Is teaching English in Cambodia without a degree possible?


Teaching English in Cambodia without a degree is not only possible, it’s legal. Cambodia is one of only a few countries worldwide that welcomes non-degree holders into the local teaching fraternity. This is good news for people who think they’d make a decent English language teacher, even though they don’t have a degree. It’s equally good news for students across Cambodia because the ‘English teacher pool’ is much larger than it would otherwise be. For the purpose of this blog post, let’s assume that you don’t hold a degree, but you want to teach in Cambodia.


Teaching English in Cambodia without a degree AVSE-TESOL


Despite a university or college degree not being a core requirement to take on a legal teaching job in Cambodia, there are other ‘hoops’ that you’ll need to jump through. The ‘hoops’ are all manageable, but they will require you to: 1. spend a bit of money; 2. do some self-promotion; and 3. possess the ‘patience of a saint’. Like everything else in life, if you want it enough, you’ll weave your way through what needs to be done to achieve the desired outcome. The ‘outcome’ in this instance is something to behold. Among other things, there’s a quintessential expat lifestyle on offer, a decent salary in a country where the cost of living is low, and job satisfaction that few people experience in their lifetime. Importantly, you’ll feel appreciated. Being appreciated does marvels for self-esteem.


Hoop 1: Spend a bit of money

While there’s no issue with teaching English in Cambodia without a degree, reputable schools in Phnom Penh and across the country expect foreign teachers to hold government-regulated, internationally recognised TESOL, TEFL or CELTA certification. In plain English, TESOL, TEFL or CELTA are teaching certificates. This is where you will need to part with a bit of money. Government-regulated TESOL, TEFL or CELTA is serious job training that leads to an English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching qualification that you can use anywhere in the world. The ‘government related’ requirement is the key to legitimacy.


Teaching English in Cambodia without a degree AVSE-TESOL


The Australian Government accredited TESOL course at AVSE-TESOL in Phnom Penh is perfect. TESOL at AVSE-TESOL involves a time commitment of 150 hours over four weeks. The TESOL programme at AVSE-TESOL is all about ensuring that you have the skills, knowledge, practical experience, and quality certification you need to get a teaching job in Cambodia – and do the job well.  


Hoop 2: Self-promotion

Self-promotion is one of those things in life that people either shy away from or embrace with enthusiasm. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. In the context of finding a teaching job in Cambodia, I think you’re better placed if self-promotion doesn’t come easy for you compared to someone who embodies self-promotion. Certainly, your demeanour will be in sync with the local population.  


Teaching English in Cambodia without a degree AVSE-TESOL


The ‘self-promotion’ hoop is more about putting yourself, and your quality TESOL certification, in front of prospective employers (schools) in Cambodia than ‘big-noting’ yourself. Yes, teaching English in Cambodia without a degree is perfectly legal, but you will be competing for teaching jobs with people who hold a degree. Putting your best foot forward is paramount.


Here are eight ‘self-promotion’ tips, not in any particular order, that will be well-received by schools in Cambodia – the folks at AVSE-TESOL in Phnom Penh can help you with all of these without charge:


  • Produce and distribute a professional-looking, one-page curriculum vitae (resume). Your curriculum vitae needs to include a carefully worded paragraph about you, a decent head and shoulders photo and information about your government regulated TESOL certification.
  • Make a short introduction video that shows what you have to offer – professionally-minded, culturally sensitive, hold quality TESOL certification and suchlike.


Teaching English in Cambodia without a degree AVSE-TESOL


  • Have hard and soft copies of your key documents readily available – curriculum vitae, notarised teaching certification, sample lesson plan, notarised background check, passport with a current visa, written teaching-related testimonials.
  • Invest in professional-looking clothes and footwear (two sets). Here’s some insight – imagine that you’re going to work in a bank, that’s the standard you need to meet.
  • Be mindful of your personal appearance and hygiene. Nobody expects you to look (or smell) like Tom Cruise or Beyonce, but make the best of what you’ve got.
  • Show that you know a thing or two about cultural sensitivity. Learn how Cambodian people greet each other and follow suit, if you have tattoos, cover them, don’t touch people you don’t know, keep your voice down, speak slowly, be humble, be grateful for the opportunity that has presented itself.   


Teaching English in Cambodia without a degree AVSE-TESOL


  • Join local teaching-related Facebook Groups – there are many in Phnom Penh – let people know that you’re in town and looking for an opportunity to start teaching English in Cambodia without a degree.
  • Be ready to produce a ‘half-decent’ lesson plan with minimal notice; a coherent structure is the key.   

Hoop 3: Patience of a saint

In the third or fourth century (the exact time is unknown), Cato the Elder wrote: “Of human virtues, patience is most great.” Cato was clearly a ‘man before his time’. He’d do well teaching English in Cambodia without a degree or under any other circumstances. Why? Cato clearly understood the significance of ‘patience’.


Teaching English in Cambodia without a degree AVSE-TESOL


Frequently, you’ll see and hear things as you go about your daily life in Cambodia as an English teacher and expat that will leave you ‘shaking your head’. From this day onwards, I’d suggest that you make a point of not shaking your head. It won’t change anything. It won’t make you feel better. Shaking your head, grumbling and the like feed alienation. Possessing the inner strength, the ‘patience of a saint’, not to buy into occurrences that peeve you, is pivotal to your longevity as an English teacher in Cambodia. Heaven knows Cambodia is full of things that will leave you frustrated and even ‘red-hot’ angry. Frustrations experienced by expats in Cambodia are magnified by the harsh climate, abject poverty, poor infrastructure, and cultural nuances.  


What’s the key to exhibiting the ‘patience of a saint’ in Cambodia? Simple! Always remember that you’re a visitor. Acknowledge that Cambodia is Cambodia; it’s not Sydney, New York, or London. Whatever Cambodian folks do in their own country makes perfect sense to them. They don’t want or need a random foreigner telling them how to run their school, business, or life.



This blog post has focused on issues about teaching English in Cambodia without a degree. It’s crystal clear – a university or college degree is not a core requirement to work as an English teacher in Cambodia. You will need quality, government-regulated TESOL certification and the folks at AVSE-TESOL in Phnom can help you with this requirement. Moreover, you will need to engage in some self-promotion – without going over the top – and find the patience you probably didn’t know existed. It’s all manageable. It’s all central to carving out a new career path as an English teacher in Cambodia. What’s my advice? Grab the opportunity with both hands.


About the writer: Peter Goudge is the founder and Managing Director of Australian Vocational Skills and Education (AVSE-TESOL) in Cambodia (Phnom Penh), Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City) and online. If looking to start a new chapter in your life teaching English in Cambodia, reach out to AVSE-TESOL today: