A right of passage of sorts by many throughout the world, the gap year seems to be slowly making ground on American soil. Rather than simply being a “year off”, a gap year can actually be a remarkable opportunity to seek clarity and direction in what your next move might and make productive strides towards your future.
A gap year working abroad can be an excellent boost to your resume, dabble in something new, or just offset those pricey airfares.
It's also, believe it or not, a fantastic opportunity to see the world and make a little extra cash by getting a gap year job as well.
Not limited to those fresh out of college, spending a gap year working abroad can be an excellent boost to your resume, dabble in something new, or just offset those pricey airfares. So what kind of jobs can you do while on a gap year? Plenty! Behold thirteen of our favs:
If you consider a gap year to be an opportunity to sit back and enjoy the simpler things in life, why not consider dipping your toes into a bit of wine making by working on a vineyard while you’re at it?
The best part about wine, besides drinking it of course, is that there are countries all around the world that are known for their wine. Whether you’re interested in going to Spain, South Africa, Australia, or anywhere in between, there’s a good chance you'll find yourself near a vineyard.
Plus, the wine industry has a regular need for seasonal, temporary employers and will typically hire on extra workers during their harvest season. For some career winemakers, they actually split their time between the southern and northern hemisphere, hopping between each's respective harvests -- a perfect set up for a gapper who wants to do a round the world trip and make some extra cash.
It is important to note, however, that some of these positions require relevant experience and/or a related degree, but if you're willing to get your hands dirty and do whatever is needed, then you'll surely find a gig or two.
To get started on your job search, Wine Industry Jobs connects winemakers in with job openings in Australia and New Zealand and Job Monkey lists winemaking job opportunities worldwide. WWOOF is another solid way to find wine making jobs -- although you likely just be working in exchange for room and board (and hey, maybe that's all you need!)
2. English Teacher
Okay, okay, you probably have heard about this one. But hear us out a minute -- Like winemaking, teaching English as a foreign language (ESL) is an incredibly large industry in both non-native and native English speaking countries across the globe. However, this job does require a bit more geographic permanency.
To get a job teaching English abroad, a background in education is useful, but not always required. In general, many ESL / TEFL jobs only require a Bachelor’s Degree, TEFL certification, and fluency in English. Experience is always a plus.
Once you have your certification, the world is your oyster.
If you don't have your TEFL certification yet companies like International TEFL Academy and ITTT TEFL -- among many others -- offer certification courses in numerous countries worldwide and online. Depending on the company from which you earned your certificate, they may even offer job and visa assistance, which is generally a good reason to get TEFL certified in the country you want to teach abroad in.
Once you have your certification, the world is your oyster. For a broad-spectrum search, job openings across the world are constantly being posted on Go Overseas’ very own job board for English teaching jobs across the globe. For some countries, such as South Korea, you may want to consider using a recruiter to help place you in a school.
Do keep in mind that there are numerous regions, like Western Europe and Latin America, that prefer to hire teachers in person. While this may seem a lot more daunting, it's your best bet for getting a good job. Teaching English is also a flexible enough field that you could do some freelance tutoring in a country as a side job to supplement your income.
3. Hostel Staff
Many people spend the better part of their gap year in and out of hostels. If you have an urge to immerse yourself in other travelers and gap year comrades, maybe you should think about seeking employment in one of the infinite number of hostels in the world. Located in just about any country you’ll be traveling to, hostels will not only rent you a bed for the night, but may also be your key to financing your gap year.
If you’re looking to plan ahead, there are forums for hostel jobs, like Hostel Jobs, where you can inquire about openings, get advice, and find hostels seeking staff. Other hostels will post opportunities directly on their websites and sometimes have regular "work exchanges" in place. Quite often though, it's recommended to pursue these opportunities in person after arriving in a city.
Yes, this could be tricky depending on luck and location, and not necessarily the most lucrative gig. However, working in a hostel usually means at the very least free or discounted lodging within that hostel for the duration of your work period.
Another related option is to find a job (see rest of article) in a city of your choice and use a part-time hostel job to supplement your income and have affordable lodging for the duration of your stay. It may be a better solution than trying to navigate a foreign real estate market in search of a short-term lease.
4. WWOOF Volunteer
While this might not be a considered a “job” per se, WWOOFing is a great way to earn your keep and cut the costs of your travels. WWOOF, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, has become a go-to organization for wandering souls looking for a self-sustaining and sustainable adventure. The setup typically entails working for a farmer on their organic farm in exchange for room and board.
You may not have a regular paycheck in store for you, if you choose this route, but it’s not costing you anything either (other than the minimal fee you pay to have access to WWOOF's database, of course).
The setup typically entails working for a farmer on their organic farm in exchange for room and board.
Obviously growing seasons differ among countries, but you do typically have a lot of freedom in terms of how long you want to stay in one location. This is an especially desirable option for people looking to gain experience in areas like agriculture, horticulture, or a nutrition for their post-gap year career. For more details, look on the official WWOOF site. It also allows you to set up an account as a prospective volunteer and search your target country to find potential matches with farmers.
5. Music Festival Staff
If music is your thing, why don’t you also make it your job? And no, we don't necessarily mean busking. Every year, but especially in the summer months, there are music festivals across the world that draw in international performers, concertgoers, and well, they need a huge staff to support them.
These events are huge undertakings that take a large and diverse collaboration of skill sets. Event organizers like Summer Festival Guide actively seek out photographers, writers, and the like to attend their events free of charge in exchange for the publicity.
If you're not much of a writer/blogger/photographer though, don't give up hope quite yet. Large events need volunteer staff. The Guardian offers some good tips on volunteering at large music festivals to get you started. As a volunteer, you won't get a paycheck but you'll likely get free admission and sometimes even free meals or lodging.
Though these sorts of set-ups likely won't bring in much cash (maybe you should try your luck at busking?), they open you up for a free -- and awesome -- entertainment option for your time abroad. Not only that, but getting your name out there as a credible journalist, film-maker, or photographer could very well open up some other pretty exciting doors for you in that field!
Even if you don't bring in any cash immediately though, exploring your options further or starting off with by working for free might help you find a more stable job working at music festivals or as a digital nomad.
Speaking of being behind the scenes in the music industry, serious music fanatics can always follow their passion across the world working as a roadie, helping with equipment moving and setting up for concerts. Even though it’s hard work, taking a gap year following your favorite band across the world is a pretty sweet deal.
Serious music fanatics can always follow their passion across the world working as a roadie, helping with equipment moving and setting up for concerts.
Tour lengths, demands, and destinations vary significantly from one artist to another, so make sure to keep these elements in mind when seeking out specific jobs. Even though you want to go abroad, it may be easiest to find a opening that’s with a US band or company that will then take you abroad, rather than looking specifically for foreign groups.
7. Volunteer Organization Staff
No, volunteering on a gap year is not the same thing as having a gap year job.
However, if you can’t swing it to donate your time for free, you can also consider working for a volunteer organization. Especially if you're able to commit for longer (like, say, a whole year?) there's a good chance you'll be able to get a paid position with a volunteer organization or NGO.
Again, online forums and search engines like Go Overseas, and DevNetJobs are a good place to start for a general search and information.
Broad-spectrum sites like these provide openings across the world for various organizations. Many jobs may be of a more permanent nature than what you may be looking for, but others have shorter-term projects, such as promotion and outreach.
Do keep in mind, however that you're still being mindful to work for a responsible and reputable volunteer abroad organization and that, since it's a volunteer organization, you may not get more than a basic living allowance or stipend in exchange for your work. Also, you may be required to have extra qualifications to come on as a staff member, as opposed to a volunteer.
8. Cruise Ship Staff
Ahoy! Why not set sail on your gap year and head off into sea of possibilities on board a cruise ship? Cruise-lining companies are often looking for seasonal help aboard their vessels, for positions ranging from waitstaff or housekeeping ("stewards") to performers and babysitters (at least on larger ships).
With the range of jobs available on a cruise ship, it’s likely that you can find something you're qualified for. Plus, for basic entry level cruise ship positions, like being a steward, ships don't necessarily require previous experience.
Also, considering the move towards more experiential travel and less "getaway experience" type travel, smaller cruise ships like Lindblad-National Geographic have cropped up as players in the ship scene. Of course, Carnival and Princess Cruises are still the big boys (or should we say boats?) in the industry. Both directly seek out candidates on their websites.
You'll at the very least catch some jaw-dropping sunsets and have the most unique work experience of your life!
When choosing a cruise ship job, however, keep in mind the type of atmosphere and locations each markets. Cruises come in all shapes and forms, from relaxing getaways in the Caribbean, sightseeing tours of Canada and Alaska, river cruises through Europe, or an adventure cruise from South America to Antarctica. For more general information, All Cruise Jobs is a great all-encompassing resource.
Either way you go, it's bound to be adventure. Although you won't necessarily get to hop off board while your ship as at port, we bet you'll at the very least catch some jaw-dropping sunsets and have the most unique work experience of your life!
9. Au Pair
If you've had experience with children or babysitting, then perhaps a gap year filled caring for children as an au pair is a good fit for you. Moving into a family’s home in another country may sound overwhelming, but it’s truly an awesome opportunity to immerse yourself in a foreign culture and make a bit of extra cash on the side.
Many times, families in non-native English speaking countries are looking for a nanny or au pair to not only look after their kids, but also help teach English. The upside for you is that these au pair positions may also include a stipend or require the family to pay for you to study the local language while you're on your gap year -- meaning, an au pair gig in Spain may mean you gain more than just some spending money and a free place to live!
To start looking for these job openings, we first suggest leveraging your local connections. Networking, whether back in your home country or once you've moved to a new country, can be a powerful way to get a lead.
However, if you don't have connections abroad, don't fret. Websites like Go Overseas' own au pairing abroad page, International Au Pair Association and Au Pair World help match up au pairs with families internationally.
10. Summer Camp Counselor
While camps are definitely a classic part of summer breaks, summer camps and after-school programs also exist throughout the world and are a great short term way to work with children abroad.
In general, summer or after-school camps offer varying lengths of commitment and request a range of expertise. Depending on where you go or who you choose to work with, you may be working with anyone from small kids to teenagers, playing sports, mentoring, teaching English, making crafts, or teaching music.
Summer camps and after-school programs also exist throughout the world and are a great short term way to work with children abroad.
Companies like CCUSA allow you to pick a specific country and length of time for your camp job. This specific company does charge a program fee, but transportation, room and board, pocket money, and in-country support are included. We're also a fan of Global Camps Africa which sets up camp counselors with at risk youth in South Africa.
Alternatively, the ESL teaching world is full of opportunities to teach English at a summer camp, and often the best way to get a shorter teaching gig abroad.
11. Tour Leader
At times, travelers get to the point where they begin to feel more like a local than a tourist abroad. You've been living in your host country for a while now. You know the local spots, the language, and have a great group of friends.
With this level of familiarity, why not pass your local knowledge along as a tour guide or leader? Leverage your connections, ask around, or apply directly to a job opening. Also, understand that while tour companies will likely provide some training, they do want their guides to already be familiar and knowledgeable about the local spots. Fluency in additional languages may also be required -- depending on where you're leading tours and where your groups are coming from.
To get started on your search, look up which tour companies operate in your city or country and check their "work for us" or "employment" page. Bus2alps and New Europe Tours, for example, are larger tour companies that offer tours in multiple cities.
For broader searches, job forums like Indeed are a good place to start pinpointing certain providers. However, checking out the business in person and actually taking one of their tours is a really good idea to become familiar with the company, discover what you’d need to know if you were to give the tours, and build solid connections before an interview.
12. Bartender or Barista
If you’re a former (or current) barista or bartender, you’re in good company. Worldwide, people just like you are mixing drinks and frothing lattes for strangers, and, for the most part, this skill set translates nicely even across international borders.
If you already have bartending or barista experience, you’ve definitely got a leg up when it comes to seeking these jobs abroad on your gap year. But even if you don’t, this industry tends to have a large turnover rate and especially in small to mid-sized cities, you'll surely find a job opening eventually.
Worldwide, people just like you are mixing drinks and frothing lattes for strangers, and, for the most part, this skill set translates nicely even across international borders.
In the end though, you'll have the most success applying from within the country. Particularly in areas that have high backpacking traffic, going into these hotspots is a great way to talk directly to the manager and show your willingness right off the bat. Even if it’s not an English-speaking country, many bars do hire English speakers in popular tourist destinations, but knowledge of the local language is never a bad thing!
13. Freelancer / Digital Nomad
If you’re pretty set in your nomadic ways and are looking for a job that you can take just about anywhere, consider working as a freelancer or digital nomad.
For writers, coders, photographers, PR specialists, graphic designers, and social media marketers, (basically anyone who works 99% in front of a computer) sites like Upwork are designed to hook up companies and small businesses with freelance employees to work on short or long term projects as contractors.
The best part is you can complete your assignments from anywhere in the world -- so long as it has halfway decent wifi. Naturally, this does require that you have a certain marketable skill set, and will likely take you a bit of time to set up before you start getting paid work, so we recommend you work on this before you leave for your gap year.
Also keep in mind that even if you're working remotely from a jaw-droppingly beautiful beach, you'll still have to actually set aside time to work.
A few lucky souls may even find employment as travel writers, the epitomized "holy grail" of all travel jobs. Of course, it takes a lot of working for nothing and blogging before you can legitimately call this a career. Just because you have a rocking blog out there detailing your every move doesn’t mean that you’re going to start turning profits as soon as your post goes live.
Money, Money, Money
Although we only listed thirteen ideas, the choices for a fantastic gap year job are limitless. There are even whole forums and dedicated to Gap Year Jobs, like Gap Work, Go Overseas Gap Year Jobs, and GapYear.com.
Taking a gap year can be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. To really make the most of it, find something that really speaks to you and venture off on your quest with the confidence knowing that you can finance yourself while still seeing the world!
Exploring your gap year options? Don't miss USA Gap Year Fairs every winter! These free, public events are held in 40+ cities across the country to provide a broad exposure to gap year options and connect prospective gap year students, parents, gap year organizations, educators, experts, and alumni. Register for a fair near you at usagyf.eventbrite.com.