Whether you're about to finish high school or college, taking a gap year to work abroad for a year before your next step can be a rewarding experience. Not only will you be able to travel to new places and learn invaluable skills for future jobs, but you can start earning money right away.
Popular gap year jobs abroad include paid internships in your field of interest, teaching English to children and adults, working on a farm, au pairing with a local family, and many more. Best of all, you'll be self-sufficient, have time before or after work to explore your new city (and nearby countries), and have a great talking point on your resume. Keep reading to learn about the top destinations, the kinds of jobs available, and what salary you can get paid.
The beautiful thing about working abroad is that it’s the same as working at home, just with an opportunity to explore new things and places outside of work hours. There are plenty of job opportunities worldwide and always a role to be filled. This means good things for your adventuring soul. Here are some of the best and most common gap year jobs you can get abroad.
Finding an internship is one of the least stressful ways to work abroad because you’ll have a confirmed job before you ever step foot on a plane. Organizations actively advertise work abroad internships through job boards and college programs – check out a bevy of them on this very website. Job opportunities range throughout industries like journalism to music to medicine to business, so there’s usually an option available for whatever your interest. And best of all, these gap year programs will usually organize everything from on-the-job training to visas to living arrangements. Then all you have to focus on is meeting new friends and getting the most out of your experience.
Casual employment generally refers to part-time work that you’ve probably been doing to save up money to travel in the first place, like construction, festival volunteering, retail, and hospitality. Of course, there should be plenty of this kind of work, right? It's true that there’s a coffee shop on every street corner, but being hired for a position can be challenging. For every position, there are dozens of people passing in resumes of generally equal substance. From an employer's point of view, you want to hire trustworthy and stay for at least three to six months. It can be hard to keep training new people just for them to leave, so most locals have the advantage of hospitality work.
Teach English Abroad
Teaching English (or another subject) is one of the most common ways to go overseas, and it can pay out in a big way, depending on the location. Many job opportunities come from programs that you can find on this very site and offer the same benefits (visas, etc.) that many internships do. Teaching for a gap year abroad can provide a steady income, flexible schedule to travel during school breaks, and important skills to use in your future career even if you don't plan to be a teacher.
WWOOFing and Farm Work
For those interested in working outside and meeting locals (or extending your working holiday visa in some countries), working on a farm is a great option. It's good to keep in mind that farm work is seasonal, depending on the crops. Farm work often includes accommodation and meals, as you’ll be living on or near the farm. The money you earn can go straight into your travel fund. One popular gap year program is WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and it offers farm work abroad in exchange for free housing and food.
Read more: What to Know About WOOFing Around the World
Another seasonal job abroad that's popular with gap year-ers is being a ski instructor in a different country during the winter months. This is a great gap year job for those who love to teach, love being outside, and want to shred some snow. Some programs, like EA Ski and Snowboard, provide several weeks of training to prepare you for your instructor's exam, after which you're finally ready to teach as an instructor yourself. And if you don't want to stop teaching after the winter season is over in one hemisphere, hop over to the other!
Au Pair Abroad
If you like kids or have experience babysitting, becoming an au pair during your gap year is a great way to live like a local and travel abroad (think: France, Australia or China!). As part of the job, au pairs live with their host family and tend to kids before and after school or when the parents are away. This can be a very flexible schedule, leaving plenty of time to explore your city, take weekend trips, and have pocket money. Generally, these jobs don't provide a large salary ($150 - $300 per week) since housing and some meals are included. Most countries have strict laws about work hours for their au pairs, but make sure to read your contract and know your rights.
Read More: Why Should You Au Pair Abroad?
Popular Gap Year Destinations
Australia: For a place that started as a penal colony, the Land Down Under is doing pretty well at making people want to visit. It’s got everything – beautiful landscapes, exotic wildlife, and a location just a puddle's jump away from even more jaw-dropping places. With the variety of visas that allow employment, Australia should be the first choice for gap year jobs abroad.
Thailand: When most people think about Thailand, they think about gentle elephant and beautiful beaches. But it's also a great place to live and work for a gap year, especially with the low cost of living. Bangkok is the modern gateway to Southeast Asia -- industries of all kinds bring in young people from all over the world to work from a few months to a whole year. There are plenty of opportunities to become immersed in the culture, work in elephant conservation, or teach English to children.
Europe: For lovers of European history, art, and cities, any country within this continent is full of exciting experiences and work opportunities. Popular gap year employment tends to take the form of internships, teaching English as a Language Assistant, and working as an au pair. Keep in mind that with a generally high cost of living and many qualified teachers, jobs in Europe tend to have lower salaries and be more competitive.
United Arab Emirates: Nowadays, the UAE is a wealthy, relatively liberal country standing as a beacon, ready to offer work and exciting memories. Teaching in the UAE is one of the most popular and highest-paying jobs you can do during your gap year abroad. Whether you're a first-time teacher or an experienced educator, many students and schools are ready to hire.
Singapore: Most of the job in Singapore are business-related, which is great for those looking to dip their feet into the professional world. Work abroad for a year as an intern in the fields of finance, law, marketing, or business development and stand out amongst your peers.
China: It’s pretty telling that most of the best places to work abroad for a year are in Asia. The region is becoming an economic powerhouse, and that’s more true than ever in China. More and more business is being conducted in the big cities, while the rural regions remain unspoiled natural gems filled with opportunities to teach English. If you go the latter route, make sure you absorb some of the Mandarin along the way. If trends keep going the way they’re going, you may need them in the future.
Planning Your Gap Year
Earning money abroad is pretty awesome. Who doesn’t like money? But it comes with its tradeoffs. Rather than the “up and go” mentality travel can embody, working abroad requires careful planning.
Working abroad is different than city-hopping like that of normal travel. Gap year programs will give you the security of know-before-you-go, but if you're not going through a program, plan for a buffer period in your finances if employment doesn’t happen as quickly as you'd like.
Visa for your Gap Year Job Abroad
Visas are the biggest part of working abroad during your gap year. Tourist visas usually stipulate a ban against earning currency for the duration of the stay. If you plan on working while abroad during your gap year, you’ll need to research the appropriate work visa, which can sometimes be a costly and time-consuming process.
It's not uncommon to hear of people working under the table work in many countries, but the more developed ones are usually keen on keeping paperwork legit. Gamble away, but know that deportation and hefty fines are a real risk if caught. This is where gay year programs come into play – they’ll often file all the visa papers on your behalf, so all you need to do is get the job, lean back, and decide which movies you’ll watch on the plane ride over.
Gap Year Salary & Costs
When planning your gap year finances, consider the salary you’ll be receiving. It's helpful to budget your current savings plus your monthly incomes to gauge how much you can spend on daily expenses, eating out, and traveling on the weekends.
Programs can offer certain benefits such as college credit, financial aid, and job placement after completion (especially if found through specific college recruitment centers). However, it’s important to find out if this is all they offer, as many internships can be unpaid or treated as a college course rather than a job. Make sure in your contract your internship states an hourly rate before flying across the world.
In a non-program job, your salary will depend on the job you choose. Hourly wages for short-term farm work or casual employment can be less-than-sustainable if you're trying to save money. As an au pair, since most of your big expenses are covered by the family, you will have a small stipend (up to $500 per month). While if you are hired as an English teacher, you may have a higher salary that gives you more financial freedom during your gap year. Salaried positions can be difficult to find if only looking after arrival, so look for employment before leaving.
Contributed by Colin Heinrich
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How much money do I need for a gap year?
Budgeting how much money you may need for your gap year depends on what you plan to do and where. A low-cost gap year can mean finding a job that can pay your expenses along the way, while a high-cost gap year can mean $3,000 or more per month in an educational program. The location of your gap year can affect the amount of money you may need as well. For example, there is a lower cost of living in Southeast Asia or South America than in Europe.Related Content
What can you do with a gap year for money?
Although you can be very creative with paid jobs during your gap year, some popular options include taking an internship, working casually as a host or barista, teaching English abroad, working on a farm, instructing ski lessons, or being an au pair.
Where can I work on a gap year?
Some of the most popular destinations to work on your gap year include Australia as an au pair, Thailand as an English teacher, Europe as a Language and Culture Assistant, or Singapore as a business intern.