Guide to Work, Study, Travel and Living Abroad    

Jobs Abroad for Students and Graduates

Short-Term Work Programs

Paid work for students and grads in Sydney, Australia
Students may find paid jobs after college in Australia with the Working Holiday program, which a variety of organizations, including BUNAC, facilitate.

To work abroad you generally can’t just hop on a plane to a foreign country and start looking for a job. Doing so would be illegal without a work permit, which cannot be acquired without a job offer, and—classic Catch-22—very few employers will offer you a job without your already having a work permit.

The good news is that there are a number of organizations which can help you cut the red tape and acquire a legal work permit or place you in a paid job. Despite the historical cycle of economic strength in some countries, job prospects remain good for those participating in short-term work programs—from a few months up to 23 months or a bit more.

Work Permit Programs Abroad for Students

Thousands of U.S. students and recent graduates work abroad each year in programs administered by BUNAC, a popular option for short-term paid work abroad and one of the few which does not require applying far in advance. You can get a work permit without a job offer, you can work at any job you find, and the application process is non-competitive.

BUNAC USA can get you a work permit—otherwise tedious for Americans to obtain—any time of the year for Australia and New Zealand for up to a year. They can also get you work permits for Ireland and Canada. Volunteer projects are available in Cambodia, Ecuador, Nepal, and South Africa. Without a work permit, you could only work illegally, seriously limiting your options.

BUNAC offers much support, but you generally find your own job and apartment using listings provided by the overseas program office. The average time for finding jobs is depends upon the country. The initial investment includes the program fee, round-trip airfare, and enough money to tide you over until you get the first pay check. Most students report that they can cover their expenses and save money, although this is not always easily accomplished in Australia and New Zealand due to cost of living and high airfares.

The typical BUNAC job is in restaurant, hotel, clerical, or sales work—but these ordinary jobs still provide a total immersion experience in the daily life of another culture, resulting in cross-cultural insights, friendships, and personal growth. Some participants have managed some creative short-term and summer jobs. Some participants arrange interviews in advance, but a firm job offer in advance is rare.

Come prepared. Bring your resume and references from previous employers or professors and a suit for interviews.

Accommodations. Take advantage of optional room reservation services offered by most of these programs. Otherwise, reserve a youth hostel in advance. Visit the Hostelling International website to find make reservations. It’s advisable to find your apartment after you get your job to minimize commuting time. Some jobs include housing.

Insurance. Most programs require you to have your own health insurance. The International Student Identification Card (ISIC) cards provides travel discounts. We recommend that everyone have one. More comprehensive coverage is available from special agencies such as World Nomads, essential if you have no other health insurance.

Study and work. If you are going on a study abroad program, you may be able to combine it with a BUNAC permit, allowing work before, during, or sometimes after studying. However, don’t expect to finance your studies this way.

Getting a work permit overseas. This is nearly impossible unless you already have a job offer. Get the work permit before you leave, or use a job placement programs such as BUNAC which arranges for work permits in countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

Fee-Based Programs Offering Paid Jobs Abroad

Teaching, tutoring, and au pair programs worldwide, including Europe—which often include a fee for participation—are offered by a number of U.S.-based organizations, including Interexchange and Geovisions. API Teach Abroad offers programs allowing you to teach or tutor in 6 countries. Such programs then provide a stipend or pay for your work that helps cover the program fee while you experience a culture from the inside. CIEE English teaching programs require a B.A. and include the necessary TEFL certificate training as part of their fee.

Alternative Jobs

Students also have access to alternative jobs, paid and unpaid, including internships abroad or volunteering programs with private sending organizations, government organizations such as the Peace Corps, or NGOs. If you want an internship for academic credit, consider a study abroad program with an internship or volunteer component. If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to experience total cultural immersion, or to simply earn your way through an adventure abroad, here’s a good place to start.

William Nolting was an Assistant Director at the International Center of the University of Michigan and former Work Abroad and International Educational Editor for Transitions Abroad.

Related Topics
Short-Term Jobs Abroad
Internships Abroad
More by William Nolting
Long-Term Jobs Abroad
International Internships
Study Abroad Resources

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