Taking a gap year is considered a right of passage by many throughout the world, and has gained popularity in the United States recently. Rather than simply being a "year off," a gap year can be a remarkable opportunity to seek clarity and direction in what your next move in life might be.
A gap year is your chance to challenge yourself through experiential learning and travel. Whether you spend your time volunteering, teaching English, doing manual labor, working in the service industry, or a combination, your gap year job(s) are sure to be one way to immerse yourself in the local culture and grow.
A gap year working abroad can be an excellent boost to your resume, dabble in something new, or just offset those pricey airfares.
Whether you're fresh out of high school, in college, or taking a year off of your career, spending a gap year working abroad can be an excellent boost to your resume and set you apart in interviews. Working abroad will also provide the opportunity to dabble in something new and offset the price of long-term travel. So what kind of jobs can you do while on a gap year? Plenty! Behold thirteen of our favorite jobs for gappers.
Also Read: The 10 Best Countries for Working Abroad
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 winemaking by working on a vineyard?
Countries from all across the world 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 employees and will typically hire extra workers during their harvest season. Some career winemakers split their time between the southern and northern hemisphere, hopping between each's respective harvests -- a perfect setup for a gapper who wants to take a trip around the world and make some extra cash.
However, it is important to note that some of these positions require relevant experience and/or a related degree. Still, if you're willing to get your hands dirty and do whatever is needed, then you'll surely find a gig or two.
You can find job postings on international job boards. WWOOF is another solid way to find winemaking 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 a vast industry in both non-native and native English speaking countries across the globe. However, this job does require a bit more geographic permanency and often comes with stricter requirements.
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 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.
Keep in mind that numerous regions, like Western Europe and Latin America, 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.
Get TEFL Certified:
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, consider seeking employment in one of the countless hostels in the world. Located in just about any country you'll be traveling, 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. That said, be cautious of predatory hostels looking to exploit you for free labor. Do your research before showing up somewhere and making a commitment.
Another related option is to find a job in a city of your choice and use a part-time hostel work exchange to supplement your income and have affordable lodging for the duration of your stay. It may be a better solution than trying to navigate the international real estate market searching for 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-sufficient and sustainable gap year. 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 does not cost 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.
Growing seasons differ among countries, but you typically have a lot of freedom regarding how long you want to stay in one location. This is an especially desirable option for people looking to gain experience in agriculture, horticulture, or 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 abroad? 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 setups 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, filmmaker, 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, exploring your options further or starting off by working for free might help you find a more stable job working at music festivals. You'll quickly find that the international job market is a whole lot about who you know!
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 an opening with a US band or company that will then take you abroad, rather than looking specifically for a group overseas.
7. Volunteer organization staff
Admittedly, volunteering during 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.
Many jobs with volunteer organizations are more permanent than what you may be looking for, so narrow your search to shorter-term projects, such as promotion and outreach.
Be mindful to work for a responsible and reputable volunteer abroad organization and understand 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 instead of a volunteer.
Inspiring Volunteer Programs Abroad:
8. Cruise ship staff
Ahoy! Why not set sail on your gap year and head off into a sea of possibilities onboard 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, you can likely find something in which you're qualified. Plus, for basic entry-level cruise ship positions, like being a steward, ships often don't require previous experience.
Also, considering the shift towards more experiential travel and less "getaway experience" type travel, smaller cruise ships have cropped up as players in the ship scene. Of course, Carnival and Princess Cruises are still the big players (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!
However, when choosing a cruise ship job, keep in mind the type of atmosphere and locations each promotes. 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 an adventure. Although you won't necessarily get to hop off board while your ship is at port, we bet you'll at the very least catch some jaw-dropping sunsets and have an incredibly unique work experience!
9. Au pair
If you've had experience with children or babysitting, perhaps a gap year filled with 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 excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture and make a bit of extra cash on the side.
Often, families in non-native English speaking countries are looking for a nanny or au pair to look after their kids and help teach them English. The upside 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. This means an au pair gig in Spain may provide more than just some spending money and a free place to live!
Learning a new language not your thing? That's OK, we hear au pairing in Australia is pretty darn awesome, and there are definitely opportunities for you to become an au pair in England.
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 help match up au pairs with families internationally.
Find Au Pair Jobs Abroad:
10. Summer camp counselor
While camps are 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.
Additionally, the ESL teaching world is full of opportunities to teach English at a summer camp, and is often the best way to get a shorter teaching gig abroad.
11. Tour guide
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 want their guides to be familiar and knowledgeable about the local spots. Fluency in additional languages may also be required -- depending on where you're leading tours.
Before applying for a job, checking out the tour company in person and 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.
For more resources, we also recommend that you take a look at National Geographic's tips on how to be a tour guide.
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 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 destination' 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.
Again, to find a bartender or barista job abroad, tap into your networks, apply in person once you're in a country, and scour job boards.
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, so 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 specific 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 set aside time to get work done.
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.
Put yourself out there!
Although we only listed thirteen ideas, the choices for a fantastic gap year job are limitless. There are fantastic resources dedicated to jobs abroad, like Go Overseas Gap Year Jobs.
Taking a gap year can be one of the best decisions you've ever made. To make the most of it, find something that speaks to you and venture off on your quest with the confidence knowing that you can finance yourself while still seeing the world!