEFL certification on the ground in Cambodia are going to be certification and teach courses. Most providers offer four-week, 140-hour certification courses, followed by assistance finding a paid job teaching (average price is around $1795 USD). For those interested more comprehensive support services, look out for premium course options, which include additional features such as accommodation, insurance, guaranteed job placement and cultural excursions. Make sure that the course you choose in Cambodia also includes a supervised practice teaching component (all of the providers above include at least six hours.)
Most of the other options for TEFL in Cambodia will include at least some component of Online Certification. Providers now offer a hybrid course that includes a 120-hour Online TEFL certification, followed by a teaching internship (unpaid) in Cambodia, as well as excursions and other on going support services.
Some providers also offer volunteer TEFL and teach programs in Cambodia. Providers may offer a short-term volunteer program that includes an abbreviated TEFL certification, and placement in an unpaid job teaching at a local orphanage (with options to upgrade to a full TEFL certification if desired). While Cambodia is experiencing a rapid growth period, poverty still proliferates through much of Phnom Penh, and there is great opportunity to do real and lasting good by teaching English to citizens in the area.
Planning Your Trip
When and Where to Look:
With a population of over 2 million, Phnom Penh offers the most opportunity for both TEFL courses and teacher employment. A fascinating blend of French colonial and Asian influenced architecture, Phnom Penh is a unique and exciting city; with its rapidly growing populace and economy, there is a consistent demand for English teachers here. Opportunities for work exist in more rural locations as well, though they are not as plentiful. Tourist hotspots such as the beach town of Sihanoukville, and the historic Angkor area often have teaching opportunities for those that are not interested in city life. You’ll definitely want to sign up for a TEFL course before arriving in Cambodia though, as options for onsite certification are not as diverse as some other developed locations.
Most jobs in Cambodia will be in private language institutes, so hiring stays fairly even throughout the year. There is sometimes a slow down in hiring for the New Years holiday in mid-April, but the Songkron (or water) festival is also a really fun local celebration to experience! The weather gets very hot during the dry part of the summer in April/May, so if you are sensitive to warm temperatures and humidity, a course in June can position you well to miss most of the hot season.
Cambodia has some of the most relaxed requirements in Asia for TEFL certification and employment. As long as you are above the age of 18, possess native-level English skills, and a good attitude, your prospects should be strong. A college degree, teaching experience and local language (Khmer) skills are typically not required. So, Cambodia can be a great place to start out for those just beginning in the TEFL industry, or for people interested in a gap period after high school (and before beginning university). A business visa can be easily arranged for approximately $25 USD upon arrival at the airport in Phnom Penh, or can also be arranged online prior to departure through the Cambodian Embassy (MFAIC).
There are a wide variety of employment options for teachers in Cambodia, upon completion of their TEFL course. Many teachers wind up working with older students, looking to learn English to stand out in the job market, but there are also opportunities teaching English to children and younger students. Private language institutes offer the majority of employment opportunities, and teaching private tutoring sessions is common as well.
A brief application process followed by a face-to-face interview is the most likely scenario, and the process can sometimes move very quickly. Many schools in the region experience high turn-over rates unfortunately, so last minute, urgent openings arise pretty regularly. Native level English ability, and an enthusiastic, outgoing demeanor during interviews are a must. Also, business casual dress will most likely be appropriate (collared shirt and slacks for men, no short skirts or bare shoulders for women.)
TEFL certificate holders in Cambodia also venture into other areas of Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Vietnam or Laos. Though employment standards are stricter in Thailand and Vietnam (a four year college degree is typically required), with some teaching experience under your belt in Cambodia, your job prospects will be stronger in other locations throughout Southeast Asia.
Cost of Living:
The low cost of living in Cambodia is definitely a big part of the appeal for many TEFL trainees. One can easily rent a modern, two-bedroom apartment in a lively area for $200 USD per month. Utilities (water, electricity, AC and internet) should not run more than $50 USD per month. Street food can be easily obtained from vendors all over Phnom Penh very cheaply, and buying groceries and cooking at home is another way to keep expenses to a minimum. A budget meal at a restaurant will be approximately $2-5 USH, with a meal at a nicer restaurant running $5-10 USD. Salaries average in the $1000-$1500 USD per month range, so if one keeps expenses reasonable, it’s definitely possible to save a good chunk of money living in Cambodia.