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Jobs Abroad for Students and Graduates

Short-Term Work Programs

Paid work for students and graduates 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 you often cannot acquire without a job offer, and — classic Catch-22 — very few employers will offer you a job without a work permit.

The good news is that several organizations 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 that does not require applying far in advance. You can get a work permit without a job offer and work at any job you find, and the application process is non-competitive.

BUNAC 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 job search and visa support (for a fee), but you generally find your job and apartment using listings provided by the overseas program office. The average time for finding jobs 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 paycheck. Most students report that they can cover their expenses and save money. However, finding such work is only accomplished relatively easily in countries with working holiday options, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and a few other countries with more open policies.

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 and make reservations. Finding your apartment after you get your job is advisable 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 can 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

Arriving in a new country with a work permit is only possible if you have a job offer. Get the work permit before you leave, or use a job placement program such as BUNAC, which arranges for work permits in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Digital Nomad Visas for Work

Editor's Note: Of interest to recent graduates with a developed skill set and a desire for independent work and living abroad, there is another option. As of 2024, 11 European countries currently offer digital nomad visas, with more contemplating such an option. Many more countries worldwide provide some form of this particular visa, with some listing 58 digital nomad working and living possibilities and growing. These special visas allow digital nomads of all ages to live and work in an EU or another country beyond the typical 90-day limit, often for a year or more if they can meet proof of income requirements or have sufficient accessible savings. These countries include some beautiful places to work and live: Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Malta, Portugal, Romania, and Spain. Most digital nomad visas require the holder to be self-employed or employed by a foreign company, work remotely, and be willing to provide proof of a minimum income level. In fact, since the pandemic, there has been an increase in digital nomads, and the digital nomad phenomenon had already been underway well before. Many international corporations need work completed, especially in many technical areas of expertise in demand, no matter where you complete your assignments and as long as you now have widespread high-speed internet access.

Fee-Based Programs Offering Paid Jobs Abroad

Teaching, tutoring, and au pair programs worldwide, including Europe — which often include a participation fee — were once offered by several U.S.-based organizations. Still, many have diverted to pure, often costly, fee-based programs since. Nevertheless, specific programs often 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. You can find many such programs and excellent paths to transition to a career in various internships, teaching abroad, and other areas on the TransitionsAbroad.com site.

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. That is a great option to start if you're looking for an inexpensive way to experience total cultural immersion or earn your way through an adventure abroad.

William Nolting  was an Assistant Director at the International Center of the University of Michigan and a 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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