Teach English in Cambodia: Everything You Need to Know

Living in Cambodia: 7 Reasons Why it's Hard to Break Up, Teach English in Cambodia: Everything You Need to Know

pink pangea foreign correspondent Cambodia is a really easy country to live in. There is minimal stress, a thriving English job market, and the price of living is low. Before this easy lifestyle can take place you need to first get here, find a job, and find a place to live–and that is where the stress sets in. Below are some tips on how to make your arrival, job hunt, and life a bit easier in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Visa

Unless you are from Afghanistan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, or Nigeria you are able to obtain your visa upon arrival. There are two visas available–Tourist ($20) and Business ($30). Make sure to get the business visa because it is the only one that you are able to extend for one ($45), three ($80), six ($165), or twelve ($280) months without having to do a border run.

A border run is where you have to leave the country and re-enter to obtain your visa extension. Tourist visas can be extended for only one extra month and it is single entry only. You will need one passport-sized photo and your passport must be valid for six months from the expiry date. You are also able to obtain your visa online, if you would like, but it is not necessary especially since getting your visa upon landing is quick and easy.

Teaching in Cambodia: Everything You Need to Know
Don’t forget to get the $30 visa!

Passport Photos

I would bring 20-25. Every school and landlord is different, and if you end up switching schools/housing you never know how many you may need. If you run out or don’t bring enough there are shops located around town where you are able to get more photos taken without a hassle. Also if you plan on traveling outside of Cambodia those extra passport photos are handy to have for visas.

Job Market

Cambodia believes in worker discrimination, but they are upfront about it. It is common to see job ads stating a preference for gender and age. In regards to teaching, it is easier for women to get better paying jobs here, but with that being said it is still easy to get a teaching job regardless of your genitalia.

On your resume, you should include a photo of yourself, your local telephone number, an address, birth date, and your country of origin. In regards to finding a job there are websites that post listings or you can do a CV drop where you go around to schools and drop off your CV. Expect a lot of phone calls and double check to make sure that your local number is correctly listed on your CV.

Local Phone

Get a cheap local phone. There are phone shops everywhere on Sihounkouk Blvd. where you can pick up a cheap Nokia for $25 (including charger) and a SIM card for $5. To use these phones you must buy credit, which can last you a while.

If you have a smart phone and decide to bring it with you, be wary. There are professional pickpockets and bag snatchers who will not hesitate to take it from your pocket on a quick drive by. A good motto is if you don’t want it stolen don’t bring it out with you–especially if you are out at night drinking. Replacing a smart phone here is much more expensive than in the West, because there are no plans to sign up so you buy a phone at its full retail price, and you can never be sure if you are buying the real thing or a knock-off.

Documents to Bring

While you do not need your TESOL certification to teach here, it does help. I brought my degree, TESOL certificate, and an FBI background check (not necessary) and made copies and attached them to my CV when doing CV drops at schools. I would also scan your passport so you can keep a document handy on your computer in case it gets lost or stolen. If this does happen make sure to contact your embassy, which can direct you on the next steps to take.

teaching in cambodia
So many documents!

Negotiating and Your Contract

Everything is negotiable in Cambodia, EVERYTHING–including your contract. Many schools will withhold a certain percentage or dollar amount of your pay until you have completed your contract and have returned materials if you were given any. If you break your contract you won’t get that money back. Also sometimes there are things you will have to do at school that you won’t know about in advance. For example, my friend’s school makes it mandatory for the teachers to stand in front of the school 30 minutes before school starts and for 30 minutes after school ends, waving to parents and students. You may have lunch duty, or are required to stay on campus until a certain time even if you don’t have classes.

Make sure to ask questions!

Are there any extra duties with your teaching job? Are they in your contract? What are the hours? Is the pay hourly or salary? Do they provide lunch? Sick days? Vacation days? Are these days paid or not? When do you get paid? Once a month? Twice? Do you need to bring in your own materials (white board marker, copies, eraser, etc)? Do you get reimbursed? How many different classes do you have? Do you have your own classroom or do you go from classroom to classroom? Are there staff meetings? If have an hourly wage, do you get paid for these meetings? Does the school get your work permit or is it your responsibility and how much does it cost a month?

Also ask to see the classroom before saying yes so that you can see your working conditions. Most importantly is air conditioning and does it work? It is deadly to be without air conditioning during the hot season in Cambodia. Make sure to ask these questions and more. If you don’t like something, negotiate. Make sure if there is a new agreement that your contract is changed to match it and don’t sign it until it does.

Salary

If you are working full time you should not be making less than $1,000 a month (that is low). While I have my degree, it is not in teaching and when I moved here it was my first time teaching. For my first job I was making $11.50/hour, which I left for a salary job of $1,300/month. The highest paying school that I know of for teachers who have their TESOL but not proper teaching degrees is $1800 per month which is extremely high and is not the norm. Anywhere between $1200-$1400/ month is average and you will be able to live comfortably.

Cambodia Public Holidays

Cambodia has 25 official days off. If you are paid hourly, you will not get paid for these. Most fall towards the end of the year, and depending on your school you may have more or less time off. This is important when it comes to your pay. This is where salary is beneficial, because who doesn’t love to get paid to vacation, and Cambodia has some awesome places to visit.

Homeless upon arrival?

Book a hostel before or ask a tuk tuk to take you around (I would have a list prepared). Hostels are cheap and staying in one for a month or two while setting everything up is normal and reasonably affordable.

teaching in cambodia
Number 9 Hotel located near the Riverside and Royal Palace

The School System

The school system is relatively new here in the Kingdom of Wonder and it wasn’t until this year (2014) that the government started cracking down on cheating and bribery. With that being said, your experience as a teacher may be a bit baffling. Don’t be surprised if you are not allowed to fail students, if the administration changes students’ grades, and if all of your students cheat. The tide is slowly changing but cheating and bribery is still alive and well.

There are also topics that most schools will tell you not to bring up such as government, politics, the Khmer Rouge, and religion. If they come up in your class don’t dismiss them but gracefully bring your class back on track and away from the “taboo” topics.

I had one experience in my class where the Khmer Rouge was brought up. It came up during a conversation about slavery in the United States. After explaining what slavery was one student compared it to the Khmer Rouge (working for free with inhumane conditions). Then the whole class started talking about it and I observed and monitored to make sure the feeling in the room was right and no one was getting upset. I also interjected with questions due to curiosity, but as a whole the conversation stayed positive and educational and no fingers were pointed, nor were racist remarks made.

Schools and Their Reputations

Western International: A huge school that is eager to hire foreigners. They have a reputation of always paying their teachers late and with little or no notice that you will be receiving your pay late. This school pays hourly. Locations: All over Phnom Penh.

Zaman International: The school with the highest salary that I have heard ($1,800/ month). This school is Turkish and Muslim and very traditional. Men and women co-workers are not allowed to sit together and there are a lot of extracurricular activities outside of normal school hours that are mandatory for teachers. Location: Toul Kork.

Heritage International School: A very relaxed school that pays well with an easy going atmosphere. Teachers have a lot of room to incorporate their personal style into the curriculum. Location: BKK1.

Gateway International School: The pay is reasonable, but they like to have their foreign teachers outside every morning waving and greeting the students.

Golden Gate International School: I almost took a job at this school until I realized that I would have to compile 35 lesson plans per week! That is outrageous. For that amount of work, the pay was not up to par. Also I heard that last year (2012) some teachers who went through the same TESOL certification program that I did got hired here under the condition that for the first 3 months (probation period) they would only receive $800 of their salary and once they passed they would be bumped up to their full salary. Once the three months passed, the school fired them–and it is pretty much impossible to get fired in Cambodia. Be wary of this school, but also ask around to see if anyone has more up-to-date information about it.

ELT: A good working environment, hourly pay and offers different class schedules; ideal for part-time work. This school has older students (high school and up) and offers many night classes.

There are a plethora of schools in Phnom Penh; look up some addresses and hire a tuk tuk for the day to take you around. You will also get to know Phnom Penh much better and see what a normal commute would be depending on where your school is.

Teaching in Cambodia: Everything You Need to Know
Happy students!

Housing

There are a couple of forums that I would recommend for finding housing. On Facebook, join these two groups: Expats in Cambodia and Phnom Penh Housing. Also join the Yahoo group Cambodia’s Parent Network, and lastly talking to a realtor is a good idea if you are looking for the whole place to yourself or have a group that wants to move in somewhere. If you are looking for a room, the groups listed above are good resources.

And that about does it. Any other questions are best asked when you actually get here. Phnom Penh is developing at a rapid rate and things change overnight. One of the greatest resources here is the expat community, which is filled with friendly and helpful people who will divulge any helpful tips and knowledge. So if you are feeling frazzled go out, grab a beer, iced coffee, or fresh coconut, sit down and start up a conversation. You never know what’ll you’ll learn and who’ll you’ll meet!

Hope this helps with you decision and transition into the Kingdom of Wonder….you’ll love it!

Resources: Khmer 440, Facebook page Phnom Penh Jobs Alert, Asia Teaching Jobs, CamHR, Bong Thom Classifieds, Movetocambodia.com

 

Teaching in Cambodia: Everything You Need to Know

About Caitlin Werd

Caitlin WerdCaitlin Werd, also known as Caitlin Seandel, is currently living out her life in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. To date she has been there for a little over 8 months teaching, writing, and volunteering. She will travel throughout Southeast Asia before returning home. She enjoys the company of dream chasers and limit pushers, as she herself is one. She thanks you for taking the time to read her posts and hopes that you are either enjoying your current adventure or busy planning the next one. To see more of her work, please visit her website at thetravelingplankton.com.

22 thoughts on “Teach English in Cambodia: Everything You Need to Know

  1. Avatar
    MARTIN
    January 5, 2019
    Reply

    Is there an age limit? If you’re over 60 forget it? I have lots of experience and a four-year degree with a TESOL but I am over 60…

  2. Avatar
    Sam Martin
    June 23, 2018
    Reply

    to James Browne

    Try a company called Teaching nomad, they are amazing at placing people with reputable schools in any of those countries.

    I was placed a at good school in Shanghai called LE schools (learning education) it sounds dodgey I know but they pay 15000 rmb a month, and they ask for 4 hours 3 weekdays a week, plus 8 hours saturday and sunday. that means you have a ton of time to explore shanghai or work private tutoring jobs, the regular rate when i was in shanghai was 250-500rmb an hour.

    One of my co-workers was making roughly 30000 rmb a month working an average of 6 hours a day. I will caution you that a few cavets to that company were, probation for 2 months where you have to be in office for 4 hours extra a day, and little training (i shadowed a teacher in 5 classes).

    Best of luck!

  3. Avatar
    Kolawole Ogunmuyiwa
    April 29, 2018
    Reply

    I am Nigerian graduate with some years teaching experience. I have been reading about teaching in cambodia and I will like to make it to cambodia later this year. I will like to know when academic session begins in cambodia or when is it most appropriate to come to cambodia for teaching? Thanks

  4. Avatar
    James Browne
    March 1, 2018
    Reply

    Hi, I wonder if anyone could help me, my partner and I are looking to teach English abroad, preferably indochina / China / Asia, Linda has a teaching degree with 5 yrs experience teaching UK primary age.
    We both have various TEFL qualifications, we’re open for direction and we’re ready to start, any advice would be warmly welcomed and appreciated!

    Kind regards, James Browne

  5. Avatar
    Alice
    October 16, 2017
    Reply

    I need to know more about teaching opportunity there, How to get that TESOL ? I’m a first timer teacher if possible, But I do have degree in college, And I had a lot of working experiences, I can teach children of course, I am presently working as call center agent, handling US account for almost 3 years , need additional help before going there

  6. Avatar
    Sanchita Singh Achary
    September 13, 2017
    Reply

    Dear,
    Please help me with some information, I am an indian lady running a english medium prep school, if want to start a self english tutorial home, is it possible? What type of procedure I need
    Regard
    Sanchita

  7. Avatar
    Rachel
    August 30, 2017
    Reply

    Hello Caitlin,
    Do you know if schools hire throughout the year? For example, November/ December time? I imagine it’s more difficult to be hired I couldn’t be over there for the start of the school year!
    Thank you,

    Rachel

  8. Avatar
    Emmanuel Ugwu
    March 27, 2017
    Reply

    Am a graduate from Nigerian, with various certifications but no TESL presently in Phnom Penh with 2 weeks tourist visa,Please can I use it to get a teaching job may be English or Maths?Thanks for your quick response.

  9. Avatar
    Brightpure
    February 24, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Caitlin! I am a Nigerian and I have a bachelor’s degree in English language and Literature, no TEFL. Can I easily get a teaching job in Cambodia? Will I be paid up to 1000$ without having a TEFL?

  10. Avatar
    david
    January 29, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Caitlin, do you have any recommendations for schools near(ish) the river/ market area. I will be staying in a hostel for the first couple of weeks so do not want to be travelling too much. The only one I know of is ELT.

  11. Avatar
    Kelvin
    January 3, 2017
    Reply

    Hi there. Are there lots of snakes in cambodia?

  12. Caitlin
    December 22, 2016
    Reply

    Hi Brandon, I started applying for jobs in August/September and found one quickly. I think going before the school year starts would increase your chances of finding a school that you like, but honestly it is very easy to get hired, you may just not be getting paid what you hope. I worked at Heritage International School which I would recommend. Zaman is another school and it was the one that pays the most for uncertified teachers. Hope this helps!

  13. Avatar
    Allie
    December 15, 2016
    Reply

    Also, thanks for writing…found this very helpful 🙂

  14. Avatar
    Allie
    December 15, 2016
    Reply

    Hello! Is it possible to get hired on any time of year? I want to move to Cambodia but it will likely not be at the beginning of the school year…
    Currently teaching in Madrid where private lessons are so common that you can make a living off of them. Is this the case in Cambodia?
    Thank you!

    • Caitlin
      December 22, 2016
      Reply

      Hi Allie,
      Yes it is possible, but don’t be surprised if your options are more limited. You may have to be with a school that you are not super stoked on while you wait for your ideal job. I taught at Heritage International School which was great and I would highly recommend that, also Zaman is a well paying school but it is Muslim so there are interesting restrictions, but it is probably one of the highest paying schools for uncertified teachers. In regards to private lessons- I didn’t go that route or even research it so I am not sure. People are always looking for tutors so I think it could be possible, especially with college students and working professionals. Hope this helps!!

  15. Avatar
    udonu chinonso
    December 1, 2016
    Reply

    Am a Nigerian graduate with nice professional certificates, no tefl. What kind of job are available for my kind of person? Pls need a reply asap!

    • Caitlin
      December 1, 2016
      Reply

      Hi Udonu,
      It will be harder for you to find a good paying job but still possible. The best thing to do is to try and contact some schools and see what their responses are! Best of luck!

  16. Avatar
    Meizel Nuera
    August 9, 2016
    Reply

    Cambodia is a growing country and the locals are very nice and friendly. In terms of school hirings, ( the need for native English speaker teacher is pretty much in demand all the TIME!) Most of the schools here prefers bachelor degree holder or have related experience with teaching. A TESOL certified is an advantage too. Languagecorps Asia is the best way to start.

  17. Avatar
    Meizel Nuera
    August 9, 2016
    Reply

    Nice blog Caitlin. Great work. Keep it up!!!

  18. Avatar
    hewalo kesen
    July 21, 2016
    Reply

    Am a certified TEFL/TESOL and looking for a reaching job in cambodia.

  19. Avatar
    Brandon Hendrickson
    May 17, 2016
    Reply

    Caitlin, thank you for the helpful post! I’m interested in teaching in Cambodia, and I’m wondering when I can go — more-or-less anytime, or do I need to wait until their school year begins? When would you recommend going over?

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