Internship in Cambodia
Updated 2018-07-24 09:17

Due to the number of professionals working in the development sector in Cambodia, there are fewer volunteering and internship opportunities than you might expect. However, if you wish to get a foot in the door at a particular organisation, gain experience in an industry for your CV, or simply do good for goodness' sake, then there are still options in the Kingdom of Wonder.

Development work has become quite a lucrative sector in the region, and there are a lot of NGOs in Cambodia, some of which do require volunteers and/or interns. However, do be aware that voluntourism and certain internship programmes can do more harm than good in an impoverished country like Cambodia, particularly when it comes to 'orphan tourism'. It is, therefore, important that you volunteer or intern with a reputable organisation, such as Friends International or Unicef, that is working towards sustainable goals in the best interest of Cambodians.

If you come across an organisation that is promoting volunteer work in orphanages, then be on high alert, as the people running the show may not always be primarily concerned with the children's wellbeing. Orphanages have started to open up as businesses, with the aim of attracting paying visitors each month (from 2005 to 2010, the number of orphanages in Cambodia increased from 153 to 269). And in many cases, the children are not actually orphans, but are taken away from financially-burdened relatives or are 'rented out' from a local school (Save the Children have reported that most 'orphan' children still have at least one parent who is alive and are sent to orphanages due to poverty rather than the death of family members). In addition to exploitation, many children in orphanages are at risk of abuse, neglect and even international trafficking, so it is important to be sure that you are not supporting these business models and inadvertently contributing to the problem.

Welfare experts strongly advise that if you wish to volunteer or intern with children, then you should be willing to commit to at least three months of work, as a revolving door of strangers can have a detrimental effect on a child's emotional development. And some organisations recommend that unqualified foreigners never volunteer or intern with vulnerable children.


Some international development organisations offer top students or recent graduates the opportunity to acquire practical experience through internship programmes, which generally have a duration of between three and six months.

Internships tend to be non-remunerative, so if you are successful, you will be required to make your own travel and accommodation arrangements. You will also need to move to Cambodia with enough money to cover your living expenses and health insurance for the duration of your internship, as you won't be able to pursue paid work on the side.

As an intern at a reputable NGO or development agency, you can expect to work under the direct supervision of an experienced member of staff, and gain knowledge and skills in the field that should help you to pursue a career in the sector.

For competitive programmes, you will generally need to meet the following requirements if you wish to be considered:

  • Be enrolled in a Master's degree programme in a relevant subject at an accredited university. In certain cases, students who are enrolled in a Bachelor's degree may be considered
  • Be fluent in English and preferably another language. If you have some level of proficiency in Khmer, this will also be to your advantage
  • Have an excellent academic record, of which you can provide evidence
  • Previous relevant work experience will also be favourably considered

Finding an internship

If you are already in Cambodia, it is worth heading over to the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia in Phnom Penh, which has a helpful list of all the Cambodian and international NGOs in the country.

Alternatively, the internet is a good place to start. Many internships at non-profit or non-governmental organisations in Cambodia are often listed on (just be sure to sort by date so as to see the newest listings first). It's also a good idea to visit the website of ConCERT, which is an organisation based in Siem Reap that has a 'responsible volunteering' section that offers helpful advice when it comes to preparation.

Another avenue that you may wish to pursue is to find an internship or volunteering programme through a professional organisation, such as Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), Australian Volunteers International or New Zealand's Volunteer Service Abroad, which can organise a suitable placement in Cambodia that can last as long as one or two years. The UN also runs its own volunteer programme called UN Volunteers that you may be keen to consider.

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